Helping a Pair of Dogs Get Over a Fear of Being Touched by Strangers

By: David Codr

Published Date: March 5, 2018

For this Omaha dog training session we worked with a pair of 1 year-old Shetland Sheepdogs; Quinn (left) and Remy who are both wary of being petted by people they don’t know; backing up to avoid being touched.

The dog’s guardian has done an outstanding job of training this pair of dogs. You could instantly tell she has been spending time teaching them various commands and that the dogs were very smart.

While the dog training was going well, I did notice the guardian doing a few things that likely confused the dogs behavior wise. Petting that at times when they were excited, repeating commands over and over and giving attention when they demand barked at her.

I shared a number of positive dog training tips that will help the dogs start to identify as being in a follower position. Before the session, I think the dogs saw themselves as peers to the guardian.

Petting with a purpose, rewarding desired behaviors and ignoring unwanted actions can all help shift the leader follower dynamic. I also suggested a few rules and ways to enforce them.

Next I addressed the dog’s moving away any time I reached over to get them. I have seen many dogs who are uncomfortable being touched by strangers. There are many reasons for dogs to back away from people trying to pet them; fear, anxiety, insecurity, etc. In Quinn and Remy’s case, I think it was a mild case of nervousness.

I pulled out some high value treats and showed the guardian how to use some counterconditioning principles to help the dogs get over their fear of being touched by strangers.

Within 2 minutes both dogs were no longer recoiling when I reached out to pet them. It was great to see how quickly the dogs stopped avoiding being touched by strangers.

I recommended the guardian have friends or neighbors come to visit at least once a week (more is better) to practice this new technique and help the dogs get over this skittish behavior around new people for good.

We also worked on Remy’s fear of the kennel by doing some positive crate training; rewarding him from going inside and a way to help him practice being inside for progressively longer periods of time.

By the end of the session, the dog’s were completely comfortable with me reaching out to touch them, the guardian felt she had new tools to use to burn off excess energy and how important it is to reward desired behaviors so the dogs replicate them instead of using demand barking.

To help the guardian remember all the dog behavior tips I shared in this in home dog training session, we shot a roadmap to success video you can check out below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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