Aggression towards strangers

Posted by DWhelan
Dec 18, 2007
Please help! I have the most wonderful dog, she obeys in the house and never is aggressive with any of us. Until someone comes to our door or when she escapes outside! She barks and lunges at the door if someone knocks. And today she slipped through the front door and actually bit my neighbor on the heel. My neighbor was in her own yard!

I do not want to have to put Lupe to sleep. But I'm afraid I will have to do it if I can't change her behavior.
Posted by Todd
Dec 30, 2007
Hi there

Thank you for your question regarding Lupe.
Aggression is a very serious problem and i am glad you are taking this seriously. The good news is with training and behavioural modification most aggression problems can be solved. But let me warn you it can take a long time and patience is critical.

Here are some ways to reinforce your position-
1) If you come across your dog while she is sleeping or lying on the floor then you can reinforce your position as alpha dog by making her move so that you can pass by.
2) Make sure that you always go through doorways first. A good method to reinforce your position as alpha dog is to walk your dog around on the leash, making your dog wait while you walk through doorways first.
3) At mealtimes make sure that lupe eats after all of the humans have.

4) Do not feed your dog tidbits or let it pester you at the table. Save the morsels and tidbits for training sessions instead.

5) Do not greet Lupe straightaway when you arrive home. Make her wait until you are ready and then call it to you.
6) Whenever Lupe wants attention or anything wait till she is sitting and being well behaved

General obedience is critical to having dogs trained and responding to commands. Work on retraining lupe to sit, stay and come. This may take some time but will be very useful in the long run.

You should reprimand your Lupe for unacceptable behavior, no matter what that behavior is or where it is occuring. If you do not reprimand Lupe's poor behavior then it will feel that it has the right to behave that way and it will take much longer to correct the behavior. What I recommend you do, is the next time your dog acts poorly and exhibits dominant tendencies (growling), saturate your dog with the garden hose or a bucket of water, or if it is inside, throw a heavy blanket over your dog and be sure to reprimand it. DO NOT yell, as this has no effect on the dominant dog. Growl instead, use a guttural growl like " AAHHH!" instead of "No!", as this makes a sharper sound then "No" (If done correctly it may hurt your throat a little).

The next recommendations i would give you would be to practice her behaviour with other people.

- Get a friend to come and visit (make sure that you tell them what is happening!).

- As your friend knocks on the door or rings the doorbell, make your dog sit and give it a treat. Then put your dogs collar on and take it to either a crate or a secure room. If your dog is too much of a handful at even this stage then you will have to put your dog away before your visitor gets to the door.

- Sit your friend down in a room that is not often use by your dog. Give you friend some treats so that they can give them to your dog.

- Go to your dog and make it sit. Put a halti or muzzle as well as the choke collar on. Get your dog to heel then take it into the room that your friend is in. Make sure that your friend does not give any eye contact. Act as happy as you can while petting your dog.

- If your dog growls or disobeys your commands at ANY TIME then squirt it with water or shake a pebble filled can to startle it. Have the water pistol or can in your dogs view at all times.

- Make your dog sit quite a long way from your guest, perhaps in the doorway of the room. When your dog is calm get it to heel and move it closer, then get your dog to sit again. Praise your dog when she sits and heels properly.

- When your dog is calm and you have moved it and made it sit within 5 feet of the guest then get the guest to give your dog a treat. Make sure that the guest does not look your dog in the eyes.

This will need to be continued for a few weeks. Once she is well behaved you can try the same sort of thing in an outdoor situation. But a muzzle should always be used until you are completely confident that she is not aggressive anymore. Once she is behaved here try and get a friend to practice walking away. Get them to walk away while Lupe is sitting beside you. If at any stage she stands up and growls, make her sit again. Once she sits praise her with attention and petting. If she runs at them get them to turn and make a grrr or ahhh noise while you say NO. You may want a hose also as these are great reinforcer's of poor behaviour.

If she is being aggressive on walks here is how you may want to deal with it.
When she is out walking she should be under your control at all times, when you say sit she should always sit, so keep on with the obedience training. When a strange dog approaches make her sit and wait (keep a tight lead). Once they get closer make sure she is under control. At any stage if she growls or stands up reprimand her firmly as above and make her sit again. This reinforces that his behaviour is bad and that you are in control.
It will take time for Lupe to learn to behave but be patient and i am sure you will have some success. Good luck.

Kind regards
Todd Field