I've had Molly for over three years now, she's three years and nine months old.  She is so shy of strangers.  Grown strangers, that is.  Small children (five and under) are fine.  Other dogs are usually OK, as long as they aren't too aggressive in their greetings.  But a grownup can't get near her, and if its a male, its that much worse.  I know this isn't the worst fear - I wouldn't want her to be willing to hop in the car with any random stranger, of course.  But it is frustrating and sad to me that she see's every unknown person as a threat, and is unwilling to accept a friendly pat from an admirer.  I take her everywhere with me that I can, and have tried having strangers offer her treats, held her and praised her when she relaxed while a stranger petted her, etc, but three years of work and I feel like I've made zero progress.  I once had thoughts of a therapy dog, but that is clearly out of the question.

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My first rescue corgi was also fearful of strangers when he first came to me. For about a year, I carried treats and would accost strangers, "Will you give a treat to my dog?" (I learned, too, to ignore the strange responses I sometimes got.) You might try "Would you drop a treat for my dog and ignore her?" Forget the friendly pats--sounds like they're too close and threatening at the moment. But treat-and-ignore might be a long-term remedy.

You might also take a look at "On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals" and "The Other Side of the Leash" (Like everything else in the universe, available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Talking-Terms-Dogs-Calming-Signals/dp/1929242360 and http://www.amazon.com/Other-End-Leash-What-Around/dp/034544678X/ref...)

"Calming Signals" talks about the body language dogs find reassuring. "Other End of the Leash" talks about how our socially polite monkey-behavior is frequently at odds with socially polite dog behavior. Together they can give you a sense of what human behaviors to avoid with strangers and what human behaviors to encourage.

It took Mike a year before he was willing to ignore strangers but, over time, he learned that strangers were really ok and might even be a source of welcomed attention. In his old age, he would walk into by-passers and stop, waiting for praise and compliments.

Good luck with Molly. Given enough time, treats and reliable adult human behavior, I'm sure that you'll be able to work this out. If she never learns to love strangers, that would be fine. If her best is strolling along past strangers without anxiety, you've done a good job. Who knows: she may surprise you and turn into a great therapy dog working in a children's hospital, ignoring the staff/parents but delighting the children.

--Susan
Thanks for the tips! I'll look into the books you suggested. I usually feel pretty good about canine body language, and monitor my own nonverbal communications to avoid fueling her anxiety, but as long as the person approaching her seemed nice I didn't think too much about it. I think there probably is more to learn there. You might have put me on to something helpful there!

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