My Dog Is Too Friendly With Strangers
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I figured it was about time to write an article about this topic.
There are two reasons why you might be reading this article. Either
1.) your dog is so friendly that s/he is unruly and doesn’t settle down; or
2.) you want your dog to be more protective [PLEASE READ: I Want My Dog To Bite Strangers ]
The Untrained Nuisance Dog
So, you say your dog is too friendly… Maybe your dog a nuisance, won’t leave guests alone, and runs around and won’t listen? Your dog lacks training and manners. The solution is hiring a professional trainer to show you how to manage your dog’s energy and teaching your dog to be mannerly. The biggest mistake is for you to get angry and harsh with an overly friendly dog. You’ll just make the dog insecure and neurotic, so eventually the problem gets worse (sometimes overly friendly behavior is really a dog being overly submissive, so the more you correct, the more the dog tries to win back your approval, so the more you correct, and it feeds on itself), or you’ll make the dog feel it has to nip at you or run away in order to deal with the unfair pressure you’re putting on them.
You have an untrained and poorly led dog that is a nuisance and a brat, and you don’t know what to do. The dog jumps on guests, won’t leave anyone alone, and won’t calm down. That’s just a training problem, and a good trainer can give you ways of dealing with this without squashing your dog’s spirit.
If this is your dog, and your issue, then please, quit doing what you are doing. Call a good trainer, set up lessons and fix this.
What Is Normal?
Then, in other cases, I will get emails like the following: “My dog is too friendly with strangers. What can I do to make him into a guard dog? I want my dog to protect me.” Or, “how do I make my dog bite people?”
First off, I expect all young dogs to like strangers. This is normal for almost every breed. Puppies that dont like strangers are usually not being protective, but instead are just fearful dogs.
As an adult, a fearful dog is more likely to bite some innocent person or dog, and to run away from a real confrontation. Fearful puppies have a high probability of growing up to become Fear Biters. A Fear Biter is an unstable dog and one that will never be able to protect you. You can make a perfectly normal puppy into a fear biter, and worthless as a protection dog, by putting them in threatening situations over and over again. A good protection dog doesn’t bite out of fear, they bite out of aggression. Fear and aggression are two completely different things.
If your young dog is too friendly, then you are doing a good job. Anyone who has had a good protection dog has seen their dog grow up from friendly puppy to protective adult. And there are many variations of a protective dog. Many dogs have come to the aid of their owners, regardless of the breed, if the dog perceived a threat. I read the other day about an 18 month old Australian Cattle Dog, which heard the family’s two young kids (2 and 7 year old girls) scream, and killed a 27 inch long deadly snake. The dog was bitten and had to receive treatment or it would have died. That was instinctual behavior, and occurred without training. I know of a 2 year old mastiff that knocked down and pinned a jogger that ran too closely past the owner’s 7 year old daughter… these people were friends of mine, and I knew the dog to be friendly. Also, instinctual behavior. I know of a friendly Black Russian Terrier (owned by a friend of one of my students that also has a 2 1/2 year old male) that was teased by the owner’s son’s friends, sneaking up on the dog and then pouncing and grabbing it by the neck. The next thing they knew, the dog was on top of this jerky kid, had him pinned, and was growling at him. Again, instinctual. You don’t do that kind of thing to any dog. It is stupid to test your dog like that. That kid is lucky to be alive. All it takes is for a dog to go for the neck, or chest near the heart or vital organs, grab and hold on, and you’re dead. You’ll find story after story of many very friendly dogs getting provoked into combat on behalf of their owners if you search the news. But, obviously, some breeds have more potential to be protective and watchful than others, having a shorter fuse and more power and intensity to back it up. You can’t manufacture any of that through training. Further, puppies have fewer inhibitions than adults. That is normal, as well. Kids are the same way. We all know small kids will walk up to strangers and even walk away with them. Thus, you shouldn’t read too much into a puppy’s friendly behavior. What the adult becomes is partly genetic, and partly what it learns as it grows up. Some of the behavior is instinctual. An instinctual behavior is one that is performed fully the first time it is triggered, without any previous experience or training. Thus, once a puppy gets to a certain stage of maturity, any protectiveness that is programmed into that dog will come out. That is what people refer to when they are talking about a “natural guard dog”.
