Sasha hates strangers


April Pertl
My 1-yr-old Maltese, Sasha, hates it when strangers come over to my house. She barks at them and shows other aggressive behavior. If a friend tries to pet her, she will bite them. One time she bit my best friend, and hurt her. It wasn't a little innocent puppy bite. Sasha is a little better if I hold her and tell her to give them kisses, but if I dont make it in time, and someone has tried to pet her, then they get bitten. I've tried really hard. She almost seems like a snob because she likes my family and only a select few of my friends. What do I do? She is very sweet to the people she loves!


Pamela and Zsa Zsa
I'm just wondering how old Sasha was when you got her and if you are her original owner. I know she's a year old, but I wasn't sure if she has done this since she was 3 months, etc. We have a cat that was extremely friendly with strangers, until a cable guy came to our apartment (years ago) and apparently hurt her in some way--after that she ran when the doorbell rang, and was extremely leary of strangers. She was 2 when it happened. I'm not sure if getting her out with people more, outside the house would help or not. Understanding why she does it will help to figure out what you should do. My cat has just needed lots of time (years) to trust people that ring the doorbell and then come in. Good luck!

Mary Ann
My Augie demonstrated ferocious, charging behavior whenever anyone came to the door or walked by the window where he sat. We stopped the window watching but his behavior never changed toward strangers. What we found that did work was to tell people to never reach down to pet the wild angel but to ignore his behavior and him until he came up to them and tried to get close. He is extremely lovable but does have this quirk.

You didn't mention how you hold your dog, but I recently read a story that you may find amusing as well as helpful. "...It is true that a vice with quite a number of small dogs is that they bite any person who approaches too close to the owner. This is nearly always caused by the owner's hugging the dog to her chest. The quickest way to cure a dog of this habit is to always hold it with its quarters on your hip and your hand underneath its chest, with one finger through the front legs to support its front. It gets confidence by being held away from the owner's body and is then handed to several people willing to take it, suitably protected by gloves if necessary. I never use gloves, I prefer to allow the dog to snap at me if it must. I find that if you stay with your hand relaxed, the dog spits it out rather than bites it, but I know this is not easy for everyone to do. Talking about gloves, I had a curious case one day of a lady who arrived in very smart town clothes--complete with cotton gloves--to train her dog. She would not take the gloves off. I tried to convince her that human contact is the most important asset in training a dog and getting its confidence. (As much as possible, I lay my face against my pupil's muzzles and give them a kiss behind the ear, which is quite safe from the risk of infection.) If you wear gloves, you don't get that human contact, and it is in a way similar to smacking a dog with a newspaper, something I strongly disapprove of. If the right tone of voice is used, the right happy attitude of mind cultivated, and above all the really happy praise given the dog when it does as is wanted. In praising dogs I always use the words "What a good dog." I have lined a class of dogs up and told the owners to praisethem in their usual manner, then told them to prefix the praise with the word "what". The effect on the dogs is undeniable. For some extraordinary reason the word "what" electrifies them and gives them so much pleasure than ordinary praise. After telling listeners to a broadcast to say this to their dogs, I had dozens of letters saying it really does work." I always carry my Pixie on my side, but I do cuddle her against my chest. I use the word "what" and it really does seem to work. I cup my hands around her face and kiss her behind her ears. I do not allow her to nip at me. If she does nip and bite, I put my cheek on her cheek (this is dog body language for "I'm the boss" and her response to me is "Yes you are") and growl. When she stops I immediately praise her with "What a good dog or girl". I have found this works also when she is resistant to going into her crate because she still wants to play. You may try holding your dog and gently tickling her belly. This really works to calm the animals down. You may even see its hind legs move as if scratching. They really love it. If I have to reprimand her this way, I always follow by immediate praise. She will lay in the down position or she will roll over on her back for me tickle her tummy. A lot of times people approach the dogs wrong which makes them fearful. Try to have your guests tickle your dog's tummy too. Rubbing a dog on it's belly or anywhere else is said to make them bad-tempered.

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