18 month lab becoming aggressive with strangers in the house

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by MarleyL, Feb 8, 2018.


  1. MarleyL

    MarleyL PetForums Newbie

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    Our lab seems is showing some major behavioural red flags when we welcome strangers into the house.. I wonder if anyone has gone through this and come out the other side with a calm, happy dog?

    It is with strangers only and he used to bark then calm down when they came into the house, but recently we have had more people pass through than usual (still not loads!) and noticed he is much more stressed.. hairs go up, he growls and lunges at times also.

    We really have so few strangers come into the house, I guess he hasn't had much practice with this particular situation. Outdoors he isn't bothered, he is interacts with other dogs and people without any fuss and those he knows, he Loves!

    He is 18 month, in good health, well exercised but does have a slightly shy nature which we have been mindful of.

    With friends we have managed it by asking them to interact a little with his ball and treats ... making things as positive as possible.. without being in his face.. which seems to work, but it's not suitable for all environments and people.. and I can see the slippery slope we are on!

    We are also trying to desensitise him to the door bell so it doesn't trigger the crazy in him as thought it'd help him be calmer when people come through.. he is very clever and good at picking up commands

    Any wise words would be very welcomed!

    Thank you!!
     
  2. Sarah1983

    Sarah1983 PetForums VIP

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    My collie was a holy terror with visitors to the house. Once he knew them they were welcome but otherwise he was shut away. We usually got new people to come for a brief walk with us as he was way more accepting of someone coming in then. Obviously not an option for people just doing work on the house or anything, that was a shut him away completely job. Is this with people he already knows or is it just new people that are the problem?

    Personally I wouldn't be getting visitors to interact with him at all. The good stuff should come from YOU when they're around. The problem with getting visitors to do it is that sometimes the lure of the food or toy will get the dog closer than he's actually comfortable with and then he'll panic and kick off when he realises. Is he crate trained? A stuffed Kong in a crate while visitors are around might be something to consider if so. Or behind a baby gate perhaps (although I find my usually welcoming Lab actually becomes very unwelcoming when behind a gate despite being fine in his crate or loose!).

    At 18 months he's just starting to find his feet as an adult so it's quite possible he's been very uncomfortable about visitors all along and is now a bit more confident about showing it. It'd be well worth getting a professional in imo to actually see what's going on and address the issue. All we can really advise over the internet without seeing the dog is management advice.
     
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  3. MarleyL

    MarleyL PetForums Newbie

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    Thanks, I would tend to agree I think now he's older and more confident he ain't afraid to show it!

    I'm looking at a professional coming along but ohhh my they are expensive .. but he's so young I feel if we do the right thing now we can still salvage this!

    Those he knows, he is the sweetest, happiest guy ... wiggling his bum and bringing his toys to play with.

    This aggro side I've not seen often so is really sad to think it came to this without really knowing it!
     
  4. Sarah1983

    Sarah1983 PetForums VIP

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    If you give your general area someone may be able to suggest someone, they're not necessarily that expensive. And if he has insurance then they often cover behavioural too :)

    Good luck with it :)
     
  5. Sairy

    Sairy PetForums VIP

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    What kind of set-up do you have in your house? Is it possible to have him behind a gate or crated when people come round so that he is at a safe distance? If he is only like this to start with and then calms down once the people have been with you for a while then you could reward the calm behaviour with treats. Try to keep the experience as positive as possible but I would be careful about having strangers interacting with him if he is uncomfortable with this.
     
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  6. JoanneF

    JoanneF PetForums VIP

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    Maybe also ask anyone coming to the house to be highly aware of their own body language. To a dog, face on and direct eye contact is intimidating so going further than just not engaging with him, I would ask visitors to make a point of completely ignoring him and avoiding even looking in his direction.
     
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  7. Lurcherlad

    Lurcherlad PetForums VIP

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    He has probably been giving signs of anxiety around strangers entering the house early on, but unfortunately, we often miss them and if not dealt with correctly in the early stages the dog's anxiety increases as does his reaction. I suspect his behaviour is fear based and rather than getting more confident he is actually feeling more stressed tbh.

    I would avoid him having to interact with visitors at all and put him safely in another room behind a baby gate so he feels less threatened or stressed. Only use a crate if he is 100% happy in one otherwise that will just ramp up the anxiety IMO. Make sure it is positioned far enough away from visitors so he can relax.

    Look at positively.com and Kikopup for some tips but it is probably best to get the help of a good behaviourist to assess him, you and the situation and guide you in ways of changing his perception/response. Use someone who only advocates positive, reward based methods.
     
    #7 Lurcherlad, Feb 9, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2018
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  8. Lurcherlad

    Lurcherlad PetForums VIP

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    This chart is helpful to recognise signs of anxiety in dogs:

    image.jpeg
     
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  9. MarleyL

    MarleyL PetForums Newbie

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    Thanks all! Going to bite the bullet and get a behaviourist to come along rather than try to fix ourselves and no doubt get it wrong!
     
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  10. JoanneF

    JoanneF PetForums VIP

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    Canine behaviour is an unregulated profession which basically means that my 90 year neighbour who has never owned a dog in her life could if she wished set herself up in business as a behaviourist, so do be careful who you get. The APBC and COAPE are respected behaviour organisations who do demand standards from their members.
     
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  11. Lurcherlad

    Lurcherlad PetForums VIP

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    Ask for a vet referral too as that will often be covered by insurance.
     
  12. spamvicious

    spamvicious PetForums Senior

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    Petplan in particular will only pay for APBC registered behaviourists though so be wary of that if you want an insurer to pay though.