Cavachon started growling at my son

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Joined:Mon Aug 27, 2018 1:46 pm
Cavachon started growling at my son

Post by Pennydog » Sat Sep 01, 2018 7:42 am

We have an 18 month old cavachon (cavalier spaniel/bichon) called Molly. She lives in our home, which is well sized with a medium sized garden, with space to run and play. She makes good use of the space. My husband and I have 3 sons, one away at university, one who is 17 and another at 14. The 14 year old plays a lot with her. She is fully toilet trained and usually a lovely temperament. She is happy for a shampoo every week and is happy enough during daily grooming . We need to do this as her coat is prone to tangle if left. She is very attached to my husband and sits with him on the sofa most evenings. I admit she sleeps on our bed.she sneaks upstairs in the evenings and hides under the bed until we get into bed, then she jumps up. If we make a move without her in the evening she is like glue in case she gets left downstairs. She has a bed which she uses in the day sometimes.
That is the background. The problem is with my 17 year old son. She growls when he comes near her on sofa when sitting with my husband or in our bed at night when he pops in to say goodnight. She has even snapped at his hand when he has tried to pick her up. This is within the last month only. I have told him not to wake her when asleep and he has since respected this. I have told him not to cuddle her tight as she won’t like this, and he understands that this can feel threatening. Molly is normally friendly, but we are also trying to tackle the issue of jumping up on guests and mouthing/ snapping at their hands in excitement. She is not afraid of strangers and is mostly ok with other dogs unless they play rough. I am worried about how this problem may grow and don’t know what to do. At the moment we tell her no and put her on the floor when she growls at him. Don’t know if this is right or not! It’s certainly not changing things. All advice gratefully received as I know she is a good dog, but we are getting something wrong for her.

Joined:Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:48 pm

Re: Cavachon started growling at my son

Post by jacksdad » Sat Sep 01, 2018 4:01 pm

Pennydog wrote:
Sat Sep 01, 2018 7:42 am
I admit she sleeps on our bed.....
no worries and at the moment I do not see any reason to discontinue this.
The problem is with my 17 year old son....
The first thing to do is look at how your 17 year old has interacted with Molly. Try to do this as "detached" as possible. people regularly do things with/to dogs that dogs don't like and it isn't always with bad intentions. They think they are being fun, or they think dogs like what they are doing. Maybe some due, and so they keep doing it..... then they run into the one dog that doesn't.

look at how he approaches
how he pets and or touches
is he missing the "not into this" or "not into this right now" signals? is the dog trying to get away, is the dog fussing and using paws to push away, using their mouth "playfully" etc. all can be signs the dog is gently trying to say STOP!!

you already notices he cuddles too tight as well as bothering her while she sleeps. good catches.

how often does he interact with her? is he around the house a lot? or due to his age, does his schedule have him away more than home? is very into dogs?

When she plays with your 14 year old, how do they play and interact that is different? this might help you guide your 17 year old.

One bit of advice people often give will be to have your 17 year old increase his interaction. take on some feeding, take for walks etc. I am going to suggest not going that path. If their relationship is off to a rocky start, it is often better to back off. reduce interaction, do some ignoring of the dog by the 17 year old. Basically take the pressure off Molly. Let her approach your 17 year old. let her initiate contact and so forth.

as for growling when sitting with your husband on the couch and the 17 year old approaches. for this we counter condition and I am going to have save this for later as I have run out of time. But in a nut shell we look at what triggers the growl. just entering the room? or is entering the room ok, and it is entering and approaching couch? if so, any approach or when the approach gets to about 2 feet from the couch or 5 feet? These details are helpful because it tells us more specifically what actions by your son have come to predict something your dog doesn't want to happen. hence the growl. we then change (aka counter conditioning) what those things predict.

If you don't know, that is ok. We can make some assumptions for where to start as this isn't that unheard of an issue. What we don't want is you setting up the situation and trying different things in order to trigger the growl to get specifics. this carries risk. risk of pushing things too far and rather than a growl, you get a bite.

I will explain how to counter condition in my next post.

Joined:Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:48 pm

Re: Cavachon started growling at my son

Post by jacksdad » Thu Sep 06, 2018 8:46 pm

sorry it took so long to get back to this.

one thing I forgot to mention in my previous post, the growl it's self. think of that as the symptom and not the problem. If we only focus on stopping the growl, that would be like taking aspirin for a broken arm, but not fixing the underlying break. The growl is our early warning the dog is uncomfortable about something. If your dog growls, something isn't right and some kind of change needs to happen. sometimes the change needs to happen with us, and times the dog needs to change and sometimes it is we both need to change.

