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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi, my hubby and I are an older couple with 2 dogs. We're looking for help with one who is very possessive of the house and will bite! Hope we can find some answers, we're at our wits end!
We have 2 dogs, both terriers.
The first one, Dixie, is very sweet and laid back.
The second one is Zephra. We adopted her about a year after Dixie.
The shelter says she was "crate crazy". When you approached her in the crate she was jumping around, snapping and snarling. But as soon as they took her out, she calmed right down. We took her for a walk and she was fine. We fostered her at first because we wanted to be sure she'd get along with Dixie.
And she did. She immediately seemed to recognize Dixie as being the Alpha... and still does. There's never been an issue between them.
Never an issue with us, either.
When we walk on the street or at a park, she's fine with other people and dogs.
The issue is when someone comes to our house.
She watches them intently. If they get up and walk she'll run after them and try to bite their leg! If they reach out to her to let her smell their hand, she'll try to bite them!
We had a wonderful house-sitter/dog sitter who came to the house, sat on the floor and fed them both treats and spent time letting them get to know her. But when she came to sit she had to use the doormat to protect herself from Zephra. Once she got in, let them out in the yard and fed them, it was fine, but each day she had to go through it all again!!
When someone comes to visit, even our family and grandchildren, we have to muzzle her! And she'll still jump at them but the muzzle keeps her from biting.
We've taken her to the vet who tried her on meds... the latest one is clonidine... it makes her sleepy until someone comes in, then boom... it's like she never took it.
I don't know what to do. Of course, we tell her NO, we put her in her crate or muzzle her, but she doesn't get the message that we don't like her behavior. She knows commands like sit, stay, come,shake, roll over... but when someone comes into the house, that all disappears.
Here's her picture
 

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how long have you had her.. did she do this during the time your were fostering her? Though I love the breed(s) there is many reason I don't own a terrier and the exact same reason terrier people love the breed(s).. When I went to my neighborhoods home and got out of my car to walk towards her it was her carin terrier who broke from her dog group and raced over at me going straight for my leg. Wearing knee high thick work boots I wasn't phased by it and just let the dog hit me while I stood still I really do love the little totoe breed to be happy to see one. Truly get what your saying what your Zephra is doing to your guest. My uncle had two smaller schnauzers and they were obnoxious at me first time meeting or if I moved out of the room or came back.. I was raised to ignore dogs, don't react or run just freeze and wait. I ususally skate by , don't take it personally cause they not my dogs when I go to someones elses house..

I was asked to pet set my friends Swiss Mountain dog and everyday I would come to the house and the dog would threaten me to no end trying to walk through the front door when arriving.. And he only had 3 legs, I had to just keep walking with him bouncing barking threatening along with me to go open the patio door to let him out in the back yard.
He would then calm down and accept me after that. Been to my friends house many of times with never an issue being let in by the owners,, Don't blame the dog for being a good dog when the owners not home to treat me as he did...
 

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Discussion Starter #3
We've had her for 4 years. But we're older and don't have a lot of people in the house. So we didn't know she behaved like this until we had visitors from out of town come to stay with us. We were really surprised!
I'd only seen chihuahuas behave like this before, never imagined she would :'/
 

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My view point is put a baby gate up , let them learn that your guest are not their business. My Grandparents had to GSD's and when people came over the big dogs were baby gated in the small kitchen. The entire time we were there. Never all those visit ever have contact with those dogs. And never been in their kitchen lol.. After my Grandma passed and were were there for the funeral, everyone went out for a dinner but I stay'd home for being sick.. While I was there sleeping in the living room on the couch there was flash lights through the window and then people at the door trying to get in. Those two GSD's knocked down the baby gate and attacked the front door area and the people ran back to their car and left.

Guess bad guys read the obituaries and then come and rob their house.......................

The two GSDs went back to the kitchen and stay there even though there wasn't a baby gate lol.. even though I was sitting right there on the couch they could care less ..


I would recommend getting a (full thyroid panel) done ... it is an area that can affect behavior. and as you said you don't have guest over.. so your starting from scratch in learning a new thing. Best to teach her boundaries by giving her a boundary of where her place and job is.. let her watch you interact with them from a distance that she doesn't have to make a decision.

