First Impressions Count
When you’ve always lived with or around dogs, you’ll be very familiar with what to expect from them.
This isn’t the case for everyone. And unpredictable can be scary – for both humans and dogs.
Dogs that are excitable and bouncy are particularly likely to cause non-dog owners stress.
What we see as happy and cute, can be quite worrying to someone whose not used to them.
Jumping Up Being Friendly v. Jumping Up To Bite!
When I get home, I love that my dogs gently pop up to say hi and reconnect with me.
Their body language is soft, their movements gentle and I can read their intention is warm and friendly.
But for someone unfamiliar with dog behaviour, a dog jumping up can be scary! What if they’re trying to bite me?!
Laughable when you know what the dog’s intention? Yes. But, a very real fear if you don’t.
And it’s hard to hide the fact you’re frightened of a dog. They have the ability to sniff out cancer cells and tell us when our blood sugar levels drop too low. There ain’t no hiding the smell of fear!
But fear not – a little knowledge goes a long way. Understanding WHY dogs behave they do, can really make a big difference.
Here’s a video I did on how to stop dogs jumping up – lots of useful information for someone who needs to understand more.
Creating Safe Spaces
If I have a dog growling at a person, I need to take them seriously.
There’s a reason why dogs behave they do. And growling is a warning from the dog that something is not well in their world.
Changes to a dogs environment because someone new has entered their home is a big deal. It can be very unsettling.
This particularly true if the newcomer is giving off strange vibes because they’re not very sure about being around dogs.
It might be there’s been reduced access to precious resources such as..
- Mum’s attention
- Particular rooms in the house
- Their comfy spot on Mum’s lap on the sofa
So it’s important to make sure everyone is clear about the house rules and there are safe spaces for all parties.
Which means doing some work on making a dog bed or crate/pen a great place to be is in order.
My dogs beds are sacred places where they will be left alone. They don’t get the same privilege on the sofa because that’s MY space – not theirs.
Coming up on the sofa is by invitation only. A nice Sit for ‘Please’ to come up, avoids them being up on the sofa and guarding it.
Training a solid ‘Send To Bed’ cue is useful is sooo many situations is easy to do.
I explain how to teach value for getting onto a dog bed within a crate in the video below.
And with all of that said, a growl makes me think it’s important to get a professional pair of eyes on the situation too.
Much easier to stop a problem escalating than it is to put something right when it’s gone wrong.
Don’t forget, a growl is a few steps down from a bite (see Canine Ladder of Aggression below). That’s how serious we’re talking.
Building Positive Associations
In the meantime, there are ways and means to build positive associations with a new person.
Food is always a good place to start!
A great way to do this is using enrichment games. This is where we give our dogs their food in more imaginative ways than straight into a dog bowl.
Not sure how to get started?
Check out ‘Beyond The Bowl’ – a fantastic little book packed full of ideas for making mealtimes more fun.
There’s also a couple of fab Facebook groups that are worth checking out for ideas too:
Listen to my interview on Breakfast with Gethin, Gemma & Dave at Hits Radio for more tips & ideas.