Break the Ice with Treats
Using treats can help break the ice between a fearful dog and scary experiences like meeting new people and or guests to the home.
Nash is a sweet Catahoula leopard dog mix, who is playful with people he knows but shy and fearful around strangers. His fears were causing trouble when visitors came over, as he would bark at the door bell. He was so anxious with guests, that he would continually pace around the apartment and even hide in a quiet place until they left.
Nash needs to learn to be less nervous and fearful and learn to trust (even love) having people visit. We created a training plan for his owners that included obedience training, but also, taught his owners games to help guests in the home “break the ice” with him. Often times fearful pups need a motivation to break through their fear of strangers in order to get close and relax. In fact, sometimes if a stranger reaches with their hand or approaches too quickly, it may make scare your dog and make things worse.
How to Break the Ice
Breaking the ice with treats is a fun way to use delicious treats to help learn visitors in the house are not a threat. Visitors should come ready to give Nash treats or a high value toy. This game helps associate the presence of visitors with something positive!
Get visitors to toss a small treat in the direction of the dog.
Next throw a second treat several feet away from the dog, closer to the visitor. The idea is your dog will take the first treat and start to come closer to the visitor to get the second treat.
Let the dog approach and eat both treats. Next, toss a third treat over the dogs head, which will cause him to retrace his steps, and walk away for the other treat. By make the distance greater between your dog and the visitor you can now repeat the entire process again.
Step 4: Repeat the Process
Toss one treat about 10 feet away, another about 5 feet away. This reinforces the idea to the dog that coming close to the visitor is positive! Treat, Treat, Retreat.
We recommended that visitors play several rounds of this game to break the ice and teach Nash that visitors in the home are a positive, happy experience to look forward to. During our visit we played the game several times. Nash quickly learned to come closer and be more comfortable with us. The goal is to play often and encourage friends to come by the house to help you train. Before too long, your dog will learn that strangers in the house are no longer scary, they are a source of delicious treats! Today, Nash thinks people entering the home is a blast!