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Old 12-04-2012, 12:06 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Dog VERY protective of our home

Hello! My boyfriend and I rescued Shepherd mix from reservation in CO about 9 months ago. He is a loving, smart boy. He is just about a year now, knows several commands, and generally listens very well. He has been a wonderful addition to our lives, and really I feel we only have one problem with him. He is EXTREMELY protective of our home, even when we are there. If a person he does not know very well comes by, he will growl very low and must be in their path. He has never bit anyone, but because of his size, I understand how it can be quite off putting to most people.

He is totally fine with good friends who he has known since he was a pup...he gets excited and will sometimes cry he is so thrilled they have come by the house. But if he is not totally familiar, he is definitely on edge. I have tried giving unfamiliar people treats, even people food, toys, ANYTHING to reinforce that new friends are good! Many times, he will except the treat from the person and go right back to growling. He was very protective of his food when we first got him, so I moved his food container to our spare room to eliminate the possibility that he was protecting it. I have told him no, scolded and will even put him the yard. He isnt all that vocal, but if he knows someone is in the house and he isn't he will stand at the back door and bark and cry like crazy.

We live in a very dog friendly town, and i bring him most places with me. It seems like he knows when we are in public that strangers are ok, and I have had many many instances where children or adults will come to say hello to him and he is more than happy to be touched or petted. He will spend time hanging out at my boyfriend's store and is totally fine with everyone that comes and goes. I bring him to coffee shops and restaurants around town, and again always fine. I can bring him to any park or riverway and he will play with any dog or run right up to any old person just to say hello. However, I work at a hotel and he does seem to display this behavior there as well. He will snap and is not very freindly inside the hotel...which is so odd.

Is he protecting me? How do I get him to stop? He really is such a loving and good dog, I hate to see people's reactions to him when he is like that. Although, I do understand.

He was in basic puppy classes when we first got him, and his trainer said he was very well socialized and friendly. On weeks that my boyfriend and I work a lot, we bring him to puppy day care some days and they said they have never seen an ounce of aggression from him. The trainer at his day care showed me some dominance tactics to use on him, and i will admit i tried, but was very uncomfortable with it and stopped.

Wow, dont know how this got so long..sorry! I have family coming for the holidays and would really like everyone to be comfortable and see what an amazing dog he is. THANKS for any suggestions!
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Old 12-04-2012, 12:27 PM   #2 (permalink)
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" He is EXTREMELY protective of our home, even when we are there. If a person he does not know very well comes by, he will growl very low and must be in their path. He has never bit anyone" ..... YET , but from the sounds it is in the future -- take pre-emptive management changes . The dog does not decide who and who is not welcome , especially since they are not a threat .

" I have tried giving unfamiliar people treats, even people food, toys, ANYTHING to reinforce that new friends are good!" .............. a friend to you, a stranger to the dog

" Many times, he will except the treat from the person and go right back to growling. He was very protective of his food when we first got him," .........and in the dog's eyes he has just pulled rank , won a resource from this weakling stranger-guy, and pulled one over you since you and the dog have issues over food guarding " He was very protective of his food when we first got him, so I moved his food container to our spare room to eliminate the possibility that he was protecting it. I have told him no, scolded and will even put him the yard" ........... banishing him resolves nothing

" However, I work at a hotel and he does seem to display this behavior there as well. He will snap and is not very freindly inside the hotel" .............. hardly puttting out the welcome mat -- the death knell of business ......

" He really is such a loving and good dog, I hate to see people's reactions to him when he is like that. ".......... I don't know what you would expect ? Also I would not be so comfortable with this dog being "okay" in and around town . He needs some attitude adjustment , training, leadership .
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Old 12-04-2012, 01:14 PM   #3 (permalink)
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At a year of age, defensive drive is starting to show itself.

Is he well trained in obedience? If so, make it an obedience exercise when new people (strangers) arrive. Tell him to lie down and stay. Do not attempt to "introduce" him to the guests, and advise your guests not to look at him, talk to him, or touch him. Basically, your guests should ignore him, pretend he isn't there.

Your dog is still learning who is okay and who isn't. He should not be taking things into his own hands, and should not be allowed to approach people growling. YOU decide who is okay and who isn't, and it's your job to let the dog know that he needs to defer to your judgment at this point. Let him lie in his place, quietly, and stay there while you interact in a friendly and pleasant manner with your guests. If he gets up to investigate, insist that he lie back down and stay there.

Eventually, after watching you do this umpteen times, he should figure out that friendly strangers are no big deal, as long as YOU are greeting them in a friendly and confident manner, they should be okay.

The fact that he is okay with strangers when in public is a good sign; it would seem to me that, although he is becoming protective of what he perceives to be his own territory, he is not fearful of people in general. You just need to step up and be the teacher and the boss, so that he learns appropriate behavior around guests. He doesn't have to be lovey-dovey with them, ignoring them is fine.
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Old 12-04-2012, 03:10 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Thanks Freestep! We will definitely have some willing unfamiliar friends come by to practice in the next few weeks. He has completed the basic training course of obeidence training. He already knew most of the commands, but it was good reinforcement and socialization. We live in a very small town, and they are the only classes available for over 60 miles away (over mt. passes) and the next cycle starts in January so I will be sure to sign him up for the advanced. we take him to a park and practice the things he learned and other commands just to keep it going for now with some distractions involved.

he is always (still is...hasnt changed) wonderful in public and i would NEVER EVER allow someone to approach my dog if i felt uncomfortable or unsure. the fact that he could hurt someone if he desired to is not lost on me. thats why im asking for advice. he seems to be well adjusted and happy...listens to us, our friends, and his doggy day care handlers very well. where we live, we bike or walk basically everywhere, so he pretty much always tags along. hes never been in a fight or harmed anyone or anything. ive never even heard him growl at anyone in public before and im out and about with him every single day. he does not hang out at my hotel (i dont think he would particularly enjoy sitting inside for 8 hours a day while i work) but my boyfriend will bring him by when he has a day off. he was always so wonderful and cute to everyone, and now has become off putting...but once in the parking lot...hes back to loving the same people he just growled at inside.

I guess this is a somewhat new behavior...i noticed it a couple of months ago when we moved into our new house...maybe it came with growing up a bit. Like i said Ive never noticed aggression from him, excpet for those 2 situations and its fairly recent but def not getting better. We had people he had never met come by over the weekend and it was embarrassing. The trainer in town I spoke to is very into the dominance training, and i was looking for other suggestions. i guess that seems pretty obvious, but thanks again Freestep! we will be practicing!!!
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