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Growling Lab!!

(36 Posts)
Jemimafuckingpuddleduck Sun 08-Apr-18 18:45:16

We have, what I thought successfully rehomed a 10 month old lab and she has been here a few months!

She has been an absolute joy and fit in with our hectic and very outdoorsy lifestyle
so well, we have 3 girls and all though they are very enthusiastic to have the dog here they have all been taught to have respect and all are over 7 so not silly...

We have over the last few weeks had a few growling issues, the 1st we put down to my youngests fault as she had patted her while sleeping (all be it at out feet and not on her safe place/bed) we told her no and went over the doggy ground rules with the girls again.

However since then it's progressed and although never more than a soft growl not just when sleeping, once when my middle daughter came downstairs in the morning and once when the same daughter was emptying the dishwasher and dog was in the kitchen, I think hoping for a cheeky after dinner scrap. (not often but an occasional treat)

My husband and I are both united on how to deal with the issue and it's certainly not one softer on her than the other however he doesn't think it's as big of a deal as I do and I have came particularly anxious about it particularly as my middle child's bedroom is down stairs.

The advice is so mixed on how to deal with it from ignoring the dog/to a sharp no and time out and I could really do with some advice to nip it in the bud and getting back to enjoying owning and being around new pouch!!

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Jemimafuckingpuddleduck Sun 08-Apr-18 18:48:51

I meant to add she does yawn a lot when excited or overly stimulated and reading online have found out this could also be a sign of stress/unhappiness although she does it with a wavy tail which I hope means she is more excited...

I'm hoping all these quirks are just her managing her tween/teen year and she is going to grow out of it...

Reading about crate training, would this be helpful to us and is it too late to start at 10 months?

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MsHomeSlice Sun 08-Apr-18 18:55:07

I'd say off to the vet for a thorough check, maybe she has a sore joint and is feeling extra grumpy?

We had a GSD who growled/grumbled but he grew out of it, and I knew it wasn't badness, just a clear statement of "No," almost like a churlish teen

As for what to do about it...we realised he did not like being stepped over or crowded so we either didn't do it or he got told to move. Grooming was another thing he didn't like, but that had to be we compromised on half now and half later! He'd flounce off when he'd had enough.

One of the funniest things was when we had a visiting dog over who was grumbling when playing tug with dd...a completely playful nonsense growl, but the GSD who was sulking in the hall because the visitor was playing, came bustling in and barked right in the visiting dog's face and sat between them to put an end to the shennanigans!

FairfaxAikman Sun 08-Apr-18 19:10:03

Never tell off a growl - it's like taking the batteries out of a smoke alarm. A growl is your dog's way of communicating discomfort.
You need to deal with what's causing the growl rather than the growl itself.
First port of call would be a vet check to make sure he's not in pain.
TBH without seeing the behaviour it's going to be hard for anyone on the Internet to know what is going on.
If a vet check is inconclusive then you need to get a force-free trainer in.

SweetLike Sun 08-Apr-18 19:19:42

Definitely try the vets first. Do you know much about her past?

Some dogs have more of an attitude than others. I have two goldens. My boy was a pushy so and so when younger and he is a dog you ask to do things not tell; he weighs it up for himself and then comes to his own decision grin he's really lovely, honestly, but there is a way to treat him and in the wrong hands he could have had a very different life.

My girl, however, is such a dope. She's quite a scaredy cat and if you call her name firmly when near her she puts her head down (despite the fact no one has ever laid a finger on her) and I have every confidence you could push her around to a major degree before you would get any pushback at all. My boy would push back rather fast though! This ramble is just to say that then can have hugely differing personalities but it doesn't mean there is anything drastically wrong. It's great you're doing research and listening to the signals she is giving off, if the vets can't give you much I'd look into a trainer (who does positive reinforcement only).

fleshmarketclose Sun 08-Apr-18 19:36:51

She is hitting that adolescent stage as well and Eric was a stroppy little git at the same age. Has she been spayed? Could she be coming into season? Eric is still a growly dog but there is no malice intended, he's generally just communicating.

