Treat and Retreat

I am not sure who first came up with the phrase “treat and retreat”, Ian Dunbar or possibly Suzanne Clothier but this concept really works!

If you are ever in a situation where you are face to face with a growly dog, it is wise not to try to dominate this kind of canine.  As trainers, we repeatedly discover that the dog doing the growling is as uncomfortable with the situation as the human is.  The best way to ease the tension is to communicate your friendly intentions as calmly and quickly as possible!

This is where the use of a treat can be tossed behind the dog, as the dog goes to check out the treat, you can retreat a bit for safety.  Having someone holding the dogs leash is always a smart idea as you proceed to toss treats behind the dog and watch him get the treat and come a bit closer to you each time.  You will quickly notice the dog has stopped growling as he is most likely interested in the treats and no longer wishes you to leave.  This does not mean you are buddies yet, but it does mean you have taken the first step in assuring this growly dog that you mean him no harm.

Bentley continues to get closer as he feels safer.

Making friends with a growly dog will make the dog feel better as it will you!  We often hear, “he is slow to warm up to people,”  dogs often bark at strangers, however refrain from barking when they have had a chance to feel safe with this new person.

Consider using the treat and retreat approach to make your own fearful or shy dog feel safe with new guests.  If you know of a friend with a growly dog, take special treats and toss them when you arrive, you may be surprised how much better you both feel.

This may take minutes or weeks, but will help your dog feel safer each time he is faced with a stranger.

Because I know Bentley this handsome Boxer, I begin by tossing treats, progress to hand feeding then touch and treat.  Only allow people your dog knows to use this progression in a single session.