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  • Liz MacHaffie

Your Dog's World: A, B, and C People


We can maximize our dogs' behavior plan success and minimize the risk to their progress (and others' safety) by being selective about who they interact with, and when.


Divide the people in your dog's life up into A, B, and C people.

  • A people = people she already knows and is comfortable around

  • B people = people you would like her to be able to interact politely with and/or be calm around (and who can listen to instructions)

  • C people = people that she will rarely see and/or who are doing potentially unpredictable things (contractors, delivery people, very young kids)

Use your behavior program strategies with B people. (This might be Mat Game, Secret Handshake, keeping her on leash until she is comfortable and making good decisions, etc.) Practicing around A people can be extra helpful, to get her feeling good about her routines with people she knows well already.


When C people are around, your dog should be put in another room where she is comfortable. Because C people are hard to practice with (because we don’t see them much and/or they are extra scary), the most effective strategy is often to help our dogs avoid them. She can have a stuffed food toy or favorite chew to keep her feeling good! You might use the room's door, a baby gate, or a crate to contain her. Use what is safe for her.


Young kids can present an extra challenge for dogs with Big Feelings because they are less predictable (and less controllable) than adults. For both your dog's happiness and kids’ safety (and to prevent kids from claiming she’s bitten them if a tooth hits skin for any reason), I recommend you separate them with a barrier (like a puppy play pen or gate). Depending on your dog and the other parents involved, you may decide older kids who listen well can be "B people" for your dog. Being around kids is also a great time to use your dog's Tricks, if they're working on that!)

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