Jemimafuckingpuddleduck Sun 08-Apr-18 21:32:58

@fleshmarketclose I wondered if it had something to do with her being in heat as so out of the blue...

Thanks everyone for all the advice, we will take on board.

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Jemimafuckingpuddleduck Sun 08-Apr-18 21:39:21


Her old owners were lovely and had had her since a puppy, there had been no expense/love spared they had just usual story underestimated how much work as a young and larger dog she would need. When she came to us had never been, in her whole 9 months, on a green walk!!

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freshstart24 Mon 09-Apr-18 00:38:50

Please do not punish her for growling. The growl is like an early warning system- an incredibly useful way of you Dog telling you something is not ok.

Don't punish her for using her early warning system. This is unfair and also dangerous as her Next way of telling you all is not ok could be to bite.....

You do need to get to the bottom of the growling. I'd suggest using a behaviouralist.

alterego1965 Mon 09-Apr-18 00:46:00

Echoing other posters. Hoping the 'know their place in the pack' crowd aren't coming in to advise!

Vet first!
Consider resource guarding/stress levels.
'Protected time/safe space'

Rewarding for desirable behaviour. never punishing for growling. It's their 'trigger cock' so the warning they're not happy. They need us to listen.

tabulahrasa Mon 09-Apr-18 01:57:18

Apart from when she was sleeping... what was she growling at your DD for? Not that it matters hugely as such, but just it isn’t obvious at all what she was actually growling at.

Whatever it was, it’d still be vet check and behaviourist, just I wondered.

Jemimafuckingpuddleduck Mon 09-Apr-18 09:33:45

I have read about not punishing for growling and it makes sense and had it been that I thought her space was being compromised or one of my DC had done something to provoke her I probably wouldn't have given it a 2nd thought.

I do think a dog needs to know the pecking/pack order (didn't realise that was wrong) and we have read up on things like making sure we feed the girls 1st, dog isn't allowed on the sofa etc, my middle daughter seems to have been given the warning growl twice/more than my youngest (my eldest and myself and my husband not at all) and I don't know if it's something to do with the fact that her bedroom is downstairs and as the dog isn't allowed upstairs she somehow thinks middle DD is either somewhere lower in the pack order or that she is encroaching her space!

Funnily enough the 2nd time it happened she was opening the gate to come back downstairs. As I said in pp she has also done it when middle child was emptying the dishwasher and dog was in the kitchen DD said dog was sitting by her food bowl and growled at her, like I said I think she was probably doing it in "eh where's my scraps" type thing but I guess she could also have been protecting her food bowl...

Both times my husband has approached the situation and the dog has sloped off to its bed with her tail between her legs so she knows she is doing something that we are not happy about.

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FairfaxAikman Mon 09-Apr-18 10:08:25

Please stop thinking in terms of pack - at best it's unhelpful and at worst it can be damaging.
Firstly wolf packs are family hierarchies
Secondly dogs are not wolves
Thirdly canine hierarchy is more fluid and they are more social opportunists than pack members
Fourthly you are not a dog and your dog knows this so even if pack theory was correct you don't figure in it. You are a resource provider.

Feeding last, no access to sofa etc is outdated. (Having labs I can attest to the fact that feeding first means you don't get bothered when you are eating).

Read "What ever happened to the term alpha dog?" By Dr David Mech. Pack theory was popularised by his research in the 70s. The above paper was written in 2009 and debunks his own research.

As I said before you need a proper force free trainer or a qualified behaviourist to observe what the triggers are. It's impossible to tell conclusively without seeing it first hand.

Jemimafuckingpuddleduck Mon 09-Apr-18 10:24:06

Although I am open to advice, and clearly came on here to ask for such @FairfaxAikman I find your tone very condescending and if I'm honest just plain rrude!!...

I had a look at force free training of the back of your last post and unfortunately the 1st three reputable canine sites regarded it as a load of rubbish and here in lies my problem, I'm finding the advice out there very conflicting and subjective.

