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Customer Discussions > Dogs forum

Dog growling has us worried

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Showing 1-23 of 23 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 10, 2011 5:03:10 AM PST
LULU says:
Our rescue dog is a work in progress. We have had her for a little over three months and we love her dearly. We had a problem with her growling at the kids when she was lying in her bed or when she was lying in a small spot, like between a sofa and the coffee table. We've worked through that, thanks to some great advice on here. We socialize her as much as possible. The problem we have is at the in-laws. When we are there, she usually dens under their big coffee table. The other day she was great with everyone, but then my brother in-law was petting her, his arm under the table and out of no where she barked/growled at him. No snapping and she immediately got submissive, but we find this behavior worrisome. We have never taken her to any kind of training, would it help? She is over a year old, a collie/cattle dog mix, gets plenty of exercise. My husband thinks that she is still uncertain of those outside our "pack". She had growled at my nephew when we first got her, but we introduced them one on one and have had no problems since. I just am worried she could snap at someone, although she really is a sweet dog.

Posted on Jan 10, 2011 10:16:44 AM PST
DD67 says:
I don't think she will out grow it, If you want it to get better you will need to go to a trainer, We had a similar mix, collie/australian shepard and by 4 yrs she was not managable any more and we had to have her put down, We also, got her from the shelter as a puppy. We did not take her to a trainer. Good luck. I know how frustrating this can be.

Posted on Jan 10, 2011 1:36:12 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 10, 2011 2:13:22 PM PST
I agree, you should definitely think about getting a trainer. Herding dogs tend to be more on the skittish side with people outside of their pack. You definitely need to get it under control as cattle dogs also have a tendency for anxious nipping. Keep socializing her and look for signs of nervousness, like hiding, whining, ears pressed flat against the head, quick panting or heavy panting as these are the most common. Also herding breeds are in a league of their own when it comes to exercise. What might be enough for an average dog to them may seem like a warm up. So I'm just curious how much exercise she's getting? It's great to socialize after exercise because they should naturally be in a calmer state. From how you explain her den behavior it sounds like she's still looking for hiding spaces. Was he petting her for a while under the table and then she barked? Or did he reach under the table to pet her and she barked instantly?

I've had my australian shepherd since she was 8wks and she's still anxious around meeting new people. Her breed can be very wary of strangers. So I always tell people to ignore her until she willingly comes over to smell them and wait to pet her until she's done sniffing. Otherwise she will do this anxious pacing thing because she wants to know who they are but she doesn't want them touching her yet.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 10, 2011 2:03:17 PM PST
Another thing you might consider is not letting her "den up". Keep her out and about with the people in the house. Dogs tend to get a little protective in their "den" areas. But I do agree with the others, a professional trainer would be best.

Posted on Jan 10, 2011 8:19:04 PM PST
There can also be medical issues here like hypothyroidism. I'd have the vet do a medical evaluation.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 11, 2011 4:54:40 AM PST
LULU says:
I walk/run her every morning for a little over an hour. She does the running back and forth thing, fetches sticks and may clear a field of geese! After school the kids take her in the yard and then at night she gets another walk, about 30 minutes. The weekends include more - this past weekend was hiking, walks and sledding (she ran up and down the hill). She was already under the table and he reached under, was petting her and a couple minutes later she barked. You're right - she can be wary. My family members are "dog" people, but I do think they overwhelm her. I often tell people to give her some space, but they act like I'm crazy, implying that the dog is not friendly, but this is not true. I also like David's suggestion of not letting her den up like that - keep a close eye on her, but make her be out. I will start looking into getting a good trainer today. Thanks for the understanding - the dog is a complex animal for sure!

Posted on Jan 12, 2011 11:43:11 AM PST
Amanda Peck says:
Ali Brown in SCAREDY DOG recommends praising a dog who stops growling for more than three seconds--increasing the time required for not growling to receive praise as she learns what that means.

I tried it with one of mine, it seems to work. Of course, then she started growling (not at the other dogs, just growling), stopping, and then looking at me for a pat and a "good doggie."

