How to Help a Dog Who is Scared of Strangers
13 August, 2012
Some dogs are friendly and get along well with people from the start. Other dogs have a hard time with strangers or meeting new people. This fear is usually found in cats more often than dogs, but sometimes our ‘human’ training reinforces a dog’s fear of new people.
Below are some tips to help your dog who is scared of strangers.
Do not reward your dog for his fearful reaction with praise
When a timid dog hides, barks defensively, whines, screams or snaps, we instinctively try to reassure our dog by petting or even picking up our dog for a hug. This reaction will only compound your dog’s fearful behavior. As hard as it is, try to ignore your dog when he or she acts fearful. Let your dog learn on his own that there is nothing to fear and save your praise and reassurance for times when your dog acts with confidence.
I will try to be less scared of new people!
Let your dog make the first contact with strangers
Strangers should never be allowed to approach your dog to pet him or her. It should always be left to your dog to make the first contact. If your dog does not want to approach someone new, that is OK. Just give your dog plenty of time to ‘hide and peek’ and eventually he will come out of hiding. It’s up to you to get your dog into an environment where he or she can socialize, but it is up to your dog to approach at his own pace. Don’t verbally try to encourage him out of hiding. He will probably interpret your encouragement as praise for hiding.
It takes time to socialize your dog
Many people try to socialize their dog too quickly, forcing him or her onto other dogs and people. This usually reinforces the dog’s view that other dogs and people are frightening. If you push your dog to do too much or too soon, your dog will only become more fearful and may be forced into a situation where he feels he must defend himself. Socializing a dog and helping him build his confidence is a time consuming task and takes patience!
Fearful Snapping and/or Growling
Shy or fearful dogs can react defensively when approached by unfamiliar people. They might try to keep strangers away by growling, snarling or snapping at them. These behaviors should not be ignored. No dog should be allowed to get away with being outwardly aggressive. You must instantly and effectively reprimand such behavior.
As soon as your dog stops acting aggressively, make sure to praise him or her. We don’t want your dog to think that it’s the stranger that is causing you to reprimand him, but that it is his or her unwanted behavior that upsets you. Try to avoid threatening situations until your dog has developed enough confidence to deal with new people without snapping or growling. And try not to allow strangers to reprimand your fearful or shy dog….that will make him regress quickly.
Just remember, like every training technique, with time and effort, you can get a dog to respond well to new people or strangers. Good luck!