We are not flush so a behaviourist for a dog is not something we can consider however we will take her to the vet just to make sure there are no underlying health issues!

Does anyone else know if being in heat and can alter a dogs mood or behaviour?

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LilCamper Mon 09-Apr-18 10:27:35

If she is insured providing there is no physical reason for this the vet can refer you to a behaviourist. Check your policy.

Unfortunately the dog training industry is unregulated, anyone can call themselves a trainer. Force free, science based training is definitely the way ahead.

FairfaxAikman Mon 09-Apr-18 10:39:07

I'm really not trying to be condescending.
Was one of these "reputable sites" Cesar Milan by any chance?
It really isn't subjective at all - just that some people choose to ignore the advances in research because it doesn't fit in with how they work. As I said before - if one of the world's leading scientists can admit his own research was fundamentally flawed, I cannot understand why so many people will agree with one of his papers but not the most recent.

You'd get better advice on the effectiveness of force free from the Association of Pet Behaviour Councillors - this is an Association of behaviourists. To be allowed to call yourself a behaviourist you MUST. Be educated to degree level in the subject. Anyone can call themselves a trainer, no qualifications needed - and this is where the problem lies. People don't like force free because it requires more effort on the trainers part, but ultimately it deals with the root of the problem rather than just suppressing the behaviour, which is what traditional lines of thinking tend to do.

My hobby brings me into contact with hundreds of dogs every week - many owned by various canine professionals from vet nurses to behaviourists. I used to believe in pack theory too but have been guided by those who have the most up to date knowledge and continue to adapt.
My youngest bitch is extremely nervous and in hindsight I can see that if I applied pack theory to her then I would have created a very damaged animal who would likely have been very reactive. As it is she trusts me completely, I can avoid her getting near the threshold of even a growl because I can read her better now and know when she is uncomfortable and address the situation l, rather than her behaviour. Over time this desensitises her to the uncomfortable situation.

Quite happy to give you a load of links (including academic stuff, rather than private trainers websites) backing this all up but I don't want to come across as patronising.

Jemimafuckingpuddleduck Mon 09-Apr-18 10:40:30

Thanks @LilCamper that's really useful to know, I will check it out.

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Jemimafuckingpuddleduck Mon 09-Apr-18 10:46:46

If you had any good links or reading @FairfaxAikman It would be much appreciated, I really do what to get to the bottom of it. She is such a lovely dog and I don't want it to get to the point where we have to put the girls 1st and rehome her!

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Altwoo Mon 09-Apr-18 10:47:53

Just to add that I used to work for an animal charity and I second everything @FairfaxAikman has said - pack theory is now out of date (I had no idea either!) and force free training is positive.

It’s great that you recognise her stress signs - that will help with mutual communication.

tabulahrasa Mon 09-Apr-18 10:51:06

“Does anyone else know if being in heat and can alter a dogs mood or behaviour?”

Yes it can, but, I’d be very wary about putting it down to that, especially the second two incidents as there’s no clear explanation as to why she was growling.

If it was just while she was disturbed from sleeping then possibly, as yes they can be grumpy in season, but growling at her coming downstairs and doing something nowhere near her in the kitchen are odd.

“I'm finding the advice out there very conflicting and subjective.”

It’s really not subjective, force free training and positive reinforcement is based on behavioural science and research.

rubyroot Mon 09-Apr-18 10:57:09

I have to say I agree with fairfax- wolves (and I know dogs aren't wolves) are actually very cooperative animals and the idea of a leader of the pack has actually been disputed even with wolves

My dog knows I am number one and respects me. This has come over time and has been built on getting to know my dog and trying to understand when she communicates etc.

I think you need to try and understand/empathise and over time you will understand what the growls are about.

