Helping a Little Dog Get Over a Big Fear of New People

By: David Codr

Published Date: November 2, 2018

For this LA dog training session, we shared tips to help a fearful dog (2 year-old Russian Toy Karina) learn new people aren’t anything to be scared of.

Karina was bread by our very own Samantha so I had already met her a few times before she transitioned into this new home.

We started things off by discussing Dog Psychology as well as new versus old dog training methods. The old way of training dogs involved petting or rewarding a dog for desired actions when lured and punishment for mistakes or errors. Nowadays, this form of training is no longer used by most dog trainers and never by Dog Behaviorists. The few trainers who still use this force and punishment based training methods are often referred to as “balanced trainers”.

No matter what you call it, punishment based dog training is no longer used by reputable trainers as studies show that force and punishment training result in stress, anxiety, fear and many other behavior problems that are usually far worse than the original issue.

Now Karina’s guardians weren’t slapping her or being abusive, but they were using some elements of dominance training such as a squirt bottle. They would hold this up at the dog as a sort of reminder / threat to stop an unwanted behavior or communicate a consequence.

When you have a dog who is acting out due to fear or insecurity, punishment is one of the worst things to do. In my experience as one of Los Angeles’s dog behavior experts, I have found that most dogs who act aggressively are doing so as a coping mechanism.

From the moment I first sat down, I could see that Karina was stressed out and had cortisol in her blood. This is the stress hormone and dogs or humans with it in their system can experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder otherwise known as PTSD.

Fortunately for Karina, her guardian was very open minded as I explained positive dog training methods she can use to stop these unwanted dog behavior problems. First up was some potty training tips, followed by the importance of rules and structure. I shared feeding tips, showed ways to pet with a purpose and stressed the importance of rewarding Karina’s positive actions and behaviors.

While I was sharing these dog behavior tips, I set about leaving high value treats on the floor in strategic places. I wanted Karina to practice approaching me, having something good happen (getting the treat off the floor), then being able to move away at her discretion without my trying to touch, look at or interact with her.

If you have a fearful or anxious dog, this trail of breadcrumb approach can do wonders. Karina’s body got less stiff, she stopped leaning over to get the treats and eventually was taking treats from my hand. We were helping her form new, positive behavior patterns while reducing the stress and anxiety she had.

I wanted to show Karina’s guardian’s boyfriend how he could use the same approach to help a fearful dog build confidence, so we shoot a free dog training video so they can review it later. You can get a ton of free dog behavior secrets to helping a dog get over a fear of meeting new people by watching the video below.

Helping a fearful dog is all about helping it regain its confidence by going at the dog’s pace and using lots of positive reinforcement. I was quite happy to see Karina bounce back as she practiced approaching then walking away from the boyfriend looking less and less stressed each time.

If the boyfriend repeats these steps to help the dog feel less scared about approaching him, and the negative training methods are replaced with the modern positive dog training approach I outlined, he should gain Karina’s trust and stop her from feeling the need to nip to disagree or correct him.

But the boyfriend practice should just be the tip of the iceberg here. The guardian would be wise to invite other guests to come and visit to repeat this process and help Karina learn that people arent a threat. Id like to see the guardian arrange for at least one new person (more is better and will result in faster progress) to come by a week for 6-8 weeks. This will help the dog learn that new people = treats and positive interactions.

Towards the end of the session we brushed up on Karina’s Focus and went over how to add structure to meals to help the dog see and respect her human as an authority figure.

To help the guardian remember all the dog psychology and positive training methods we covered in this in home dog training session, we shot a roadmap to success video.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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