Our last dog was aggressive to visitors that came into our house. What should we have done?
If you have time I would appreciate your opinion on the following. This was about 15 years ago. Our son, Derek, was nine. We had a GSD I had trained in basic AKC obedience. I would have trusted her with the boy anywhere, anytime.
When people came to the house she would stand between them and the rest of the house for about 30 seconds. When she walked away it was OK for the people to come into the house. If anyone tried to walk past her before she moved away the dog would act very uncomfortable. She never growled, showed her teeth or barked. But it was plain she did not want anyone coming into the house without her say-so.
Friends were over to play cards. The man went into the kitchen where Derek was finishing his after-dinner chores. Norm walked up behind Derek and put his arms around him and acted as if he was going to wrestle Derek. The hair on the dog’s neck stood up and she showed her teeth. Norm very carefully let go of Derek and got the drink he had gone after. When he came back and sat down to play cards the dog came up and put her head in his lap to be petted.
Even though the dog had never bitten before I knew that she would and had watched her very carefully. When the car drove in and Derek opened the door she slipped out like a greased pig.
Two different times the dog had refused to let a man into the house. Both times they were salesmen who, when I opened the inside door had opened the screen and just started to come in. They didn’t stay long.
The story has a sad ending. A couple of years later I was in the back of the house when I heard Derek calling the dog. All of a sudden I realized he had called her too many times, because she usually came for him on the second or third call. When I went out a friend and her son, who was Derek’s age, had come. Seeing Derek trying to get the dog, the son got out of the car to help. By the time I arrived the dog had put four neat holes in the calf of the boy’s leg. We had her put down.
The dog you had could have been saved with today’s technology. You can now get an in-ground Innotek fence for very little money. This could have restricted your dog to the back yard.
You do have a territorial aggression, but not a very serious one from the sound of it. It could have been controlled with proper obedience training. The details of your past problems are the most common questions that I get. These kind of dogs need serious training, with a prong collar. They must be trained to do a Down Stay under the most severe distraction. When people come to the house the dog is allowed to see that you accept them into the home, (it does not need to be a situation where you see that the dog allows the visitor, like you had, but the opposite). Then the dog is sent to a specific rug or to its dog crate, (which every dog owner should have). There are no acceptable reasons for the dog to leave the down stay until you give the all clear sign (OK!) and release the dog.
This is a simple issue to train, I explain it in my Q&A on more than one answer. The basics are that the exercise is taught motivationally with food to go to the run, then once it understands the command it’s corrected for not doing it. Then it’s taught to stay on the rug (with corrections). The dog wears a prong collar and short 2-foot leash, he learns that if it gets up before being released he gets corrected. The correction needs to be strong enough to be effective. Then distractions are added, a ball being tossed when the dog is on the rug, if it gets up it gets very strong correction. If the dog continues to get up as you add distractions you need to increase the level of correction until the dog fears the correction more than he wants to investigate the distraction.
Throughout this training the stay needs to be praised. This is a critical part of the training as long as the praise does not become a distraction for the dog to get up, (which leads to a correction). As I explain in my tape, you must praise but not to the point of distractions.
Some people can not train dogs because their temperament does not allow them to properly correct their dog. These people should get cats.