If your dog is afraid of strangers, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. This post will show you a number of possible causes and what you can do about them.
Possible reasons why it is afraid of strangers are that it is still young, it is naturally submissive, it was mistreated by strangers in the past or that certain strangers approach it in an intimidating way.
Since there are a number of possible causes, it would help to consider what would make each of them more likely. Once you have a good idea of the main cause, it should become easier to figure out what to do in order to get it to stop.
Why your dog is afraid of strangers
Below are a number of possible causes and what would make each of them more likely.
The cause could be that other people were aggressive towards it, in the past. This would be especially likely if you know that other people were aggressive towards it while it was still a puppy or if you adopted it from a shelter.
In this case, it would also help to socialize it with friendly dogs when possible and to give it positive reinforcement and desensitization training as well.
It might be the case that your dog is naturally not very trusting of other people. This would be more likely if it has always avoided strangers and it has not started doing it suddenly.
If your dog is a puppy, it could be the case that it is afraid of strangers because it is going through a more timid stage. As puppies, it is hard for dogs to defend themselves, so trying to avoid potential threats would be the safest option for them.
Encouraging the behavior
It could be the case that you have inadvertently encouraged the behavior by giving your dog things it wants when it does it. If you tend to give your dog things such as toys, treats or extra attention, when it is afraid of strangers, it will likely do it more in order to get more rewards.
Instead, it would help to reward it when it shows signs of not being afraid and to try to avoid encouraging it when it does start being afraid.
It could also be the case that it does it because it is being submissive. It might be being submissive due to being fearful or it could be naturally submissive. This would be more likely if it shows other signs of submissive behavior such as hiding its tail, hiding behind you, lowering its head and lowering its ears.
The cause could also be that certain strangers intimidate it because of the way they interact with it. This would be more likely if it only avoids certain strangers.
Things to consider
Below are some things to consider when figuring out the main reason why your dog has been doing it.
What else happened when it first started doing it
If your dog did not always avoid strangers, it would help to consider what else happened when it first started doing it since it might be the case that there was an event that caused it to start. If it started doing it suddenly, it could be due to things such as someone mistreating it or getting an injury.
What else happens when it does it
If it is not always afraid of strangers, it would also help to consider what is different when it is not afraid. For example, if it is not afraid when they do not approach it quickly, it might be the case that the way that they approach it causes it to get intimidated.
What to do about it
Below are some options you have when getting your dog to stop doing it.
Avoid encouraging the behavior
As mentioned above, it could be the case that your dog has learned that it gets rewards for behaving that way. Instead, it would help to reward it when it behaves the way you want it to and to avoid rewarding it when it does not.
Avoid forcing it into uncomfortable situations
If your dog is afraid of strangers, it would help to avoid forcing it to be in a situation, with strangers that makes it feel uncomfortable. Instead, it would help to reward it when it is showing signs of not being afraid, to stop rewarding it when it does and to allow it to leave or to take it away from the situation.
If your dog has been being excessively afraid of strangers, one option would be to get help from a dog behaviorist in your area. By doing so, you should be able to see what has been causing your dog to behave that way and what you can do to get it to stop.
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