Aggression with Strangers

by Ann Fahey
(Nova Scotia)

I have a 21 month old Great Pyrenees mix who is aggresive towards strangers, but only at home or in the car.When I take him to the vet he is fine, I know they have a protective instinct but I can't have anyone visit because he barks, growls, and lunges at them, the mail person, garbage people, we live in the country so he hasn't been around alot of people.I don't know what to do, how to even start trying to stop this behavior!Any suggestions would be appreciated!

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May 19, 2016
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Aggression
by: Donna

I'm sorry you are going through this, Ann.

Pyrs are not aggressive by nature.

Reputable breeders breed for sound temperament and health. They research the previous generations from which their breeding dogs come to ensure sound temperaments and health.

They are with their pups 24/7 until they go to their new homes. They ensure they are handled and well-socialized. You will have signed a contract with the breeder. One of the conditions is that the breeder will take the dog back for whatever reason in its lifetime.

Dogs need handling and socialization by many many people in their first crucial 8 weeks of life followed by much socialization and handling with human for the next 5 weeks followed by this throughout their lifetime. Without it, what is happening with your dog happens. Nothing can be done.

Genetics can also play a role in this aggression. If the breeder did not pay attention to the last three or so generations of the parents characteristics and health, aggressive traits may have been in previous generations.

I suggest you take the dog back to from you got him so they know that they are breeding aggressive dogs. Reputable breeders will always take a dog back from any reason as per the contract.

May 19, 2016
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Whao
by: Ed A from NJ

While genetics play a role it is not the end all.I believe in both nature and nurture. Some thing can be overcome with good solid training. Your fog need to learn two important things. One he is safe and loved. Two he is not the boss of the home and he don't desire who is welcome and who is not. He may even be fractioning to you fear response that you have think he will attack. Of course you need to be safe as do your visitors. Call a good trainer and have a few sessions with him it will become obvious if he can be redirected. If every dog not breed from a good breeder could not be home there would be no need for rescues.

May 20, 2016
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Gentle leader might do the trick
by: Anonymous

My dog would bark at different dogs in the park which really makes things unpleasant. I put the gentle leader on him for a few days on our walk and it worked. No more barking. I will also say "leave it" and he calms down. It doesn't happen overnight but in the longer term, it has helped quite a bit.

Maybe as he gets used to you and more acclimated to home, he will stop but you've really go to nip it in the bud now.

May 20, 2016
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a serious problem
by: Anonymous

What is the mix? Pyrenees do not have aggression problems. Their kindness is legendary. They do protect, however your dog does not seem yet to have learned how to judge who he must protect you and his home, from.
So by now you are probably anxious, frustrated, even angry. Understandable. Totally. Understand, though that Pyrs are very sensitive to all the emotional vibrations you unknowingly express. He feels them coming from you even before you are aware of what is happening within yourself.
He will take his cue from a key word you always use, from changes in your breathing pattern, from when your body changes because you are anxious, nervously waiting for the visitor and the inevitable reaction you get from your dog. So, it always happens. And because whatever you have been doing to stop his behaviour is not effective, he has learned he's on his own because you are not his partner in his guardianship. Sounds complicated but it really isn't.
There are 2 things you can try. First is adopting an older, large, calm type of dog to be his companion. Specifically, a Newf., a Bernese. These 2 breeds are somewhat similar but their mindset is different from the Pyr. I assume your dog has been neutered, so a neutered female is always a good bet. He will learn to take his cues from her. And either of those 2 breeds will take her cue from you. This is an important component.
If this is not feasible, then you must begin to monitor yourself. You know his triggers. This started with him somewhere. A verbal cue ("oh, there's the mail")...bark, bark, jumping at the door...you shout (because he's shouting too) "stop it"! This means nothing to him. He thinks you're barking too. He accelerates. So do you.
So, what to do? We live in the country with our Pyr and Bernese X, too. Not too much goes on in our neighbourhood : ) It's quiet. So, we all notice the small things. Animal noises, occasional traffic and, (yay) VISITORS!! Our dogs mirror us in every reaction we have, in their own way. So we must change what we do. This means, change the words you use (I had to stop saying HELLO!!... changed it to a quiet 'bonjour'). Do not react to noises outside the house...you must learn to be quietly aware. Jumping up and staring in the direction your dog is staring, will cause him to accelerate because he assumes by your action that you feel danger. Its the country, after all. Be quietly aware.
Car rides can be an issue. He can endanger your control of the car if he's out of control. So, try only taking him by car to a place that is pleasurable for him...a play date, a walk where he can interact with other canines.
Above all, practise using your breath as a calming influence. Breathe to calm your own jitters and in so doing you will calm him. Your dog is still young and he's learning. Teach him how to behave by being his calm and confident leader. Good luck!

