I recently wrote about Henry, the little Chihuahua mix that has been staying with me. Henry’s been with me about a week and a half now and he’s gotten much more comfortable with my apartment and our daily routine. We’ve even started working on a handful of basic behaviors, including sit, down, come, and eye contact. Henry’s a smart little guy and is doing well with the training so far!
Henry is pretty uncertain around strange people. So, one of his biggest training goals is for him to learn to be more comfortable and relaxed when meeting strangers. Henry will bark and growl if someone he doesn’t know gets too close, especially if the person looks at him, talks to him, or makes any sorts of movements that are directed toward him. In the past, before Henry came to stay with me, he’s even nipped and bitten a few times when new people got too close to him. (Henry is usually fine if someone passes us on the sidewalk during one of our walks. However, I think he’s figured out that these types of people are not going to try to interact with him.)
Henry needs to learn that it’s fun to make new friends! We will do this slowly and carefully, so that encounters with new people can become something interesting to look forward to, rather than something to be feared. Also, we will do this carefully, so that there is no chance of a person getting hurt.
My friend Regan came over recently, so we spent about twenty minutes working with Henry when she first arrived. At the beginning, Henry and I met Regan in the front yard. He was pretty unsure about “scary” Regan and raised his hackles and began growling at her when she was about ten feet away.
So, we took it very slowly at the beginning and tried to help Henry feel more comfortable and curious about Regan. After about ten minutes or so, Henry had relaxed a lot and was starting to become curious about Regan and interested in interacting with her. At this point, Regan was able to pet Henry and play with him with his toys.
Over the next few weeks, I’m hoping to set up lots of encounters like this, so that Henry can continue to expand his circle of friends. I’ll write more in a future blog post about the process that I am using to introduce new people to Henry. As Henry meets more and more new people, it will become easier each time he meets a new person. I want Henry to learn to think of strangers as fun new people to play with, rather than something to be feared.
For an update, check out this post, where Henry got to meet my friend Emily!