Ask Kathy About Guests Being Afraid Of Your Dog

By Kathy Santo | Updated: April 29 2019

Student’s Question:

My nervous Aunt is staying with me over the holidays and she’s afraid of my dog. What should I do?!

Kathy’s Answer:

Although snakes and heights usually top the charts of human fears, there is a percentage of the population that’s afraid of dogs.  Assuming there’s not a reason for her to be afraid (as in, your dog’s unresolved aggression issues) a little prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Traditional remedies for this situation would certainly include having your dog on a leash and in control when around your Aunt, as well as constant reassurance for her that your dog is friendly and well-mannered.  I’m presuming this to be the case, but if not, run immediately, to the best trainer you can find and start training now!  In addition, your list of ‘Things To Do’ during the holidays should include keeping your dog and your Aunt otherwise occupied. Taking him on a few extra walks and to a few extra training/agility classes will maintain him physically as well as mentally, and keeping him in new toys (daily!) will give him something else to do other than search out your fearful Aunt.  As for your human guest, if she’s physically able, keep her busy as much as possible outside the house – sightseeing, shopping and visiting friends – which will minimize her interactions with your dog, thereby minimizing the stress for all of you.  Realize that in the end, her anxiety and the tension it creates for everyone, especially for your dog, may warrant the best holiday gift of all: lodging at a nearby hotel.

Kathy Santo has spent her entire career as a dog trainer and handler, training dogs and winning over 500 obedience, agility and Canine Good Citizenship titles. Working with her own dogs, she has achieved every competitive obedience title the American Kennel Club (AKC) has offered and earned the prestigious AKC “Obedience Trial Champion” title (OTCh) multiple times.

In Waldwick, Kathy teaches classes, private lessons, and oversees the training of her student’s dogs using her extensive knowledge, experience and intuition to handle problems from the benign to the serious. Her engaging personality has won her the respect and friendship of her many students, who now consider themselves part of her extended family.


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