Dog just growled and snapped(52 Posts)
I could really do with some advice as this is our first dog.
Our 9 month old puppy is generally pretty good although he's twice growled at the children (once when one tried to take something out of his mouth and once when he was startled from sleeping when my 6 year old stroked him). He also once snapped although didn't break skin when my 7 year old stroked him whilst he was chewing a beloved chew.
He was neutered last week and has been in a lot of pain and has a collar on. We have let him on our bed in the evenings and he's been sneaking up at other times too. I've let him as my husband has been away and I've felt sorry or him and a bit worried (especially as he had a bad reaction to his antibiotic on Monday).
Anyway tonight when my husband ( whom the puppy adores) went to gently move him from our bed tonight he growled at him. We were both quite startled as this was a first. He then went to pick him up and the puppy really snapped at him( didn't make contact but possibly only because of the collar).
I'm quite shocked and upset and obviously the puppy stays downstairs and off our bed from now on.
Any advice? Do we have a problem? I'm worried given our children are fairly young - 10, 7 and 6.
I should also add that he's well socialised and good although sometimes over-confident with other dogs.
He's resource guarding, it's pretty normal and should be dead easy to nip in the bud with a young dog.
You just need to teach him that giving up stuff is a good thing - that article's a good starting point and it's got links to others.
Alternatively treat him like a dog. Dogs don't go on beds, sofas, furniture or anywhere but the floor. They eat after people. They don't eat human food. They don't growl or snap at anyone. My toddler could walk up to our dog and remove the juiciest bone in the world from his mouth and he wouldn't bat an eyelid.
I know it's not a popular theory on MN, but it goes me, my children, the rest of the world and then the dog. Any growling or snapping would be firmly reprimanded.
In fact it wouldn't happen. From the first day of having a puppy my children are given the opportunity to feed the dog and remove the food from him during a feed. They are encouraged to touch the dog whilst he is eating and to make him wait before releasing him for his bowl. I would not let the dog near your children at the moment, where will they stand when he decides the sofas his?
We did do quite a lot of what the article said after he growled/snapped at the children.
In terms of the bed do you think it's enough to just ban him from upstairs? He's not allowed on the sofas downstairs.
I'll carry on working on some of the suggestions in the article.
You echo my fears.
After the first couple of instances I have encouraged the children to feed the dog, make him wait etc.. And we 've not had a problem since tonight.
Yes, off the bed for sure and he's not allowed on the sofas anyway.
I feel pretty stressed about it tbh.
Pantone... I mean until tonight, not since tonight !
He's not trying to take over your house - he's a teenager pushing his luck.
The bed, either train him to jump up and off on command for a reward or just don't let him on - either will work. Personally I don't let my dog on furniture, but that's just a size and space thing. (I've always had big dogs)
tabulah I came on to post the same thing. OP your pup is not trying to take over your house and dominate your family. He needs firm boundaries but this is very different to showing him who is boss or reducing his rank so please don't worry about that. Will post again tomorrow and hopefully more knowledgeable folk as well but in the meantime do not panic! It's all fixable and not at all as bad as it seems now.
Feed your dog after the family if you want, but do yourself a favour and don't call it training. It's not, it's pointless and silly, but ultimately one of the harmless ways of showing you are boss. Your dog will neither know or care what you are doing. He is more than aware that you are an entirely different species to him, he is also a pet dog. Pet dogs are not pack animals. They are pet dogs.
Mine get on the sofa, sleep on my bed, go though doors before me, eat before me etc. they also respond to "off" because I trained them to know what it means and I trained them that responding to my commands brings cheese or hotdogs.
Trying Tabulahrasa's method would serve you better.
He has reached adolescence, he has had some fairly major upsets by ŵay of his castrate and things changed at home with hubby away and you allowing him extra privileges. Poor chap doesn't know if he is coming or going.
Get your routine back, stop spoiling him and start setting out boundaries. Dogs love routine and knowing exactly where they stand.
What happened, isn't major and all these circumstances may never come together again, but it has shown you that your dog is A fully functioning, fully reactive animal, which is a good thing to be reminded of.
