In a dog’s life, the moment of the walk is supposed to be a source of immense excitement and joy. But for some dogs, on the contrary, it is synonymous with anxiety, or even panic fear. If your dog is afraid of people he doesn’t know, here are some tips to help him.
While walking, is your dog happy as long as he doesn’t run into anyone in the streets? If a passer-by crosses his path, he takes refuge in your legs, tries to flee in desperation, barks, or even pretends to attack? Every dog reacts differently to the object of his fears.
But, in any case, if your dog adopts one of these behaviours, know that it is not to annoy you. If he doesn’t listen to you when you ask him to calm down, it’s because his instinct is to do so. Fear literally takes control of his emotions and his body. This is called having a phobia.
Good to know: If your dog is afraid of people, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s been abused. In fact, there are many other reasons why he may be so anxious. For example, if he was the last of his litter and was abandoned by his mother. Or if he was too isolated when he was a puppy, during his socialization period, and he was not used to seeing new faces.
- Asking for the cooperation of passers-by
The first thing to do is to appeal to the kindness of passers-by in the street or on a walk. In fact, before you leave, take a packet of your dog’s favourite treats with you. It can also be small pieces of meat or cheese. The main thing is that it’s a food that will literally drive your doggie crazy.
Then, ask every passerby you meet to give your dog one of these treats. Be sure to crouch down and avoid eye contact, of course! At first, your dog may be reluctant to even approach strangers who are reaching out their hands. Passers-by will then have to throw the candy in front of them so that he deigns to approach.
But, as time goes by, you will see that he will succeed. The desire to eat this treat will always be stronger (unless your dog is not a gourmand at all – which is rare among our canine friends). Also, when he sees that those people he doesn’t know aren’t hurting him, he will become more and more confident.
The goal of this exercise is for your dog to associate people on the street with a positive, even pleasant feeling. However, it goes without saying that a single session will not be enough. Don’t hesitate to repeat the exercise as many times as necessary (but be careful about weight gain!). And be aware that it is also possible to apply this advice during an evening at home.
- Redirect your attention
If the first exercise doesn’t work with your dog, there is another solution. Instead of pushing your dog to focus on people, redirect his attention to you. This is because you are (normally) the only person he really trusts. Therefore, forcing him to focus on you, his owner, can be a good way to keep him from thinking about his surroundings.
It’s easy to do this: get a toy, preferably one, or a treat if your dog isn’t the toy-obsessed type. Note that a clicker works too. Then, as a first step, practice at home.
Every time you take the toy out of your pocket and say the word “look at me”, for example, your dog has to look you in the eye. If he does, give him the toy and/or a treat. Repeat the exercise until he has completely acquired this order. Then, try to practice it outside, first in an unfrequented area. Then gradually increase the difficulty of the exercise.
By imposing a frame on your dog in front of something that frightens him (in this case people), you help to make him feel safe. Note that this exercise can also work with another command, such as “sit” or “down”.
- Walk him as often as possible
Even if walking is not fun for you or your pet, it is important that you don’t overdo it or take your dog out as often as possible. On the contrary, this will only make the problem worse.
So, as you can see, the best thing you can do is to walk your dog, over and over again, until he feels more comfortable around strangers. Keeping him locked up in an apartment or house would be a mistake. In fact, the more people he sees, the less frightened he will be.
However, be careful not to traumatize him even more. For example, avoid walking your dog in the millet.