Posted on Jan 12, 2011 12:11:58 PM PST
My intact 100lb. Bernese male (16 months old) is lovely. He gets sweeter everyday. My concern is when he plays he growls. He's not excessively rough, he can run you down and sometimes gets too excited and he'll play with me like I'm another big dog and can accidently catch his mouth on me or scrape me with his paw. He is wagging his tail the entire time. He doesn't seem mad just can get out of hand. My seven year old daughter wants to join in but I know he's too much for her. Have I totally screwed up my dog for my daughter by allowing him to act this way?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 12, 2011 5:37:56 PM PST
LULU--We have a 15-month old mini Aussie (intact male). In the past few months, he has become wary of strangers. I usually tell people to just give him some space and most of time he will approach them, at which time it is OK to present their hand and he will let them know if it is OK to pet him. Dog people understand this. A month or so ago, he was asleep and as I was stepping over him, he woke up startled and I accidentally stepped on him, at which point he nipped me (nothing serious, but stung). I gave him a pretty good smack and he immediately became submissive--I'm not sure whether the submissive behavior preceded or followed the smack, probably simultaneous. Then I tried to reassure him that he was OK. My take-home lesson is to try to avoid startling him, but nipping is not permissible. I wonder if your dog was dozing and suddenly woke to realize she did not know who was petting her and she just reacted in surprise.

BTW--our dog also gets "plenty of exercise", but I don't think we have ever tired him out until this weekend when we took him snowshoeing. He's a coastal California dog and had never seen snow before. A few miles of plunging thru snow up to his belly in 20-degree weather at 8000 feet above sea level did not slow him down much, but he sure slept well afterwards!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 12, 2011 5:48:26 PM PST
Lloyd--I don't think you've screwed up your dog for your daughter, but you are right--he's too much for her to play rough with, even if you are playing too. At 16 months, he is still a puppy at heart--a 100-lb puppy. I think it is OK for you to play rough with him, but find quieter activities for your daughter. When you play with him, establish that you get to decide when the play is over. Most dogs have a point at which they are so excited, they are not in control of their behavior; call it to a stop at (or before) that point. Also, I would not allow him to "accidentally catch his mouth" on you. I'm sure he doesn't mean to, but the difference between that and biting is a pretty fine distinction for a puppy. Any time a tooth makes contact with your skin or clothing, I would call it to a stop and start over again more gently.

Posted on Jan 12, 2011 5:49:41 PM PST
My intact 100lb. Bernese male (16 months old) is lovely. He gets sweeter everyday. My concern is when he plays he growls. He's not excessively rough, he can run you down and sometimes gets too excited and he'll play with me like I'm another big dog and can accidently catch his mouth on me or scrape me with his paw. He is wagging his tail the entire time. He doesn't seem mad just can get out of hand. My seven year old daughter wants to join in but I know he's too much for her. Have I totally screwed up my dog for my daughter by allowing him to act this way?

Posted on Jan 13, 2011 3:14:16 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 13, 2011 3:16:35 AM PST
LuLu the exercise sounds good but every dog can be different. If it seems like she's still bursting with energy right after the walks then you might want to extend the time or add a backpack. If she's pretty mellow then I wouldn't change a thing. Also remember herding dogs are smart, they love mental stimulation just as much as physical. Dog people do tend to see the cute face and start petting before they even think. Maybe try to tell them beforehand what the situation is? I agree with David but I would avoid situations where you would be forced to physically taking her out of a hiding place. Try to keep her from the hiding places from the start. It sounds like she's just looking for added security and being flushed out can spook her even more. If she does happen to get in a hiding spot though, try coaxing her out to make her come out on her own. Good luck in finding a good trainer to work with you and your girl.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2011 10:15:19 AM PST
M. Torma says:
We had a similar situation with a rescue dog that was about 9 months old lab mix. She was so sweet....most of the time. She would have her crazy spells so we kept adding more playtime for her. We got her a trainer who wanted to use the "choke collar" method of training and I would not allow it. Cutting off a dogs breathing at the neck is cruel and while they told me it would work, I still wouldn't allow it. Anyway, she always had this side of her that was very aggressive and so dominate that she kept trying to knock both my husband and I over. She was only 30 pounds, but so strong I couldn't believe it. I did so much research on her and was told by a vet that she had what was called "dominate aggressive tendancies". I have rescued other dogs and never had one like this so I wasn't sure how to deal with it. We TRIED so hard to work with her, but in the end she tried to kill our cat and our other dog. It was the most frightening and yet heartbreaking situation I have ever had with a dog. We ended up having to put her down and the vet told us to not feel bad about putting an aggressive dog down because it was undoubtedly the reason she was in a shelter in the first place. If you just put them back into the mix, so to speak, it only makes an awful situation for the animal and the new owners who haven't a clue about her nature. It was all very hard, and educational but even now which is a year later, I know we did the right thing. They told us that you can get professional training and you can still never trust an animal that has that in their nature. Good luck!

