Using Counterconditioning to Train a Saint Bernard to Accept New People into the Home

By: Sam Kanouse

Published Date: November 13, 2017

For this Omaha dog training session we worked with 2 year-old Saint Bernard, Phoebe (left) and 5 year-old Saint Bernard Tank; training Phoebe to relax when guests come to the home using counterconditioning.

When I arrived Tank was very relaxed and happy to see me, whereas Phoebe was nervous about me coming into the home. One of the ways that I could tell that she was nervous was that she laid down and her body got very rigid. When she went to jump up she wanted to nip out of fear.

When you have a people reactive dog you want to change their attitude and mindset from a place of fear to a positive reaction. I taught the guardian how to use counterconditioning to achieve this: you give your dog treats when they are calm and not being reactive, e.g. barking at them. To see how I accomplished this you can watch the video below.

Over time the guardian can decrease the distance between Phoebe and guests. However, I want to emphasize that it will be important to keep Phoebe on a loose leash in the home, tethered to the guardian to prevent her from having any disagreements with guests. As Phoebe starts to receive more and more yummy treats when meeting new people and having guests in their home, she will start to make a positive association between new people and getting wonderful treats.

By the end of the dog behavior training session, Phoebe was starting to relax more and more while I was in her home. She was starting to lay down comfortably and close her eyes, indicating that she was becoming comfortable and trusting that I wasn’t going to do any harm. I want to encourage the guardian to keep Petting with a Purpose to reward the dogs for good behavior. We wrapped up this behavior session with Phoebe and Tank’s Roadmap to Success video, which you can watch below.

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