My grandparents GSD's were not socialized because they wanted them to be good guard dogs "that is what they truly believed in choosing their training idea's" GSD's are smart family dogs to know who is accepted by their owners just by watching.. it didn't make a difference that my grandparents didn't try to teach them.. the dogs are smart enough and it's a good breed anyway that the dogs knew who was ok for them not to bother me when they got loose.. They also learned and smart enough to stay in the kitchen when people were there even if there wasn't a baby gate.. lol... they never came back out even when I was moving around the house.. I wasn't brave enough as a kid to go back over there and put the baby gate back up... I am thankful they were bad asses when bad people came to the house...
 

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Discussion Starter #5
We do put her in a different room or in her crate when people come in. But then she barks and scratches and jumps at the door the whole time. Unpleasant tho not as unpleasant as her biting someone. I'd like for her to relax and enjoy people.
 

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I'd like for her to relax and enjoy people.
Realistically that may never happen.

She could very well be fearful of strangers and the reactions you're seeing are fear-based. Any kind of punishment in those situations will work against you and possibly make her worse. Crate her or keep her behind a sturdy gate when you have people over. If you don't have guests that often that is probably the easiest solution.

There is some training you can do with fearful dogs to help them better control their reactions, but it can take a lot of time, dedication, and patience to see any real progress. You could hire a behaviourist, but make sure they are using positive reinforcement only. Any kind of fear/punishment training will only make things worse.
 

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you also said that she sits and watches them intently... then goes after them if they walk out of the room... "why don't you just tether her to your side during those moments when you and your guest are having a quiet moment of just sitting and exchanging conversations. where everyone ignores the dog... you can also baby gate them in an area where they can see what is going on and no one bothers them.


For me there is nothing wrong with your dog, terriers are feisty breed and very particular, lack of experience /exposure. putting a muzzle on your dog and turning them loose in a situation to fend for themselves, that they have expressed that they are not comfortable in (isn't fair to the dog). and it isn't a positive learning environment.

Your dog is showing self control,, (tries to bite) she is warning that she not like the movement, or having a hand put in her face she is showing self control using a lower level to bark, snap to warn. Dogs don't miss, when they want to bite they bite... Be proud of her for that. put a baby gate up that she can see, or keep her tethered with you and have your guest ignore her. Find calm small guest gatherings to give time for exposure,, let it be a short time,, then put her back to her baby gate area so it's not overwhelming.

Everything new can take time.. If your an older couple,, surely you have had exposure to other peoples homes and their animals that just didn't like people and as kids you were told to leave them alone.. "they don't like people" lol... You want your girl to be more relaxed for people coming over to the house, then set her up for success and not failure..
 

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Discussion Starter #8
She didn't control herself. I grabbed her. She would have bitten.
We can't invite people to the house for dinner. Either they'd be endangered or we couldn't hear each other speak for the barking. If i put her in her crate, she barks incessantly. If I put her outside, she barks at the door and jumps against it, if i Put her in the bedroom, she barks and digs away the rug. She can only be muzzled for a short period.
My children and grandchildren live out of state, so they come and stay with us or we go to them and have to take the dogs (it's costs $1,000 to board them for 2 weeks)
I'm looking for a means of helping her past this.
 

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the only option left is to seek out a recommended behaviorist.. That can observe her behaviors first hand. And help you first hand to apply an approach with consistency. And understand the process. I wish you the best.
 

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I understand your frustration and concern, but unfortunately your expectations are simply not realistic. Imagine telling an introvert they needed to move past it and become an extrovert. Imagine someone who is terrified of spiders to move past it and pick one up. There are areas of training that are operant or skill based (ex. sit, leave it, come, etc.), and then there's addressing fear, which is behavior modification.

