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Help! My dog is reactive to men!

This is my response to a question in Pets and Their People Magazine. Check them out here for lots of great information!

Q. My newly adopted 2-year-old female golden retriever is lovely with my husband and I,

but growls (and has once snapped) at strange men. I realize she was probably abused by

some man in the past. How do I help her get over this problem? - via Facebook Messenger

A. I would ask a few questions if you were to come to me as a client with this situation.

 First, how long have you had her? Dogs in a new environment need time to decompress

before meeting people.

 Were the men reaching to try to pet her when she growled and snapped at them? Be

grateful that she is giving early warning signs and not going straight to biting; that is one

good thing. Never punish her for growling or snapping, those are the only ways that she

is able to tell you that she is uncomfortable  with what is going on.

 Also, when was her last vet visit? If she hasn’t been to the vet recently, I would have her

checked over. Many behavior issues are a result of something medical that is going on.

 Have you noticed any head shaking or scratching at her ears? Make sure the vet checks

her for an ear infection if you have seen any of those signs.

After she is cleared from the vet, then I would have guests stay across the room when they come

to visit. Each time a visitor comes in, give your pup a stuffed frozen KONG or LickiMat® with

something yummy inside or on it. Also give the guest a bag of high value treats, like freeze-dried

beef liver treats, to have sitting next to him. After pup has finished her KONG or LickiMat®,

you can ask your visitor to toss one treat at a time to her, but have him toss the treat over her

head so that it lands behind your dog, not between your dog and your guest. Have him keep

doing this and let your pup  come closer at her own pace, if she chooses to do so.

Do not have him try to hand her any treats; making her take them from his hand could ruin

what you are trying to accomplish with this exercise (reducing fear and anxiety). The goal is

for her to have a positive association with meeting new people, which the food will help you


You can use this method with anyone new that she needs to meet. You should be able to see a

difference in her acceptance of new people after multiple times of doing this exercise.

Be consistent and patient with her. If things do not get better, please visit the Pet Professional

Guild website and search for a trainer in your area to help you.


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