Main Content

Q&A: How can I get my dog to like strangers?


Q: We have a 1-year-old Husky/Golden Retriever mix. She is very friendly but when we have guests over she barks and her hair stands up, like she’s being overly protective. It makes our visitors nervous. She didn’t start doing this until she felt more comfortable in our home after we adopted her. How can we curb this behavior? — Jennifer H.



Andrea Arden, CPDT at Andrea Arden Dog Training in New York City, writes: Firstly, yippee for the adoption option! Dogs, like people, have some situations where they feel more comfortable than others. I for one, love chatting with people at parties, but my best friend gets really nervous. We’re both friendly people, we just have different comfort levels.

With that said, we tend to hold our canine companions to a pretty high social standard. We want them and others to be safe and we want our friends to get to see how wonderful our dog can be.

I think your girl will greatly appreciate your efforts to help her build a larger social circle by doing the following:

1. Always respect her boundaries. People sometimes are so eager
for their dogs to make friends that they push them a bit. Fright can
easily turn to fight or flight. So let your dog have the space she

2. Have one nice, calm friend at a time help you and your pup practice.
Invite your friend over at your dog’s mealtime and have him sit in one
spot, turned slightly away from your dog and feed your dog from his
hand. This may need to start by tossing the food — one piece at a time
— on the floor and gradually tossing them closer.

3. Teach your dog hand targeting — touching her nose to your hand. (Learn how to teach your dog hand-targeting here.)
If she learns to do this with you and then one of your friends at a
time, she is learning that touching human hands is incredibly rewarding.
The goal is for her to gradually generalize these good feelings to more
and more people.

Learn more about Petfinder’s Train FurKeeps program.

Bookmark and Share

You might also like:

Training Your Dog to Hand Target

Previous Q&As:

Can cats and houseplants coexist?

Why is my cat afraid of me?

How can I get my dog to tolerate baths?

Help! My dog’s a thief. How do I stop him?

Why does my dog freak out when someone leaves the car?

How can I stop my dog from biting his leash?

Why does my cat splash his water everywhere?

Why won’t my dog stop digging?

Why does my cat throw up after eating?

Why is my cat so mean?

Help! My puppy won’t use the pee pads!

How can I get my cat to bury his poop in the litter box?

How do I stop my dog’s submissive urination?

How do I stop my cat from jumping on the table?

How do I stop my dog from jumping?

How do I stop my kitten from biting?

How do I stop my dog from chasing my cat?

Share this Article

Recently Viewed Pets