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The dog isn't mine. I'm just trying to help her owner deal with her behavior toward strangers. I can't find any training tips specific to her behavior. I'll try to describe it the best I can in the hope some of you know a good way to deal with it.

She's a 1.5 yr-old Aussie-border collie mix. She's very happy and friendly and energetic with all dogs and anyone she's made friends with. She's not the type of dog one would describe as aggressive.

When she sees a stranger, even if that person is 20 feet away and walking the other direction, she starts barking. Her hackles will go up slightly, but maybe because of her coat type, it's not pronounced. Her tail does go out a bit straighter behind her, and the bark sounds like an alarm bark to me. It's that kind of protracted "awoowoowooowoo" sound. She doesn't snarl or growl. If she is on leash, she pulls toward the person rather than cowering, but I still get the impression it's fear-related. If she is off the leash, she will follow the person at a distance while barking at them, but if they pause, turn, etc., she cautiously approaches, but stays back maybe 3 or 4 feet, but will sometimes charge in for a nip. She's never gotten anyone, but I'm quite sure she intends to.

I first met her when I walked out of a building and she and her human were outside the door. I startled her and she did this same thing to me. After I squatted and talked to her soothingly, she stopped barking, but she stayed close to her human and although interested in me, didn't have the courage to approach. I think the only difference between her behavior toward me and her behavior toward other strangers was my response to it. After another meeting, she became my friend and now she jumps all over me when she sees me. That's pretty much the rule: she loves everyone once she knows them.

I can't find anything in my dog books or on the net to help fix this specific type of aggression. All I could suggest to her owner was that she use treats and a distraction technique so that Boots learns to focus on her human and the treats rather than the fear-inducing stranger. After enough repetitions, I think there is a chance the dog will associate strangers with something positive (the treats) and because of the distraction, she'll stop fixating on stranger. Although this might work, I'm not entirely sure it's the most effective technique, and it's too dependent on random meetings with strangers. I'm looking for more ideas. Maybe some of you have experience with this and a more effective approach.

BTW, the owner cannot afford group training classes. She's on a fixed income, so she'll have to do the training on her own (with whatever help I can offer).

Thanks for any ideas you have. :)
 

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A few books that might be helpful are "Scardey Dog!" by Ali Brown, "The Cautious Canine" by Patricia McConnell, "Help for Your Fearful Dog" by Nicole Wilde.

It does sound like the dog is fearful. If the owner could enslist the help of several "strangers", I think this dog could quickly learn that strangers aren't so scary. The strangers would need to be willing to take direction from the owner and greet the dog in a non-threatening manner to start like squatting down sideways, not looking at the dog directly, tossing out a peice of chicken, ect. Graudally moving towards more normal greetings.

I've had success with treating the dog for noticing the stranger without reacting. This associates the presence of strangers with good things and also rewards the dog for not reacting. Lots of treats before the dog even has a chance to react and then fewer treats as the dog begins to control himself at the sight of strangers. I would set up situations to start with first before trying it in the neighborhood. I also like the dog to have an immediate name response, a front, and a u-turn so the owner can prevent rehearsal of the behavior while in the process of solving the issue. Standing between the dog and his view of the stranger also works but is harder to do while the dog is onleash. Owner stands facing the dog and using his/her body to take the dogs space, causing him to move back and refocus.
 

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A big part of the problem is the dogs perception that she somehow needs to confront/deal with strangers but, that's not her job. The dog has not been taught that she doesn't get to do the 'meet and greets' first.....the owner/handler gets to do that.
You teach this lesson by stepping in front of the dog (between the dog and the person or other dog). Forcing her to pay attention to you because you're body blocking her. That's when you deliver the treats/praise.....for giving the proper focus/attention on you/the handler.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Seems as though we are all thinking along the same lines, with a little variation. I'll take your suggestions to her. Thank you.
 
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