Helping Your Dog Become Less Afraid of Strangers at Home

Dogs, like humans, are territorial by nature. If a stranger came into your home unannounced you would likely react in either a fearful or aggressive manner. Dogs who are aggressive and protective are no different. Fortunately, there are training techniques that can be employed to help your pet grow more comfortable when you have company at your home. Whether you have an older dog who behaves aggressively toward visitors or you are raising a puppy that you want to train to be comfortable around strangers, here are some tips that can help.

Know your dog

Before you start training you need to understand exactly what makes your dog uncomfortable. With some dogs it may be a certain type of person (like a mail carrier or the oil delivery driver). With other dogs any stranger who comes in or near the home is a trigger. Determine the fine line between your dog’s comfort zone and where your dog becomes scared.

Employing a training partner

Start small by having a friend (someone your dog doesn’t know) walk past your home where the dog can see. The moment they show signs of fear, assure your dog that you have the situation under control. Scolding the dog, grabbing them, or otherwise exhibiting aggressive behavior toward your dog will only exacerbate their fears. You want them to know that you have the situation in control. Saying firmly and calmly, “I got it; I’m OK” will tell your dog that you see the stranger and you’re in control.

Oftentimes, dogs bark at strangers because they want us to be aware of the potential danger. Acknowledging your dog is vital in these situations. If your dog is the type who barks or growls at strangers, reward them with treats when they don’t bark as the “stranger” passes by your home.

From there, you can try other triggers with strangers outside the house such as ringing the doorbell or walking through the yard.

Let the stranger inside

After a few sessions working with the stranger outside your home, it’s time to introduce your dog to strangers inside their territory. If you think your dog will be aggressive toward the stranger, make sure you keep your dog leashed or basket-muzzled during the first visit. It will protect your training buddy and will help let your dog know you are in control.

Start by having a family member let the stranger in the home while you hold your dog leashed at length. If your dog barks at the stranger, attempt to get your dog’s attention and verbally reassure them you are okay; you are in control. Have your training partner avoid eye contact with your dog.

Once your dog calms down enough to stop barking, try having them follow commands for treats (sit, stay, etc.). If this is successful, have the stranger try tossing treats to the dog as well. If your dog is too nervous to eat, reward them with pets and other positive reinforcement (“Good girl!”).

Tips for productive training sessions

  • Try to keep your dog’s focus on you as often as you can. Use treats and positive reinforcement constantly
  • Exercise your dog before training if they are high-energy
  • Train in small increments; if your dog is afraid of strangers don’t start by introducing him/her to a party at your home
  • You need to be calm at all times while training. Your dog takes his/her cues from your behavior. If you get frustrated or anxious take a break and start again when you’re fully calm

 

 

What to consider before adopting a dog

Dogs are known as man’s best friend. But man’s best friend requires work and money. A dog is a large responsibility and is more than just a pet. A dog will become a part of your family. Do you have what it takes to add another member to your family?

Cost: The cost of a dog goes well beyond the initial adoption or breeder fee. It’s important that you consider the lifetime cost of owning a dog and whether or not you can afford one. And the cost could be drastically different between different types of breeds. There’s the cost of food, grooming, veterinary care, toys, etc. Larger breed dogs will eat more food therefore increasing the food cost. Or your dog could develop an allergy to certain foods, therefore needing special food that can be much more expensive than regular food. It’s also important that you save for emergency vet visits, as they can be completely unpredictable and very trying at the time. Having money saved up will take a small bit of the stress away. It may even be in your best interest to invest in pet insurance. It may save you down the road.

Time: Dogs require a lot of work and a lot of attention. Before getting a dog seriously consider things like work hours, work traveling, your social life, taking care of your children and vacations. In addition, you should also consider that there are different breeds of dogs that require different levels of attention. And if you’re looking to get a puppy, be prepared to dedicate your time to him/her, especially for the first few months. It’s crucial that you are completely aware of the effort and time that goes into being a dog owner.

Allergies: It’s imperative to know whether or not you or anyone living in your home has any allergies to dogs. And it’s best to know before you adopt or buy— there are tests that your doctor can run. It’s never a good situation for the dog owner(s) and animal if the dog has to either be given back or given to someone else due to an allergy. This will put a lot of stress on the dog going from home to home. It can also cause harm to the people involved, as it is always difficult letting go of a pet. If someone in the home has an allergy and you still want a dog then you will need to consider the breeds of dogs that are considered hypoallergenic.

Adopting a dog may possibly be one of the best decisions that you make in life. They become your best friend and a part of your family. They will greet you when you come home, be your running partner and cuddle buddy. But, you are caring for another life and the adoption or purchase of a dog should be well thought out and something you are prepared for. Remember that you are the whole world to a dog so be sure you have the love and attention to give him/her.

Keeping Pets Safe in the Summer

It is the dog days of summer and the heat is on. During the warmer months it is important keep pets healthy and cool. Here are some tips to help keep your four-legged friends safe this summer:

1. Never leave pets alone in your car. Vehicles heat quickly in the sun, and animals left in them can suffer from heat stroke. This can happen in just a matter of minutes and is life threatening.

2. Do not exercise your pets in hot weather. If you want to get some exercise go in the early morning or late evening to prevent overheating.

3. Keep vaccinations up to date. Parvovirus, flourishes in hot weather and can be fatal to dogs. In the warmer weather pets also spend more time outdoors increasing the chances of encounters with wildlife and rabies.

4. Don’t forget the heartworm medication. Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes, but it can be prevented by administering a monthly preventive between June and November.

5. Groom your pets. Daily brushing or combing lets you check for fleas and ticks.

6. Not all dogs can swim. Do not leave your dog unattended near water. Dogs can drown if they fall into water.

7. It is always the right season to spay or neuter your pet.