How to get a rescue dog to trust you.
June 05, 2021
Reactive Dog Walking

Rescue Dog Training Edinburgh

Congratulations on your new dog whether you’ve adopted him or have brought home a pup, when it comes to meeting new people lets make sure you set off on the right paw! If you are anything like me, you just want to show off your new dog and get your friends around to meet him asap. You just want them to fall in love with your dog like you did. But guess what… you need to take things slowly, this will make life easier and calmer for your dog.

Meeting Friends and Family

First of all wait at least a week before you start introducing people to your dog who don’t live with you. I know it’s a long time, but remember your dog is new to you and your home so its best to make sure your dog has been able to relax with you. In the meantime you have WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram to show off your newest family member in people meetings can wait trust me.

Assume Your Dog Is Shy

I am a shy person and really struggle when it comes to meeting people I don’t know. I always wish I could have the ability to talk to anyone I meet, I have friends who seem to be able to get on with anybody instantly while I stand still plastering myself to the nearest wall. When it comes to meeting new people I am quiet, I like to watch and take everything in. Once I am feeling comfortable I’ll join in with the conversation and then I don’t shut up talking. I have come to terms with my shyness and I am a lot better at meeting people now. If I meet someone with a dog then my shyness goes out the window and I’m happy to talk, if only everyone could have a dog… anyhoo I digress.

It’s best to assume your dog is a shy dog to begin with, you need to follow their lead when it comes to meeting new people. Let them take everything in before they join the conversation.

General Rules for Introducing people

All Dogs prefer calm, quiet introductions even the social butterflies and attention seekers prefer calmness. You should never let somebody approach, speak to, or touch your dog unless it’s very clear your dog wants the attention. Even if that means you have to be down right rude to your guest, if a choice between your dogs happiness and your friends, choose you dog because you’re their voice.

For people visiting your home to meet your dog, you will have to ensure you give your visitors the rules before they arrive. Ideally along with telling them no approaching, no speaking and no touching your dog, also tell them not to stare at your dog too.

My Rules are:

  • Read your dog’s body language,Their body will tell you how they feel from ears, eyes, and tails. Generally a relaxed body, wagging tail and calm presence indicate a happy dog.
  • Ask your visitor to ignore your dog at first and say hi to you. Too much enthusiastic attention can be overwhelming for shy dogs.
  • It should always your dog choice if and when they want to greet somebody.
  • Show and tell people to pet the side of your dog’s head or side of their body. They must never pat the top of their heads or loom over them – this can feel threatening to most dogs.
  • You should have treats ready to give to your visitor! Nothing beats a little bit of bribery for first introductions. Ask your visitor to place the treats near their feet so your dog doesn’t have to worry about taking treats from a stranger’s hand.
  • Tell your visitors to dress in clothes they don’t mind getting dirty (in case your dog likes to jump up to say hi).
  • They should stay calm and relaxed, and let the dog sniff them before attempting any interaction

Depending on how your dog has been getting on in your home with new sounds and smells, you may also ask visitors to text you when they arrive and meet you outside first. If you find your dog is very shy or nervous, allow them to go to their bed or relax with you. Don’t push them to interact with people. Always watch your dog when they meet new people, so you can learn how they react and act as well as keeping them safe from people who don’t follow your rules.

Introduce your dog to other dogs.

Its highly likely that some of your friends have a dog and you want them to meet your new pal, thats totally fine. But as we handle meeting new people above we have to take the same caution when meeting new dogs. While its a dream come true when two dogs meet and become firm friends, sometimes it can take time and occasionally some dogs just don’t like each other.

Take your time, ensure your dog is only meeting one dog at a time and as a rule keep initial meetings short and sweet. These are my rules for introducing dogs

  • Make it a neutral space – Ideally choose an nice open space that doesn’t ‘belong’ to either dog, for example a local park.
  • Keep both dogs on lead – even if your friends dog is friendliest dog in town, it will make your dog feel better if he is on lead lead too.
  • Relax – each human holding the dog lead must be relax, no pulling on the lead to cause tension on the lead or tension for your dog.
  • Walk with Distance – walk side by side but with a good 10 meters between you both. If your dog is unsettled then increase the distance.
  • Cross Paths – while maintaining distance allow each other to cross paths, this will help each dog pick up the scent of the other.
  • Gradually reduce distance – get nearer to each other while walking. Ensure both dogs are happy, if either starts to get upset then increase the distance.
  • Let them meet – Ensure both dogs are happy, both humans are happy, then let the dogs meet and sniff each other. Keep watching your dog, if he is getting upset, defencive then call he away with you.
  • Always be rewarding your dog verbally and with treats for any and all positive interactions that includes him just looking at the dog.
  • Practice this several times over several meetings, then you can start enjoying walks, visits etc together.

In Short.

Time and space are your key friends when it comes to introducing your dog to new people and dogs, you are his voice and its down to you set the rules and ensure your friends and family stick to them.

I have met a dog whose parents let lots of people meet him when he was a puppy, he didn’t have any option to but accept people petting him on the head. Now don’t get me wrong they only had the best of intentions with their puppy, but unfortantly even when he was scared he still had people petting him and as time went on, he developed a fear of people. He became very nervous as he grew older he didn’t like people who he didn’t know touching him, he would back away everytime.

Had his owners taken the time to let the puppy choose who he interacted with and directed people not to pat the top of his head, then their puppy would have most likely grown into a more well rounded dog.

Assume your dog is shy and take it from there.

Enjoy your new dog.

Suzanne Gould

Chief Dog Trainer and Canine Happiness Officer.


Further Reading

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