Is your rescue dog shy or anxious about meeting new people? Dogs that weren’t properly socialized as puppies may be extremely fearful when meeting strangers. The good news is that it’s rarely too late to start socialization with your dog. The key is to introduce your dog to people slowly with lots of positive reinforcement. With that in mind, here are 4 tips for introducing your rescue dog to new people.
#1 – Use a leash
If you’re expecting company, putting your dog on a leash before anybody knocks on your door or rings your doorbell helps you add a degree of control during introductions. You’ll want to make them sit and be calm before you open the door. If the doorbell alone is enough to send your dog into a tailspin, you may consider having your guests call or text you when they pull up so that you and your dog can calmly meet them at the door.
#2 – Have your guests greet you first
By having guests greet you first before gushing over your new dog, you are reinforcing to excitable dogs that they can’t immediately jump on anybody who walks through your door. It also gives shy dogs a chance to assess your guest and become more comfortable before being confronted by a stranger. Have your dog’s favorite treat handy for your guest to give them. Remind your guest to pet your dog’s body instead of their head – fearful dogs may bite hands headed toward their faces.
#3 – Let your dog make the first move
This is especially important with nervous dogs. Let them warm up to your guest and approach them on their own terms. Usually this will involve your dog sniffing the other person’s shoes. Never drag your dog over to a stranger and insist that they say hi. Reward your dog with praise and treats as they (calmly) approach the other person.
#4 – Consider using a baby gate
If your dog is too intimidated to meet guests to your home on a leash, consider separating them with a baby gate so your dog can check out the situation from a safe distance. This may be especially important if your dog is overly enthusiastic or even aggressive.
While it’s normal for some dogs to be nervous around new people, they should not resort to aggression. If you have a dog that is aggressive with strangers, you should talk to a trainer to work on a solution. It only takes one “accident” to have disastrous consequences.