Dogs really are our best friend, and the bond between dogs and humans is a very special one. However, some dogs can still get nervous around strangers. So here are a few tips on how to help your dog feel comfortable around new people.
Why do dogs get nervous around new people?
A dog’s anti-social behavior usually stems from nervousness and anxiety. This can be the result of several different influences, including genetics, traumatic experience, or limited socialisation and training. It’s often aggravated when your dog encounters people it doesn’t know; Your dog may become shy or fearful, causing it to hide away. But it can also react aggressively, barking and growling whenever it senses a ‘stranger danger.’
But whatever the root cause, building up your dogs confidence is key. Nervous dogs are easily overwhelmed by large groups of people, so start off small by introducing them to a few of your close friends. This is a great way for your dog to meet new people in a safe, controlled environment.
It’s not just dogs that need training
It’s also really important to manage your guest’s expectations. As the Dog People point out, it isn’t just pets that need training. Firstly, explain that your dog gets anxious around strangers, and tell them to avoid eye contact, as dogs can interpret this as an aggressive signal. Approaching them from a slight angle is also a really good idea; some dogs will see a direct approach as another sign of aggression. And remind your guests to keep calm and relaxed. Too much enthusiastic attention can overwhelm some dogs.
It’s important to keep an eye on your dog’s body language. If your dog is rigid and stiff then they’re probably feeling threatened; their tail will also stiffen up. Excessively licking their lips and nose is another clear indication of anxiety. If you do see any of these signs then gently remove your dog from the situation, and don’t re-introduce until they’ve calmed down.
Introducing your dog to new people.
Never let anyone pet a nervous dog. But if your dog appears relaxed, then advise people to gently extend the back of their hand. Your dog will give it a little sniff, and once they appear comfortable, they’re ready for a gentle stoke. But remember to tell people where your dog likes to be petted, and where it doesn’t! It’s always good to have a few treats on stand-by and give a few to the people your dog is meeting for the first time. Reward the right kind of behaviour, and your dog will soon start associating new people with positive emotions. Your dog will learn that people are not scary, but kind and friendly.
A confident dog is a friendly dog.
Focus on making lots of small improvements in your dog’s behaviour. In many cases, what you trying to do is rewire deep-rooted behavioural patterns and self-defense mechanisms. It requires a lot of time and patience, but the rewards will be amazing. You’ll get to watch your dog’s confidence grow. And once your dog feels more secure in itself, it will soon become comfortable around all kinds of new people.