Stranger Danger – Aggression with Handling from Strangers in the Home
In this series of articles, we have explored many aspects of aggression in dogs due to handling. In this post we explore dogs who don’t want to be pet or handled by strangers in the home.
Having guests in the home can be stressful for the pet parents and your canine companion as many dogs do not care for strangers, especially in their home. If a dog is uncomfortable with touch or petting from a stranger, we recommend you discuss ahead of time with the upcoming guest what your dogs needs so you can set everyone up to be safe and successful.
We think about two types of visitors you may have at your home. One type are those that are coming to do a service at your home or just guests who are not interested in your dog (we are not sure why you would invite those people over). For these guests it may be best to put your dog in a back room, kennel, or out in the backyard, so your dog does not get handled and does not have a negative experience.
Having frozen Kongs in the freezer readily available for your dog, is often helpful. Some dogs prefer not to have to deal with strangers and would welcome the opportunity to be in their safe spot eating something yummy.
Conversely, there are others that come to visit, usually friends and family who are willing to help you with your training. I find it extremely important to have a clear plan when the guests arrive. Where will you be? Where will the dog be? What should your guest do and, even more importantly, what should your guests not do? Waiting to see what may or may not happen does not set you and your dog up for success. We want to control the environment so we can control the outcome.
Some tips for dogs that are aggressive during handling is to tell people “please don’t pet my dog.” We love when pet parents post on the door directions that you already went over with them, as a reminder. Additionally, having treats that guests can toss as the door opens can be helpful. Perhaps put a sign on your dog to remind your guests, such as a harness with a ‘Do Not Pet’ sign. Ensure they do not engage with your dog at all. They should not reach for your dog or put their hand out to the dog for a sniff. Dogs have amazing sniffers and smell guests from a distance so they do not need hands in their faces.
Giving guests something to do may keep the interactions positive. If your dog likes to play fetch, the guest can toss a ball. If the guest is tossing a ball they are not petting your dog. Another option is a flirt pole or tossing treats. Remind your guests that just because a dog comes over to sniff you or drop a ball, it does not mean that dog wants to now be pet! Sniffing does not equate to consent for petting.
For some dogs having them learn to station in a place is helpful, like teaching them to stay on a bed. The bed should be at a distance whereby the dog has enough space and will not ever be cornered. This needs to be practiced prior to having guests, and practiced a lot. Some dogs should wear a muzzle after being trained to station or, perhaps, should be on a leash too.
Another option is meeting your guests while coming back from a walk. This is helpful so you can all walk into the house together. This avoids issues with greetings at the front door. This has the added benefit of having the dog on leash so there is some safety there too.
If your guests are not able to follow your directions, it is perfectly fine to put your dog away in his safe place with something yummy. Your dog may really appreciate this. These protocols will not work with all dogs in all situations so it is important to seek the guidance of canine behavior consultant.