Do the work ŵith the food, add food to his bowl as he is eating - but keep the kids away. Go along to some training classes, so he can use his brain and get back on track,
"He also once snapped although didn't break skin when my 7 yr old DS stroked him whilst eating a beloved chew"
I'm amazed so of you don't think she has a big problem here.
That article is crap, bribe the dog off the sofa? Um no.
Animals come first in my household too - I always make sure the horses, chickens, dogs and cat are fed and watered before me. I have never had a problem with my dogs giving high value stuff up and they don't growl or snap (well the jack russel growls, but he growls if the wind changes so it doesn't count).
I totally agree with rules and boundaries. Very important with any young animal, including human ones.
I see that the article was written by Grisha Stewart, a world renouned, qualified, published canine behaviorist. I wonder what makes you believe you are more qualified to advise on resource guarding than her, Pantone?
7yos should not be stroking dogs while they are eating, especially not high value items. I can also get my dogs to give up bones, that is because I have taught them swap, drop, give and leave it. The terrier will growl while he is giving, but that is what terriers do, they grumpy little sods.
Dogs are very simple creatures. They do what works to get them reinforcement. The puppy likes the bed because getting on the bed rewards him with comfort. He will continue to snap because he has learnt it works. People automatically recoil when a dog snaps therefore the dog is rewarded for snapping.
Teach off, using treats and the puppy will learn that giving up the bed brings reward. Teach him that you being near his food and chews brings extra rewards b dropping treats near him while he is eating, eventually you can work up to swap, the dog will learn that you being near his food is rewarding.
It's a matter of gaining his trust, not bribing him.
It's not a big problem, it's perfectly natural dog behaviour - yes it's an unwanted one, but fairly easily trainable in a puppy.
And yes bribing works, that's how positive re-enforcement works - they behave how you want and get something nice. Whether that's food, praise or a toy - it's still essentially a bribe.
Rules, consistency, being in charge - all good and all achievable with positive training.
I'll read through that article properly later.
I'm very inexperienced with dogs so I appreciate your advice.
We have used the idea of treating for giving up things. Especially getting the children to do it. I also now don't let him have high value chews when the children are around.
I'll look into training too. We did puppy socialisation classes and puppy training but it became difficult due to work commitments.
I agree that it isn't necessarily a big problem -- just one that you do have to deal with by training and management.
If its any consolation, some dogs are very much more vocal than others. My PRT aged 7 still can't help himself giving little growls if he is approached by the children or my dh while he is in a "favoured" position (by the fire, etc) -- and I do think that without training he would have been capable of giving warning snaps in these situations.
A warning snap is not at all acceptable and needs to be addressed but it is very different from full on aggression, and your children are old enough to fit in with the rules you lay down the manage the situation.
For my dog a middle way between firmness and understanding works the best. Rules have to be established gently and with positive reinforcement, and you need to work hard to understand your dog's anxieties and vulnerabilities. But on the other hand rules do need to be firmly stuck to. The combination of firm consistency about the rules and gentle positive communication of what those rules are can make the MN dichotomy between "dominance theory" approaches and other approaches seem sterile and academic.
What breed or breed-combination is he, by the way? Just as a rough generalisation, some breeds are more likely than others to engage in low-level grumpiness without it escalating into anything more worrying. I'd say that most terriers are a bit more likely to do this sort of thing than a lot of other types of dogs. So breed might be a bit of an indication as so how to read the dogs behaviour.
For a start, I honestly don't think you should be letting a 7 year old stroke the dog whilst he is eating.
I can remove the food from the dogs bowls but that is because they have learnt by giving it up, they get a high value treat.
There is no relevance to making dogs eat after you, come in the door after you, etc. they aren't pack dogs. They aren't trying to dominate your family.
I would suggest going back to training classes as well, LittleDog is 8 months old now and going through his teenage rebellion.
We will continue the classes for a long time yet.
My dogs sleep on the bed and sofa but understand "off" and that it means a reward
Does your dog have a "safe place" in the house that is just his?
When mine have a favourite toy, treat or just want peace and quiet from the children they go on their blankets under the stairs, because they know that no one will go in there.
