Is Your Dog Friendly With Strangers?

I thought I’d right about this topic in honor of the up coming holiday of Halloween. The scary surprise of a “Boo” in the form of a sudden snap may come from your dog being unpredictable, if you’re not prepared or take precautions. By the way, during Halloween I think the best tip is to exercise your dog in advance  and gate your dog in a bedroom or a safe area with music, way before the tricker treaters start ringing. It’s not worth anyone getting scared or hurt.

Costumes or not,  people wanting to say hello to a shy dog can make some dog owners nervous. Often people who are unsure look to their dog to indicate friendliness. Don’t. Many people leave too much up to the dog. They think, oh, he likes that person, phew! Many owners who’s dog may indicate territorial behavior like barking excessively or growling at a guest can over time become really insecure and hold their breath but never make attempts to resolve the growing issue. Crossing your fingers that a bite won’t happen, isn’t the answer. This blog is really about prevention and dog owner awareness.

Dogs wag their tails right? Well sometimes an (at home) friendly dog can feel insecure when a new person approaches. Especially if that dog has not been socialized in puppyhood to sounds, people, streets or trained.  The problem can slowly begin to escalate. Some dogs can learn to be plain bossy about who comes into THEIR home. Often these bossy barks can go uncorrected or redirected by the owner and the problem escalates even more over the years. When in truth, your dog is always looking to you to redirect and show him how to say hello. People can give off subtle misunderstandings to  by tightening up the leash or not correcting their dog who’s apprehensive about the person approaching. In general, if you’re unsure of your dogs behavior this insecurity from you can create a tension and body language that can lead to actually creating a fearful dog. This subtle reaction of insecurity (about how your dog will react) is a projection that can often mirror the same potential fear back at your dog. Making the unpredictability worse.

The “unsure” dog owner end’s up freezing up and hoping that their dog (albeit loving to them) doesn’t snap at the person approaching. Body language can sometimes become a self fulfilling prophecy in dog training.

Tensing up sends a signal (down the to the other end of the leash) that there’s apprehension on your part which certainly doesn’t help an already nervous dog to feel self assured. In dog training, body language and voice inflection matter a lot! Sending the right signals to your dog will help socialize him to greet new people with joy.

If you own a small toy breed dog who’s shy with new people don’t introduce your dog when holding it. Put your pup on the ground. Having your dog on a leash helps create eye contact from your dog to you and not the person approaching, then redirect your dog to sit. The same goes for larger dogs.

Here are some helpful tips. The following advice is only intended for pups  learning to greet strangers and guests that have no prior behavioral issues or aggression.

1. Have a treat in your pocket to give to the person wanting to greet your dog. As your dog to sit and hand the person the treat.

2. If you feel your dog is NOT going to do well with the person approaching then simply say to the person approaching that  you and your dog are in training and pass on the interaction all together.

3. It’s best to have your dog on a leash and ask your dog to sit, always use a happy voice. Talk to the person approaching. Often apprehension creates silents and your dog senses something strange.

4. Crouch down next to your dog holding his collar and the leash. Most dogs without severe issue’s feel more relaxed with you crouching next to them, even scratching their chest. Your dog should be on your left with your left hand on their collar and right hand rubbing your dogs chest. This helps indicate assurance. Also your right there in control if something where to happen. Most dogs just want to smell the person’s hand and the treat helps socialize the interaction into a positive thing. Talking to the person approaching in a happy voice helps everyone relax too. If you just stand next to your dog and don’t speak holding the leash tightly it sends an odd signal that may created a sudden reaction.

5. Teach your dog  basic commands on a leash. Training creates a great foundation for you and your dog as to how you communicate and about what. It also replaces the nervous babble that sometimes happens because you can replace it with praise of doing a command. Many times people start repeating good boy nervously trying to indicate to their dog to be good (when they’re actually not sure what’s going to happen) as a the strange person is running at them to  hello to their dog. Guiding your dog to sit, giving the person a treat to hand to the dog first, then guiding your dog to sit gives you steps to assure your dog you have it all under control and a person saying hello is a good thing!

6. Varying your dogs routine, upping the amount of regular walks, leash training and again the more exercise the better! All will  help get you and your pup on the road to being well socialized and create trust.

If your dog has ever displayed severe aggression or fear towards any person or has bitten anyone, you must seek an in-home professional trainer immediately. Do not attempt to resolve such issues on your own.  Ask your local vet for referrals.