My dog growled at me for the first time!

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mjemere
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My dog growled at me for the first time!

Post by mjemere » Tue Jan 28, 2014 7:58 am

Usually when he wants to pee or poop he goes to the door and jumps at his leash. Well, for the first time he growled at me to take him out . He is very submissive and sweet so I was in shock. I hit him lightly and told him no. He rolled over on his back and gave me his belly. Thing is, the reason I ignored him was he was trying to go out earlier than usual.

Then this morning he growled again at potty time and again it was earlier than usual. I hit him again and told him "NO!" and he again rolled over and gave me his belly. Why is he all of a sudden growling at me? Its only happened twice but I dont want him to turn into an aggressive dog. He is very shy and mild mannered.

I do want to point out, the 2 times he's done this he wanted to go out 30 minutes earlier than we usually do.

Any advice??

Erica
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Re: My dog growled at me for the first time!

Post by Erica » Tue Jan 28, 2014 9:21 am

Possibly because you're hitting him?

Seriously though, why? A growl is communication. It may not even be a growl, but a low-level bark. Zeus does this too and it took a lot of training to move from rattle-the-windows-barking (if the home intrusion alarm was on, it would go off because it thought the windows were breaking) to "growl" barking. It's quiet and unobtrusive. He is not saying "TAKE ME OUTSIDE OR I WILL BITE YOU." He is saying "I need to go to the bathroom." You are hitting your dog for asking you to give him a chance to not pee in the house.

In any case, growling is not a threat. It is a statement of discomfort. It means "I don't feel comfortable with this," and by hitting him, you're telling him that you don't care what he has to say politely. If he learns not to growl, it doesn't mean he won't be uncomfortable, it means that he won't growl and will possibly go straight to biting. I know that I'm much more comfortable letting the kids pet Amadeus because I know he growls when he's not feeling well - if he growls, the kids say "Oh, sorry," and leave him alone. He doesn't have to bite. He knows that we will listen to him when he doesn't want to be hugged or messed with, when he's got a sore paw he'll tell us about it. Do not punish a growl unless you want to create a dog who doesn't warn.

I'll share a story of an acquaintance's experiences. They adopted a dog from the shelter, left her in a crate while they went shopping, came back and saw that the dog had moved the crate around, ripped up flooring, chewed up rugs, all sorts of typical separation-anxiety destruction. Instead of working with the dog, they sent her to a training school for two or three weeks. The instructors there told them it was good they had, because the dog was growling at them when they man-handled her! How dare she!

Dog comes back, lays silently in her crate when they leave, owners are happy. A few weeks later, they invite people over for a party on the Fourth of July. Fireworks, new people, and a kid who goes to say hi to the doggy in the corner. Dog probably shows some discomfort with ears back, lip licks, etc, but no growls because she'd been strangled/hit/kicked for growling at people. Kid gives her a hug, dog is SO scared, and bites the kid in the face. Dog is put down.

If the dog had growled, the kid would have had a chance to leave her alone. Instead, the dog is dead and the kid has severe facial scars.

Don't punish a growl. Cherish the communication. Figure out what the dog is unhappy about, work with them to help them feel comfortable with it or avoid the situation. In your case, just take him outside!
Delta, standard poodle, born 6/30/14

mjemere
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Re: My dog growled at me for the first time!

Post by mjemere » Tue Jan 28, 2014 9:42 am

No I shoved him after he growled? I thought he was being aggressive with me. Usually he'll wimper when he is ready to go outside to pee/poop. I dont know why he is growling now all of a sudden. In any case I will start taking him outside when he does growl, but I didnt want to encourage the growling becuase I thought it was an act of aggression.

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Nettle
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Re: My dog growled at me for the first time!

Post by Nettle » Tue Jan 28, 2014 12:09 pm

No. People often think of it as aggression, but it is communication. Dogs don't have all that many sounds to communicate with, and often they need to 'shout' before we listen.

If your dog asks to go out, you need to take him out right then when he asks. Don't worry if it isn't his usual time - bodies don't invariably act to a schedule. Just take him out and be thrilled that he asks.

Please - no more hitting your dog. Lots of people do it but it doesn't tell the dog anything except that you aren't to be trusted. If your dog does something that makes you want to hit him, think WHOAAAA about why you do, and look into your own mind about why you feel angered by whatever he has done. Then take that anger and throw it right away. But never ever hit your dog.
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emmabeth
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Re: My dog growled at me for the first time!