And I'm actually shocked that someone posted they would reprimand the dog for growling. For what purpose, to teach the dog not to growl again?
Growling is a dog telling you is unhappy with something. So if you stop him from growling how does he communicate that there's something wrong? By biting?
I love it when people with no real idea start spouting nonsense and disagreeing with the experts.
It's like me going on a thread about physics and disagreeing with Stephen Hawking.
I don't think so, Calamity. It's more like people on parenting topics attaching importance to their own experience and wisdom rather than simply buying in to the parenting manuals that are flogged for profit. It's always important to take an open-minded approach rather than a credulous one to the experts. A question of balance.
And dog-training folk are hardly like physicists. It is a much more accessibly kind of learning.
I'd find it amusing if some poor dog wasn't having to live with that person.
There's a lot of science behind how dogs learn and how best to train them Floaty. Grisha Stewart has not only studied that science she also writes and researches it herself.
Yes there's a lot of numpties in dog training, we will mention no names
Milan who seem to just make things up as they along utterly ignoring all scientific research, in the name of profit, as there are in parenting, but Grisha is not one of those people.
Science tells us that dogs who are trained with rewards learn faster, learn better (as in their training is more reliable) and are less stressed by the training process and more confident than dogs who are trained using aversive methods such as physical or emotional punishment.
Dogs do not have the same level of cognition that people do. They really are input-output machines. They will do what works, what brings rewards and nothing more. They're not doing it to be naughty, to upset us or because they are 'nasty' or aggressive, they're doing it because somewhere along the way they've learned that it works.
Agree with all that, Dooin. I do feel though that the training approach debate sometimes gets a bit oversimplified and dogmatic, though, and that distorted versions of academic knowledge start to get in the way of common sense. (I'm not meaning to defend overly assertive training approaches,like the one mentioned on this thread btw.)
Now you see, I would think that positive methods are common sense. The dog likes the bed and doesn't want to give it up, so guards it in a way he has previously learned will work.
Would common sense tell you that the dogs is less or more likely to guard the bed if he is punished for being on the bed/or for guarding it/or will be physically dragged off and not given any alternative bed/reward? To me common sense tells me that the dog would be more likely to guard and would guard more fiercely, because he has not been taught an alternative, acceptable behavior, plus you are adding fear into the equation and that's never good.
Otoh my dogs know to get off the bed when I give the cue because they might get a treat. They have no need to guard anything from me, I am a source of extra resources not a threat to the ones they already have.
Devil Dog atm is sleeping by the side of my bed, but he knows not to get on the bed until he is invited up and he doesn't bother trying. Staying on his own bed is more likely to bring about rewards than getting on the bed is, so he will stay put, he learned that staying put works.
I think that the most up to date research is far more based on common sense than whimsical "eat before your dog otherwise he'll think he's boss" based, out of date ideas.
The dominance/pack theory based enthusiasts attribute incredibly complicated, almost human-like thinking processes to a creature with a very little brain. They tie themselves up in knots trying to explain what the dog is thinking and why, and what to do about it.
Far more complicated and less common sense than what Dooin said, which is the bottom line - Dogs Do What Works.
Please don't use dominance theories. Ime it can worsen the problem and even lead to fear aggression. Reward based training is much more effective. I have a nearly 9 year old dog with similar issues to your pup. Very difficult to deal with as she's mostly fine but has the odd episode. She learnt quickly as a pup that aggression got her what she wanted because my ex was scared of her, and also wouldn't back me up when I tried to train her.
I'm left feeling that I've let her down and created a problem dog. My dh is great with her tho, and her behaviour improved once I left my ex but she was 3 by that time so sadly some of her habits are quite ingrained.
To be fair, I think that telling a dog off for something you feel is unnaceptable does seem like common sense and is almost an automatic reflex...until you remember that they don't speak English.
Other stuff I've never understood though,
Feeding them last, it's supposed to be because the dominant one gets the pick of the food and then the one lower down the pack gets what's left, when the dominant one lets it.
Except, they watch you make dinner, they watch you take their food and put it out...even if they didn't, what they have to eat is quite clearly not spaghetti Bolognaise or whatever it is you have.