My dog was very headstrong and growled from a puppy. In the end, we realised it wasn't going away so rightly or wrongly we channelled the growls into play. She growls as a way of communicating and I think if we hadn't allowed her this and if we had made a big deal out of it we might have had an issue.
Eg. If we had challenged her the Cesar Milan way it could have made her aggressive.
For her it is part of communication and I am confident that she won't bite unless she is attacked or I am attacked.
Now, I am not saying that this is the case with your dog, our dog is very individual and each dog is different. It's a case of getting to know and understanding your dog.
My dog was never submissive in nature and if I had done the leader of the pack thing she would not have appreciated it. She is allowed on our sofa and sometimes on our bed. blush

However, she will not get on the sofa with wet feet- she knows that she has to be on her bed if wet feet and she will never get on our bed unless we invite her to. She stays on the floor and cries to ask and sometimes we have to invite her three times! She has decided this- not us. She has decided that she must be invited because she respects it is our space, this has arisen because we feed her, walk her and treat her well. But, we have trained her from day one.

FairfaxAikman Mon 09-Apr-18 11:00:05

I agree with @Altwoo pack theory makes perfect sense - if you are a human.

Problem is dogs aren't human and very much live in the moment. They also lack more complex emotion - really they just want to please you, because that tends to grant access to a resource (whether that's a treat, attention or whatever).

My DF has my dog's brother (same litter) and he trains the old fashioned way, and the difference between the Dogs trained by the differing methods definitely shows.
The boy's recall was horrid till he was about 5. DF was hospitalised and I had the boy with mine. I had to change his recall command completely but I've got it from 10% to about 80% in a couple of weeks before he went back. (Still patchy around some other dogs and if he wants privacy to crap).

Dogs live with their family which is why they do so well with humans, they want to be part of our family.

Get yourself a good liver cake recipe and use it to reinforce desired behaviour. Also keep in mind that a growl is important- you want your dog to growl before it bites but also worth noting that there are almost always other signals of discomfort that comes well before a growl eg ears back or stiffening of the body.

loobybear Mon 09-Apr-18 11:03:47

We made the mistake of training using the pack/alpha dog theory when our rescue dog first started growling/reacting to things. It's one of my biggest regrets as it made things so much worse and really broke down our relationship with our dog.
When I started really reading up on dog behaviour I found out all the things that previous posters have said- that lack theory has long since been debunked and how growling and other body signals are a dog's way of communicating and telling you that they are unhappy with something.
After reading up we started using positive reward based training (and reward doesnt always mean food, also play and toys) which has massively improved her behaviour and our relationship. I read people like Ian Dunbar and Sophia Yin which really helped me to understand what my dog was trying to communicate and how to respond. Basically what Fairfax said could happen with one of her nervous dogs is what happened to our nervous dog when we used that kind of training, but using a positive approach enabled us to turn that around.

Jemimafuckingpuddleduck Mon 09-Apr-18 11:10:58

Thanks guys this is all awesome I will have a read through.

Funnily enough, when we 1st went to see her, the reason I was so happy to take her was her nature was very submissive to me and the girls...

She almost slopes in when you 1st come down in the morning or in the door, very waggy and excited but ears right back like she is going to get told off at any second,

The 1st thing she did when the girls came in was to roll on her back and lie flat so they could give her a good belly scratch, she is also very obedient with commands and will wait/stay/sit/gentle mouth etc which is why the growling now seems so out of character.

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FairfaxAikman Mon 09-Apr-18 11:18:59

I know this is labelled as the "ladder of aggression" but it's actually pretty handy for showing canine communication.
My girl rarely gets as far as stiffened body now because I learned to read her. We only get that far if out of control Dogs charge at her in the park).
I forgot to answer your question about seasons. Yes that can be A cause but may not be THE cause so I'd be wary of dismissing it as such or as the only cause.

Sorry if I came across as condescending earlier, I just get frustrated having seen too many good dogs (including DFs last two) ruined by this kind of thinking. One was a chronic resource guarder who he essentially taught to bite without growling due to punishment - of she hadn't died young or a rare condition I think he may have ended up putting her down rather than addressing it.

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