Ask the Expert: Dog is ‘Scaredy Cat’ with Strangers

Your Pet Question: My dog barks very loudly and paces back and forth whenever a stranger enters the house. I

Your Pet Question:

My dog barks very loudly and paces back and forth whenever a stranger enters the house. I think he’s scared. What do I do?

Suzanne Gaucher, St. Théodore, QC

The Expert Says:

Yes, this is a fear-based behaviour and not your dog simply being unruly! The key is to control your dog’s exposure to the stimulus that causes fear and then associate the doorbell with something good.

Here’s a brief version of this method. When the doorbell rings, take your dog to another room before answering it. Next, use some food or a treat (something good) and associate it with something he deems scary (strangers at the door). You begin by ringing the bell yourself, entering and then feeding the dog. He will learn that the doorbell means food. Next, introduce people your dog knows to the treat game. When your dog is confident, you can add people he doesn’t know. Work slowly; learning takes time, and it could take up to six months to train him completely. Don’t add people your dog doesn’t know before he’s happy with the last step of the game. Practice until your dog is delighted to receive visitors! Happy training!


Sue Alexander, Certified Dog Behaviour Consultant and Certified Professional Dog Trainer, owner of Dogs in the Park in Guelph, Ontario

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