Like us, some dogs are social and love to meet new people, while others don’t react well. Unfortunately, while we can try to control how they meet strangers, we can’t prevent them from encountering strangers entirely. So, it’s essential to teach them how to be friendly with unknown people. As you do this, it’s also important to be sensitive to your dog’s emotions around strangers. Determining the basis of your dog’s aversion may go a long way in helping them become friendlier.
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A Few Things to Consider Before You Begin
Before you begin to train your dog to be friendly to strangers, here are a few other things to consider.
- There is no quick fix to a dog who becomes agitated when encountering strangers. Be patient.
- You’ll need to have a good relationship with your dog, as they’ll need to trust you.
- The training may be shortened if you use obedience commands and include rewards as reinforcement.
- As with most situations, it’s best to teach new behavior to a dog between 3 and 12 weeks old. You can socialize them by exposing them to people of various ages, males and females, and even people dressed differently. Don’t forget to include other animals and places.
- If your dog is older, it’ll need more time to get over its apprehension.
How to Train Your Dog to Be Nice to Strangers
It’s a great idea to train your dog to be comfortable around strangers. Meeting new people and being in strange places may be unavoidable at times, so ensuring your dog can easily adjust is a kindness to them and the strangers they meet.
Your dog’s fear may be based on past experiences like abuse or neglect. This warrants sensitivity and patience. It might also be helpful to recognize which types of people seem to cause the most significant emotional reaction.
Here are more tips on training your dog to be friendly to strangers:
Isolate Your Dog
When your dog has a strong reaction to people in your home or outside, try to isolate your dog from the people. Place your dog in a separate room or location, but allow them to return to the area if they want. If you must walk by strangers outdoors, try to get your dog past them as quickly as possible or avoid them altogether.
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Offer Treats from the Stranger/New Person
Find your dog’s favorite treats and allow the new person to offer them one by placing it on the floor in front of them a distance away from the stranger – without making eye contact. If your dog takes the treat from the floor, allow more treats to be offered, closer and closer to the stranger. This can disarm your dog’s upset and help them see the stranger more positively.
To make clear what behavior you’re after from your dog, only reward them as they take the treats and slowly move closer to the new person. When your dog can come close to the stranger with positive responses, have the stranger pat your dog carefully.
Be patient with your dog. If they are afraid, it may take more than a few treats to make them happy to be close to the stranger.
Before you attempt to make your dog feel friendly toward a stranger, that person should be safe and friendly toward your dog.
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Ask People Not to Approach
You know your dog’s temperament, so when strangers are approaching, reassure your dog of your presence. Position yourself between your dog and the new person further reassuring your dog of your protection. If possible, ask strangers not to approach your dog at all. When you’re out for a walk, consider crossing the road or avoiding groups of people that may upset your dog.
If the encounter is to be more contained, like in your home, let the new person know not to approach your dog. That is, they shouldn’t try to pet them, speak to them, or offer them food without your permission.
Keep Numbers Limited
If your dog gets overwhelmed by meeting too many people at one time, keep numbers limited. Have friends meet your dog a few at a time in your home where your dog feels safe. In this controlled environment, allow your friends to give your dog treats. If your dog is prone to sudden or angry movements, you should consider keeping them on a leash while they meet your visitors.
Model Good Behavior with Strangers
Let your dog see you getting along well with strangers. If your dog trusts you, your friendliness to strangers will help them to feel safer in their presence. Even watching as you sit and talk with strangers is enough to help your dog get over their fear. Your dog will realize that strangers aren’t necessarily a threat.
If your dog barks or behaves aggressively while you talk, be patient. It may take them a little time to feel safe and know that you are safe.
Have a Talk with Your Dog
This might sound strange to some people, but you’re probably used to talking to your dog if you’re a dog owner. Before meeting new people, have a reassuring chat with your dog. In a friendly tone, let them know what’s about to happen, let them know that you’ll be there, and they’ll be safe.
If your dog begins barking aggressively, speak to them with a firm, low tone, so they’ll listen. You can also use your tone of voice to convey to your dog that being with strangers can be a happy experience. Feel free to laugh and speak pleasantly to your guests.
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It can be scary for your dog to meet new people. They may feel this way because of past experiences of neglect or abuse, or they may just have nervous personalities. But whatever the reason, they can feel so fearful or upset that they display aggressive behavior. You must teach them to know the difference between friendly strangers and those that should be feared.
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