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My 4 year old Reuben just shocked me and I wonder if anyone else has experienced this:

Reuben always barks at strangers to door but once he sees they are okay and they ignore him initially he is all waggles. Except this time as i reached out the door to take a parcel of a delivery man (in high vis jacket) he lunged at man and grabbed his jacket with his mouth. It was brief and I am not sure he went to bite but I  was so shocked and it all happened so quickly! Of course i checked man was okay and apologised profusely etc but think he was initially shocked and then was okay about it.

However i dont want this to escalate and i have sent reuben to his bed but not sure the best way to deal with it. I will make reuben go to his bed in the future now prior to me answering door (like when he was younger) and is it my fault that i havent kept this up.

I am myself a second year animal behaviour student so can sit down and look at all the theory etc but just wanted to know if anyone else has experienced this?

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Thank you and I feel it is more fear related than dominated if that helps! I often finder it is easier to assess other dogs than your own as you are too subjective when your own and see things differently too.

Hi Finn

Yes, I was reading all my gumph and thinking about my theory I am learning etc and actually came to the same conclusion about allowing him to become a guard etc. as since we moved in may we have a gate that surrounds the house and he sees as his boundary etc. He too terrifies the post lady who won't come in and anyone he sees through window etc and barks and then they go - it makes sense. And the delivery man taking it one step further as you said.
May be difficult with dynamics of getting someone we know to come to door many times and going away etc but can certainly work with the principal and the sitting and staying on a mat in hallway whilst we open the door etc and treating him for staying sat until we release etc.
We as a family have inadvertently reinforced his guarding behaviour and like most things so easy to do until something happens that makes u realise what has happened. It really shocked me and was quite upset especially when the poor delivery guy said " and I thought his breed was placid" and of course he is usually ! I myself used to be scared of dogs and one of the reasons we chose Reuben as a breed was partly due to the fact of their temperament. Felt really scared suddenly that I had an aggressive dog or a big problem etc. Of course I have rationalised things now and I did not reprimand Reuben at all ( thankfully) but did immediately send him to his bed and then went back to delivery man to check he was okay and that Reuben could see I didn't just send him away.
Thank you for your reply and glad to hear things are going to plan with you and your dogs. Oh and yes I will certainly give Reuben a big hug as poor chap was only doing what he thought was right in the dog world!

Hello Malkie's other half!

Emm i think you may be seeing from the photos a family dog that seems to be on the bed alot and always  close to his human pack etc. But on the bed behaviour is only for a few mins in morning and he sleeps at night and daytime in his own dog beds and he is not allowed on the sofa since we moved back in May. So it could look like that possibly he is in a way too close to his humans and behaving possibly a bit too dominant or over protective possibly. But i think it is could be more fear/anxiety related than dominance. But then what an owner sees is also very subjective too. Or is it jealousy?

I am interested to hear what you see and appreciate it is hard when not seeing it for real or meeting the dog or people. Its all very interesting to me as no doubt it is to you too.

Thank you

Hi Louise my postman does bring Finlay treats as he absolutely adoers him and Finlay him, it all started when i first got Finlay, postman just started working here and he would make a fuss of him every day, Finlay even knows which car is his and sits next to it until he comes back (",)

Interesting story and I can see what you are saying but that isn't how it is with Reuben though . There are boundaries and have always been quite strict with training etc but do think I had lapsed on the how to behave when people come to the door etc .

My dogs bark at the door, but  there their responsibilities end.  After that, they either stay in one place when I tell them, or  put behind a closed door.  They are never allowed to just run to anyone who is at the door, unless it is someone they seriously know, someone whom they know has the right to enter their home.

I don't know where you are studying behaviour, but a great many behaviour courses are far removed from reality (I know, because I have done a large number over the years) and if it is a course which is teaching dominance theory, I would walk away from it !   There is nothing like getting qualifications plus having hands on practical experience, 

From the dogs point of view, it barks, and the person goes away.  The dog doesn't know that person was going to go away anyway, therefore it re-enforces its thought processes  that this person is one who goes.  The stresses built up in  those situations, and  then the potential is there for the warning controlled bite.  As my dogs do bark at the door and get very excited/stressed,  this is why I have created the rule of thumb.  You bark, thank you for alerting me, now you either go to your beds, stay in one place, or let your friend(s) in.   When it is postmen, delivery people, those who come and go, I have taught them go to your beds.  If it is a friend on a quick visit, then its "stay there".  The only time I will take one to the door as it is opened, is if I don't know who it is, don't know if it going to be a pesky character I don't want at the door.  I then tell whichever dog it is to sit and wait, and I hold  the collar, so that I am in control of the situation.