Post by emmabeth » Tue Jan 28, 2014 1:22 pm

Some dogs (quite a lot!) will use the growly sound as a chatty sort of communication - a couple of mine do and it is not at all a growl of 'i am threatened and feel uncomfortable', they are just talking to me in a grumbly growly sort of way.

Either way, no matter WHY your dog growls, you must never ever hit your dog - all you will achieve long term is a dog who doesn't really trust you and won't communicate freely with you - potentially then you can create a dog who bites without warning you first which is very dangerous!

Put yourself in your dogs position for a moment - imagine you had to rely on someone else for every potty break, meal, interaction - everything. Now imagine that its 10 minutes to potty break time and you are absolutely BURSTING to pee... so you try to get your persons attention ... and they come and shout NO at you and HIT you?!?!?!

You know what, in your dogs position there, I would very very quickly quit asking to go potty - instead I would sneak off and pee on your carpet somewhere because it avoids completely the 'asking, being yelled at and hit' scenario!
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mjemere
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Re: My dog growled at me for the first time!

Post by mjemere » Tue Jan 28, 2014 1:27 pm

emmabeth wrote:Some dogs (quite a lot!) will use the growly sound as a chatty sort of communication - a couple of mine do and it is not at all a growl of 'i am threatened and feel uncomfortable', they are just talking to me in a grumbly growly sort of way.

Either way, no matter WHY your dog growls, you must never ever hit your dog - all you will achieve long term is a dog who doesn't really trust you and won't communicate freely with you - potentially then you can create a dog who bites without warning you first which is very dangerous!

Put yourself in your dogs position for a moment - imagine you had to rely on someone else for every potty break, meal, interaction - everything. Now imagine that its 10 minutes to potty break time and you are absolutely BURSTING to pee... so you try to get your persons attention ... and they come and shout NO at you and HIT you?!?!?!

You know what, in your dogs position there, I would very very quickly quit asking to go potty - instead I would sneak off and pee on your carpet somewhere because it avoids completely the 'asking, being yelled at and hit' scenario!

Hmmmm ok, I never really thought about that. Honestly, its like you read so many conflicting things and I want to do the RIGHT thing here and not encourage bad behaviour nor have him lose trust in me. Thank you!

jacksdad
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Re: My dog growled at me for the first time!

Post by jacksdad » Tue Jan 28, 2014 2:19 pm

mjemere wrote:Honestly, its like you read so many conflicting things and I want to do the RIGHT thing here and not encourage bad behavior nor have him lose trust in me. Thank you!
I get that. It is hard sometimes to know who to listen to.

One of the reasons I stick around here and help and trust the advice from here is because the approach isn't to immediately squash behavior but to think through why our dog did something. Often the behavior our dogs show is a symptom of a problem, a clue to the real issue and not the issue/problem it's self.

So in your case, the growl isn't the problem, it's what caused the growl. if the cause isn't a "chatty dog" (my dog can also get vocal when having fun or excited and sometimes even sounds "aggressive" in play), then the fix is to address the cause and growling goes away. sometimes that does mean "fixing" something that our dogs are doing that is unwanted or dangerous. BUT a lot of the time it means we humans need to make an adjustment.

I know this may seem unintuitive or counter to so much advice out there, but listening to what our dogs are trying to tell us and responding appropriately will NOT encourage "bad" behavior. if anything it will decrease the chances of unwanted behavior (aka "bad").

in your case, if your dog was simply saying "hey, I need to go to the bathroom" I would strongly encourage responding and letting him know you will listen. I would not view a dog asking to go to the bathroom as encouraging "bad behavior". If your dog asks in a way that is unwanted/inappropriate, then the solution is to try and pickup that your dog needs to go out sooner when the "asking" isn't so dramatic. And the other half of the solution, teach your dog another way to ask, but you have to promise to listen.

If my dog needs to go earlier than normal, he will often start pacing and whining a bit. IF I miss this, he will come paw at my leg, that usually gets my attention and out we go. my dog does not paw at me while I am sitting at my computer unless he needs to go to the bathroom. Other times if he is just wanting attention he just sits and looks at me or lays near me. But if he needs to go to the bathroom and go now, I am ABSOLUTELY ok with him pawing me to get my attention. Better that than going to the bathroom in the house because I asked him to "hold it" too long.

