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My wife and I have a six-year-old German shepherd mix who is a beautiful sweetheart. But she is reactive to unknown men in "her" house. We are staying with my dad for the summer and she has taken to barking at him. We have begun trying to condition her by doing training sessions where we feed her a steady stream of treats whenever she notices him coming in the door or coming up the stairs.

My question is how to handle stimulation (i.e. she sees Dad) when we're not in a session (so we won't necessarily be standing at her side with treats). We can't reward her every time she sees the stimulus, so what do we do in those cases? Maybe there is a different answer depending on whether she reacts or not?

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Your training sessions are a great start, but they would be even more effective if your dad was the one to give her the treats. Dogs use their noses much more than we do and whenever she takes a treat from dad, she connects his personal smell with positive feelings.

If he's at the top of the stairs, he can throw the treat into her direction.

He can simply carry a handful of treat in his pocket or you can buy a treat bag that can be fastened to a belt.

Another thing that worked great when we took care of an anxious dog was to greet the dog every time you enter the house. Dogs actually have poorer vision than humans, so your dog may simply not recognize your dad and bark because he could be a stranger.

Every time your dad goes through the door or comes down the stairs, he should say "Hey dog name". That makes it immediately clear who he is and that he doesn't intend to sneak around or ambush anyone. He can even say his greeting before he opens the door to avoid startling your dog.

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  • Poor vision plus a vivid imagination... I have seen that a few times in GSDs.
    – Stephie
    May 24 at 20:51

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