Usually the main cause of dog aggressions toward visitors is based on fear, see them as a threat to their safety – they often feel trapped or view a visit as an intrusion on their territory. Dominant dogs often push forward to inspect or bite or nip the visitor; fear driven dogs can react with a facade of ferocity while inside they’re trembling. Some dogs simply hide behind their owner’s legs, watching as if transfixed by the visitor.
Controlling dogs within the home can be difficult, especially when you own an aggressive dog. What you always need to keep in mind is that the dog does not behave badly to upset you. It’s not personal. It’s just the way it has learned to respond to you, the environment, and its actions.
Here are few things you can do, if your dog become aggressive when getting visitors:
- If your dog displays aggression near the door, place your dog on the hook 10 minutes before your visitor’s arrival.
- Answer the door, invite your guest in, and tell him or her not to acknowledge the dog at all.
- If your dog starts barking, just ignore him. Make no fuss and behave as if everything is normal.
- Use the food toy packed with a part of his daily food ration. Get your visitor to roll the toy toward your dog. If your dog is not interested in the food, he’s not hungry. When the visitor leaves, don’t offer more food.
- Your visitors should not walk toward your dog or bend down near him. They should remain in their chairs. All visitors, whether children or adults, should avoid moving quickly in your dog’s presence. Practice this routine with as many friends as possible. In this way you should be able to establish a good association of calmness, safety, and reward.
- If your dog growls or barks at the visitor, never throw your arms around the dog to show disapproval. Do not pet him or use a praising voice – also don’t constantly say “good dog” – this diminishes real praise. Otherwise you will embed the aggression more deeply. If your dog sees that you are calm, its attitude will eventually be influenced.
- Dogs that have bitten before or that may bite should be muzzled, at least twenty minutes prior to the visitor’s arrival. After five such meetings, bring your dog in on a leash and collar and allow him as near as is safe to your visitor’s outstretched hand containing a treat. This action will have to be repeated many times if a good association is to be formed. Eventually your dog should look forward to a visitor’s arrival.
Using Training Discs
The training discs are used to imprint the following ideas:
- The dog learns a sound and associates it with whatever it is doing wrong.
- It associates the sound with the command “No”.
- Eventually it responds instantly to the command “No” without the discs being used.
Timing is of the essence with regard to the command and the action of the discs being thrown. Eventually you will be able to stop using the discs and continue only with the verbal command, with the word “No” having the same effect as the discs being thrown.
The discs and the command “No” work best when the dog is about to perform its aggressive routine. Once the dog is calm, you should, if possible, ask the stranger or helper to throw some treats on the floor near your dog. The dog is an intelligent creature and has no problem in discerning when you, the leader, are displeased by its aggressive actions. It will also realize that meeting a stranger can be a pleasant experience with the food reward.
Once you have reached a stage where your dog looks forward to visitors in your home or is at ease with people you meet on daily walks, you can begin to relax the hook method after about 15 minutes and release the dog in the living room. Still allow the visitor to offer the toy with food in it and/or the odd game with a toy – this is risky but that’s the way it is.
If you are still very unsure or not confident, and if your dog has been previously conditioned to wearing a muzzle, fit a muzzle to the dog while on the hook and then release it into the room. The guest can use pieces of chicken that can be fed to the dog through the gaps in the muzzle to maintain and continue the reward association training.
In the park you can also use the muzzle and food reward training with whomever will cooperate. Enlisting helpers unknown to the dog to meet you in the park to offer the food rewards is of great benefit.
Cage-type muzzles should be used whenever you feel your dog may bite people or while you are still trying to impose your control over your dog. Muzzles, contrary to the opinion of some wrong-informed writers, do not make dogs aggressive. They do, however, make a dog look aggressive to the general public.
Changing Canine Attitudes
At the end of your behavior training programs your dog will have learned some new ideas:
- That you are the leader in and outside the home.
- That it will obey you, the leader, even in situations where it has become used to acting independently of you.
- A new language of training that has appropriate rewards and punishments when necessary.
- That people are not to be feared or attacked, and that many people have tasty morsels of food waiting to be given out as rewards.
As time passes and your dog changes for the better, you will become more confident as you see results – the dog will notice you acting like a leader. Your new precise training language will be clear and consistent and the relationship should flourish as both dog and owner respect the new pack hierarchy.