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5 month old dog growling and snapping at children when moved from sofa

(21 Posts)
ChristmasTigger Mon 24-Dec-18 12:17:46


We have a sprocker who is just 5 months.

He growled when moved a few times when he was younger & a dog trainer came to our house and said (he didn’t see that behaviour) it was probably just puppy play. He taught us ways to respond to mouthing, jumping up, etc.

We take him out a for walks on the beach and his outdoor training is going really well. He has a brilliant recall (other dog walkers often comment on how impressive it is that he comes first time, even when playing with another dog). He waits when told too and stays. He does seem to display herding behaviour though as he constantly loops round and if one of my DC runs too far ahead, he will run and nip his legs and hang off his coat until he stops. He also refuses to walk if any of the children are too far behind, he waits for them, or runs back to walk beside them until they catch up. He nips our ankles at home a lot too, especially the children if they move quickly.

A couple of people have asked me if he has any collie in him (we never saw his dad, his mum is a springer and they were not breeders, she just had one litter, they said his dad was a working cocker)

But, at home, he started forcing himself between my partner and me on the sofa, all the time. Around the same time, he started growling at my teenager if he went to pick him up, if he was trying to run upstairs for example

And me a few times, air snapping and putting his teeth on my hand (not growling and snapping at the same time, just one or the other)

We have put a lot of training in to keep him off the sofa (spraying him with water if he did not come off when told and starting barking and lunging, giving him treats and lots of praise when he responded to “off”)

He now gets off when my partner and has tell him (he has never growled at my partner).

Last night, he jumped up and I was just about to tell him to get off - when my 5 year old put his hand on his back to stroke him and he turned and growled really nastily.

I am worried we have be been training him wrongly (please don’t flame me!). He starts puppy classes in Jan. He is so friendly and lovely with the children normally. He is a bit scared of big dogs and hides behind me if he sees a really big one, but was well socialised with other dogs from being small

His insurance covers a behaviourist & I am taking him to the vet and getting him checked over first.

I think this is a big problem but my partner thinks it is just part of being a puppy... any advice please?

OP’s posts: |
ChristmasTigger Mon 24-Dec-18 12:20:19

(He does not guard food or toys)

OP’s posts: |
WeeMadArthur Mon 24-Dec-18 12:25:16

That doesn’t sound much like just being a puppy to me. I think you do need the help of a trainer ( not sure if the growling isn’t dominance or fear aggression) but straight away I would stop him getting onto the furniture at all and any aggression should result in him being banished to his bed. I would also ask the children to give him space and not touch him for now. It does sound like there is collie in there, it sounds like classic herding behaviour to want to keep everyone together and nip at heels. I hope you get this sorted OP, you all need to be consistent in rewarding good behaviour and stopping bad behaviour so even if he has been behaving well I don’t think he should be allowed on the couch for a long time.

CottonTailRabbit Mon 24-Dec-18 12:26:56

Surely you need a complete ban on him being on the sofa. Not normal puppy behaviour.

Celebelly Mon 24-Dec-18 12:27:25

Please don't spray him with water. Aversive methods like that just make things worse. It sounds like he's guarding the sofa/an individual on the sofa.

I'd recommend getting a trainer who specialises in positive methods (not one who advocates water spraying, alpha rolling and stuff like that) in to help.

In the meantime, make sure he has a bed set up near the sofa and work on getting him to settle there instead of on the sofa. Every time he tries to get on the sofa, redirect him with a toy or treat to his bed. Have some filled/frozen Kongs ready and when you're going to spend time on the sofa, settle him on his bed with one of those. Try to build positive associations so he chooses to stay on his bed because good things happen there. Don't shout or manually manhandle him off - when he attempts to get on the sofa, stand up and say 'On your bed' and then reward him when he does what's asked. You'll have to so this frequently and consistently at first, but keep a positive voice, keep the rewards coming, and he should begin to stay on his bed for longer and longer periods of time.

