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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 1.5 year old Australian Shepherd, Miles. He goes CRAZY whenever someone comes to the door, barking and snarling. We kept him shut in the basement for most of this evening (Halloween). But later, a straggling trick-or-treater came by, so I dragged the dog off to the bedroom so my DH could answer the door. Miles was literally foaming at the mouth, he was so crazed.

He has never bit anyone, and is generally a very gentle dog - loves kids, never nips, lets people take food and toys from him, lets us touch him and groom him all over. But he sounds quite frightening, and WILL NOT calm down, even after we tell him it's okay. He's so high strung, after someone has come to the door, he'll pace around the house for hours growling and woofing under his breath.

It's only getting worse, and I'm afraid that he will end up biting - he just gets so out of control. Right now, if we let friends in the house, he just barks and growls at them like crazy, but then just runs around, all excited. What I'm worried about are things like the mail carrier, the UPS guy, repairmen. He HATES them. I'm very careful to keep him contained, but today, for instance, he followed me outside just when the UPS truck pulled up. The poor UPS guy couldn't get out of his truck until I hauled my growling, barking dog away.

We've had him since he was a puppy, and socialized him extensively. We did lots of training about what to do when the doorbell rings, and at one point, he was trained to stop barking and sit when he heard the doorbell. That's all flown out the window now. This problem has developed over the past six months, and is only getting worse.

What do I do? I live in a small town and don't have access to obedience classes. The one behavior problem I really can't tolerate is an aggressive dog, and despite my best efforts, I'm worried that that is what Miles is becoming.
 

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I read a book years ago called' dogs who love too much' it gave ways to try to stop a dog from doing what you describe. My dog at the time would body slam the door if someone dared knock on it. He was a wonderful dog when a visitor actually made it through the door. I had to recruit friends for a few days to knock so the dog and I coould practice appropriate behavior on the inside of the door. I didn't solve the problem totally if I recall, but it did make the situation bearable.

The book said that the dog was trying to make the visitor go away so that his family was safe. The practice was to show the dog that the visitor was not going away so barking like a mad dog was not going to work.

I got the book at the library, can't remember the author.
 

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There are a couple of reasons behind this behavior. First, the reason all dogs seem to hate the mailman, paper boy, etc. Consider this from the dog's point of view. Guy comes to the door. I go nuts with my very best Cujo impression. Guy runs away. The dog doesn't realize that these people don't stay, to him, he's a big tough guy who scared the bad guy away. This is the very first step we take in training protection dogs, the agitator dances around looking weird and as soon as the puppy woofs, the agitator runs off while the handler praises the pup.
In your post you mention telling him it's ok. Here is what I want you to pick apart about your response to the dog. Do you tell him "It's OK, everythings fine" while he is carrying on? If so, you are unintentionally praising him for his poor behavior. Any response from you while he is barking and growling must be negative or none at all. Anything you say at that point with a happy voice will be seen by the dog as praise.

As far as fixing the problem, I'd probably advise a prong collar and allowing him to self correct. As was said above, recruit some neighbors and friends to come ring the bell. Have Miles on a leash with the prong collar on. (let me know if you need info on properly fitting a prong) Stand so that when the leash is let out to it's full length the dog would be 2' from the door. You stand like a wall holding the lead-don't shorten or lengthen the lead, be fair to the dog and allow him the same length every time. Do not pop your lead don't move your hands at all. Allow him to hit the end. Ignore him until he sits (if he hits the end of the lead hard enough he'll self correct into a sit) when he sits, you or another family member give him a treat. Once you get him to where he is seldom hitting the end of the lead, have the 'stranger' give him the treat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
shannon and ediesmom-
Wow, thanks! I wanted to try training while having a friend come to the door, but didn't know quite how to do it, since we can't treat him until he settles down, and he generally just doesn't settle down. I'll try with the collar. We use a prong collar for walks, and he responds very well.

We tell him "no bark," and "it's okay" to indicate that we know what he's barking at and we'll take care of it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Sorry, got interrupted and didn't finish my post. Anyway, I can see that our resonse when he's barking is definitely reinforcing, and probably confusing - at first we say, "it's okay" and are kind, and then we get mad and yell and drag him to another room to callm down. I think we'll try a firm "no" as the only verbal response now.
 

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It's incredibly common. We say It's Ok to calm them, because we would understand that--but the dogs thinks we're praising the behavior. (I've even caught myself doing it-and I've been doing this for years!)
 

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Aussies are very intellegent, high-needs dogs that have to have a job to do. Is your pup mostly stay-at-home? If so, he may need something as simple as daily walks, some time every day teaching new tricks or practicing old ones, dog park visits, some agility work if you can. Ive seen this behavior in friends' Aussies and border collies, and these things are what worked for their people.
 
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