Training CAN help, for example, your dog would benefit from learning to be calm while separated. However, it takes expert level training for skill-based learning to override fear and in some situations complete elimination is impossible. For example, let's say you are deathly afraid of spiders but you loved video games. Your love of video games convinces you to stay in the basement, even though there are spiders. But this is a weak analogy because your dog is experiencing an exponentially higher level of fear. The scary trigger (people), are novel (infrequent), extremely scary, and entering her space. A better analogy would be, you are terrified of spiders but every once in a while, while you are playing video games, a tarantula comes out from behind the TV and races towards you. I know this might sound like some emotion based argument, but all of this is actually based in science. Every animal (human, dog, etc.) experiences a physiological reaction when placed in stressful situations. We, and dogs, can deal with certain low level stressors fine (ex. late for work, loud sound, human checking dog's teeth..). But when animals panic and react, the nervous system comes into play and there is literally adrenaline and a bunch of other stress hormones coursing through the body. It is simply unreasonable to expect any animal to act normally, or calmly, in those situations.

Be wary of any trainer who guarantees a solution for this. I will bet my paycheck that such trainers are likely to put a corrective tool on Zephra and correct her for reacting - to the point where her fear of corrections overrides her fear of strangers. Imagine if your friend was annoyed that you screamed and flailed when you saw spiders. To address the issue, your friend applies a shock (or slaps you, kicks you, hits you with a bat...whatever works) to shut you up. Now, you are so petrified of the entire situation that you no longer react - Success? Dogs who are trained this way are often referred to as ticking time bombs because they have an even greater dislike for people (people lead to painful training!) but are afraid of reacting, leading to dogs that bite out of the blue. Again, this is based in science. Conditioning is real. People who experience break ups might feel sad when a certain song plays, or people might feel anxious driving in an area where they once experienced a car accident. So I would argue that any training that simply 'corrects the dog for reacting' is dangerous and inhumane. If Zephra's reactions are very severe you may talk to a vet about situational drugs that can lower her anxiety for the upcoming social event (NOT an excuse to have people interact with her, it may just help Zephra better cope with the situation).

Behavior modification, or changing emotions, requires working at a exposure level to strangers where Zephra can perceive them without reacting. Sometimes this is not feasible in a confining location like a house. Not to mention, the protocol might involve having strangers practice arriving in certain mock scenarios. It would involve enlisting a stranger for 15+ minutes multiple times a week. Many progressive trainers these days would recommend management above all else. If Zephra is uncomfortable, keep her out of those situations. I understand that at the moment, Zephra does not tolerant being removed from the group. But it is more feasible to teach her to be comfortable for short periods alone in her own home, than it is to turn her into a social butterfly around strangers.
 

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A kong toy stuffed with frozen tasty food will keep most dogs busy for quite a while. Have you tried giving her a distraction like this to gnaw on when she's confined when guests are over? It serves a dual purpose of showing that being confined isn't so bad, and of keeping her mouth full so she's not yapping.

Maybe try some different setups to contain her, too. My puppy barks if he's on the other side of a closed door, but is fine barricaded off by a baby gate. He wants to see what happening. My old dog was just the opposite - if she could see what was going on, she'd bark because she wanted to join in, but if you covered her crate with a blanket she'd settle and take a nap.

I agree with Canyx that it should be a lot easier to teach her to settle quietly in a safe space than to teach her to be social with outsiders. If you want to travel with her, that safe space needs to be something portable like a pup playpen or kennel. It should also be possible to teach her a hush command. These are things to practice when there are no guests, in preparation. Make confinement an awesome place where you get treats and praise and comfort.
 

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We also have to crate one of our dogs when people come over, she'll bark for a while then eventually calm down. I try to make it special (special treat etc), but there hasn't been any improvement in 2 years. But at least she's not nipping at people...
 

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Oh god. People wonder why dogs end up in shelters. I appreciate how you've balanced out her other personality traits. But nothing matters except the problem at hand. Unfortunately, her history isn't understood. So being aggressive "could" be territorial, fear-anxiety, protection. "Possessiveness" is a human defined term, but more accurately "can" point to resource guarding. However labeled, the behavior is aggressive, and is not respecting your ownership of the property. So she's going to have to be re-trained from the ground up. Which is something nobody (here) likes to talk about. In essence, she's got to learn who's in control. To some degree that will offer her some confidence. That she doesn't have to make all these "territorial driven" decisions. And that she needs to defer to your management (control).