So how is that supposed to actually work then?
And going through doors first, of course no-one wants a dog that shoves you out of the way to get through a door, but I want the dog through first so I can shut the door - otherwise isn't it just an overly complicated kerfuffle?
I make our puppy sit and wait outside the door while I go in, so I can grab a towel and make sure the door to the utility room is closed before a filthy muddy Springer dashes into the house
He waits before eating and fetching too and coming out of his crate etc, more to reinforce training and give him a 'job' to do, think I read a book about positive training which said teaching 'NIFL (Nothing in Life is Free)' can be useful.
We also reinforce when he is being good and calm too if that helps at all, so treat when he's chewing on his mat calmly etc, i.e that behaviour is good?
To a degree though, it's a bit like parenting, the books are super and give you an excellent guide, but sometime you need to do you own thing to suit yourself. An example is our friend adorable terrier, who is just a super little dog. She gets left for 7 hours a day 4 days a week as my friend was made redundant and is doing agency work to pay the mortgage. The times that he is at home with her though are DEVOTED to this dog, she is walked and trained and loved and fed, he is quite firm actually though. It works for them but you people on here wouldn't agree.
NILF is a bit controversial. The author appears to believe that making your dog work for food/attention shows them you are boss and they are 'lower' than you, it smacks of diluted pack theory and has very little scientific basis.
The dogs simply don't understand it in that way. They will wait for their supper, sit for a cuddle simply because they've learned that it works, it brings reward, not because they realise as lower ranking animals they must work for everything.
Mine wait for their supper because I have taught them to because it is polite and easier than having three dogs all dive on me at once while I am trying to feed them. Ditto with the front door.
I still drop them a treat just because sometimes or give them a hug just because they're cute. It doesn't effect their training or manners.
As much as we like to anthropomorphise dogs and attribute cognitive thinking to dogs, to the dog it really is as simple as "does this work?" it's not about where they are in the pack or pleasing you or abiding by rules they don't understand. It's simple effort = reward.
In behaviourism the single most important thing is working out what reward the dog is gaining from the unwanted behavior and replacing it with a rewarded wanted behavior. There's no in depth explanation of what the dog is thinking or why because we could never know for certain so it is irrelevant to training.
Jumping on people for example is often attributed to a dog trying to 'oversize' a person and show they are boss. In reality the dog is rewarded with attention, even shouting at them can be rewarding to a dog who is ignored when they are behaving quietly. Remove the reward and replace it with a reward for all four paws on the ground and the dog will stop jumping up because it doesn't work anymore.
Ok. Im not sure at what point I became a crazy Milan loving person who is aggressive to my dog (and huge LOLs at 'that poor dog'). I've never watched Milan although have heard a lot of people talking about his methods, I've also never and would never tolerate anyone hitting my dog.
I am genuinely interested in how other people train their dogs and what other dogs are allowed to do. If a person or child isn't allowed to stroke or touch a dog whilst he is eating, what happens when a child falls or trips near the dog and its chewing its favourite toy? Or when a strange person comes in the house who doesn't know the rules? Ive never needed to teach a dog 'off' because from day one it knows its not allowed up the stairs or on furniture. The first few times it is told it is firmly told 'no' and directed somewhere else. I wouldn't be carrying treats around in my pocket so I could sit on the sofa when I wanted to. I think there is a huge problem with people treating animals like humans and then being surprised when the dog acts like a person and not like a dog. I'm amazed at the behaviour other people let their dogs get away with (barking at people coming in the house and not stopping when told, begging at the table, sitting on furniture, stealing food from plates or childrens hands etc).
I am strict with my dog but I wouldn't put up with any of that.
As far as I am aware Milan doesn't 'train' dogs but rehabilitates dogs that would otherwise be put down? I would rather see someone being firm with a dog than trying to persuade it not to bite using clickers and treats.