Counter Conditioning is simply changing an existing behavior. And there is a couple ways to approach what sounds like a guarding issue with your dog. your dog guarding you/husband from your son.

The first thing I want your 17 year old to do is stop picking Molly up, touching, trying to cuddle, approach or interact in anyway with Molly while she is asleep. lets keep this simple, he is to NOT initiate interaction with Molly to start. IF she chooses to go to him, that is ok. If she does approach or solicit attention from him, coach him what to do.

For example, pet for 3 seconds on safe spots of her body such as her back, chest, shoulders. then stop. observe what she does. does she truly look to be wanting more? does she scoot away etc.

also don't do things like then pick her up, try to hold her etc. it is entirely possible he may never be able to do those things again. BUT if he wants a fighting chance to be able to have that kind of relationship with her, he can't be doing any of it at this time.

now for the counter conditioning -

lets use the husband sitting on the couch scenario. be very specific what triggers the growl. son walking into room. son being in room is ok, but not approaching. Approaching is ok, but not sitting on the couch.

once you define exactly what triggers the growl or as close as you can, you can either use Desensitization and Classical Conditioning to change whatever it is your son is doing to predict something new. That something new is often a bit of food. Son does X and that triggers hot dogs to be offered to Molly.

The other option is to teach Molly an alternate behavior. Son about to X means Molly does Y and Y makes hot dogs (or whatever you are using) happen.

I am actually going to suggest going this the alternate behavior option. To illustrate, I am going to assume Molly is ok with your son walking into the room. this causes no issues. but soon as he is within 3 feet of the couch and going to sit down next to dad she starts growling. Also assuming she is siting on his lap. this is simply to illustrate. adjust to what is actually happening.

Step one.

without your son in the picture, Molly to move of husbands lap (if that is where she is when she starts growling) and sit or lay next to him. Once she can do that on cue (cue is the word you use to tell your dog to do something. I would not use sit in this case) such as next to me, then add the son back into the picture

Step two.

have your husband on the couch with Molly on his lap. Then have son walk into the room, approach the couch, but stop 4 feet away. remember, 3 feet is when Molly is triggered to growl. We don't want to start at the point of the issue, we want to start BEFORE the issue happens.

husband cues Molly to move to his right. Molly moves to the right and lays down. This earns hot dog.

son then sits down on the couch on you husband's left, as far away as possible.

Husband is still giving small bits of hot dog. son counts to 5, gets up and walks away. soon as son gets up and walks away, husband stops hot dogs.

And you build from there.

Things you would do is....

Son approaches closer, once 4 feet away is easy, move to 3.5 feet etc until your son can make it all the way to the couch without Molly growling

also son moving closer to dad. say as far away as he can be is 4 feet when sitting on the couch, move a little bit closer as Molly shows she is relaxed with him sitting there until he is next to dad or as next to as would be normal if dad is on the couch, son wants to join him and Molly wasn't around.

Duration, above I said son sits for 5 seconds, extend that time a little at a time. now for this, once 5 seconds is really solid. once son sits down, it takes 7 seconds before hot dogs happen. then wait an additional 5 seconds and then get up and walk way.

I have tried to show how you break it down and make it easy on Molly to get it right. how you move forward, how you slowly make it harder for Molly to earn the hot dog.

Not being there you will have to kind of feel out how fast to move, and what alternate behaviors you want to have Molly perform.

Please, please if you have any questions do post, ask.

Joined:Mon Aug 27, 2018 1:46 pm

Re: Cavachon started growling at my son

Post by Pennydog » Wed Sep 26, 2018 12:09 pm

Thank you so much for this post, and for the time you have taken to give so much detail. The trigger is most definitely when his hands go to pick her up from next to my husband, so right up close. I’m going to go through everything you have suggested with the family so we can carry out the plan together, and support my son. I’m sure I’ll have questions when we get started. Again thanks so much.

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Joined:Sun Apr 13, 2008 1:40 pm

Re: Cavachon started growling at my son

Post by Nettle » Thu Sep 27, 2018 3:27 am

Most dogs hate being picked up, so it really is best to arrange their lives so that we never have to. :)
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog


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