How to Get Your Protection Dog Adjusted to Family and Friends
Family and personal protection dogs are incredible animals, capable of stopping nearly everything from an armed robber to a speeding bullet. Okay, maybe not a bullet, but you get the idea. They are fierce warriors and defenders of all things they love and hold dear. So, what happens when you have friends and family that they don’t recognize? If you don’t prepare them, it might not end well. Here’s what you need to know.
Take the Lead
Your protection dog will look to you for cues. When you know you’ll have friends over, get ready, and leash your dog. When your friend arrives and knocks or rings the doorbell, correct any behavior that isn’t appropriate, such as charging toward the door, barking, or growling.
After your friend or family member enters, greet them, and show your dog that they are a friend. Once you’ve welcomed your friend, introduce your k9. Let your dog sniff them and get comfortable with their presence.
Keep Rewards Handy
For every good and appropriate behavior your dog exhibits while your friend and family are present, offer a treat. This doesn’t have to be food but can come in the form of telling them “good boy” and giving them a few pets.
According to Scott’s K9, treats reinforce good behavior. If your dog sits or lies calmly when a friend comes into your home, offer a reward. When they are well behaved with your friend there, have your friend offer them a treat, as well.
Start with Short Visits
When first training your protection dog to respond appropriately, keep friend visits on the shorter side. For dogs that are particularly excitable or anxious, for first meetings, it could be beneficial to have them leashed the entire time.
Help your pup by demonstrating the behavior you want them to exhibit and remaining consistent with the training and commands you have taught them. Never raise your voice or yell at your pup when it’s doing something it shouldn’t. Always respond firmly yet calmly. If you get agitated, they’ll mirror the emotions they see and will become agitated themselves.
Know your Techniques
When it comes time for you to start introducing your protection dog to friends and family, your k9 should already be reasonably well trained. At a minimum, they should know some basic commands and respond to them flawlessly each time. Commands such as “sit,” “lie down,” “stay,” and “off” are basic ones you will need for a variety of circumstances. These can also be used to calm your pooch if they get anxious during a visit.
When a friend comes over, it’s natural for them to want to see your dog. However, when they first arrive, encourage them to look away from your dog and not into their eyes. Don’t pay them any attention. By seeming to ignore the dog, it will feel less anxious. Then eventually, they can move closer to the dog while keeping their focus on you. Finally, they’ll be standing right by the dog. But by keeping their attention focused on you, the dog will think they are disinterested and will feel much calmer during the approach. Eventually, your dog will become comfortable around friends who were once strangers.
Set Up Your Space
If you’re particularly concerned about how your protective pooch will react to family and friends, set up a safe space and start with your dog behind a doggy gate. This gives your dog the ability to watch what’s happening from a safe distance. As he watches you interact with guests and friends, he’ll understand what it looks like when you want someone in your house, and there is no threat. Eventually, he’ll become comfortable with what he sees happening and will be ready for introductions.
Seek Proper Training
If you’re running into problems and can’t get your dog comfortable around friendly faces, or they demonstrate significant aggressive behavior, getting them a trainer is a must. A professional dog trainer will not only be able to help your dog and correct poor behavior, but they’ll be able to help you, as well.
If you see a behavior in your dog that causes you concern, never ignore it. Small, insignificant areas of poor behavior will eventually become significant problems. If left alone, bad behavior can cause you to run the risk of your dog hurting a friend. Your dog must be trained right.
Introductions then Friendship
While it is true that your dog may be wary of new people at first, he will come to know and love them as much as he loves you. By starting slow with proper techniques and training, you will help your dog confidently transition from unsure pup to confident k9 in a matter of no time.