I've never imagined that a dog jumping up at me is trying to dominate me. I do however think that the owner needs taking in hand and told to train their bloody impolite dog
I have no wish to be a pack leader or be aggressive or hurtful to my dog, I love him. I simply want a loving, well trained, obedient family pet who I quite fancy taking the training furthe in the furture. I am using a combination of clicker training, consistency, boundaries, praise, 'jobs' and the odd firm 'no' (when he tried to eat something that would make him ill for example). He also isn't and never has been allowed on furniture or upstairs and really, unless invited, the kitchen is his 'domain'
At present, he has been a super little dog to train and has brought us much joy and happiness, I realise this may change.
I wasn't aware I was doing it wrong!!
Yep - I simply don't want my dog to jump up because it's irritating and potentially dangerous to a small child and often bloody muddy, I have never ever thought he wants to dominate me!!
In clicker training the dog is never given a reason to bite so their is no need to be 'firm' with it. Pushing a dog into aggressive behavior to teach it not to be aggressive makes absolutely no sense to me.
My dogs don't have high value treats where they could be fallen on or near guests who may not understand them. When they have treats through the day they take them into their beds, where they know they will not be disturbed.
And FWIW my dogs don't bark at guests, two out of three do not steal from plates or tables, they don't beg at the table (unless DH is eating because he is stupid and rewards them for it) and they don't snatch food from children, the third has only been here since Sunday, give me a chance.
They sit on the furniture but get off when I tell them to, even when I don't have treats, we faded the constant reinforcement for the command off years ago.
You're not doing it wrong. In fact he sounds fab
You're not necessarily doing it wrong, needsastrongone, but there is nothing wrong with giving the dog a wee hug for looking for cute without making him sit first, it won't harm your training, equally it won't harm the dog to sit first, but the basic principle is still will work for rewards, not some over complicated set of rules that the dog doesn't understand as in NILF.
And yes, lots of people still believe that a dog jumping up is trying to dominate.
Regarding dominence theory. If you don't agree with it do you not believe that dogs are dominent between themselves either? Or just that they don't try to be dominent with people?
I have frequently seen dogs dominate each other. And not because that is what I am expecting to see but physically dominating the other dog (head resting on the others neck until the other dog lies down and then walking away with the treat/food/stick). Dogs that won't eat until another dog has finished, dogs always eating in the same order etc.
Sorry for typos/spelling, I have a huge blank spot when it comes to the spelling of dominence!
With positive re-enforcement you treat massively while the dog is learning a command, once they know it they obey the command because this might be one of the times they get a treat (dogs are optimistic about that sort of stuff I find, lol) they like to please you and they've learnt that doing what you say is a good thing. With an adult well trained dog, a simple good dog is a reward in itself.
If you've trained a dog to think that you taking a chew or being near their food is a good thing a child falling over near them while they eat is just a child falling over near where they eat.
My 11yo lab x retriever has never, ever once growled, snapped or bitten me, my dh or my 3 dc. Your dog needs careful watching, training and to understand that he is way down in the family pack. As a puppy even our late cat put him firmly back in his place. I'd be very concerned having a dog like that in the family home. Did you say what breed he is?
I believe to a certain extent that dogs can be dominant with their own species, although I don't like to use the word dominant at all when explaining behavior because it can lead to a murky downslide into the world of bizarre and pointless rules.
Even with their own kind dogs do what works because it works. They lay on another dog because its is rewarding (comfort) they eat last because it is rewarding (they are not attacked by a more aggressive dog) or they eat first because they are rewarded (they get more food) Whether the dog eats first or last will be based on past experience of that situation not an unspoken set of rules, a dog who was once attacked will wait because they've learned waiting means they are not attacked and dog who won the fight will eat first because they learned it works.
Feral dogs have been proven not to live and work in packs, they have loose social groups and all interactions are based on past experiences with that dog. One dog may be 'dominant' in one situation but not in another.
Many of the 'pack rules' in wolves have been disproven long ago. They don't have all the ritualistic displays of dominance we once thought they did.
Of course he gets loves and hugs and cuddles just for being Harry. If my posts were not clear in this regard, sorry He has a right old life, compared to some of the rescue stories, four people who love and adore him and spend ages with him, maybe I am not training for the 'right' reasons but it does seem to work at the moment.
Possibly The Doghouse isn't representative to the majority of lives of dogs who are still loved and cared for by their owners but don't do it via particular means, not sure!!
