Helping a Dog Feel Comfortable Being Touched By Strangers

By: David Codr

Published Date: April 2, 2021

For this Omaha dog training session we worked with Milo, a 3 year-old Coton de Tulear helping him feel more comfortable when people reach out to touch him.

Milo is a little territorial with new people. I tried to set up a greeting protocol I use with dogs with that issue, but due a communication snafu, the session started out a litle bumpy. But by using some Dog Behaviorist tricks, Milo quickly warmed up to me and within mintes we like old buddies sapping a photo of us chilling on the fireplace mantle.

You can set a dog up to fail or succeed by what you do before something happens. If a dog watches someone pull or walk up and starts barking an alert or to tell the person to move away, they are getting fired up and stimulated, not ideal for a greeting. But if Milo’s guardian takes him for a walk or game of fetch a half hour before guests arrive, she can remove excess energy which makes things easier.

I recommended his guardian take him out on a leash to meet guests outside and go for a short walk together. Being outside has multiple advantages for dog greetings. The environment is full of stimulus which make for great distractions and if you leave a trail of treats from the door to where the person is sitting, it can help the dog feel more empowered and less confronted.

When they come inside, it would be great if his guardian can load up a lick matt or give him a bully stick that is zip tied to something (drill a hole through the end of the bully stick and use a zip tie to attach it to a dumbell) as Milo likes to go burry his bones in the couch. Ive found this can trigger a “I beter eat it now” mindset in dogs who like to burry treats.

Id like the guardian to teach Milo to catch as this will enable him to interact with guests at a distance while getting something  out of the equation. This can be a great game for Milo to play when guests come over. Sometimes having a friend come over to play the part of a guest can help with this as it takes the pressure off of being a good host as the person is coming over to help.

The guardian should try these in different orders, start with catching with one guest then the lick matt, and inverting the order for another guest visit to see what works best. The idea is to come up with a routine the dog liks and responds to, then repeating it and building on its success.

After that, the guest should ignore Milo unless he comes up to them. If he does, they should ask him for a sit or down and reward him with a treat only if he complies the first time they ask. If he doesnt, they should just chat with the guardians. Playing a little hard to get and showing no interest in Milo can help motivate him to investigate them.

Eventually we’d obviously like to have the guest pet Milo, but it will be important they look for consent. Confirming a dog wants to be petted is somehting many people fail to do. So waiting for Milo to approach them, stopping short when reacing foor him and giving him space when we turns away will all do wonders.

But I wanted to do more to help the dog enjoy being petted by strangers, so I filmed a paired handling exercise the guardian should practice.  This is a great way to help a dog learn to enjoy being petted by strangers, really by anyone. If you have a dog who doesnt like being petted, watch the free positve dog training video below for an easy way to teach a dog to enjoy being petted and touched.

If the guardians practice this positive petting exercise a few times a day for a week, then do an encore an hour before guests comes over, they should be able to have the guests do it with Milo too. It may need to be on a second visit, but eventually, when the dog is calm and showing interest in the guest, this simple handling exercise can do wonders. The best part of this simple way to help a dog enjoy being touched is anyone can do it, even if they arent a professional Coton de Tulear dog trainer.

We covered a lot more in this in home Omaha dog training session. To help the guardian remember all the dog training tips we went over, I recorded a roadmap to success sumamry video so she can watch it anytime she needs a refresher.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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