Dogs can very apprehensive to new faces and they can always be on their guard.
A Teddyhilton.com reader wants her boyfriend and her mini poodle to get along.
She writes to Dr. Patrick Mahaney:
I have a 2 year old mini poodle. She is very sweet and lovable toward the family, but is terrified when friends come to visit.
My boyfriend and I have been together for over a year and she still won't go near him.
Is there any way to help her become more comfortable around strangers? Help would be greatly appreciated!!!! Thank you!!!
Thank you for your question. Behavior issues can be challenging to resolve, but with perseverance and positivity, you can succeed.
First, have your boyfriend only approach your dog in a friendly, quiet, and calm manner. He should get down on the ground with her and offer the palm of his hand with a food treat to coerce her to approach.
Once she begins to come towards him, offer praise by saying "good come" or something comparable that is short and sweet (“come” will ultimately become the verbal command).
Have a few treats ready to offer repeat positive reinforcement.
If she lets you touch her, then don’t put your hand on top of her head. Instead, gently stroke the underside of her neck (near the jawline) and chin.This method can apply to all interactions with strangers, friends, and others.
If she is continues to be anxious around new people, make sure to have her examined by your veterinarian to rule out any health problems that could contribute to unusual behaviors (pain, digestive/anal sac issues, etc).
Pending her response to training, you can always pursue the help of a board certified veterinary behaviorist (see ACVB website).
[Image via Dr. Patrick Mahaney/Russel Baer.]