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 Dog Behavior Library

Aggression to Guests in Your House

Dogs have been bred for a long time to be defensive about territory.  Some breeds and some individuals take this job more seriously than others.  If your dog ignores your request for quiet or movement, it is a sign that the first step if for you to work on more verbal control using the "Learn to Earn" technique.

If you have a dog that has threatened or actually touched teeth on a guest, the first step is to make a distinction regarding someone who is outside or inside the threshold of your front door.

If your dog has the history of darting past you to bite a delivery or other acceptable person, then the simplest house rule is the dog has lost privileges, and must be put into a different room before you open the door.  A second option is to pick up a small dog or hold a large dog by the collar.  The ideal, but most difficult alternative is to go through a training program which can be time consuming and generally not necessary if only concerned with a delivery or brief front door interaction.  Short answer: Put the dog in another room, or otherwise be responsible for your own dog and protect the individual outside.

If your dog threatens or bites someone you have invited into your house, then it is a different approach.  In this case, you should divide all people who don't live in your house into two categories.

  1. Those people your dog needs to know.
  2. Those people your dog doesn't need to know.

If the person coming into your house is someone that you do not expect on a frequent basis, then do your dog a favor, and just put him or her in a different room.  If the dog scratches and barks, then the dog has not learned "Contented Confinement" and that should be addressed separately.  If a quick solution is needed, apply a Head Collar and tether the dog to something solid in the room.

The other alternative is a person that doesn't live there, but comes quite often.  This usually means relatives or friends

Depending on breed, early socialization, and life experiences some dogs just accept new people quicker than others.  If you have an "asocial" dog, there is likely a significant stress on the dog when meeting new people, and potential risk to the person as well. Go slow, and if someone insists that "I'm good with dogs" then tell that person you could use their help, because you are working on a specific goal for this dog.  i.e. enlist them in your socialization program.  Your job is to "read" your own dog's body language (muscle tension, and ear and tail position) and steer the experience. Here are the steps

  1. Rule one is the dog must approach the person; the person may not approach the dog.
  2. All interactions should occur at least 10 feet away from the front door or threshold of entry.
  3. Try to have the meeting occur when the dog is hungry.  Allow the person to toss special treats.
  4. Ask the person to specifically not look at the dog, but when sitting offer a hand for sniffing.
  5. Perform a test of your control of the situation: After the first sniff, call the dog to you, request a SIT, then give a food treat yourself.  If the dog ignores your request to SIT, remove the dog from the room for that visit, and work on Learn to Earn to increase response to your requests.
  6. Adopt the rule that the new person can only touch the dog when the muscles are relaxed, the ears and up and the tail is relaxed or wagging.  If the dog is upset, then stop the interaction.

Do this for your dog friends as well as your people friends.

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