ChristmasTigger Mon 24-Dec-18 12:43:45

Thank you for your replies. I am going to keep him totally off the sofa.

Celebelly, thank you for the link, I have found a trainer who is about 30 mins away and who also has puppy classes (he is within the age limit still) in January, so am going to see if he can attend those classes

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Doggydoggydoggy Mon 24-Dec-18 12:55:22

Not intending to flame, but why on earth have you allowed him to exhibit herding behaviour on the kids?
This is really really dangerous!

I have a collie and the very first thing that was drummed into her was you do not exhibit herding behaviour towards people. Ever. Full stop. No excuses.
Because it has the potential to be really dangerous.
If the victim doesn’t move the way they want them to they can start biting.

Immediate, stern Ah! and immediate time out every time was how we dealt with this but that was as a puppy, at 5 months old when it is already exhibiting jealous, aggressive guarding behaviour over the sofa and your partner I would be hesitant to suggest that incase you get bitten.

I think you need a professional rather than trying to tackle this yourself.

In the meantime, if it was my dog, I would either tether him to you or muzzle him so that he can’t bite and I wouldn’t let him on the sofa at all.
If he goes to get on you can immediately stop him if he is leashed to you.

ChristmasTigger Mon 24-Dec-18 13:14:07

Doggydoggy, that is a fair question! I didn’t know it could be “herding” behaviour until recently - when my mother in law, who used to have a collie, said he reminded her of hers - then I watched a video of a collie herding children, on YouTube, and realised it looked very similar.

Until then I thought he was just being protective of the children and it was quite nice 😳 He doesn’t look like a collie though, I think people might say it because of the way he lies down and watches when he waits for a command - he also stays very close (If I am on my own I end up tripping over him sometimes!) and is more interested in staying/close to me and his family, than he is anyway else. My family had a dog when I was growing up, and that one used to leg it when it saw other dogs! We have done recall training, he just seems to “get it” after a couple of times, the same with sit and stay etc.

If we are totally consistent with the sofa, hopefully that will click as well

OP’s posts: |
Doggydoggydoggy Mon 24-Dec-18 14:26:05

I suppose in a way it is quite nice with the protectiveness aspect, the keeping them together and things.

The danger is that if the children get frightened and run or just decide to ignore him you will likely see escalation because he will try harder to control their movement.
That escalation can take the form of nipping, grabbing and/or cutting in front of them and if they don’t respond he will keep escalating, applying more and more pressure.

Another thing I would consider, is if the dog is trying to control everyone’s movement because he considers you his flock that might be part of the reason why he’s getting nasty over the sofa..

If he thinks you are his flock to protect and keep together and look after he might think it’s rather cheeky of you to sit on HIS sofa and that you have ideas above your stations.

Dominance theory has been debunked, you don’t necessarily need to eat first and withhold affection and all that, your dog isn’t lying in wait for you to falter so he can become the head of the house but all dogs do all still have their own little personalities and some of them are more overbearing than others and need stronger boundaries than others else they start trying to assert control.

Collies especially, tend to be a very controlling, manipulative breed.

You say he doesn’t look like a collie but collies come in lots of different colours, they come in short hair and long hair and there is a huge variance in size.
My working collie is large Labrador sized, her mum was an absolute beast!
But some of them are really small, particularly the agility/fly ball lines.
So it’s possible he has collie in there.

tabulahrasa Mon 24-Dec-18 15:23:44

“I have found a trainer who is about 30 mins away and who also has puppy classes (he is within the age limit still) in January, so am going to see if he can attend those classes”

That’s not what you need, I mean you might want those as well, but those will be basic training, you’ll want an individual assessment and plan for the problem behaviours.

BiteyShark Mon 24-Dec-18 15:26:52

I agree with PP the best way to get help with problem behaviours are 1-1 sessions.

adaline Mon 24-Dec-18 18:11:24

No, that's not normal.

How are you getting him off the sofa once he gets on? You need to lure him down with treats (or a toy, whatever motivates him) and praise like mad when he's on the floor.