Second, some people try to make their dogs wary of strangers. This is a huge mistake. Your dogs ability to protect you has more to do with breeding than it does training. To intentionally make a dog wary of strangers will just make the dog unstable as an adult, and worthless as a protection dog. Yes, you will find some wacko trainers out there that will take your money, terrorize your dog, and make it a biter, regardless of the breed. But, this dog will then be untrustworthy and potentially vicious. This kind of thing is what the drug dealers do with their pit bulls. They take normal dogs and wreck them. They tease them, terrorize them, put them in fights, frustrate them, etc. If you notice, after a drug dealers place, or a pit fighting operation, is busted by the police, they normally seize these dogs and put them to death. Unless someone with a lot of experience and time volunteers to work with these dogs to convert them into pets, they are instead put down. I get emails all the time telling me what great protection dogs pit bulls, and other fighting breeds, make. No, they usually don’t. Make any dog of any breed vicious by abusing them, and yes they will attack — anyone. But, that doesn’t make them into useful protection dogs. These breeds are suitable as pets, period. Most breeds are only suitable as pets. Most dogs from even the traditional protection breeds are only suitable as pets. To turn them into something they are not is inhumane.
I get inquiries from dog owners wondering what they can do to make their dog not like, or attack, a specific person, but not all strangers. That would be very hard to accomplish without that person actually getting in a terrible fight with their dog. The better question is why aren’t you getting away from this person? Every self defense course tells you to get away from problems and use force as a last result. Even the law requires that of you. If you want a dog to not like all strangers, then there are things that you could do to make a normally friendly dog into one that would bite all strangers. But, the side effects would result in a dog that you wouldn’t like owning. It would be a dog that always had a barking problem, was very stressed and would have behavioral problems (chewing, digging, medical problems, not accepting of guests, often times urinating / marking / peeing in the home, escape risk and attacking innocent passersby, and much more), and you’d regret that you had to hassle with owning that dog. No professional protection dog handler (police, security, prison, military) wants a dog like that because those dogs are not trustworthy and they are difficult to control. Further, it isn’t a good idea to go searching for the “ultimate guard dog”, some new breed or some giant, hyperaggressive breed, either. Just read what happened when those two Presa Canario dogs killed that woman in San Francisco. Those dogs were out of control long before that incident. They were too much dog for the owner. An innocent woman died a horrible death. And the owners went to prison. Yes, there are dogs that are TOO MUCH DOG for a novice dog owner. There was a woman who purchased a fully trained protection dog from a trainer several years ago. Within 2 weeks, the dog mauled her. She sued the trainer for not warning her that the dog was too much for her, and she won a million dollars. And had lasting injuries. I know of a such a dog that put his owner in the hospital for 3 weeks. This isn’t some game. It isn’t like the movies. A novice dog owner cannot control a fully trained, true man stopping dog of any breed. Children can’t control them at all. Women oftentimes can’t gain enough dominance over the dog. Just like owning a gun, you need to be just as highly trained as the dog, just as prepared for combat, just as strong and athletic, just as wary.
