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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all!

I hope I am posting this in the right section, well... I adopted the cutest little girl three weeks ago and she is a Black Lab and Staffordshire Terrier mix named Zoe, she is about 17 weeks old now. She's a great puppy -- playful, spunky, smart and very stubborn.

Now she loves people, when we go out to the dog park or are out walking, she is the sweetest thing, but obviously, when strangers come into the house she gets very protective. She barked and growled at one of my roommates (I have 3) who was away for a week when we first got her until she got to know her and realized she lived here too...

She also has no problems seeing regular faces (such as my one of roommate's boyfriends) who comes over every few days.

Yet one of my roommates has new people in and out of the house just about every single day and of course, Zoe barks and growls at them... and the stupidest thing (IMO) is that these friends of my roommate go up and PET HER. I have a problem with this for general safety of the guests in my home, not because of the dog. She's protecting her home and once the guest moves to a different part of the house, Zoe remains alert, but stops barking (she will follow if myself or one of my roommates doesn't distract her)... and I am working on training her to stop barking on command (using the word "Enough" or "Quiet").

I don't want to punish my dog for alerting us that someone new is the house, and I definitely do NOT want guests approaching my growling dog until I am there near her to get her to calm down.

What would be the best way to handle this?

I don't want my dog to be antisocial, yet I don't want her to happily greet strangers at the door either, and I also could careless who my roommate has over she pays rent to have guests.
507 Posts

Congrats on the puppy. Thanks for saving a life.

I don't want my dog to be antisocial, yet I don't want her to happily greet strangers at the door either
For now, you are just going to have to pick the latter. It’s better that she be friendly rather than hurt someone when she gets her big dog teeth.
Later, once she is more comfortable with strangers, you can put her barking on cue. Then give the command to bark.

Remember to never ever punish the dog for her fear/aggression towards strangers. No yelling, startling, leash yanking, hitting, etc..

SecondAs the benevolent leader, your are responsible for your dog. If anyone tries to touch your dog when she is upset, step in front, block that person from touching your dog. If the person doesn’t want to listen, then either remove your dog (no snatching or yanking) or politely ask the visitor to leave.

Since your dog has already formed a negative association with visitors, I suggest that you and your roommates come to an agreement that you not have any guests over for 1 week. This will give your dog a little time to de-stress while you get to work on a non aversive way to help her with her issues.

The Book Scardey Dog more thoroughly explains how these stress hormones can build up and why it’s important to allow a de-stress period.

Since you know your dog is going to get upset about visitors, don’t have her out when visitors arrive. Ask your visitors to call from their cells as they pull up to your house/apartment. That way:

1. This will give you time to put your dog into her crate or another room and she won’t associate the crate with a bad thing - visitors. Not at first anyway. Be sure to acclimate her to a crate if she isn't used to one.

2. The doorbell won’t get her all revved up

Something else that might help. When you know somone is coming over, take your dog outside. Let her greet the visitors outside then walk in the residence togther or let the guest go in in first then let the dog in. If this upsets her then go back to management - keeping her away from scary people.

Teach an alternate behaviorI would start with just the doorbell and teach the dog an alternative behavior. Teach your dog to “go to place” or “go fetch” or “go to crate” or “go get your toy, ” or “ sit.”
Then put it on cue with the door bell. You don’t want the dog to see YOU ring the doorbell. Your roommate or another friend can help with this. Remember to teach any and all commands using positive reinforcement only. Using aversive methods to train then asking for those commands can invoke negative feelings towards the strangers.
No yanking, yelling, pushing, etc.. Actually, don’t use your hands at all.
I believe that Patricia McConnell's book "The Other End of the Leash" has more details on this.

Desensitization and Counter Conditioning
Get your dog used to people coming over through desensitization and counter conditioning. Always start below threshold and make it fun. If at anytime, the dog gets upset, then you have moved too fast and the exercise will be counter productive.

To start below threshold, the first visitor will be the roommate. Have your roommate pretend to be a visitor and go through your routine - like “go get your toy.” Treat (really really good treats like baked chicken) the dog or have the roommate give the dog a sit and treat the dog. Always provide some type of alternate behavior so the dog won’t feel like she has to resort to barking and growling.

Then go through this with each roommate

After this works well with the roommates, try a calm friend whom the dog is comfortable with. Stay below threshold and keep doing it until the dog is happy. This could take minutes, days, weeks.

Then with a friend who is a little less known but who isn’t upsetting. Once you move to unknown people, for safety’s sake, you as the pet parent should be giving the treat instead of having the guests do it.

More info in References below on how to continue to do this.

If you have guests who are unwilling to help you with this, don’t force them into it. Ask politely, if they don’t want to help, then put the dog away. If they refuse to follow your instructions then put the dog away or ask them to leave.

Other People
Don’t allow anyone to:
Pet your dog on the head
Touch your dog when she isn’t ready to be touched
Pet your dog roughly
Wrestle with your dog
Encourage jumping up by patting their chest, etc..

Don’t allow anyone to reward undesirable behaviors like jumping up, barking, etc..

Positive Reinforcement Works
Some people might tell you that positive reinforcement doesn’t work.

Behaviorist and author Jean Donaldson says that people can’t execute a method incorrectly then blame the method. Positive Reinforcement when executed correctly does work. Negative reinforcement might work with some dogs but:
1. It hurts your relationship with your dog
2. It doesn’t always work and in many cases it will make your dog much much worse.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Just read the works of people who have studied animal behavior, who have advanced degrees in animal behavior, who do seminars all over the world. Remember that TV is for entertainment. Books are for education.
Everything isn’t about dominance

Behaviorist and author Ian Dunbar says that suppressing a growl is like removing a ticker from a time bomb. So “correcting” your dog when she barks or growls just teaches her to not give a warning next time. And she could bite without warning

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
Are you working on ways to keep your dog calm yet stimulated and exercised? Does she go on long walks every day? Get training lessons? Do you reward calm behaviors through out the day?

