Fearful of Strangers
Copyright Sally G
. Dogs go through certain imprints during their life and one of them is fear. They have that first fear imprint is in 8 to 11 weeks and then again at 6 to 14 months. During the second stage of fear imprints you are likely to see the dog be scared of something that they were not scared of before, and because you did not have the dog during the first fear imprint stage you won't know what happened to him in that stage that may be affecting him now as well.
Dogs are also born with personality just as humans are , sometimes we as the owner can mold that personality only to a certain extent. Much will also be dependent on where the puppy was born. If it was a puppy mill , then the dog never had real contact with people through the neonatal months and thus will be fearful of people maybe for life. Sometimes you can help the dog adapt but for some dogs they will only be comfortable with certain people in their lives.
Unfortunately it is usually the human that is not educated enough about dogs. The person who was reaching out to pet the dog is a no, no. Dogs see that action as a challenge as they do making eye contact with them and talking to them. As a human it is natural to us to do all three of the above to make an acquaintance, but in the dog world it is a threat.
Dogs that are alpha or fearful will take that threat on if the person does not back off.
They actually make leashes and collars with the word caution on them specifically for dogs that are nervous or do not like to be around strangers or other dogs.
What you can do is try to get the dog used to people in the area as being a good thing. Train the dog at a safe distance from where there are people such as a grocery store and praise and reward the dog for keeping its mind on you while obeying commands. Gradually move closer to the action as you see your dog is okay with it.
When people come to you they should not look at , talk to , or try to pet the dog but you can give them a treat to drop on the ground for the dog then have them walk away. This will have the dog begin to see strangers as approaching meaning something good coming its way. You can actually set it up first with friends who will listen to you as to what to do, this way you don’t have to worry about the general public to start with.
Have that person approach without doing any of the three challenges and just talk to you briefly then drop the treat and walk away. You would also do this with people who come into your home if your home is a problem. The dog should be completely ignored, but something dropped on the floor upon entering the home and leaving the home.
It may also benefit the dog to be in an obedience class because there the instructor can have others practice this with you in a controlled environment. Sometimes the local ASPCA gives Reactive Rover classes which deal with dogs that nip or are frightened of people or who lunge at people when walked.
When you are training the dog put it in a down stay at your side when people approach and as long as the dog is acting appropriately ,make sure to praise and reward the dog for that behavior so it understands this is the behavior you want to see.
As for the treats left behind by strangers it should be something the dog will only get from them, such as hot dog slivers or chicken slivers so the dog sees it as special. Keep in mind that the dog may not pick it up at the time the person is there at first but as time goes on the dog probably will once it people they are not there as a challenge .
Below I will include a link that will take you through positive obedience training step by step.
Clicker training/positive method training/ print off
video’s to see how clicker training is done, scroll down to videos http://www.clickertrainusa.com/clicker-training-videos.htm