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Keep having ‘fraidy-dog’ meet other people

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Dear Matthew: My dog, Bart, is the sweetest boy. He loves any and all dogs, but he is afraid of people. My neighbor calls him "the coward," and he hides behind the house when my brother comes to visit.

I don't understand his fear of people. He was hand raised by the doctor who delivered him until we took him at eight weeks. We treat him like he's one of us.

When we go out in public, he cowers behind me if we are approached and he barks ferociously when anyone is at the door or walks by our fence (even if they are across the street).

Bart is very good with kids and he never bites (even when he's agitated). I take him on walks regularly and try to get him to socialize with people. Is there anything I can do to help him feel more comfortable with stranger? And how can I get him to stop barking at inappropriate times? Thanks for your advice. — Heather in North Salt Lake, Utah

Dear Heather: Even though I'm sure you have raised your dog with the utmost love and care, it sounds like your dog wasn't properly socialized to strangers when he was younger. While he grew to know and trust you and your immediate family, he has never reached a comfort level with people he doesn't know. This could be partly a congenital personality trait, but I'm willing to bet that a lot of the problem comes from a lack of life experiences.

In a similar fashion, dogs not exposed to other dogs as puppies often grow up to be fearful or aggressive around fellow canines. Oftentimes, there is no defining experience that causes poor behavior — it's just learned over time.

How do you solve this problem? The best way is to continue putting your dog in controlled interaction with strangers. While taking Bart out for walks around dozens of people may be overwhelming to him, he might manage to grow comfortable meeting one or two strangers at a time.

Dear Matthew: My son has a 3-year-old Airedale. The last few months he has been digging holes in the yard. He does it when no one is home. He can go inside the house or outside whenever, as he has a door.

How can we stop him from digging holes in the yard? Any suggestions would be appreciated. — Dorothy in Cocoa, Fla.

Dear Dorothy: Some dogs just dig because that's what their instincts tell them to do. Others do it because they don't get enough exercise or they want to create a cool place to lie down. Still other dogs dig to bury things, whether it be food or feces or toys. Do any of these possible explanations ring a bell?

If your dog is too hot, consider buying him a dog house or giving him more access to water. If you don't walk your dog at least three times a day, start doing so.

Another useful trick if your dog is returning to the same spots over and over again is to put newspapers in the holes that your dog is digging. Sprinkle the newspaper with alum, cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce. One whiff of that, and your pooch will think twice about his tunneling habits.


Write Matthew Margolis at 5777 W. Century Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045. © Creators Syndicate Inc.