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Hi I'm new to the forum but am asking for any help or suggestions you have!

We have a 7 1/2 month old lab mix rescued from an animal shelter when she was 12 wks old. The shelter didnt know much about Baileys past. Bailey and her older brother Possum (lab x rescue also) LOVE the dog park and they both socialize well with both people and other dogs.
I noticed a problem with Bailey at a friends triathalon over the weekend. The first strangers we ran into were a mother and a 3 yr old boy. He was very eager to pet her and she just shyed away and hid behind me. She seemed calm while we were watching it (fine with bikes) and would lay down and seem relaxed.
When people would try and pet her she would shy away. The longer we were there the worse it got...A small child ran up to pet her and she barked at him! Then a man came up and didnt ask to pet her and reached for her and she barked at him too!
We love taking her out places but want this resolved before she gets too big and it seems more scary.
 

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My Cupid shies away from the touch of strangers. Even from me, at times, although he's gotten much better in that regard and is often very affectionate with me.

Bailey is telling you that she doesn't want to be approached. A setting like the triathalon, where there are lots of people around, can be very overwhelming for a dog like that. The common element in the incidents you describe is that both times people reached out to her. I'm guessing it happened quickly and she wasn't able to shy away.

Resolving this won't be quick--it's a process. And you need to start slowly, with individual people, not in a crowd. Have people drop treats near her (don't hold them out to her yet) so that she learns that people can be the source of good things. When she approaches anyone new, praise and reward her.

Keep in mind that it's important to let her go at her own pace. Intervene when people try to approach Bailey. She's not ready for that.

I go out with my dogs, and sometimes people ask if they can pet them. If Cupid is shying away, I say no. I wish it were different, but that's the way it is. And pushing him to do it will only make him more scared.

Good luck!
 

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Sadie had the same problem with kids.

You have to start slow, and let her go at her pace. Don't let people reach for her without your permission. It's your dog. Would you let someone grab your purse, your child, your hat without asking? That would freak you out if someone just reached out for you, right? Don't let them do it to her!

Go slow. Have kids stand or crouch calmly and let her approach them. Same with large adults, have them crouch or kneel and let her approach them. Reward with treats. Let adults feed her treats. With kids, you feed her the treats while they slowly and softly pet her.
 
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