How to Train a Territorial Dog to Be Nice to Guests at the Door

By: David Codr

Published Date: July 29, 2017

Ruby is a one-year-old mixed breed dog who lives in Mar Vista, California. Her family set up a dog behavior training session with me to get her to stop acting aggressive towards strangers and small kids.

Ruby was found only a few days old along with a few other pups from her litter on the beach in American Samoa. Her exact birthdate is unknown but considering her umbilical cord was still attached, its likely she was less than a week old. The guardians took the pups home and hand fed them, but unfortunately only Ruby survived.

Ruby’s guardians felt that she was being an aggressive dog, resulting in few people being invited over to her house. I used a dog behaviorist trick to great success when I met her. You can get this positive dog training tip for free by watching the video below.

Because she was the only surviving dog and there weren’t any socialization classes available in this remote part of American Samoa, Ruby missed out on critical socialization experiences. This is certainly why she is now reactive when seeing some other dogs or when unknown humans visit her home.

I knew I needed to come up with a plan to help Ruby stop seeing herself as a security dog. Because she had little to no structure in her life, its probably that she felt that acting this way was a way to serve and help the family.  To start changing the leader follower dynamic, I suggested a number of rules, boundaries and limits and showed the family how to enforce them using body language and other forms of canine communication.

I also showed them how they can add structure to repeatable, daily interactions such as petting with a purpose, passive training and waiting for permission to eat the food waiting in her bowl. Individually, these are no big things. But by adding a touch of structure to the activities we engage in dozens or more times every day, the changes have a powerful impact. This is one of the big advantages of using dog psychology to address behavior problems versus dog training.

I also showed the family how to structure positive dog training exercises to build up her confidence and develop skills that will help her become a better, more obedient dog. A prime example of this is teaching a dog to come. You can check out this free dog training video below.

Training a dog to come is a helpful skill but it also demonstrated that Ruby was receptive to learning as she caught on so easily. Because she did so well, I suggested that the family’s kids take turns picking a new trick or command each week to train the dog for the next 2 months. This will result in eight new tricks or commands with a nice side benefit; boosting her self esteem and increasing her respect for her humans.

Now that we had gone over ways to develop a solid foundation of behavior, I wanted to show the family how to get Ruby to stop aggressive behavior towards guests at the door.

Over time, this will technique will help Ruby start to build up a positive association with new people visiting the home. Combined with a shift in the leader follower dynamic, Ruby will more easily transition into a follower role.

We headed out for a short walk next as this a activity was difficult for the guardian to manage prior to this session. I showed the guardian how to use a martingale collar and straight leash. She was pleased at how much more control she had and how well behaved Ruby was due to the work we did inside before.

Stopping short on the stairs, asking for repeated sits with treats outside the manager’s office and sitting at doors will go a long way towards helping her slow down and behave better on walks.

By the end of the session, Ruby had stopped pulling on the leash, was watching running children without any anxiety or reaction, was listening to her guardian’s commands and following the new rules we added hours before. To help the family continue this good behavior I recorded a roadmap to success video which you can watch below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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