Recently I had a friend come over, and my dog who is normally outgoing was entirely intimidated by him. As a puppy, Glory used to be shy of taller people, and I didn’t realize until then that she hadn’t been around a tall stranger in a while. I worked with them to help them get used to each other. Here are some of the things I did to help my dog get adjusted to somebody “scary.”
I tried my best not to force her too close to him. Glory is a good dog, but I don’t want to put her in a situation where she feels cornered and threatened. That would be asking for trouble, and I don’t want to push her towards a wrong behavior. So I set her up for success. Glory loves the backyard, so that’s where we went. I let her run around some to relax while I grabbed some really yummy treats for him to give to her. At first, I gave her some treats for coming to me when I was near him. Then I gave him the treats to give to her when she came near. She came even closer when he sat down on the patio.
When we came inside, he sat on the couch with his treats, and I had Glory jump up next to him. At this point she had gotten well enough used to him that she was comfortable being that close enough for food.
In just a little while, she was almost in his lap to beg for the treats, and she was doing every trick she could think of in order to get one of them.
After that we gave her a break and let her run around the house with us while we ate. We made a lot of progress in a short amount of time (about 15 minutes) by following some simple rules that can be used in almost any training situation.
1. Avoid placing your dog in a situation where she feels threatened and cornered. Feeling threatened will invoke the fight-or-flight instinct, and if your dog is cornered, it is very likely they will get defensive.
2. Set your dog up for success. Make it easy for your dog to do what you want, and work in small steps. Each dog is different and finding how to make your dog comfortable is important.
3. Because Glory was stressed, this situation called for some very prime treats. Using her normal dog food would not have been nearly as effective. Know what treats are the most tasty to your dog and use them appropriately.