Afraid of Visitors

By Sally Bradbury and Kay Bradnum

The first thing to consider is, does your dog need to meet these visitors? He certainly doesn’t need to meet the gas engineer, repair people or delivery people. So, make sure that before you open the door, he’s shut away safely in another room with something to occupy him. While he’s in there, you can give him a few chew toys that are particularly interesting, because he only gets them on these occasions.

Then you can work on visitors who it would be helpful to have him comfortable with. If you have some stooge visitors that you can practise with, that will be useful.

Give him space; maybe put him in the kitchen with a baby gate across the doorway. Then when visitors come, you can feed him little treats to help him feel better about them. To give you time to greet the visitors, scatter several treats on the floor for him to search out. This is a calming activity. Once he seems more relaxed and they are sitting down (so are less threatening), you can let him out of the kitchen. Ask your visitors to ignore him completely (especially avoid eye contact) and wait for him to come to them. If he does come towards them, they could throw a treat behind him, so he gets a double reward: the treat and the relief of moving away again. Don’t ask the visitors to give treats as he will be lured close to eat it, then panic once he’s eaten the food and realises he’s too close. If visitors ignore him other than to throw treats past him, it will hopefully not be long before he’s approaching them for attention. If not, that’s no big deal; he should be able to choose to be left in peace if that’s what he needs.

Make sure he has a safe place to go to. It can be a bed tucked out of the way somewhere or a crate, if he loves his crate. Always have it available for him to retreat to whenever he feels the need.

Your aim should be for a dog who is comfortable and relaxed when visitors arrive. He may never want a fuss from people outside his immediate family and that’s OK. He’s not their dog after all!

See also: Does Your Dog Really Want to be Petted?