Training adult dog not to bite strangers?

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Training adult dog not to bite strangers?

This is a discussion on Training adult dog not to bite strangers? within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; I'll try to keep this concise, but it will need a little background. I got an adult (2 years) dog a few months ago from ...

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Old 12-10-2010, 08:46 PM
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Training adult dog not to bite strangers?

I'll try to keep this concise, but it will need a little background.

I got an adult (2 years) dog a few months ago from a shelter. He is a rescue dog who was apparently saved from a puppy mill. He is part black lab, part basset.

Although he has bonded with me very strongly, he is intensely fearful of strangers. I have to tell friends not to try to pet him (especially on the head) unless he has come to trust them, which so far has not really happened. The only other person he has bonded with and appears to trust is my sister, since I left him with her a couple times when I was out of town this fall. Often if others try to pet him (usually strangers on the street that I can't warn in time) he will sort of jump backwards in fear, and sometimes he will growl if I have visitors over.

For the most part I can deal with this, but in just the last couple weeks it has become apparent that there is some danger of him biting strangers (in some cases possibly because he thinks he is protecting me). He has tried to bite a couple visitors, and the other day he bit a random woman on the leg while I was walking him - I know because she told me. Walking him today it also seemed he was trying to bite one of my neighbors on the leg when I was bringing him back inside my apt building (and this neighbor was exiting).


I'm not really sure how to control this. He has not shown ANY aggression with me whatsoever, but I need to find a way to control or stop his aggression toward other people. Anyone have any ideas?
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Old 12-10-2010, 08:55 PM
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For that I strongly suggest you hire a professional trainer. Just make sure you keep him on a short leash and if you must put a muzzle on him when walking him out.
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Old 12-10-2010, 09:02 PM
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Well first I would contact a professional. This problem needs to be fixed before he seriously injures somebody. Even if he just nips, somebody could report you, and you may have to put him down.

In the mean time, use food. Yummy food. When walking, you should have a muzzle on him. It won't really help him stop being aggressive to humans, but it will prevent people getting injured. When you have visitors, always give them a treat to feed the dog. At first get them to throw the treat in his direction. Eventually, as he gets better, they throw it closer and closer to themselves, until they can hand him a treat. And never smack him etc when he shows aggressive behaviour (unless he's actually attacking somebody and you need to quickily stop him before he tears a leg apart). You want to make humans bring good things.

Has he been like this since you got him?
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Old 12-10-2010, 09:17 PM
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He actually will already eat treats out of friends' hands; I make a point of giving visitors a few and he will always take them, though sometimes back away shortly thereafter. The trainers at the shelter (this was at the Dumb Friends League, which might only be in Denver but is basically like the Humane Society) told me to do this from the beginning. A couple of my friends have expressed a little frustration though because they have been over to visit numerous times and he continually growls and shows distrust with them. He seems to be a little more fearful of men, but I'm not certain of this. (And no, I don't smack him or hit him; in fact, I was told from the beginning not to ever even shout at him, although this is less of a concern now that he trusts me already.)

And yeah, he has more or less been like this from the beginning, although the biting attempts seem to be more recent (but I also haven't had him long; got him in August). He was most likely abused before I got him so he's sort of inherently untrusting of humans, although ironically he bonded with me VERY quickly. At the shelter (in the bonding room) he would not let either my sister or myself touch him really, but by the time we took him to my home he was very affectionate with me, slept on my bed, etc. He also bonded with my sister very quickly when I left him with her, although he was apparently fearful at first (he actually escaped and she found him back at my apt building waiting for me). But so far he hasn't really bonded with anyone else and has always growled a little; it's not generally a loud, aggressive bark but kind of a "under the breath" fearful growl, if that makes any sense. And he's always backed away from strangers, especially anyone who tries to pet or touch him.
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Old 12-10-2010, 09:18 PM
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Welcome and congrats on your rescue. To be frank with you, it is YOUR responsibility to keep both the dog and any guests safe and comfortable, but your first concern should be to the dog you rescued. I have a dog who is not stranger friendly, not all dogs are, and he is put in a crate or behind a baby gate when we have visitors. You should not allow him to be around people until you work slowly with him with a behaviorist.

As for walking, using a muzzle when leaving and coming back, or when too many people are around, is a good idea. Also tell people not to approach you while walking.

I have to disagree with giving people treats to give to him, he is over threshold as it is when you have people over and this will only create more issues , you will need to do lots of serious training so I really recommend a behaviorist.
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Old 12-10-2010, 09:20 PM
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he's always backed away from strangers, especially anyone who tries to pet or touch him.
This right here could really be the reason for him biting at people now. Just simply tell people not to approach your dog.
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Old 12-10-2010, 09:25 PM
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For some context: generally speaking, if I have only a friend or two over he isn't really aggressive other than the light growling, and will generally settle down after a minute or two (mainly if he's able to snuggle up next to me or something). However, I did have a small gathering (about 4-5 people other than myself) a couple weeks ago and I found I had to seclude him in my bedroom a couple times as he was acting up more. Eventually he did settle down again, but I will probably have to seclude him again if I ever have another gathering of people over.

I may muzzle him (I don't already own one but I'm sure could find one easily) on walks at least for a short period; I'll probably call the behavioralists at the Dumb Friends League too and see if they can help me or provide some advice (including if they know of any other professionals I could go to obviously).

In regard to people approaching him, I'm not really overly concerned about that with friends or visitors because I'm able to warn them already, and people I have over regularly enough already know not to try to touch him, but of course the bigger concern is with random strangers outside, especially if they approach him without warning or even just walk too closely. The (thankfully minor) incident with my neighbor tonight worried me because it was simply that he happened to be exiting the building at the same time that my dog and I were entering/approaching the building, so the problem was simply that it was close quarters and I think my dog might have been startled by the opening door.

Last edited by Bender; 12-10-2010 at 09:28 PM.
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Old 12-10-2010, 09:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Bender View Post
the bigger concern is with random strangers outside, especially if they approach him without warning or even just walk too closely.

A basket muzzle will help wonderfully with this. He CAN'T bite anyone with it on and odds are people will avoid him because he has a muzzle on (and it's fine if they're "afraid" of him- safer for them, him and you, especially regarding liability). Plus, it won't be confining for his mouth, so he will still be able to bark, pant etc and he'll, in theory, adjust to it more easily. I think a basket muzzle is essential, as is seeking professional help for him.

My aunt's dog is similar... walks outside with a muzzle and for family events, is locked upstairs in one of the bedrooms. He finally got used to my cousin's gf, but that took a while. He'll never be good with people outside, though.
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Old 12-10-2010, 10:06 PM
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You will need to try your best to pay attention to your surroundings so you can keep him from getting into the situations that lead to trouble
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Old 12-11-2010, 12:29 PM
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I probably wouldn't lock him up where he can't see his surroundings. Maybe a crate nearby where he can still see you. He needs to get used to people coming over and invading his space.
If he calms down you can let him out and tell everyone to ignore him. He is still fairly new to all this and getting used to everything and everyone. If there your friends they should understand his still in training. He sounds like a great guardog.

Oh another tip, when he quiets down praise him for his good behavior and when he misbehaves stand in front of him and give him a good stern NO.
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