Third, if you have purchased a personal protection dog, from working lines, you will see the dog become protective over time, without you having to do anything. Every one of the dogs I have owned would have bitten someone if I had let it happen. But every novice who met them as a puppy would have said “your dog is too friendly”. For example, Kate, my Bouvier, was too friendly as a puppy, but became indifferent to strangers as an adult – generally friendly but not overly so, but was stopped by me once from biting a stranger suddenly coming into my campgrounds in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Judah, my Fila Brasiliero, was very tough and was generally ok with strangers but would have bitten if challenged, and Benny, same breed didn’t like strangers and would bite at 6 months (Benny died at 7 months from a health issue). My dog, Dillon, a Doberman, was friendly to everyone for the first 3 years of life. But, at about 3 years, he changed. From then on, I couldnt let just anyone come up and pet him, especially a man, and especially at night, unless I did a proper introduction. I didn’t have to make him this way, and his Schutzhund training didnt make him this way. He grew up, and that is all it took. When the police get a protection bred puppy, they don’t start terrorizing the pup. They let it grow up to be a normal dog, in a home, meeting people, doing the same things we all do with our pups. The protection dog trainers know what the breeding will do once these dogs grow up. The training they do with the dogs just brings out the control that will be needed on the street, but the protectiveness is already in the dog. The training doesnt make the dog a protection dog. The breed doesnt necessarily make a protection dog. Selective breeding, within certain breeds that have the potential for protection, makes a protection dog.
Forth, most people have no idea what they are getting into when wanting their dog to not like strangers. They get the wrong breed. They choose the wrong breeder. They dont know how to raise such a pup. They pick the wrong type of trainer. They don’t know how to deploy such a dog. And most of these folks really shouldnt own a protection dog at all. I spoke to the owner of a Scottish Terrier the other day who said they didnt want their dog to like strangers. They got the dog to protect them. And then the dog attacks THEM because they don’t realize THESE TYPES OF DOGS AREN’T PETS, they are bred to work, and they must be professionally trained, diligently led and supervised, and given daily tasks so they don’t get bored and frustrated.
Do you really think a peanut-sized dog, like a Chihuahua is going to protect you from a criminal? When you take a dog that is not suitable for protection, and make it into a biter, all you have done is make the dog dangerous by not properly socializing, leading and training your dog. It is the wrong dog for the wrong situation. I’ve had people ask me if I could make their pit bull, Labrador Retriever, etc you name the breed not like strangers. They say the dog is too friendly.
The answer is NO. I’m not going to wreck your dog, and you arent the type of person that should own a protection dog! You haven’t done your homework and you don’t know what you are doing. Professionals won’t waste their time on you.
First, if your dog wasn’t bred to be a protection dog, then forget it. I’m talking about a police line dog, where the parents and grandparents and so on were all police or military dogs.
Second, there is a lot of hype out there regarding which breeds are the “ultimate guard dog”. Sorry folks. Look at what the professionals buy and use, not what some breeder or guy selling books has to say. If you don’t see the police or military using them, then your dog is probably the wrong breed.
Third, just because your dog is friendly doesn’t mean it won’t protect you. This is where novices get it all wrong. A friendly dog can also be a very protective dog in the right circumstances. Usually what novices perceive to be a protective dog is really just a fear biter or a dog that has been made vicious (and therefore completely worthless as a protection dog). A snarling, growling dog that lunges at everyone is almost always a dog that is unsuited to be a protection dog.
If you have a protection bred dog, and you want your dog to be functionally protective, able to fend off a criminal, then I know where you and your dog can get professional training. You BOTH need training. You can’t just train the dog, you have to be trained yourself, otherwise you’ll be the one who ends up in the hospital. Such a dog needs proper leadership, and if you don’t know what you are doing, the dog won’t respect you and the dog will take over the household.
EVERY TYPE OF DOG DESCRIBED IN THIS ARTICLE WOULD BENEFIT BY COMPLETING BASIC OBEDIENCE. THAT IS JUST AS TRUE FOR THE UNRULY PUPPY AS IT IS FOR THE PROTECTION DOG. YOU CAN’T GET THE BEST OUT OF AN UNTRAINED DOG.
Sam Basso is a professional dog trainer and behaviorist, in the Phoenix/ Scottsdale metropolitan area. He’s known for being fun, kind, intelligent, and humane. Sam Basso has a unique personal touch. He has appeared on his own TV show, been a guest radio expert, gives seminars, publishes a dog related blog, does rescue volunteering, and is active in promoting animal welfare and fair dog laws.
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