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Nervy Growling Collie/Springer - Help Needed

(3 Posts)
LtEveDallas Tue 23-Aug-11 11:21:46

Very long, sorry

MuttDog is ace. We love her to bits. She is brill with DD, well behaved, well trained. We seem to have anything sorted except bloody incessant growling. She is a Collie / Springer Cross (we think), approx 18 months old. We've had her since she was 8 weeks or so.

She is quite skitty. Cowers when she first meets someone new, but is absolutely fine within seconds. Seems to be better with women than men, quite wary of children. She's quite needy; unless we are at home she will follow DH or I wherever we go (eg when visiting MILs she follows us to the loo and scratches to come in, at home she wakes up, but stays where she is)

Biggest problem is the growling, and its driving me batty. I'm starting to get annoyed/frustrated with her, so want to sort this as soon as poss.

Any noise that she cannot see the origin of she growls. Doesn't matter what it is, kids playing, crow cawing, someone dropping something. She's even started growling if DD raises her voice (something 6 yr olds are prone to do...)

A knock at the door produces a volley of barks (I dont mind this so much)

We tried telling her off, sending her to her bed, growling back at her (from a more wooo dog friend!), I even tried the Dog Whisperer 'Dig'. I dont want to smack her though - she never has been and I'm not starting now. We've tried praising her up and giving lots of fuss, but even then she carries on growling for minutes, long after the noise has gone.

I have 3 main issues with this - one that there are quite a few kids on the street, I've never worried about the MuttDog playing out there with DD, but now she is growling I dont want the kids to be scared. Secondly that obviously she is picking up on my annoyance and has started cowering when I tell her off, I dont like this at all. Finally, MuttDog comes to work with me, but if she keeps growling/barking at visitors she'll be banned - and that means home alone most of the day sad

Has anyone any tips? Anything that worked for them? Any idea why she has started doing this (prob in the last 4-5 months)? In Sep we were looking to rescue another dog, but not if MuttD is not happy.

DogsBestFriend Tue 23-Aug-11 12:23:39

Yep - a behaviourist. smile Predictable, maybe, but the best way forward imho.

In the meantime, bearing in mind that you know my background and that I'm NOT a trainer/behaviourist my guess is that MuttDog needs desensitising to the noises. She's currently in a vicious circle - noise, growl, you tell off - maybe she thinks that you're adding to her growl or bark with your own cross tone and there IS something to be worried about - she gets scared, all the more reason to react to the next noise with a growl or bark...

Telling her off isn't working, I'd say stop that immediately and try distraction instead. Carry in your pocket some treats and her favourite toy and offer these, totally ignoring the growling. Don't send her to her bed either, not as a punishment - you want her to WANT to go to her bed, to see it as a place of safety and not as punishment where she can't necessarily get away from the noise which concerns her.

Maybe try a crate, covered with a blanket or similar, in a quiet corner of a room with little human "traffic"? See if that gives her somewhere secure to go of her own free will and makes her feel better?

Whatever you do, throw all Cesar Milan Dog Whisperer shite away NOW please! The man uses abuse to control and is despised by all decent behaviorists and trainers.

As for cause, impossible to guess. Your 6yo or a friend could have accidntally freaked her out one day or given what you do for a living (assuming you're "on site"?) I guess that there are loads of noises around which would scare ME much less a dog, could have been one such! grin

Following... gradually reduce access to you/DH. Buy a stairgate, put it, say, between kitchen and hall, and put her the far side of the gate for a short time whilst you're cooking. She can see you, be reassured by that but can't access you. In time, if you do that for short bursts she will become more comfortable with being apart from you for a while. (Tried and tested on a clingy, screaming Greyhound I use to dog-sit!).

These are just things to do whilst finding professional help but the bottom line is a behaviourist is definitely the way to go - these are FAR from insurmountable issues but of course the quicker you deal with them the better and easier they will be to sort out.

LtEveDallas Tue 23-Aug-11 13:47:46

Hi DBF, thanks, I appreciate it.

I think I will try the distraction thing, another friend suggested praising her in a "well done, you've bought it to my attention, I'll take over from here" type idea. She is quite protective of my DD, so I wonder if that could be it. It's just so strange that it has started all of a sudden. Gunfire doesnt seem to bother her, nor large vehicles, but the sound of DD dropping a toy on the path sent her beside herself ???

In our own house she is fine re clingyness. She has her own chair from which she can see the lounge, kitchen etc and only follows us if we go outside. She doesn't really relax in other homes though - we can tell she's glad to be home.

I also don't like a lot of the Ceaser way to do things. I think its born of frustration that I tried, but it didn't work in any case. I'd be crap at the Pack Leader thing - I treat my dogs like bloody kids!

I suppose I'd better see if our vet knows any behaviourists then, more £££'s on the darn mutt!

(as an aside - I saw little Jack/Staff the other day - the one we almost had. She has come on leaps and bounds and has learnt the hand signals etc really quickly. She is lovely, really friendly, but quite 'funny' looking - more like a giant Jack than a small Staff. They think she has some hearing, but not much so are treating her as if she was totally deaf. She's a lovely friendly dog though, doesn't let her deafness bother her)

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