Strangers And Your New Puppy

Strangers-And-Your-New-PuppyMany struggle with the dilemma of how to handle strangers and their new puppy, especially as they work through the basic steps of engagement and training, which is the critical process of proper socialization. Puppies in general are just like small children. They do not have the full body vocabulary of an adult, and can rarely properly project their fear or stress; often resulting in a scared or hostile puppy. To them the world is a new, and often scary place. For now, you want to teach them to look to you for everything.

Puppies will first look to you for direction, as well as protection. Don’t be scared to tell strangers, friends, or family “I’m training my puppy, please don’t pet him, or give him attention”. Don’t worry about being rude, or that many people will misunderstand this. Your priority is your four-legged friend who is still learning how to co-exist in a very big world. Without clear direction from you, the puppy may start to make not so good choices; for example, fear barking. Our lack of action has now taught our dog to potentially be aggressive to new people and places. We need to start the process of of getting  strangers and your new puppy in a safe environment for both of them.

Now here is what you can do:

  • shutterstock_197930090Immediately get your puppy’s attention-use a high reward such as a tasty treat or favorite toy. Continue to redirect to yourself and engage your puppy until the distraction has either lost its appeal, or is no longer around
  • Keep your puppy focused on you
  • Anytime your puppy seems nervous or strange-redirect them to you
  • Teach your dog that new places, people, and things, are cause for reward and play from you. This will both build their focus on you, and teach them that the world is no big deal and can be ignored or not worried about
  • When people and the world are no source of concern, it can be met calmly later on
  • Don’t let other people distract your puppy, letting other people engage and reward your dog teaches them to ignore you. You also don’t want to build expectations that won’t be met, creating a puppy that is unsure.

In short don’t be scared to be assertive, say no, ask politely. Imagine how strangers would look to you if you were only 12” tall. This is also a critical time when you are creating the building blocks of a life-long partnership, and focusing on the core concepts of motivation and engagement with your new puppy. Teach them now that you are the source of their reward, praise, and safety, and you will have a dog that looks to you for life, and will be confident out in the world with you by their side.