How to Stop a Dog From Acting Agressive to Strangers

By: David Codr

Published Date: June 23, 2022

For the Santa Monica dog behavior session we worked with Zuma, sharing tips to stop a dog from acting aggressive to strangers.

When working with dogs with behaviro issues, its important to realize that all dog behavior is trying to achieve something. In Zuma‘s case, I believe he is trying to get people to go away by acting in a reactive manner. It is not uncommon for under socialized dogs to feel insecure around new people. Since Zuma is a rescue dog, this is my best guess as the genesis of this behavior, but it could’ve been for unpleasant experiences or other reasons as well.

Anytime you have a dog that is acting aggressive to people it doesn’t know, it’s important to understand that the dog is not thinking in a clear frame of mind. While many people force their dog to sit (very unwise as it can make the dog feel trapped), or speak to it as if the dog is acting intentionally, the best thing to do is increase the distance between it and whatever it is reacting to.

Tips to stop dogs from acting aggressive to strangers

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I set Zuma up for success by arranging a meeting outside the home. This gives you the opportunity to have a lot of distractions and the open area makes the dog feel less trapped. Outdoor greetings are a great way to introduce someone to a dog who acts aggressive to strangers.

Later in the session we re-created my greeting so that the guardians can practice it with friends and neighbors. If you have a dog that acts aggressive went around strangers, you should check out the free positive dog training video below.

This secret to stopping dogs from acting aggressive towards unknown people can do wonders, but only if the dog is not reactive. If the dog starts barking lunging or showing other signs of being uncomfortable, you should increase the distance and try again later. Later this day I used this technique with less effect due to the dog being extremely reactive to movement. Fortunately in Zuma‘s case, he is very treat motivated and not triggered by movement.

After our greeting, we went on a short walk around the block and then headed inside so that I could share a number of dog behavior tricks with his guardians; how do use marker words, celebrating desired behaviors, enrichment and exercise as well as a few other dog behavior secrets.

The guardians remarked that Zuma had never calmed down so quickly with someone he didn’t know. Part of this is my knowledge as a Dog Behavior Consultant, but the intial greeting was a major factor here. I recommended that they practice this technique often, but arrange for a very short visits. It’s more important that the dog has a positive experience without reacting than the length of the visit.

Fortunately Zuma does not have an extreme case of reactivity. His guardians will need to practice the techniques that we went over in the session frequently in short successful sessions. They may also want to consider discussing medication‘s with her vet as I have found these to be very helpful for dogs who are reactive towards strangers.

To help the guardians remember all of the positive dog behavior tips we shared in this in-home Santa Monica dog training session, we recorded a roadmap to success video that you can check out below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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