Training My Dog to Meet Strangers | Pupford

May 16th, 2023

Filed under Training

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When we bring a new puppy or dog into our family, one of the first things we want to do is show them off to everyone! Besides blowing up everyone’s Instagram feeds, we want them to meet all our closest friends and family.

We know you’re excited, but you need to be patient! There’s a right way to introduce your dog to new people and teach proper dog greeting behavior. This will not only earn your dog a reputation of being well-behaved, it will help keep your dog -- and the humans that approach them -- safe.

Today we’re going to talk all about how to train a dog to greet strangers. Take a look at the table of contents below for what we’ll be covering:

  • What to do if a stranger approaches your dog
  • The importance of socialization
  • How to train a dog to interact with others
  • Teaching proper greeting behaviors


You and your dog are likely to encounter strangers pretty often -- people walking past you on the sidewalk when you’re out for a walk, people coming into your home that your dog hasn’t met yet, or encountering other people at the pet store or at the v-e-t’s office.

Wherever you encounter them, it’s important that you maintain control over the situation if a stranger approaches your dog. As the person approaches, make it clear what you want from everyone involved in the situation, both the other person and your dog.

Give your dog the “sit” and “stay” command (we’ll get into detail as to why this is important a little later), and be sure to do so with a calm tone of voice. Next, give the human a command too.

No really! It’s important to set boundaries and expectations that will help create an environment for your dog to behave appropriately. Give simple instructions like “Please don’t pet her unless she is sitting” and other cues that will help promote good greeting behavior rather than reinforcing your dog jumping or pulling.

Remember, a person can be familiar with you but still be a stranger to your dog, especially if your dog just recently joined your family. Give everyone the same gentle reminders, be firm when you need to, and repeat your reminders until both your dog and your visitors have it down.


dog being pet by strangers | Pupford

One of the best things you can do for your dog is socialize them early, as it makes meeting strangers so much easier for the rest of their lives!

Research supports starting puppy socialization as early as 7-8 weeks, with the biggest impact made if socialization is started at three 3 months or younger. As long as they’ve had their first round of vaccines and deworming, there’s no such thing as too early!

Socializing your dog at a young age helps them learn their surroundings without getting overwhelmed. When it comes to meeting strangers, it’s the perfect time to teach them the right way to greet people without getting overwhelmed or stressed over all the new stimulations. This will help them grow up to be outgoing and social, yet be trained to have good greeting manners.

It’s important to socialize your pup to all sorts of new people, places, animals, and surfaces/conditions. We love this video by expert dog trainer Zak George for more tips on socializing your puppy.


Now that we’ve discussed why it’s important for your dog to meet strangers, let’s talk about the best way to do it. We’re going to start with the broad areas to hit and then get into some specific steps and training you can do with your dog.

Here are the areas you’ll want to hit when training your dog to interact with others:

  • Teach proper greeting behaviors. This means teaching your dog the right way to react when they are approached by another person or dog, and teaching them the right behavior for approaching others.
  • Expose your dogs to all kinds of people, dogs and surroundings. There’s a checklist in our Puppy Socialization Guide that you might find helpful for this.
  • Setting boundaries for people with other dogs. If you’re walking by a basketball court where a game is going on, you don’t just walk up to the players and start playing with them. The same goes for your dog. You don’t have to let any other dog approach your dog if you don’t feel it’s a good environment to do so. Make sure to take command of the situation so it goes well, regardless of what stage of training your dog is at currently.
  • Find your cues and rewards and stay consistent with them. Intermittent rewarding and inconsistent cues are the leading causes of your dog not learning behaviors.



Now that we have the focus areas down, let’s get into the specifics of teaching proper greeting behaviors. Here are steps to get your dog to greet strangers like a champ:

  • Get the right tools. This goes for teaching any behavior, but it’s important enough to note. For training to meet strangers, we definitely recommend having a long lead training leash and some training treats on hand. It also will be helpful to have someone else join you to play the role of “the stranger” -- preferably someone your dog doesn’t already know.
  • With your dog on a leash, have your helper approach just out of leash range, holding a treat. Your dog may try to pull towards the helper to jump to the treat, but be patient. When they eventually sit down, reward. It’s important to make sure your dog is sitting on their own, without you commanding them to sit. It might take some time, but otherwise your dog may not sit unless you give the cue which is not what we’re trying to achieve here. Repeat this several times.
  • Next, repeat the same steps but with a little slack in the dog’s leash. If they are able to sit without first pulling the leash tense, it means they’re really getting the hang of the behavior and you can move on. If they’re still pulling the leash before eventually sitting, continue practicing this step.
  • Repeat this training with a few different helpers (kids, adults, tall people, people with facial hair, etc.) to better prepare your dog for encountering all different types of people.
  • Next, move on to repeating this off-leash. Make sure you’re doing this in a controlled environment with minimal distractions until you know your dog has it down. Gradually move to environments like the park where the surroundings are unpredictable and you’ll see a lot of people and other dogs.

    Following these steps will help your dog stay calm and well-mannered around strangers -- but it doesn’t end there! For even more things to teach your dog with a long lead leash head here!


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