Calming Remedies
Check with your vet on using some things that might help your dog be more relaxed
Bach Flower essences
Valerian Root
Dog Appeasing Pheromone
These may or may not be good for puppies.

Something to consider
This shouldn’t be an issue, but it is. Many people are more leary of pitties than other breeds. A chihuahua growling or nipping might be funny, but a pittie doing the same thing is scary to many people. Scary enough that your dog could be reported as vicious. Then you are stuck with legal bills trying to defend your dog. Worse case scenario, you don’t want Animal Control seizing your dog.
Keep her safe. Don’t let her get herself into trouble.

Just in case something does happen, make sure you have shot records on hand and easy to find at all times.

Is this the best environment?
If your dog is a bit nervous, Is a place that has lots of people in and out really a good place for her to live? If things get bad for the dog, are you able to move out?

Professional Help
Professional help is always a good thing. Just be aware that anyone can legally call him/herself a trainer. Be sure to interview the trainer about his/her methods. Anyone who talks about “correcting” the dog after she starts barking should NOT be used. Anyone who talks about using the leash for “control” should not be used. I’m not saying the dog shouldn’t be on leash because she should, but she should NOT be yanked.

Speaking of the leash, make sure the dog can’t slip her collar. A properly fitted martingale collar would be safer than a buckle collar. A professional can help you with this.


Barking: The Sound of a Language by Turid Rugaas. Start here. It’s a small book and can be read in one setting

Patricia McConnell - “The Other End of the Leash” - has some good info on door greetings and lots of other great info. Read this one next.

Patricia McConnell - How to be the Leader of the Pack and Have your Dog Love you for it.

Patricia McConnel - Family Friendly Dog Training

Patricia McConnel - Cautious Canine

Ali Brown - Scardey Dog - this has info on dogs who are scared of other dogs but the principles can be applied

Leadership and Dominance: http://www.stubbypuddin.com/2011/02/on-leadership-and-dominance-years-ago-i.html

Benevolent Leadership: http://www.stubbypuddin.com/2011/02/benevolent-leadership.html

Managing Behaviors: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=el1h90bq998

How do I get my dog to like other dogs: This is for dogs but it has good info on counter conditioning and desensitization. Just replace “dogs” with people. http://www.stubbypuddin.com/2011/04/how-do-i-get-my-dog-to-like-other-dogs.html

Kitchen nightmares - More good info on CC&D: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-CCJxF-9U4

Teach your dog to sit: A hands off - non aversive way to teach your dog to sit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=faqSuJFuxGg

Reward Calm Behaviors: http://www.youtube.com/peteducation#p/u/12/EIvWIyVZoGM

Things Humans Inadvertently teach their pets: http://www.youtube.com/peteducation#p/u/10/EQpP02nTVeg

Stopping Unwanted behavior before it starts: http://www.youtube.com/peteducation#p/u/9/YoHTir_uK1o

Inside looking out: http://kpk9listen.blogspot.com/2010/10/inside-looking-out.html


2 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you so much for your detailed response and LOTS of information. Unfortunately, I won't be able to not allow guests in my house for a week BUT will definitely work on the de-stressing. I am still in the process of fully potty training her (she currently uses puppy pads/newspaper with no problem and she is slowly working up to go outside 100% and we did it without a crate), yet I love the idea of putting her in a different room. Guests were actually here today when I got back from the dog park with her and I immediately took her into my bedroom with some of her toys and closed the door.

And yes, I try to take her out for a minimum of an hour everyday... I've only had her for about 3 weeks, so scheduling has been a bit off, but we're getting there. I am hoping to have her out for about 2-3 hours total per day within the next few weeks.

I will update soon on everything and definitely look into all of the reference information that you gave me!

10,534 Posts
First of all there's a differance in INVITED guests and an intruder, she needs to learn that anyone that is invited into the house (by you or any roommates)is to be welcomed.

I'd suggest this Greeting Politely at the door training.

9,405 Posts
Your pup is still young, and both Labs & Strads are very social. So, you still have time to socialize the pup with puppy parties.
1. Every day or every other day, invite 2 - 8 different people to the house. Give them 5 - 10 tiny, dime-sized treats.
2. If the pup growls, toss the treat over her head, If shy, toss it to her, otherwise, let her come and take the treat, but don't pet, yet.
3. After the first treat, Stop. The pup will approach for another. Wait. She will nuzzle, then praise, pet a little, and treat.
4. When she is happy with everyone, play doggie catch, where the pup is the 'ball.' Have one person call and treat, then another, getting her to bounce from one to another...
5. When the treats are gone, you can come up with other games... then ignore her for a few minutes, and have the least liked person provide attention.
6. The target is to introduce 100 different adults, women, children, and men... different sizes and different clothes in one month. For example, a man in a bathing suit, and a man in a 3-piece suit... a man with a cap and a man with a cowboy hat....

Do this and she'll be safe with friends. She may also be safe with intruders, but she'll bark... which will be enough!

5,074 Posts
I have a dog who was like this from 6 weeks on, now she is almost 9 yrs old & is as grouchy as ever lmbo. She also does what you described, it may just be her personality which it sounds like it is & she doesn't sound overly aggressive about it, I would reward her for making an effort to protect your home. Tell her what a good puppy she is, then go & meet/greet the person so she sees that this person is welcomed & there is nothing to worry about.

Just one laymen's opinion :p.
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