Yes, there was a risk in him learning to paw at me anytime he wanted attention, but that is a much easier "problem" to fix than my dog breaking house training skills because I ignored his requests go out to the bathroom. The way I avoided him pawing me simply for attention is the vast majority of the time I proactively give him attention AND he knows that sitting and/or laying next to me gets my attention too.

A key to avoiding our dogs learning all kinds of bad/unwanted behaviors is to focus on teaching our dogs what to do. In absence of us teaching that to our dogs, they will do what is natural for a dog and often that is unwanted or misinterpreted by us humans. And that is when the conflicts occur.

JudyN
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Re: My dog growled at me for the first time!

Post by JudyN » Tue Jan 28, 2014 2:30 pm

mjemere wrote: Honestly, its like you read so many conflicting things and I want to do the RIGHT thing here and not encourage bad behaviour nor have him lose trust in me. Thank you!
I think we've all been there at times :lol: There's always a reason for 'bad' behaviour, and the thing to do is to find the reason and eliminate it, rather than punishing the behaviour. So I certainly would question why he growled when he asked to go out, as it's a new thing. Maybe it was just a new way of vocalising his need. Maybe on some occasion you responded to his request in a way that bothered him (e.g. 'But you've just BEEN out!!', or 'NO! You're not due out for another half-hour!'), so this time he was a bit stressed. Maybe one time you both tried to go out at the same time & you stood on his paw, so he's worried that will happen now... As you say he asked to go out earlier than usual, I'd keep an eye on him to rule out any urine infection. Another thought, inspired by my own dog's demons - maybe he heard a fox or something else scary and was worked up about that. Half of him wanted to go out and deal with it, the other half was scared and redirected the growl on to you.

I'm just guessing - but this is the way to go, rather than trying to suppress the behaviour.

BTW, if you treated your dog every time he growled at you, you wouldn't be reinforcing the emotions that lead to the growl - you would simply train him to growl just like any other behaviour, like sit, paw, etc. If you respond to the growl with punishment you may push him into 'proper' aggression, but if you say 'Oh GOOD growl!' you won't be encouraging anything bad.

My dog can escalate quite quickly when stressed so I have to be aware of the signs. I've noticed now that if he's not happy (say he's had enough of nail clipping) he'll breathe just a little more heavily. This is a precursor to a growl, and I'll always back off then so he knows that I listen to him and respond to him, so he doesn't need to feel anxious. It's worth watching your dog for any little early warning signs of his own.
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gwd
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Re: My dog growled at me for the first time!

Post by gwd » Tue Jan 28, 2014 3:12 pm

emmabeth wrote:Some dogs (quite a lot!) will use the growly sound as a chatty sort of communication - a couple of mine do and it is not at all a growl of 'i am threatened and feel uncomfortable', they are just talking to me in a grumbly growly sort of way.
oh this is so true. many dogs do a grumbly growl when they're trying to 'talk' ........or even a happy growl. I know mine make Chewbacca sort of sounds when they want to get my attention.

I was out of the low value treats that I normally use for the last 'quicky go pee' of the night. I had filled the cookie mug with dehydrated liver. when my dogs figured out that there was some really GOOD stuff in there, my little b*tch posted up in front of the counter and growled at the cookie jar (I'd left the lid off) for a good coupla min last night. she knows barking out loud was going to be something I shush'ed her for.........so she figured a low rumble would tell me that she really, REALLY would like another taste! I caved in but at least I made her earn it and we did a few min of training. then I did what I should have done and put the airtight lid on the jar.
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emmabeth
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Re: My dog growled at me for the first time!

Post by emmabeth » Tue Jan 28, 2014 4:57 pm

I do completely understand that it is hard to know what to do for the best at times, and there is SO much conflicting advice.

You want to act quickly to avoid some awful disaster, and... and this is my pet theory really... there is something about the growl of a dog that DOES something to the inside of a human brain. We hear a growl and, once we are old enough to know where its coming from (children up to around six years old actually don't associate the sound with the animal!) it sends our brain an ALERT message.

That message OUGHT to be 'this animal is communicating something important to you' but somewhere along the line its gotten muddled and most people react with a 'HOW DARE YOU' instinct because they are translating it as 'this animal is being rude and does not know his place and is challenging you', which is all kinds of BS but thats the way it goes most often!

I had a client last week who was astounded when his dog growled at me, and I said 'thankyou for letting me know that' .. the owner was very 'oh im so sorry bad dog' and I told him no, GOOD dog, dog who feels comfortable to TELL me he is not happy about the situation is a dog who is far less likely to bite me than one who is unhappy but CAN'T tell me about it!