Lots of dogs are fine on furniture but others do resource guard and growl when they're asked to get down.

adaline Mon 24-Dec-18 18:12:38

And please don't pick your dog up! Most of them really don't like it and it's not a natural behaviour for them to be grabbed and hugged like that.

And no water sprays either - it doesn't stop the behaviour properly, just scares the dog and can cause fear aggression and other problems later down the line.

Normalnorman Tue 25-Dec-18 00:17:41

Sounds like typical behaviour of a border collie to be honest.
Spaniels are generally very keen, eager and willing to please dogs so relatively easy to train.

In any case and regardless of breed it needs tackling but isn't that difficult to nip in the bud. Personally I would suggest you and your husband address it not a trainer or behaviourist.

5-month old puppies test limits, push boundaries and press buttons in the same way toddlers do so you just need to set those boundaries and be clear and consistent.

Will come back and post a few links that might help a bit later but for now reading up on basic puppy training and obedience is the way forward.

ChristmasTigger Wed 02-Jan-19 17:12:09

Thank you for all your replies. We have been focusing on training, off the sofa, positive interactions with children etc.

He seemed a lot better for a few days, then yesterday he snarled loudly at my son, who just put his hand on his back. Then lunged at me.

I realised that every time it has been when someone has touched him on his back or near his back end. Went to the vets today for advice and when she checked him over, as soon as she felt around his right hip, he started growling and then tried to bite her. He was absolutely fine with being touched everywhere else - having his mouth looked in etc, but she said he should not be reacting like that to a gentle feel - and it is only on one side.

He is going to the vet hospital tomorrow for x-days and a scan, and the vet said to separate him completely from the children and only lead walks until we find out what it is.

Pretty worried as I’ve been looking up hip problems in dogs, and realised he never sits or lies on his right side. And he only bunny hops when he runs, the vet got me to run up and down the car park so she could see.

OP’s posts: |
Celebelly Wed 02-Jan-19 18:47:28

Poor wee soul. Being in pain would explain a lot. Hopefully they can find a reason for it asap, but at least now you can maybe manage him better in the house now you've made the link. Well done for making the connection. Keep us posted!

wheelwarrior Thu 03-Jan-19 11:33:57

Has he had xrays etc today. Hope all ok

donajimena Thu 03-Jan-19 11:44:19

Hope he is ok

ChristmasTigger Fri 11-Jan-19 20:05:56

Update : when our dog went for X-rays, his hips were fine. But, and I feel absolutely terrible about this, he had fleas. The vet said “crawling all over him” shock

He wasn’t scratching, I didn’t see any and the vet who saw him at the practice didn’t see them either - he is very wiggly. He was given a treatment that will cover him for three months. The vet said that the fleas could have been making him irritable because of pain.

She referred to the vet behaviourist still, so waiting to see her.

But, he is staying off the sofa now, the kids are being very careful to not touch him from behind, and I supervise carefully. He hasn’t growled at anyone though and seems fine when I feel his hips, he seems generally calmer , so fingers crossed that it was the flea bite pain.

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Doggydoggydoggy Sat 12-Jan-19 08:25:20

Don’t feel bad about fleas.

My dog is flea allergic and I spent a great deal of time convinced she did not have fleas because there was no evidence of fleas in the coat.

A flea allergic dog can have a flea hop on, bite and hop off and be itching for weeks.

Don’t rely just on the 3 month treatment, you need to do the house aswell as this will be the source of the fleas.
Get a good flea spray that includes insect growth regulator, vacuum thoroughly and spray everything in the house, flooring, curtains, furniture, everything.

adaline Sat 12-Jan-19 08:57:24

Oh don't feel bad thanks

My old cat had an awful flea allergy and there was so sign of fleas on her whatsoever but she bit and scratched herself raw, it was horrible. She needed flea treatment with fipronil in it every month for three months, then every three months after that. She was fine smile

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