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Hi all! I have a training question to run by you. My dog has always been fear reactive, but he has improved significantly during the time I’ve had him. He’s still fear reactive, but he is much more confident than he was. One of the things he is reactive to that I've noticed lately is prolonged eye contact from people he doesn’t know well. A few people we know have a tendency to stare down at him. This panics him, and he snarls and snaps briefly. I’m glad he isn’t biting, but giving warnings, but I’m not sure how to correct this. I was wondering if clicking and treating for eye contact (and teaching a reliable “watch me” command) could help him associate eye contact as being a good thing, rather than a threat. Obviously, I’d try this first only with the people he completely trusts, and wouldn’t risk people he may be sensitive around. I also do tell friends not to stare at him, in hopes of preventing these incidents. He has only reacted like this about 5 times, but I can’t guarantee that nobody will stare at him (especially a kid with no understanding of dog language…) and I want to make sure he and visitors can get along safely. Does anybody have some better ideas on how to handle this, or think I’m going about this the wrong way? Direct staring from certain people is the only thing that triggers this reaction (I think it is from defensive aggression), but I haven’t found anybody else with this specific problem, and I’m feeling lost. Any help will be appreciated, thanks!
 

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Direct stares are a threat to dogs so help people understand that whenever possible. We had a hard time teaching Cherokee to look at our eyes because he would never be that "aggressive/direct" with his body language. He has learned the command "look" and he definitely is much more comfortable with eye contact. I think it is a good thing to learn that looking into a humans eyes leads to good things (treats). I would not expect him to feel comfortable with direct, prolonged, staring from strangers but I think he would be less likely to react defensively.
 

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Thanks MegaMuttMom! I totally agree, I wish more people understood that staring is threatening, but the dog ends up taking the blame for reacting. With older kids and adults, I can tell them not to stare and Cloud loves them, but often kids scare him when they crowd and stare. I work hard to keep that from happening, but I'll definitely work on that "watch" command in the hopes of reducing sensitivity.
 
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