Posted on Jan 14, 2011 1:45:30 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Jan 14, 2011 1:47:36 PM PST]

Posted on Jan 14, 2011 1:46:48 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Jan 14, 2011 1:47:25 PM PST]

Posted on Jan 14, 2011 3:07:23 PM PST
Yes, a trainer, training would help and for God's sake do what they tell you... I have had rescue dogs all my life, the best one was the oldest over a year old owned by drug dealers (they were arrested a week after we got her) a German Shepherd I taught hand signals from a distance, she had no training whatsoever. I have two dogs now, both are Delta Certified, one adopted from the pound, mixed breed, both Canine Good Citizens. I have done choke chain, clicker training, reward based training...I use it when we are with the trainer, I don't argue- the only time I think I would argue is if they wanted to put an electric collar on my dog. I have never had to put a dog down for aggression problems. I kind of thought clicker training was dumb but went along with it, what happens when you run out of treats?
Trainers will have insight into what you can't see, I have had good ones and bad ones, but no bad dogs, just bad handlers- I think we need to learn more than our dogs do.
I also like what Cesar Milan says, we don't train dogs, we train owners...
P.S. we also have five cats and care for dogs when their owners go away- my pound dog weighs 34 lbs. our other dog also a German Shepherd a not fat 108 lbs. they live amongst us and are never "crated"

Posted on Jan 14, 2011 3:43:52 PM PST
Lulu - A trainer is a great idea! Also, instead of preventing her from hiding, you may want to try providing your dog with a crate (or other safe place to go to) and then take that with you whenever you visit an unfamiliar (or less familiar) place. This will provide your dog with a safe haven she can always go to as long as you never use it as a punishment and encourage/prohibit others from bothering her when she's there. You can also put a bed in there to make it more comfortable and encourage her to use at the beginning by giving her treats when she goes to it. I don't lock my dog in the crate but it's always there for him if he ever feels overwhelmed and wants to feel safe and he loves it. He particularly prefers it when I travel and he is in unfamiliar territory. Also, your situation sounds completely different than the agressive dogs several posters have discussed above. Some dogs are aggressive and resistant to any type of training but I don't get that impression from your post at all. Instead, it sounds like she just gets a little nervous around new people and in unfamiliar places. And note that it is never a good idea to reach in to pet a dog when it is hiding particularly if the dog doesn't know you or the dog is in an unfamiliar location. Even the best, most docile and sweet dogs will growl or bark if they feel threatened. Hope this helps!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2011 5:34:46 PM PST
jsalpha says:
"smacking" your dog is NEVER okay. you stepped on him and startled him, granted he should have made a better choice, but hitting your dog is not cool for any reason.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2011 5:38:36 PM PST
jsalpha says:
You got a rescue dog, therein assuming that some work would need to be done. I work in a shelter and can tell you that NO dog is perfect. You have a working breed, you really should have done some research on the breed before bringing home that "cute puppy"!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2011 5:39:18 PM PST
jsalpha says:
Good advice :-)

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 17, 2011 1:35:31 PM PST
jsalpha--You train your dogs your way and I will train mine my way. How do you teach your dogs that they have done something wrong? Positive reinforcement is certainly the foundation of training a dog, but I have never had a perfectly behaved dog that could not benefit from a little corrective action on my part.

Posted on Jan 17, 2011 2:17:06 PM PST
LULU says:
Thanks for the good advice on here. Some posters, like jsalpha, has an attitude for no good reason. We didn't go for a "cute" puppy and we completely understood that our new family member would need some work. We love having a working dog - we exercise her all the time and spend our weekends as a family hiking, sledding, playing fetch etc - she goes with us everywhere. You rescue people can really get on the high horse, for sure. I think most people understand that no dogs are perfect and that even with research, unexpected problems may arise. For those of you who gave advice with good intentions, thank you. We have a trainer lined up and after meeting with our dog she agreed that she really is a sweetheart, but simply needs a little training. Also, she agreed that a rescue dog is a work in progress.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 17, 2011 2:20:14 PM PST
Amanda Peck says:
Lloyd Godfrey

If your--big--Bernese learned what Ian Rankin calls "bite inhibition," then maybe your seven-year-old just needs to know to say "ouch" and stop moving when she's had enough.

My half-grown pups growl and look ferocious playing with each other, but there's never blood when they've been chewing on each other's mouths and ears. Rarely even if they do escalate into a fight--which does take two.

But the Airedale pup my parents thought would be a great companion for two-year-old me had not, apparently, learned how to temper his mouth when playing. My parents thought it was fun. I didn't.
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Discussion in:  Dogs forum
Participants:  13
Total posts:  23
Initial post:  Jan 10, 2011
Latest post:  Jan 17, 2011

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