Place command, reactivity and strangers entering home - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-13-2016, 07:32 AM Thread Starter
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Place command, reactivity and strangers entering home

Hello all. I have a young reactive intact male age 13 months. I have received some great tips on Place command and am starting to put that into play with the doorbell ringing (so no aggressive charging the door etc) and also have learned that that may help calm him as well.

NOW....someone comes in. He is in his Place. Great. NOW WHAT???

He is somewhat soft (not dominant) but unsure. His tendency would be to bark with hackles up and back off and back up. Bark bark. Hackles. Over the next few minutes he would typically relax and come sniff for liver treats etc. That is what HAS happened. Well it sucks. I don't want hackles and barking etc.

Clearly he isn't comfortable but how do I make him more comfortable with people in the home etc AND what do I do after the guest is in my home and he has stayed nicely in Place for some period and is I release and allow him to visit the guest? What if he charges with hackles? Do I send him back to Place until he can approach in a calm fashion?

He is super amazing with his people....super uncertain with all strangers.

I am starting to work on leash when he sees people during a walk that he gets a "treat" when a person walks past. I am trying to associate people with "good" but....

Thanks for the help
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-13-2016, 08:26 AM
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My dog doesn't care for strangers either.I gate him off until he's calm,then release to sniff and get acclimated.The guests are instructed to ignore him and most important to avoid eye contact.No talking to him,no reaching towards him,no staring.He settles down quickly and after a few minutes even solicits attention from the visitors.
Taking a basic ob class helped both of us a lot to figure out how to help him relax in close proximity to strangers.If I massaged his neck and chest slowly he would be totally chill after a few minutes.He learned how to get himself to his "happy place."


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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-13-2016, 09:34 AM
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Your dog is a German Shepherd, it is characteristic of the breed to be aloof and /or reserved with strangers. They are BRED to be this way. I would not expect Labrador or Golden Retriever behavior at maturity. It may happen but it would not / should not be considered characteristic but an exception.

I would not use the place command with this dog. This dog is not under control, nor is he fully mature yet and his hackles and barking just might turn into biting. Using the place command with a dog like this at this time is a huge liability. A reactive bite is treated no different than a dominant or aggressive bite in the court of law. If this is just a phase, using place might be an option in the future, but if he is the kind of dog that won't tolerate strangers, are you prepared to lose all you have in a lawsuit or to have a guest in your home severely and permanently disfigured or maimed by not properly confining your "iffy" dog?

There was another thread on here where a video was posted of the trainer Jeff Gelman's own dog breaking a place command when excited.

Until you have this issue resolved, I agree with Dogma that a physical barrier is in your, and your guests, better interest. I would also recommend a crate in lieu of trusting your dog to make decisions that you should be making.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-13-2016, 11:24 AM Thread Starter
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Hello. Thank you for the response so far.

I will endeavor to make sure no one can be harmed....but really I am wondering what steps can b taken other than crating with strangers in the house? We have dogsitters etc that need to be introduced etc
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-13-2016, 12:10 PM
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Putting your dog behind a gate or crating him helps to ensure that others will come to no harm until you feel your dog can be trusted with them. I am not sure why you feel you can put a dog in place and introduce him to people but you don't feel that you can put him in a crate or behind a gate and do the same. The main difference between the two methods is your dog has access to people and is free to act with place while with the other methods you are controlling the dog and people are safer. You do have a responsibility to visitors on your premises. If it were me, I would err on the side of caution.

Your dog is just maturing now, you don't know yet what his adult temperament will be. As it stands, your dog may never tolerate strangers or dog sitters coming to your home. In the meantime, you need to be proactive to protect all involved.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-13-2016, 12:31 PM
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I agree. I have one dog who is just not comfortable with strangers in the home. He is in the yard or a separate room.

With my family or close friends, we work gradually to make him comfortable with them. Giving food to him around strangers would be a big mistake for many reasons. I can get into those reasons if you are interested.

The rest of my dogs enjoy strangers once introduced. I put them outside when people visit for starters, then introduce them one at a time.

Place command, it takes a good trainer and no mistakes, and well timed appropriate corrections to make that a viable solution for a reactive dog.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-14-2016, 08:23 PM
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As far as the place command, it all depends on your dogs level of obedience with that command. I believe I am the one who suggested the place command to start teaching your dog how to be calm. But that was 3 days ago. You cannot teach a dog the place command and then a week or two later after practicing with either no or minimal distractions, put him in place and expect him to stay there when a stranger/guest enters your home if you have never practiced that.