There was one occasion when there was a man who wanted to sell something, I told him to go away, but he wouldn't. He then put his foot inside the door, so I twisted the dogs collar around my fingers which made him rear up and show teeth. Hahahahaha. One sales man with brown pants who left very quickly.  That was also my old very very  gentle Nalle dog, but he certainly picked up on the situation, and I am sure my current dogs would too.

This shows the weaknesses of many of  the behaviour courses. They don't teach you how to deal with these situations. They might rap on about some weak theories surrounding the situation, but what I do is teach rules to my dogs. When they are young I ask people to come and knock my door so  that I can teach them how to behave.  Once I know how to deal with situation, it gives me the tools to be able to pass this knowledge on to others.  Many years ago, John Rogerson once said to me with regards to doors "you have to teach the dog where it's responsibilities end" and that is so true, hence the reason why I have created those rules, taught those rules, and practiced those rules and continue to improve on those rules.

Another issue I have with many behavioural courses is that they are still teaching learning theory, which is like teaching a child of today that the equipment used in the days of Charlie Chaplin are still applicable today.  Maybe they are to an extremely mild extent, but of course the technology is so much more advanced.  The knowledge of how a brain (of any animal) processes information is much more advanced now over learning theory, and it is this level of knowledge which convinced me that teaching, role playing and continued persistence and consistence in these situations is how I have managed to teach my dogs the rules of the door.  You can create your own rules, but any guarding dog needs to know precisely where their responsibilities end otherwise there is always a risk, unless of course you always put your dog behind a closed door when you open the door, which to many pet owners would be the most simple solution.  Just so that you know that when you get out into the big wide real world of behaviour work, some people really cannot be arsed teaching their dogs how to behaved, so offering the simple solution of "well just put your dog behind a closed door"  will work for me.  Other people want to be able to teach their dogs how to behave and will put in the rules and be very successful at it too, and be very proud.

My qualifications, a lot of courses in canine behaviour, BSc(Hons) Psyche, was a member of the UK Registry of Canine Behaviourists, which I no longer am because of health issues I rarely take on behaviour cases. I am now working at the prevention end of the line, by teaching puppy owners how to prevent these problems in the first place.    My biggest teachers have been my own dogs, and my clients dogs combined with the academia.    Good luck with your journey into behaviour work, many people do the courses but then burn out once they realize there is far more to it than they have been taught, which is a shame, because to me that is just a cue to keep right on in there and keep on learning.

Hi Fran

Thank you for your very informative response. I totally agree with you on the door dog rules and been thinking about it and trying to work out where/when Reuben's behaviour changed etc. I think it is a combination of things like: got lapse on making him sit in a certain space when opening door to visitors ( always did this when he was a pup and young adult) and think I didn't keep this up when moved to new house in May. Not stopping him from barking or at least stopping the build up of really frenzied excitement when someone approached the house. When really I should have got him to go to his bed perhaps and settle down. Also he was castrated back in September as super sexual and even though he is quite a bold dog, I am aware that fear/anxiety can sometimes be an issue when loss of hormones etc.

I am doing a FdSc Animal Behaviour and welfare with UWE but at the Hartpury College Campus in Gloucester. I am hoping ( finance permitting) to do the BSc ( Hons) top up year in September as I really enjoy the course. Companion Animal modules is only a small part of it as I have been studying biodiversity & Evolution, wild behaviour, ethics and many more etc. But I personally have a huge interest in dog behaviour and training and would like to continue down that line further. I really learn loads through experience and reading in my own time and take on board other people's experiences in order to contextualise ideas and concepts.

So I will definitely on the road to learning more and not burn out as I just get more and more intrigued by it all.

Can I ask advice from you though? When the door goes is it better I ask him to go to his bed which is not by front door and in another room or tell him to sit on a mat in hallway and away from door. Then when postman/visitor leaves , reward Reuben and release him from the stay. And also if inviting new visitor in, what is the best way to,deal with Reuben then? Sorry to hassle you, but want to get a strategy in my head and husbands and not completely confident yet on best way to do this. Another thing I have to be aware of too is that we have a gate to drive but basically the garden and Reuben's outside runs around the house in a big circle. So I wouldn't want someone entering gate when Reuben outside having a pee and he doesn't hear them and then rushes up to them and attacks! We rent and can't change the dynamics of garden but guess will have to be extra vigilant at present.

Anyway any info/your ideas/views would be greatly appreciated especially as I am a pet owner but student learning too.

Thank you





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