May 15

Helping Dogs Interact with New People


I often take my dog to my son’s baseball games. I bring a chair, and we sit a distance away from the bleachers. Most of the time, things are great. Every now and then, Kelsey takes a dislike to someone and starts to bark. It’s usually an elderly man. I have no idea why she’d act this way. The people have never done anything to her. It’s embarrassing, and it makes me worry that people will think I have a mean dog. What should I do? ~ Samantha

Dogs define “normal” by what they see all the time and, conversely, they find things that are different a bit worrisome. It’s not unusual for a dog to react badly to people who limp, use a cane, or roll by on skates. These things are not every-day occurrences for many dogs.

If she’s usually good with people, take treats with you and work on having her focus on you instead of the “scary” people. Stand up, move around a bit, and do a little training. Movement can be settling for both people and dogs. Be sure to stay far enough away that she feels comfortable and is not reactive.

If possible, ask the man to sit in your chair (so he’ll be still and Kelsey knows he won’t approach her) and toss treats to her. Most social dogs can get over their initial fear of someone different when you keep things light and fun.


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