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Dog often growls when owner in his personal space

(19 Posts)
HoundPaws Thu 30-Oct-14 02:05:05

As above really, young adult male Doberman, rescued over a year ago, generally seems a nice dog but growls sometimes when his owner is 'in his personal space' for want of a better way to describe it. The owner usually just ignores the behaviour until it stops. He hasn't ever bitten that I know of but it concerns me a little. I am an experienced dog owner but do not understand what is going on here. Any experience of this? Thanks

TheWholeOfTheSpook Thu 30-Oct-14 02:18:42

Is the "personal space" anywhere, including, say, the sofa? Or is it like the dog's bed/crate?

butterfliesinmytummy Thu 30-Oct-14 02:50:02

Does the owner know anything about the dog's previous life? Was the dog ever attacked or hit?

Dancingyogi Thu 30-Oct-14 07:13:52

Sounds like resourse guarding. Can be the dog's bed, toys, food etc or your bed, sofa, or the pet's owner. Loads of advice online on how to handle each type.
For us all our problems revolved around the sofa - so Dpup is now on the floor! And he is learning to say please by sitting before he gets anything he wants, it's hard because we'd all love him back on the sofa but he just can't figure out the rules as yet.

muttynutty Thu 30-Oct-14 08:59:22

Can you expand on personal space and give specific examples of what happens?

r2d2ismyidealman Thu 30-Oct-14 12:59:16

My dog trainer would say that a dog doesn't have "personal" space, it is all human space. They have "safe" places, like a crate or whatever, but no space where they rule that area.

needapee Thu 30-Oct-14 14:26:24

I'd respectfully disagree with your trainer, r2d2. The idea that a dog should tolerate anyone and everyone being able to touch it is largely responsible for most aggression.It's unreasonable, unfair and unnecessary.

Of course, guarding is undesirable (although from the dog's perspective it's perfectly reasonable behaviour). And fairly easily resolved by changing the dog's feelings about having someone in their space.

Perhaps your trainer means that all dogs should be taught to feel comfortable with handling, but I suspect that they mean that dogs should tolerate any human intervention without complaint, which I'm not sure I agree with.

HoundPaws Thu 30-Oct-14 17:57:40

Hmm food for thought there thanks. The dog does it anywhere even at other people's houses; he tends to do it when the owner is very near to him, fussing him with his face near I think...could be jealous of me..the dog's background is unknown. I think it worries me as the dog is generally inscrutable..

muttynutty Thu 30-Oct-14 18:43:14

So can the owner walk him on a lead without him growling?
Can he sit next to the dog and he growls?
Does he growl when he is being touched?
Does he growl when the owner bends over him?
Does he growl when the owner comes close to feed him?
Does he growl only at his owner and noone else even if they are doing the same thing that makes him growl for his owner (still with me!)

If he is only growling when the owner is touching his face then he just does not like being touched on his face. He may just not like to or may be in pain teeth etc.

If he growls when he is touched by his owner everywhere but now when other people touch him then his owner needs to get professional help.

HoundPaws Fri 31-Oct-14 18:40:03

Hmm he seems to growl only when the owner is bending over very close to him especially if stroking him.. He did do it to me too once or twice I think...not sure if he does it to anyone else...thank you

VivaLeBeaver Fri 31-Oct-14 19:02:11

Dogs giving a warning that he's not happy with what's happening.

Ignoring isnt ideal.

Two options IMO though I'm no expert. Owner can listen to what the dog is saying and back off slightly. I'd do this in some situations, ie; if I was just going to stroke the dog. However there will be times when the owner needs to be close to the dog, to put a lead on, etc.

So I'd use high value treats and as I get closer to the dog praise and treat, keep doing it. If the dog growls, back off slightly and wait a few minutes. Then edge slightly closer and immediately treat. Dog starts to learn that owner coming closer means nice things.

It will take weeks and weeks though.

VivaLeBeaver Fri 31-Oct-14 19:03:06

And see a behaviourist. If the owner ignores the growling and carries on doing what makes the dog unhappy it has the potential to escalate into a bite.

muttynutty Fri 31-Oct-14 20:12:07

From what you say I would not think it is a guarding issue.

Do listen to the dog and do not lean close and stroke the dog.

