Helping a Petrified Dog Get Over its Fear of Strangers

By: David Codr

Published Date: May 21, 2018

For this Omaha dog training session we helped one-year-old Chihuahua / Dachshund / Corgi mix Rosie who is a very fearful dog that barks at everything.

Rosie barked like crazy when I first arrived and according to her guardian, she will bark the entire time any new people are in the house. I tried to use a few dog behavior expert tricks to get her to calm down and come give me a sniff, but she was locked in a fearful feedback loop.

To help Rosie calm down, I had her guardian fit her up with a no slip collar and then took her out for a walk without her guardian. Rosie barked a lot at first, but as the distractions of being outside started to impact her, she barked less and less.

I kept walking until she stopped backing completely. AT that point we popped a squat and I waited for her body language to tell me she was relaxed enough for the next step. When I saw her breathing slow down and her tail went into a neutral position, I gave her some more leash and she started to sniff around, exactly what I wanted.

I gave her some time to come to me and each time she did, I dropped a treat. After dropping a few treats, she was not moving as far off and eventually she sat down next to me. This was when I started hand feeding her treats.

After she stopped sniffing me and seemed to be completely relaxed, we headed back to her guardian’s home.

To help Rosie get over a fear of strangers, I summarized what I did so that the guardian can invite friends and neighbors to drop by and repeat this greeting ritual.

Stopping a dog’s fear of strangers is all about building up enough positive experiences. The more Rosie meets people this way (Where the people don’t look at, talk to or try to pet her), the more confidence she will get around new people. Adding in positive associations once she has settled down will help accelerate the process.

A number of fearful dogs behave the same way; barking non stop until the person leaves. Many people get mad or frustrated at this barking and chastise or punish the dog to get it to stop, but that usually makes a fearful dog even more anxious.

When the guardian told me no one had come over and had Rosie stop barking until they leave, I knew we made real progress in this in home dog training session.

Before we shot the roadmap to success video below I covered a number of structural and leadership activities that will help Rosie start thinking she needs to defend the home from invaders each time anyone comes to visit.

It will take time and practice, but considering how calm and relaxed Rosie was by the end of the session, we know she can learn to relax and stop panicking when meeting new people. She is such a cute dog, I know she is going to make a lot of human friends once she build up her confidence and respect for her human as her leader.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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