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Danger at the Door

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Originally featured in the Summer 2019 IAABC Journal.

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Danger at the Door

City life is not easy for all dogs. For the outgoing canine “extrovert” it’s a walk in the park — new friends and adventures around every corner. For the more reserved or fearful dogs, however, it can be a nightmare.

One of the unique challenges for dogs in urban environments is apartment living. Even for a confident dog, tight spaces such as elevators and hallways can be tricky. For a dog that is nervous of people or other animals these confined spaces can mean running a gauntlet multiple times a day. Avoidance isn’t an option in most situations in the city.

One of the most common issues I see as a behavior consultant in Manhattan is dogs that have issue with strangers entering the home. Interestingly, I seldom worked with this behavior problem when I lived in a rural area. There, dogs were expected to bark at strangers, and it seemed that they were more accepting of newcomers to their homes, possibly due to space not being so constrained and not being constantly bombarded by terrifying delivery men at the door. Most of us city-dwellers do not have yards — or even an extra bedroom (studio apartments, anyone?) — to stash our dogs in if needed to avoid a potentially hairy encounte,. Having a fearful or aggressive dog in an apartment building simply amplifies these concerns.

My goals with stranger danger dogs in apartments are to make the dog as calm and comfortable as possible, and for the owner to have a system to safely have guests over and (if appropriate) to introduce the dog to new people. Some dogs, depending on temperament, can be safe and friendly with new people on the first meeting with proper introductions. Some dogs need to be introduced methodically and over several meetings, and some should not be expected to interact with guests — only to build relationships with people who will be a regular part of their life. This can involve various options for environmental management, including crates, baby gates, tether stations, and sometimes muzzles.

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