You probably will have a hard time passing a test you never studied for. You cannot expect your dog to succeed in this situation he has never been in or practiced before.

You cannot wait until real life happens to show the dog what is expected of him right then and there. If you want your dog to be comfortable in place when people come over, you need to teach him that.

That means you need to take time out of your day and have a friend or two help you by pretending to come over and enter your house. You know its a training exercise so you will be prepared. Your dog won't know the difference.

As far as the hackles/barking/backing away... Regardless of the reason he is doing that (most likely scared), its an unwanted behavior and potentially dangerous behavior. You have to have a way to follow through if your dog acts this way or breaks place. What tools are you using to teach place? You have to have a way to tell the dog no.

To be honest though between the two threads you have made, it sounds like you need to keep building upon the relationship with your dog. There is a reason he is acting the way he is when guests coming over. I'm not buying the whole GSD thing, I understand these dogs are bred to be protective but this dog sounds like it is scared and doesn't feel safe, he feels he NEEDS to protect. You need to be a leader for this dog, showing him you've got his back and everything is under control. Teach him what is acceptable and what isn't. Dogs will do whatever you let them get away this.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-14-2016, 10:28 PM Thread Starter
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Hi Randy. Thanks and yes it was indeed you suggesting the Place command. I can tell you what has happened so was indeed only a few days ago!! I started to ask him to Place and offered liver treats on the bed serving as the "place". Repeated and repeated with treats and a lead and a down command....working toward a pointing with a Place command which he performed and was given treats.

I later had my son ring the doorbell a few times (my male didn't know it was him ) and my dog was asked to Place. Of course the barking started and I correctly sharply and led him to place. He downed on the Place with my guidance and I "answered the door " and walked back "when I was done" to give a pat as a reward. I repeated a few times and then a stranger did actually come to the door that night (stranger was a neighbour the dog did not know and there was a conversation that the dog could hear) . No issue other than my reminder with a look or stern voice to the dog to remind him of his job as I was answering the door. Yes of course he needed some guidance as to place as it was only a day or so that we had started the command. I was pleased he maintained it without an issue.....his obedience is quite sound for a youngster but of course I do understand that we are only beginning the training and setups for this command and that the stimulus was not excessively high but we are only starting.

Today a "friend" came in a back door and I asked my dog to "place" and for my friend to completely ignore him. My dog needed finger guidance to Place and a "look" and he did not leave the "place" and he put his head down in about 5 minutes and I kept him there for about 30 as I visited with the friend.

He had totally settled. Was quiet. I released at that point about 30 minutes later. My male has seen that person a time or two and after the 30 minutes when I released my male went and visited with tail wagging. No....not a complete stranger but a relative one. He had often in the past rushed toward a relative stranger (but my friend) with alert barks and hackles and excitement/fear and then settled after the reactive spat........ Perhaps what was most important was that he wasn't allowed to go into a reactive state and by heading that off I headed off the uncertainty and protectiveness or fear that may create issues. Perhaps that 30 minutes forced "downtime" helped teach him that I will receive guests that he has no job other to alert (if he wishes) and to settle.

It was interesting because as soon as the doorbell rang with the stranger (after only one day) he barked and then half ran to the "place" and I felt this was wonderful progress after only one of 2 days of practice. As I said, guidance was needed but he understood that barking and running to the door was unwanted. Kinda a half lightbulb going off.

I agree it may come down to leadership and the young male understanding what "his job is" when that situation happens within the home. It is only a first step but we have started down the path suggested with setups and doorbells and a person entering and I think that more and more of these setups will condition him to understand that the "stranger" or person in the home will not "threaten him" and he is safe in his "place". And that nothing negative can happen to him and no one will approach him if he is in his "place".
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-14-2016, 11:21 PM
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I'm not a huge fan of the place command. It only takes one time.
I think the bigger question is what are you doing to build your relationship and his confidence? For example, my dog is outside alone. He hears another dog barking, he barks back. I walk outside, he stops barking and is focused on me and my reaction. Inside, he does not bark when people come to the door. He will greet them, then come back and be with me.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-15-2016, 06:36 AM Thread Starter
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Regareing confidence and relationship building I a open to suggestions

We have tried scent detection and he enjoys it.

We do jog or hike together.

He is happy and desirous to be in my company all day.

But yes I AM looking for other ways to help build his confidence and would like to hear some ideas.
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