Adult Dogs

Learn How to Stop a Dog from Being Aggressive Towards Strangers


Does your puppy act threateningly around strangers?  Does she bark and growl?

Don’t worry.  You’re not alone.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), “as many as 60 to 70% of all pet dogs bark threateningly at strangers and act unfriendly when around them.”

That’s a pretty sizeable percentage.  60% to 70%.

Your goal is to make sure your cuddly pooch remains in the 40% to 30% minority of dogs that don’t exhibit this behavior.

But how to stop a dog from being aggressive towards strangers isn’t easy.  After all, if 70% of all canines do this, isn’t it part of their DNA?  It’s almost like training a lion to go vegetarian or a penguin to stop swimming.

The good news is that it’s possible.  It’ll take work, but it’s definitely possible.

Understanding What Causes Canine Aggression in Your Dog

The first step involves understanding what is causing this behavior.  There are many different types of aggression.  But when it comes to unfamiliar people, the following 2 are the most likely culprits:

1.  Territorial (or Protective) Aggression

Your dog is protecting his property or family members.  This instinct is hard-coded into his DNA.

2.  Fear Aggression

Your puppy is scared.  It must decide between fight and flight.  If your dog feels trapped, it will likely choose the former.

Understanding Canine Aggression Triggers

Next, you want to carefully survey those aggression triggers that get your puppy excited:

  • Does your puppy go crazy around all strangers or just some people?
  • Is he more aggressive during walks?  At the park?  At home?
  • Does time of day matter?  Maybe his nighttime vision is getting worse due to old age.

If you pay close enough attention, you’ll see patterns.  There’s a common person, place, thing, time, or situation that provokes your dog.

Try reducing or improving these triggers as much as possible.  This will help to calm your dog down – if not permanently, then at least long enough for you to work on aggression training.

How to Stop a Dog from Being Aggressive Towards Strangers

Use the below tips to help make your dog more comfortable (and less aggressive) around people she doesn’t know:

1.  Early & Frequent Socialization

Make sure your dog interacts frequently with other people.  This is especially important for fear-based aggression.  Your dog must become comfortable at the sight, sound, and smell of strangers.

Only do this under close supervision.  And at the first sign of any hostile tendencies, cut the interaction short.  You don’t want to overwhelm your dog at all.

2.  Take Control & Be a Leader

You need to remain cool, calm, and collected at all times.  Dogs look to us for guidance and reassurance.  Take charge of the situation and let her know that you’re not worried about that nearby stranger at all.

If you’re fidgety, your dog will grow nervous.  If you hesitate, your dog will become anxious.  But if you stand tall, project confidence, and interact with the stranger normally, your dog will be more relaxed.

For more on dominance training and authority, click here.

3.  Let Your Dog Approach – not the Stranger

Whenever you encounter a stranger (either during playdates or while walking), let your dog approach the person – and not the reverse.  This is especially important when dealing with territorial aggression.  Dogs don’t like to have their spaces invaded.  And an approaching stranger could be perceived as a threat.

Instead, have the stranger (we’ll call him Jim) stand perfectly still, several meters away.  Keep your dog on the leash and inch closer to Jim in incremental steps.  At each pause, assess your dog’s emotional state.  If everything is okay, you can advance a little more.

Be sure to throw in praise and rewards every now and then.  If your dog is acting well behaved, let her know.  She’ll soak up the compliments and soon associate the connection between being nice to strangers and receiving rewards from her pet parent.

Consistency Pays Off – So Don’t Give Up

You won’t see overnight miracles.  Remember that 60% to 70% of dogs out there are aggressive towards strangers.  You’re shooting for the minority.

But it’s doable.  As long as you stick with the above and don’t give up, you’ll eventually see results.  Make socialization and dominance training part of your daily routine for optimal results.

Or check out our professional canine training resources located here.

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