May 24, 2016
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stranger aggression
by: Ann

He is a mixed breed, his mother was a Pyrenees and his father is a saint Bernard/mastiff mix. I didn't get him from a breeder just someone who had puppies. He was 7 weeks old when I got him.He is only aggressive at home, he's fine at the vet. It just seems to be on our property, like his guarding instinct is in overdrive.

May 26, 2016
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Aggression
by: Donna

If from a farmer, they don't usually do the crucial socialization and handling of pups with many many different people in their first 8 weeks of life, which must be continued by the pup's new people, of course.

This handling and socialization is so important in giving the dog a good chance in life.

Also, 7 weeks is too young to be taken from the mom. Every day in the first 8 weeks is vital to be with the mom.

As already stated, Pyrs are not aggressive by nature when properly socialized and handled as well as coming from genetically sound parents of temper and health. One you mix, you don't know what you will get. Wires can get crossed.

Pyrs will allow invited guests over when you are there. When you are not there, they will stand their ground and not move. If the stranger continues to approach, they will move along and cut them off and give a low growl. They don't want to have to do anything further. Their size, growl and body language is enough to keep people away.

Dec 02, 2017
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Stranger aggression
by: Anonymous

I raised my Pyrenees on a bottle from 9 days old due to his mother being hit by a car. Actually raised all 9 pups.
So each one was handled by many different people.
My Jaxie (the one I kept) will be 3 this January. We love him dearly but he has become very aggressive toward strangers. Actually nipped 5 people in the past couple weeks... Is there any hope for us to keep him? Please help we are heartbroken and don't know what to do.

Dec 02, 2017
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Aggression
by: Donna

It's most unfortunate about Mr. Jaxie. There isn't much you can do. This behaviour usually escalates.

Pups need their moms for eight weeks minimum. They learn so much from them in that crucial time including bite inhibition. That is something that can't be learned from humans.

Short of keeping him muzzled and kept separately in another room when visitors come over, it doesn't become much of a life for him because he is dangerous and he becomes a liability through no fault of his own.

Do not pass him onto someone else since there will be the possibility of someone using him as a fighting dog or simply abusing him because he is aggressive.

Dec 02, 2017
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Jaxie
by: Anonymous

My heart is absolutely broken.
Please reassure me that putting my Jaxie down is the right thing to do. This is just not fair!

Dec 02, 2017
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Aggression with Strangers
by: Donna

Bring in a veterinary behaviourist to help you out. You usually have to fill out a form answering their questions about the issues you are having and it will go from there.

This might make you feel a little better about the decision you make.

Know that should he bite, again, will you be able to look that person in the eye and tell them you didn't know he would do that?

It's really tough. I'm sorry you're going through this.

Dec 02, 2017
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Jaxie
by: Anonymous

Thank you for your helping me to understand a lil better.
😢

Feb 19, 2022
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recent agressiveness in 1 year old pyr
by: Anonymous

I have a 1 year old pyr that has recently become really aggressive with strangers. We live in a very rural area and the pyrs are free ranging by necessity. Postal, fed ex ups are telling me that the aggressiveness will prevent them from making deliveries. I am thing of a training collar only because I don't know what to do. The dog has not responded to behavioral training at all. what can I do? this aggressiveness only started in the last few weeks. WE have raised him from a pup.We have 2 other mature pyrs that have never shown this tendency.

Feb 25, 2022
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Aggression
by: Donna

How is he with guests coming onto your property? If he allows guests onto your property, then he is fine.

If he isn't allowing guests onto your property, this is typical of a dog as he matures if he doesn't come from a reputable breeder who ensures their pups are handled and socialized by many many different people in their first 13 weeks of life.

Pyrs should always be contained for their safety. If he is not allowing strangers onto your property, your dog is doing his job.

To use an electric collar will only make him more aggressive since he'll associate the pain with strangers coming onto the property.

My only suggestion is to contain him, as any dog should be, in a securely fenced area.

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