Not fearing strangers

I wanted to make a post about how I worked with Hestia to not be afraid of strangers.

Japanese Chin tend to be a bit stand-offish to strangers, and Hestia was no exception when I got her.

When people would reach out to her, she would move out of their way and kinda hide behind me when I first got her as a puppy.  

I didn’t want her to be afraid of people.  I didn’t necessarily want her to want to love on everyone, but I did want her to not be stressed or afraid or anything when people wanted to pet her.

What I started doing was anytime someone reached for her, I would click and treat.  You can also start earlier than this, just whenever you’re close to another person or they pass close by you, click and treat.  Note that I don’t let people pet at this point, as the dog isn’t ready for that.

These things will train your dog that people passing or reaching for them is not a bad thing, but results in yummy food. I did this training for several months.

Once your dog gets to the point where they are OK with people reaching for or passing them, then I like to, after stopping people from petting, give them a treat to give to my dog.  

I would often ask people who were approaching us “Could you help me train my dog?” and then tell them to just give her some treats but don’t try to pet her.

This taught her that other people were not only not to be feared, but they could be the source of good things, too.

After a few months of this, I started asking people who had given her a few treats to pet her gently on her back while I jackpotted Hestia (gave her lots of really good treats in quick succession). I specifically asked them where to pet her so that they didn’t go in over her head which can be threatening to dogs.

This taught her that when people pet her, she got loads of rewards, and made the petting a good thing.  I did this for several months.

Once she was good with people petting her, I taught her a “visit” command.  I would tell her “visit”, point to the person, and then when they pet her, I would click and treat.  She quickly learned that when I said visit, if she went over to the person indicated and allowed a brief pet, she’d get rewarded. The reward from me at the end taught her to focus on me and not the petting.

I stopped at this point because I didn’t want an overly friendly dog.  I wanted her to be able to go up to someone to say hi when directed, but not to linger there for a long time.  If I had wanted her to linger, I would have gradually increased the amount of time she was getting pet before clicking and treating.

You can see how she responds nowadays with this training in the video below.  When I cue her to visit, she approaches the person excitedly for some attention, then immediately looks back to me for her reward.  This is exactly what I want in Hestia.

At 9:12 in the following video is where she gets pet:

Hope this helps!

Below is a picture of Hestia, a white and black dog with a smushed nose wearing a red vest, getting pet by a Sam’s Club employee wearing a green vest. Hestia is ignoring the petting and looking up and out of frame at me.

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