Be Safe not Sorry
Let’s first discuss the process of introducing your new rescue dog to the human adults in the household. It’s important to take the proper steps to start exposing your new rescue dog safely. Instruct people who are new to your dog to show her the proper respect by averting their eyes when first meeting. Giving a fearful dog direct eye contact can be perceived as threatening and promote more fear. Second, it is always best to have the dog on a leash so you can control his movement. However, keep in mind that a leashed dog will feel more threatened, because it is unable to get away and knows it. As a result it will be better to have your guest actually ignore the dog for the first few minutes. No eye contact, no verbal interaction; just let the dog assimilate to the newcomer. When the dog appears disinterested, you may allow the person to sit close by, without giving the dog eye contact. If the dog looks at the person without vocalizing or showing fear, deliver a very high-value treat (meat, cheese, chicken, etc.). Do this over and over each time the dog looks at the new person without reaction, until the dog looks at the person and then looks back at you for the treat. Once you see that cue (dog looks at person, then back at you for treat) you have made great progress, and can proceed to allow the dog to be free to roam. Even after this, instruct the new person to continue to basically ignore the dog. The dog will initiate introductions, play, etc. as it feels comfortable. Always start this routine with adults, not children. Once the dog has assimilated to the adults in the household, you may begin to bring in children of every age, and follow the same process.
Come back next week as we continue to discuss the nuances associated with bringing a rescue dog home. Specifically we will be discussing generalization, and how that can hinder dogs.