Q: We have a 14-month-old German Shepherd. He’s a good boy, but he’s highly reactive and anxious. He also doesn’t like people coming into the house. We’ve tried other training, but nothing seemed to help. I’d just really like less stressful walks, and to be able to have company over, and to know how to make him more comfortable.
A: I get this question a lot. People tell me frequently how much they’d like to have people over but cannot because of their dog. The dog may be extremely excited to be around visitors, resulting in potential harm to guests. Or the dog may be so anxious or fearful in the presence of strangers that they could potentially become aggressive. We humans are social beings who enjoy spending time together, and we like to include our dogs in our socializing, so I do empathize with your concern.
The short answer to your question is that you can and should have people over, because your dog should not be a reason for you to stop socializing and spending time with friends and family, especially around the holidays.
Simply put, your guests and your dog do not need to meet – at least not in the early stages of training. In the Way of Life Method, dogs are allowed to interact with guests gradually, following a thoughtful and measured approach to socialization. This is in contrast to the all-or-nothing approach that’s labeled socialization by most trainers.
In the Way of Life Method, when we’re just getting started, we try to keep things as quiet around the house as possible. But with time, we gradually expose our dogs to guests, first from a distance and then closer. Eventually the dogs are allowed greater freedom around guests and can interact with them more.
Ideally, you want to welcome visitors who support your rearing efforts. They will understand and respect your wishes about how the dog should be handled during their visits. They will be willing to carry on with fun and conversation, even while your dog is barking their head off. They will respect the fact that they should not approach the crate or try to engage the dog. Always talk to your visitors in advance about how you would like them to interact with the dog.
To find out more about the Way of Life Method and where you can order a copy of the book, go to:https://thewayoflifemethod.com