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Dog just growled and snapped

(52 Posts)
RosieLig Wed 30-Jan-13 23:02:12

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.



tabulahrasa Wed 30-Jan-13 23:10:51

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.

Pantone363 Wed 30-Jan-13 23:21:51

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.

Pantone363 Wed 30-Jan-13 23:25:51

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?

RosieLig Wed 30-Jan-13 23:26:20

Thank you.

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.



RosieLig Wed 30-Jan-13 23:30:10

Thanks pantone

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.


RosieLig Wed 30-Jan-13 23:31:39

Pantone... I mean until tonight, not since tonight !

tabulahrasa Wed 30-Jan-13 23:38:53

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)

SpicyPear Wed 30-Jan-13 23:51:32

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.

D0oinMeCleanin Wed 30-Jan-13 23:52:21


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.

Paddlinglikehell Thu 31-Jan-13 00:00:57

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,

Pantone363 Thu 31-Jan-13 07:52:15

"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.

Callisto Thu 31-Jan-13 08:14:23

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.

D0oinMeCleanin Thu 31-Jan-13 08:23:42

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.

tabulahrasa Thu 31-Jan-13 08:31:25

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.

RosieLig Thu 31-Jan-13 08:43:19

Thanks again.

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.



FloatyBeatie Thu 31-Jan-13 08:46:54

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.

FloatyBeatie Thu 31-Jan-13 08:52:44

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.

TantrumsAndBalloons Thu 31-Jan-13 09:07:44

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 grin

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.

TantrumsAndBalloons Thu 31-Jan-13 09:11:18

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?

CalamityKate Thu 31-Jan-13 09:15:09

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.

FloatyBeatie Thu 31-Jan-13 09:19:32

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.

SpicyPear Thu 31-Jan-13 09:20:43

I'd find it amusing if some poor dog wasn't having to live with that person.

D0oinMeCleanin Thu 31-Jan-13 09:26:37

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.

FloatyBeatie Thu 31-Jan-13 09:35:23

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.)

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