He is fab Pantone, thanks. I have rose tinted glasses on though!!!
Dare I mention he came from A Breeder?
Looking at my dogs when given treats e.g a handful of meat from sunday lunch chucked into the spare dog dish, Whippy will eat before Devil Dog, he will wait, based on past experience Whippy knows that Devil Dog will not attack her for eating first, she will not, however eat out of his dish because she has learnt that he will attack her for that. Devil Dog will eat before Fudge, because Fudge knows that Devil Dog will growl at him if he eats first and having been attacked and lost in a past house, he responds to challenges by walking away. Fudge eats before Whippy because she will let him, she doesn't growl or attack, she has also lost fights with strange dogs so has learned not challenge dogs who she doesn't know well.
There is no strict linear hierarchy. Who eats first depends on who gets to the bowl first and what previous experience they have.
They like to avoid conflict rather than risk injury.
Dooin I've recently completed a course of behaviour CPD taught by Debra Horwitz. She advocates a form of NILF. If it's good enough for her it's good enough for me!
It's actually an extremely powerful method of motivating a dog to focus on you, of reinforcing constantly that good things come from the owner and that attentiveness is rewarded. This increased attentiveness facilitates lots of aspects of behaviour modification.
No dominance theory involved at all, just a way of persuading a dog to do what we want it to do by applying the principle that Dogs Do What Works
NILIF as a philosophy is a bit but as a practical thing without buying into the whole, I own everything and that makes me might idea, it's great.
It's constant positive training.
Mighty not might, or it makes no sense, lol
Firstly I would say he should not be in pain a week after neutering tender the first 48 hours yes, but in pain a week later no. Normally at a 5 day check owners of male dogs are really struggling to keep them quiet. No muscles are cut so there shouldn't really be anything to cause a lot of pain unless he had a testicle in his abdomen even then the pain should be gone at a week.
So really I think that needs to be investigated first.
Thanks again for your advice.
I'm at work so need to be brief.
He's a Labradoodle for those that were asking the breed.
My friend has him when I work and she's stricter than me on the no upstairs/beds thing and has had no issues at all. She's quite surprised. He's around her 2 children and he's never growled at them.
I think it's clear from that that I need to give him clearer boundaries at home. Will also work on the rewarding too. And yes he has a crate with toys etc... in.
I never followed any particular way of training or bought books about it but rather followed my instincts and what worked for us.
Dogs were not allowed upstairs or on furniture- I've always had bigger hairy and mud loving dogs so that made sense.
Dogs(or children) never pushed through any door in front of me, good manners and it stopped them pushing through the front door and getting run over.
Dogs were trained to sit quietly before going out for a walk because trying to get out of the door with a buggy and a manic dog is dangerous and not much fun.
Children had to treat the dog with respect, not disturb it whilst asleep.
Dogs not allowed to beg for food, can't stand drooling dogs at the table.
Dogs not made a huge fuss of until I've taken my coat off as that made them more likely to get over excited and wee themselves and jump up.
When they were little puppies I modeled what I did on what their Mums or litter mates would do so if they nipped a high pitched squeak seemed to stop them in their tracks, and a gentle shake if they were really mad mannered. We always had older family dogs around who were quite happy to teach the young whippersnapper some manners.
I think it is important not to be timid in dealing with a dog as seeing you scared makes them unsure, it has stood me in good stead at work now when I have to walk into houses with strange dogs at stressful times. Working to make my body language relaxed but confident has insured that I haven't been snapped at unlike some of my colleagues who are scared of strange dogs and show it. Not sure if there's a correlation but it seems to work.
I've always trained dogs and children with rewards for good behaviour and ignoring as much as possible bad behaviour but if that's not possible a firm no seemed to work. Children and puppies seem to be very similar.
NILIF if taken to extremes seems to me to be a pretty miserable way for a dog to live. It smacks of control freakery to demand that the owner makes sure that the dog has to earn absolutely EVERYTHING.
However there's nothing wrong with teaching the dog that keeping an ear open to the owner - listening out for/to cues - leads to Good Things.
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