Many dogs are fearful when meeting strangers for the first time. You will encounter dogs that are reluctant to approach you, yet as a professional pet sitter it’s helpful to know how to best manage your introduction to a skittish dog.

Kathrine Breeden is the owner and operator of Be Kind to Dogs, a force-free dog training business in Phoenix, Arizona. Kathrine is a professional dog trainer and specializes in force-free dog obedience training with tips and tools that all professional pet sitters can adopt.

Kathrine is also a behavioral consultant and member of the No Shock Collar coalition. Her philosophy is that Force Free & Positive Training results in a dog that follows an owner because it wants to, rather than following out of fear. The “Treat and Retreat” method is an effective practice when first meeting a client’s dog who is already fearful of humans.

It’s important to start off with high-value treats. After conferring with your client regarding potential GI issues or food allergies, consider cooked, skinless and cubed chicken for best results.  Other high-value yummy treats recommended are Dr. Becker’s Bites. These are all natural 100% meat products with no preservatives, or the yucky stuff found in generic milk bones.  To order a bag or two of these almost fool -proof treats, visit Dr. Becker’s Bites in our Vendor Partners & Specialty Merchants section (for members only).

The premise behind the Treat and Retreat method is tossing treats at the dog you are meeting with NO eye contact, NO talk and NO touch. Wait for him/her to gobble the food and look to you for more.  Keep tossing the food, while keeping quiet, until the dog is comfortable approaching you for more, getting closer and closer each time. We have found this method to be extremely effective when building a bond with reluctant and fearful dogs.

Of course, most dogs will love you when you provide a yummy treat for them!  It’s those that typically have had bad experiences in their past that require a little more finesse and patience to warm up to humans and you, their soon-to-be-loved pet sitter.

If you’d like a copy of Katherine’s hand-out with more detail, use the Contact Form on our site to submit your request We’ll gladly email you a copy!  To contact Katherine Breeden for more information about force-free training methods visit her website:


Your Pet Pros @ AoPP