Hannah Richter (aka Mary Puppins) is a certified dog trainer and current instructor at Andrea Arden Dog Training in NYC. If you have something you want to ask Mary Puppins be sure to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Dear Mary Puppins,
My boyfriend and I recently brought home our new Aussie puppy Brady. He is ten weeks old and with a beautiful blue merle coat. We are madly in love with him. I read that Aussies can be a bit shy when it comes to meeting strangers. I want to introduce Brady to new people as soon as possible to make sure he is socialized, but am feeling nervous about it. How can we best introduce Brady to new people?
Thanks for your tips,
Dear Shy Guy,
I admire that you are being so proactive about getting Brady to have opportunities to socialize with people early on. Giving your puppy positive experiences with strangers teaches them that humans are not something to be afraid of. Just like humans, some dogs are more outgoing than others. People often assume that all dogs love attention and pets but that is simply not true. For your puppy’s first greeting, pick a person who has a naturally calm demeanor who can take your direction if needed. There are several actions you can take to help you, your puppy, and your guests succeed when first bringing a guest into the home.
Prevent your dog from seeing your guests enter the home
Many dogs are more reactive to a guest coming into their home if they can see the person come through the front door. If possible, have your puppy go in the crate or another room to work on a delicious food toy while you go to the door. This will give them a positive association with the sound of the doorbell and will keep them feeling calmer as your guest comes in. As your puppy works on their food toy, show your guest to a spot where they can sit and relax. Once your guest has settled in, you can go to get your puppy.
Use management such as a leash or a go to your bed cue
Having a management plan is essential to successful guest interactions with Brady. When you bring Brady out from his crate, put a leash on and use it as a tool to guide Brady in the space if needed. If he is jumping up on your guest, step on the leash about the length from his shoulder to the floor. This will prevent him from being able to jump up. Encourage your guest to turn and walk away if he jumps up. Keep a bed and a food toy for Brady in the room that your guest is in. This will help him understand where he should go and what he should work on if he needs a bit of space.
Pair guests with extra-good-things-for-Brady
Once Brady sees the guest in the space, you can evaluate how he is feeling. If he is barking or cowering, he needs more space. If he is wagging his tail with a loose body and seems excited about the guest, allow him to walk up to your guest. Have a jar of treats nearby that your guest can hand or toss to Brady as he approaches them. Let your guest give him treats every 10 seconds or so for a few minutes. This will give Brady a chance to adjust to the new person.
If your dog is shy, ask your guests to avoid eye contact and to let your dog come to them
Prolonged direct eye contact can be extremely intimidating for some dogs. If your dog is nervous at all with meeting new people, ask your guests to avoid eye contact with your dog at first. Quick glances are much better than prolonged eye contact if they do look at your dog. Once they have relaxed and are coming to the guest you can let your guest look at your dog a bit more.
Set an example for your dog
The more relaxed you are when your guest comes over, the more relaxed your dog is likely to be. Dogs are very emotionally in-tune with their owners and will pick up on your energy around guests. Try as much as you can to keep your body language relaxed and your tone of voice calm.
Dogs are very emotionally in-tune with their owners and will pick up on your energy around guests.
Greeting strangers with confidence may be natural for you, but it’s also something that may take some time before your dog is excited about new people coming over. Be patient and work at your dog’s pace.