Now I am pretty certain your dog is not growling out of fear - I would bet that he is just figuring out ways of getting your attention (so one thing to note is, is he getting enough attention?) - if he wasn't just trying out a new way of getting your attention though, the most likely reason would be fear, and punishing fear ... I don't think I need to spell out how nonsensical that is!

Whenever you have a situation you are unsure of - it is ALWAYS going to be safer to stop - think about why its happening/happened - take time out to ask around, t han it is to just react.

A good rule of thumb I like for 'is this method appropriate' is to ask yourself 'If I applied this method to a 2 year old child, would I be being cruel, would i be breaking the law?' - If the answer to that is yes, then don't do it. I think honestly there are very very few positive reinforcement based/force free techniques you COULDN'T morally, ethically or legally apply to a child. Some of them might get you looked at weirdly mind you!

On the flip side, there are a TON of things that force/coercion/compulsion/punishment/dominance based trainers do to dogs that would get you some jail-time if you applied them to a child!
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mjemere
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Re: My dog growled at me for the first time!

Post by mjemere » Tue Jan 28, 2014 5:27 pm

emmabeth wrote:I do completely understand that it is hard to know what to do for the best at times, and there is SO much conflicting advice.

You want to act quickly to avoid some awful disaster, and... and this is my pet theory really... there is something about the growl of a dog that DOES something to the inside of a human brain. We hear a growl and, once we are old enough to know where its coming from (children up to around six years old actually don't associate the sound with the animal!) it sends our brain an ALERT message.

That message OUGHT to be 'this animal is communicating something important to you' but somewhere along the line its gotten muddled and most people react with a 'HOW DARE YOU' instinct because they are translating it as 'this animal is being rude and does not know his place and is challenging you', which is all kinds of BS but thats the way it goes most often!

I had a client last week who was astounded when his dog growled at me, and I said 'thankyou for letting me know that' .. the owner was very 'oh im so sorry bad dog' and I told him no, GOOD dog, dog who feels comfortable to TELL me he is not happy about the situation is a dog who is far less likely to bite me than one who is unhappy but CAN'T tell me about it!

Now I am pretty certain your dog is not growling out of fear - I would bet that he is just figuring out ways of getting your attention (so one thing to note is, is he getting enough attention?) - if he wasn't just trying out a new way of getting your attention though, the most likely reason would be fear, and punishing fear ... I don't think I need to spell out how nonsensical that is!

Whenever you have a situation you are unsure of - it is ALWAYS going to be safer to stop - think about why its happening/happened - take time out to ask around, t han it is to just react.

A good rule of thumb I like for 'is this method appropriate' is to ask yourself 'If I applied this method to a 2 year old child, would I be being cruel, would i be breaking the law?' - If the answer to that is yes, then don't do it. I think honestly there are very very few positive reinforcement based/force free techniques you COULDN'T morally, ethically or legally apply to a child. Some of them might get you looked at weirdly mind you!

On the flip side, there are a TON of things that force/coercion/compulsion/punishment/dominance based trainers do to dogs that would get you some jail-time if you applied them to a child!
Yeah, this is my first dog EVER so yes when I hear a growl I think "danger" :lol: . But as I said earlier I've had Jack for 3 months now and he's very submissive so I was in shock. :shock: Yes, makes sense. A low growl or a growl period IS a form of communication for them. I'm so mad at myself that I shoved him :oops: :cry: I love him to pieces and I want to do the best for him. Thankfully, the place where I'm going to take him to training believes in positive reinforcement. OK, I'm learning as I go and I hope I do the best I can to bring out the best in him in every way! Thanks everyone for the helpful posts!!

BTW here are some pics of Jack :D

Image

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jacksdad
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Re: My dog growled at me for the first time!

Post by jacksdad » Tue Jan 28, 2014 5:49 pm

awwww... And what a great name.... :lol:

as you probably can guess from my forum name, my dog is named Jack as well.

mjemere
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Re: My dog growled at me for the first time!

Post by mjemere » Tue Jan 28, 2014 5:52 pm

jacksdad wrote:awwww... And what a great name.... :lol:

as you probably can guess from my forum name, my dog is named Jack as well.

:lol: yeah just noticed that!

emmabeth
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Re: My dog growled at me for the first time!

Post by emmabeth » Wed Jan 29, 2014 1:34 pm

Supercute little dude!
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