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Dog Growling Question

(19 Posts)
WendyTorrance Thu 09-Jul-15 18:03:19

Hi all, I am a first time dog owner. I'm a bit puzzled and concerned by something that he did today and I'd like some advice from experienced dog owners please!

My dog is 16 months old, a large, neutered male weighing 43kg. Mum was a lab, father unknown but the vet, dog trainer and people we meet think that there is German Shepherd in him. He's a friendly dog, adores other dogs and is gentle with my children. We've had him from 5 months of age.

Today in the park he was off his lead in an area of the park we don't usually go to. There was a lad of about 17 squatting near the lake. My dog stopped dead, stared at him, barked and growled at the boy but didn't approach him. I apologised, put the dog back on his lead and walked around the park. I met a group of people who are experienced dog owners, got chatting and told them what had happened. They were quite dismissive and said that the lad may have reminded my dog of someone unkind in his past. I asked if a muzzle would be a good idea and they said no.

My concern is this - I couldn't say hand on heart that I knew what my dog would have done had I not put him on his lead. I'm frightened that he may do it again and think that a muzzle whilst off-lead may be a good idea or is that an over-reaction?

The growl wasn't the low growl that seems to some from deep within his belly that he likes to do through the window at the bin lorry hmm, it was a different sound, if that makes sense?

I will be deeply grateful for any responses! Many thanks.

villainousbroodmare Thu 09-Jul-15 20:12:07

Your dog didn't really like some aspect of the person's appearance, scent, posture or something... and so he conveyed that suspicion. He didn't fling himself at the guy and tear lumps out of him and you say yourself that he didn't approach him. I understand that it was disconcerting but I wouldn't overreact.

WendyTorrance Thu 09-Jul-15 20:42:20

Thank you villainous. That's similar to the advice that the 'dog people' in the park gave to me and it's reassuring. I think I'll keep him on lead until we get to the area with all of the dogs that he plays with for my own peace of mind for now.
I appreciate your response.

villainousbroodmare Thu 09-Jul-15 20:48:26

Enjoy your dog. He sounds very nice. I think he was literally just saying "WTF?!"

TitusAndromedon Thu 09-Jul-15 20:56:24

This might sound ridiculous, but my dog (who coincidentally has GSD in him) used to get very annoyed when I did squats while exercising. He would bark and jump up. Someone suggested that it was because I was taking a pooping position, if you will. Perhaps your dog had similar suspicions?

tabulahrasa Thu 09-Jul-15 21:00:30

I wouldn't worry too much about it tbh, he just communicated that he didn't like something...

Muzzling would definitely be an over reaction.

Justwhy Thu 09-Jul-15 21:01:29

I wouldn't worry at all. Was it even a proper growl with teeth bared and snarling? More likely just a low grumble of suspicion. The dog's allowed an opinion! A nice happy calling of the name and change of direction.

I was always taught not to discourage growling. Growling is good. It is the dog telling you it is not happy. Far better giving them the growling option that taking it away. The next step is aggression.

SunshineAndShadows Thu 09-Jul-15 21:03:50

We often overreact to growling - it doesn't mean your dog is 'vicious' it means he's communicating his uneasiness. Be careful never to punish or check growling - it's an important communication. If growling is punished then dogs will often feel they have to escalate to snapping to show their discomfort

OttiliaVonBCup Thu 09-Jul-15 21:08:45

One of mine gets funny when someone is on the floor, same level as him. Not growling, but a bit bemused.

Growling is a warning. You paid attention to it and you know to watch next time.

nellieellie Thu 09-Jul-15 21:17:05

Something spooked him. It may have been an unfamiliar posture, something he was wearing, his scent...... I have a large 16 mnth dog, also v friendly, and I think I would have been worried if my dog had done this, to be honest, just because it would have been out of character. You got yours at 5 months so presumably do not know how well he was socialised at the crucial time _ ie before 16 wks. So maybe he has just not seen someone crouched in that way. The growl is most likely a nervous fear signal, and it is good that he gave a warning. I'd keep an eye on it, maybe walk him on lead around places where there are lots of people to see if anything seems to worry him?

