Random snaps and growls(12 Posts)
Ddog2 has been with us since last Sunday. She was anxious at first but has really settled into the home, although still exhibits fear and anxiety out of the house with things she's not used to - people, cars, other dogs etc.
However since the third day she has been with us she has randomly snapped and growled at us. The first time it happened she was curled up asleep next to DP and he absent-mindedly stroked her and she growled and snapped at his hand. Since then she has done it several times a day/evening but when she's been awake too. It's often when shes sat with us on the sofa and receiving cuddles (which she has instigated) or after she's approached us, so it's not like we're forcing ourselves on her. I'm very good at reading doggy body language but this is just coming from nowhere, when she's otherwise giving off relaxed signals.
As an extra - this afternoon she also actually growled and bit my leg when I was leaving the house (pulling her inside by her collar as I have done several times a day for the last week!)
What could be behind this? She's had a clean bill of health from the vet. How should we be dealing with it when she growls/snaps? Should we remove sofa privileges? She's has a bad start to life and shows signs of having been hit/punished with strong voices (we've realised this in the course of the past week) so is it just she's still on her guard and not used to relaxing or...? Help please!
Many dogs will growl and snap when disturbed if they are sleeping. Imagine how you'd feel if someone leaned over you in the middle of the night and started stroking you while you were in bed.
The fact that she snapped and didn't bite is actually good as it shows she is wanting to warn you, not bite you.
YOu should NEVER EVER drag a dog by its collar. You've already mentioned that she's nervous and may have been hit. Many dogs dislike having their heads stroked - she should have her lead attached with your hand to the side or underneath her head. Practice whenever you do recall that she sits, gets a treat, you put your hand underneath her head on her collar and treat again. Teach any DC not to approach her while sleeping, never to stroke the top of her head, and stroke her shoulders/body gently. This is a very useful link on understanding fear signals in dogs - I'd urgently suggest downloading and putting it on the fridge for all family members to study. Sophia Yin's website is very good and useful anyway, lots of helpful info on there.
Calming Signals in Dogs by Turid Rugaas is the book to read to check your understanding of body language. Available on Amazon and goes into much rich detail. Personally, I'd video her on the sofa and then replay slowly. I bet if you look again, you will see clues. Even if she is OK with being stroked initially, she may not want it to continue. Not all dogs enjoy it. Look for head turning, lip licking, yawning etc.
The sofa is not a privilege - you either are happy for her to sit there or you aren't. if you aren't you need to make it clear to her there is a safe, secure place for her to rest, sleep etc. where she will not be disturbed. Teach a Settle command for wherever you want her to use as her bed, and regularly click/treat when she goes there.
She's only been with you a week - this is early days, and she is still settling in.
We don't stroke her on the head - & she's only snapped a couple of times whilst sleeping the rest have been awake. When I was pulling her in by her collar I meant holding her collar to stop her getting out of the door - which is the only way to get out of the house as she always wants to leave with us when we go out.
We're happy with her on the sofa but not if it means we're getting randomly bitten and growled at for no apparent reason. She has plenty of beds & safe places around the room / house but if we're on the sofa she always prefers to sit with us which is fine I'm just concerned at the snapping.
I am well versed in fear signals & body language - as I said in my original post she is giving no sign of fear, discomfort, anxiety these grumbles are out of the blue.
Have you got children? I'd be extremely wary if so. You've taken on something unknown ( and it is unknown as you weren't expecting the snapping and her biting your leg ) and I'd be concerned if I were you. Yes you can try behaviourists etc but who knows if this is something she will overcome? I personally couldn't chance it if it's as out of the blue as you say it is. Please muzzle her in public
We have no current DCs but hope to add some in the near future!
If you are not sure, then the logical next step is to get a reputable behaviourist in, from the APBC.
what have the rescue said? do they offer support from a properly qualified behaviourist?
definitely don't drag her by the collar - play the collar grab game - start by just touching her collar and immediately giving her a treat 5 times, 3 times a day
as she gets happier having her collar touched then you can gradually move onto holding her collar and treating
when you need to leave the house without her in the meantime, chuck a handful of treats behind her and then head out of the door while she's busy snaffling the food
Sending some support. I have a toddler DS and I would be very unhappy in your shoes, particularly as you want to add DC soon. That can be tough for even the most bombproof dog to cope with.
I have three giant aggressive breed dogs, all rescues, all who were about to be pts for being aggressive and not one of them has ever growled or snapped at DS, DH or I. My mind always freezes at the being snapped /growled at is a good thing because they didn't bite. Well, yes, obviously not being bitten is good, but being growled or snapped at out of the blue isn't exactly peachy either. (Realise this isn't what people are saying, just the way my brain goes).
In your shoes I would stop allowing her on the sofa. The out of the blue bit is verry worrying, as others have said a behaviourist sounds like a good bet. What's she like with your other dog? If one of our dogs snapped at us they would be immediately attacked by the other two dogs, they wouldn't stand for it.
Ahhh, if only someone would lean over and stroke me in my sleep, that would be nice. I get leant over, trodden on, whacked with a beaker, face slobbered, hair slobbered, the list goes on. The joys of cosleeping with a toddler and having three giant breed dogs sleep in your bedroom . All of my dogs love being stroked in their sleep, they snuggle right up and their in sleep smug faces go on.
I meant to also say that with the best will and most vigilance in the world!d, there will be times when your future DC stand on paws, trip over tails, bump into your dogs, and you need to feel confident that your dog isn't going to turn and snap at them for this. DS is very gently and respectful with animals, he is never left unsupervised with our dogs (and they're as trustworthy and bombproof as you could get) but even he sometimes trips over their tails. They don't bat an eyelid, and just nuzzle/lick him to make sure he's ok.
Thanks everyone - spoke to a friend who's studying canine behaviour. She thinks it may just be that pup is overtired & not resting enough, so when she is 'resting' & we disturb her (whether intentional or not) she's snappy and grumpy. Suggested spending time upstairs away from her after walks leaving her the sofa to herself & the radio on after walks so she can snooze without disturbances & encouraging her to use the beds on the floor instead of the sofa. We're to see how this goes & then assess in a couple of days.
Well day 1 of following these steps & we've only had a couple of grumbles & no snaps. I've also cut down on the walks I take her on until she can start regulating herself & getting rest when she's tired. Apparently it's common in anxious dogs & dogs who've lived on the streets to constantly be on alert & on guard in case of danger. Hopefully once she feels totally safe we'll no longer have any issues.
What about a crate?
Not as a punishment but as a safe place where she will learn that she can rest undisturbed, you will also know that she is safe.
What you said about it being common in anxious dogs/ex-street dogs etc sounds reasonable, so it could be a solution?
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