Now this approach as nothing to do with alpha-rolling, and the crazy theory of a former celebrity trainer, of whom I'm no advocate.

It is about "family training" so that she becomes a good dog-citizen and family member. It can be done very positively. By rewarding the behavior you want. And removing her from anxiety filled situations. If you have somebody coming to the house, then you want to crate her.

I'll stop, and remind people, that crating is not a prison. Dogs are naturally "den" animals who find security in places they can easily defend. So her crate must become a sanctuary, and not punishment.

If you need to teach crating in the first place, it should be for intermittent periods of time, in your presence, filled with "happy" rewarding things. Like chewing on a Kong stuffed with frozen cheese. Or feeding her in her crate. Or finding some soothing music. Or just keeping it in the family room while watching TV.

In crate. Short time. Out crate. Potty break. In / Out. Playtime. Individual attention. Cuddles and reassurance.

So that when you finally need to crate her in the presence of strangers, she doesn't freak out any longer. You might even crate her next to her housemate.

But what happens with this kind of outlandish behavior, is that she's learned to control your emotions, reactions, get the payout she wants, and drive people crazy. It's all a form of attention. Even though it's so negative. She probably also needs exercise, to wear her out before crate time. Teach her fetch. And chasing something that's hanging from a long pole. Whatever. But try and meet her prey/playing instinct in a safe, satisfying manner. So she doesn't pick on people.

Your goal is to modify her environment because that's the only way to shape the behavior you want from her. She has a "Terrier" mind. Extremely prey driven, focused, stubborn, determined. So it's going to take plenty of patience. And topping whatever reward she's already figured out, to obtain in her life!
 

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Canyx nailed it. Honestly? She is what she is.

I know THIS won't be well received and is only a "stop gap" and certainly will not modify the behavior except when on the dog but barking might stop with a bark activated No Bark collar so at least she will be silent when crated. It will only stop her barking when it is on and it may end up creating other issues as the behavior may come out as something else less desirable such as destroying the crate or even self mutilation (licking or biting herself).

Another option is an outdoor kennel.. and a bark collar so she is not disturbing neighbors. Again, the bark collar only teaches her not to bark when it is on because it will shock her when she barks. It won't teach her not to bark. Unless the kennel has a wire bottom or is on concrete or a deck she will likely dig out.

This dog will always be a bite risk. The only thing you can do is manage the dog and put her up when guests come over or stay there. With children the very real risk is a bite to the face. So, think about this very hard. If she bites and really hurts someone she will likely have to be euthanized. You can lose your home owner's insurance and this is assured if there is a claim.
 

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When you separate her from guests, is the other dog with her? Have you tried putting them both out in the yard, or in a room with a baby gate? I understand you want your dogs to socialize when you have guests over, but they relaly don't get any benefit from it, it just makes your human brain feel better. Their dog brains would probably be happier not having to deal with the strangers, anyways. And together, your problem-child might handle it better. Perhaps give them each a frozen kong out in the yard.

If having them together doesn't help ease her fear and anxiety, don't leave them unsupervised together. She could redirect reactions to the other dog or vice versa. Make sure to check on them periodically.
 

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Right, would never recommend a shock collar,,, the out door kennel idea placed back away from the house and that direct access point of the back door which is a motivator (distance is your friend in training) thats a good idea. There are other no bark devices,, the ultra sound the dogs don't understand what it is or where it is coming from so they pause barking. A determined dog will eventually bark right through it. So training one on one with the device to reward for the pause and listen could be beneficial for long term success. There is a hand device so you can use in one on one training and they also have outdoor devices that you can put by the kennel area to activate when you are not there.
 

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Listen to Canyx. Punishing the dog for any of this will backfire.

I get it. I have a fear biter. He will also run up behind people and nip their legs -- he doesn't have the confidence to bite them to their face, so he has to sneak up on them. I don't give him the opportunity. When I have guests, he's crated, or he's in another room, or I'm holding him, and I tell my guests to ignore him. It's a pain, and I wish he were different, but he is what he is. Sometimes management is all you've got.
 
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