If you have a pup that’s very reactive when meeting strangers or other dogs, you are not alone. This can be an issue with any dog, whether it’s a rescue dog or one you have adopted from a breeder or other source at a very young age.
A dog that is reactive when meeting new people, or anyone outside of their family unit, generally will bark uncontrollably, show aggression, or try to hide behind their owner. Your pup will either try to increase or decrease his distance from people, he may have his ears pinned back, may start shaking or have his tail tucked in. This typically indicates a sign of fear and this is how an animal reacts in order to protect itself.
If your pup perceives what he thinks is a danger, he may start barking, showing his teeth and snarling, and may try to lunge at whatever is fearful to him. You need to read your dog’s body language to know whether he will lunge and possibly try to bite someone, or whether he just wants to keep his distance.
This behaviour is very difficult to deal with, for yourself as an owner, but also for your pet, but the fear can be dealt with and, over time, can be overcome.
If you have a pup that does react in a negative manner towards other people or to other dogs, you need to work very diligently with your pup and not let it ruin your relationship with your friends or others you may meet while out walking.
When walking with your pup, keep your pup happy and focused on you by taking a favourite toy or a treat with you and, when you pass other people or pets, keep your pup’s focus on you. Then when you get by, praise your pup and offer him the toy or a treat as a reward.
Once you have been able to get past people and pets without a lot of commotion, try stopping and chatting for a few minutes. It’s a great idea to get a friend to meet up with you who will not show fear towards your dog, and will not make eye contact or try to approach or pet your pup. If you feel your pup is getting anxious, say goodbye and continue on your walk, thus making sure that things end on a happy note.
It may take several meetings for your pup to start to feel safe sitting by your side while you talk to someone, but if you take things slow and don’t force your dog, he will eventually start to warm up to others.
Once your pup gets comfortable with others, you may let your friend offer your pup a treat, but only offer a treat and not try to pet your dog.
A dogs’ fear of people may be deeply ingrained in them, either from past experiences, or some kind of quirk in their brains Either way, you need to deal with it slowly and in a positive manner. Never punish your pup, hit or yell at him, but give him a firm leash correction instead.
Once you know your dog’s triggers and can identify his body language, you will be better prepared to deal with it and help your pup overcome his fears, which will make for a much happier and closer bond between you and your pet.
If your pup is overly reactive and you can’t control his behaviour, then it’s time to get help from a professional trainer. Otherwise, you will find yourself not wanting to walk your dog or try to socialize with others, and then giving the dog up, which is not the right thing to do.
So be patient and take time to learn what things trigger your pup’s fears and try to overcome them. If you are patient and helpful with your pup, he will eventually respond and become your perfect best friend.
So take things slow and help your best friend build his confidence and you will both be happy.