WendyTorrance Fri 10-Jul-15 06:17:11

Thank you for your responses. I feel much happier now. It did seem out of character - this is a dog who's worried by squirrels!

moosemama Fri 10-Jul-15 13:35:19

One of my dogs used to absolutely hate teenagers sitting around on the grass in our local park during the summer. We got her in winter and she was used to walking there, but obviously no-one sat lounging around on the grass during the winter months and she was convinced they were totally out of order. She'd stand still, stare at them and do a couple of growls, as if to register her disapproval. I got her over it by taking her over there and sitting on the grass with her, near where the teenagers/students sit and feeding her lots of treats for lying quietly and ignoring them.

Another thought, some dogs - and I believe it's quite common with GSDs in particular, can react badly to people who have either been drinking or taking drugs. They seem to be able to sense it. I know of a couple of dogs that have taken exception to people they usually like, only for the owner to find out later than they'd either taken something illegal or had been drinking before the dog reacted. Not sure if it's to do with their scent, the way they move when intoxicated (this will be different to usual even if they've only had a little) or them just picking up something that we can't.

Not saying the lad you came across had taken or drunk anything, but it's not beyond the realms of possibility either.

SirVixofVixHall Fri 10-Jul-15 13:41:32

I agree with moosemama. Dogs do react to difference. My old dog would growl and bark at people with obvious mental health issues, or if someone had a peculiar gait. He didn't like people moving in odd ways. There must have been something about this person your dog saw that bothered him, and that could be a good trait. He is telling you that he doesn't like the look of that person for some reason.

Mrsmorton Fri 10-Jul-15 13:52:19

Your dog sounds ace. Yoof was clearly up to No Good and dog was tuned into this (the facts according to Morton).

moosemama Fri 10-Jul-15 14:07:27

grin @ Mrsmorton

Have to agree though. Your dog didn't kick off or throw himself at the lad, he just let you know that he was worried about him and would rather not be anywhere near him. That's what you want really, protection without aggression.

WendyTorrance Fri 10-Jul-15 18:38:25

Mrsmorton my dog IS ace, thank you. He has a hell of a bark and folk are a tad worried when they see him coming - I've had people squeal and jump out of his way FFS. But he's as gentle as a lamb and I luffs him. My husband doesn't share my feelings. He says it's like having a clumsy pony living in the house.

moosemama Fri 10-Jul-15 20:11:44

WendyTorrance people actively cross the road to avoid my two when we're out walking and they're both total softies. We used to be the only people with pointy hounds around these parts, but quite a few more have arrived recently, so I'm hoping people may stop thinking of them as killing machines just because they're not Labradors or Spaniels like 99.9 % of all the other local dogs.

LimeJellyHead Fri 10-Jul-15 20:24:12

The growl is just part of a dog's communication tools. I am not sure if you got a look at his face as he growled but for aggression look for lip curling etc... With lack of other signs, he was maybe just communicating. I always interpret growls like us speaking in words and try to work out what they are saying and act accordingly. Sometimes my dog Berkeley, who is deaf and has always been very vocal, just says "get off Mum" or "I must vocalise about this thing here". As I say, take growls only in context of other signs the dog is giving that may indicate worry, stress or aggression. You are doing a great job to be so vigilant. I think more people should be like you. So many people get bitten or their child gets bitten and they say "he never gave any warning" but the dog always does, if only people would look and listen. Keep up the good work smile

GingerCuddleMonster Fri 10-Jul-15 20:28:57

my spaniel growls all the time at things he's not sure of or unhappy about, I literally take it as "in not happy about this situation" so I either remove him from the situation or remove the situation from him.

I wouldn't muzzle him.

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