If the dog is happy to be stroked when the owner is to the side of him or sitting down or being stroked on his back rather than his head do this.

Do not ignore this or try to stop the dog growling the dog is fearful or uncomfortable with the situation and is trying politely to communicate this. Unfortunately he cannot say excuse me I feel uncomfortable with you doing this to me smile so instead he growls. Looming over a dog can be very scary for many dogs so this is not that unusual. I would totally back off and wait for the dog to come to me and then be very slow gentle with my movements I would not be face on to the dog.

Being a rescue there could be many reasons as to why he is uncomfortable with this. I would go to the vet to check out the dog. Neck damage, painful teeth etc can cause a dog to not like being touched on his face. Or poor eyesight or hearing can make a dog uncomfortable with people looming over them. Once you have the all clear from the vet then you can just slowly build up the dogs trust however he may not ever like this and the owner will just have to stroke in a way the dog is happy.

If the dog is forced to get used to this and the owner carries on when the dog growls I would book a tetanus jab at the Dr and have keys ready to drive to A&E for stitches.......dont let her stress the dog and give the dog no alternative but to do more than growl. If however the owner backs off and lets the dog settle and relax there will be no fear and no need for the dog to growl and feel fearful.

Catsmamma Fri 31-Oct-14 20:27:01

one of my shepherds objects to people looming over him, the other will sometimes grumble if you step over him or rest your feet on him.

so we don't do it.

the one who dislikes the looming is generally a bit needy, insecure ...he will lie as close as he can, but as far as I can make out he seems to be overawed if anyone tries to lean on him or hug him or generally crowd him and will then grumble or scoot off .

The other one is just a grumpy git! I'll step over him, but not out of the blue...I say " are you moving or not?" He looks at me as if I am the most unreasonable person ever, and will squoosh over to make space or go lie somewhere else. huffing under his breath as he goes

Neither of them have ever displayed any escalating aggression and will remove themselves after a short low growl....but as we know what they don;t like and we don't do it we rarely see or hear anything from them.

HoundPaws Sat 01-Nov-14 19:24:24

I really don't think the dog is afraid or in pain, he is a picture of health, no other issues and is a very pushy and 'in your face' type of dog, you have to keep pushing him off you usually and he keeps coming back after being pushed away, so its the opposite of not liking close contact... Then the growling kicks in out of the blue; though you see a slight change in his face, not a scared or in pain look, just something really subtle..still or thoughtful maybe? Quite odd. Also it goes against the grain with me to think of backing down when a dog does this, to me it seems like unacceptable behaviour that the dog should be told off for. Though clearly I am old school and never experienced this before :/ And I realise that stopping a dog from growling a warning could be dangerous. I will suggest contacting a behaviourist. Thanks for the thoughts.

crapcrapcrapcrap Sat 01-Nov-14 21:46:15

If you don't know why the dog is doing it, it isn't a good idea to challenge it, surely. And would you "back down" if someone asked you to give them a little more space in a queue, for example? Would you expect someone else to move away if you asked them politely not to lean over you? And how else do you expect the dog to communicate that it is uncomfortable?

Behaviourist - end of story. If more people called in professional help in minor situations like this, less people would get bitten. APBC or APDT membership minimum (IMDT would do in the absence of either of the previous memberships being available locally).

EasyToEatTiger Sun 02-Nov-14 08:46:09

Not all dogs enjoy being stroked, and not all dogs like having a big face next to theirs. We are pretty awful, generally at reading dogs.and dogs rarely do things out of the blue unless we have taught them that it's dangerous to communicate.

weaselwords Sun 02-Nov-14 09:40:55

Is it a growl or a groan? Both of my dogs groan when you fuss them and it clearly means "I like that, do it more".

HoundPaws Mon 03-Nov-14 17:46:34

Thanks I have now suggested a behaviourist. Last night the dog climbed on top of the owner on the sofa and lay there happily for ages, really enjoying it, so it wasn't a case of the owner forcing himself onto the dog; he was even making the happy groan noise you mention weasel, and playing; then when I was stroking him he suddenly started growling (he hadn't minded the stroking before). His owner pushed him off and he started snarling (mouth open). Apparently he has done this to other people too.

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