Boundries on play growling?

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Joined:Sun May 30, 2010 1:03 pm
Boundries on play growling?

Post by ANB723 » Thu Dec 02, 2010 9:35 pm

Hi! I haven't formally introduced myself but I have a year old dachshund/spaniel mix named Cash. We adopted him a little over two months ago from a local rescue.

He is a great little dog and has been a wonderful new family member. He is always so happy and loves being with everybody and playing with all of the dogs that he meets. He is smart too as he now pretty much knows how to wait at the door and will do this automatically without a command even, sit, down, stay (still working on lengthening), come (he understands but is stubborn and is not 100% reliable on this if I don't have treats), beg, up, off, stay off (stays off whatever surface I'm on until invited back up, I use this for when I have food), etc.

I work at a dog boarding facility and will bring him often with me and put him in playgroup with other dogs if there's room. He's been a pretty good participant although he's known to get very excited and sometimes rough with the other dogs although he is getting a lot better and is learning. He also likes to grab tails which I have been continuously working on with him. And he doesn't always know when to leave dogs alone but again, he's getting a lot better at it. Just takes time, I think. He also goes to dog parks with me where he's a little more chill and plays nicer although he has also been known to grab collars and dash out of the gates when dogs are leaving/coming in. I always reprimand him when I see him grab a collar and I always go after him when he runs for the gate. It doesn't matter how far away he is either, he always makes it to the gate just in time to slip out. Luckily they have double gates so he never gets fully out. He did this with our doors which is why we taught him to wait.

We have started fostering dogs from the same rescue that we adopted him from and he's been pretty good and accepting. My problem is he play growls all the time with the other dogs. He has not done this at all at both my workplace or at the dog park. He's almost constantly growling unless I remove him or if he's tired. He has also been possessive over his toys even though we bought new ones specifically for the purpose that they would be both dog's toys and we will take them away when the foster dog leaves. He doesn't really get aggressive although he does growl but it's not the pull the upper-lip up and snarl kind of growl. He always goes after whatever toy she has even if she isn't playing with him or he has a toy to himself. He will happily play tug or keep-away with the other dog, he is just always play growling. There have been a few times when he has yelped or snapped. She is quite a bit bigger than him and I feel if he needs to warn her to back off then he's very much allowed to do that. She is also a puppy and is still learning so I figured it's good for her. I have been backing him off though if he seems to "go after" her, as in taking another snap when not really necessary.

Now, I started out by not allowing him to growl and if he didn't listen when I asked him to stop then I removed him for a few. This worked to an extent but he still growls when they play tug and at inopportune times when I am not able to remove him and he does not listen when I ask him to. Now, I'm doubting if I should be stopping him. I guess I just don't know what the right thing is do.

So my questions are:
1. Should I let him hash it out with her and continue to let him growl and warn her when needed (he only goes as far as to snap, he is not an aggressive dog by any means)? Should I do what I was doing earlier with removing him?
2. What about the grabbing the tail? Is there is useful method or deterring him from this?
3. And about grabbing the collars? Same as above.
4. Anything I can do further to keep him from dashing for the gate when dogs come in/leave? I feel it's a bit intimidating for the dogs too that are coming in.

Thank you for reading my novel!!

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Re: Boundries on play growling?

Post by Fundog » Thu Dec 02, 2010 10:47 pm

What you need to understand is, that growling is only a means of communication. Since dogs are incapable of human speech, the only vocalization they have are growls and barks and so forth. The growls and barks can mean a variety of things, from "I'm sooo excited!" to "I'm uncomfortable; please stop." Just as we encourage our preschool humans to "use your words" to express themselves, instead of hitting and biting, a dog should never be "punished" for "using his words." Instead, this form of communication needs to be validated, and honored-- by backing away from the dog, or changing the game to a quieter activity if the excitement level is getting out of control. Trust me-- you WANT your dog to "talk" to you about how he's feeling, because if you suppress this, he may begin to just attack/bite without warning, thinking that communicating is bad.

As for the play growling, it is quite normal. My two dogs do a lot of it when they play, but so far I have never had cause to stop a game for it getting out of control. And just as with preschool humans, distraction is the most effective way of changing an inappropriate/out of control behavior to a different activity. With my two, when I want them to settle down for a bit of quiet time, I just give them each something to chew on, and they forget all about what had them so hyped up! :D
If an opportunity comes to you in life, say yes first, even if you don't know how to do it.

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Re: Boundries on play growling?

Post by ANB723 » Wed Dec 08, 2010 9:52 pm

Okay, that's along the lines of what I was thinking. When he does seem to have had enough, I've been backing her off as well. She is still young and needs a little help in learning what is expected.

Thanks for the advice!

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Re: Boundries on play growling?

Post by ***Melissa*** » Thu Dec 09, 2010 5:55 am


I also have two dogs how will growl when playing, but like Fundog, I never had an incident where it escalates to a point where I had to interfere. Ditto what Fundog said - if I need them to be calm I give each of them something to keep them busy. However, if your dogs play, and they get too excited, you need to interfere - ditto Fundog - distraction is the best option.

It is very important to learn when a dog is play growling, or when it's a "I'm scared / uncomforabtle / stay away from me growl".

For some general info on growling, aggression, playing, body language you can read through these threads - great info in them: :wink:

Dog's body language

He only wants to play

Aggression - some things to think about

Understanding agression

If a dog growls (not play growling) or snaps at him, it is the dog's way of telling him to back off. If he doesn't listen to the dog, the dog may come to a point where he will bite. So yes, continue to remove him from a dog if a dog tells him off. :wink:

For grabbing of the tail and collars -
When he does this, IMMEDIATELY give him a time out.
General tips on time outs: Time outs should only last about 5 to 10 seconds, and should be somewhere where the dog is not required to stay under normal circumstances (time outs should NOT be in a crate, bed, safe place, or room where the dog sleeps or have to stay during the day, etc). I usually use the bathroom for time outs.
Another option is to remove yourself (or other person, dog, whatever is causing your dog to display the behaviour you don't want) from the room for 5 to 10 seconds.
Time outs only work if the dog gets a time out EVERY TIME. If, for example, you give time outs when you are with your dog, but there are other times when the dogs are unattended you won't know when it happens, he won't get a time out, and it won't work. So while it's a work in progress - manage it while you can't supervise, don't let him have the opportunity to display the unwanted behaviour.
Also, time outs may take a while to work. So it will probably mean for the first few days you are going to give a million time outs (that's normal), then he will probably get worse (he's trying harder, like pressing the button of the remote when you know the batteries died), but just continue giving him time outs. After that he will give up.
Time outs are hard work and very frustrating, so be prepared :D

As for him dashing for the gate -
Keep him on lead, or even on a long line when at the dog park (for now). In the meantime, practise his recall by using this method:

I hope this helps :wink:
There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face. ~Ben Williams

Joined:Sun May 30, 2010 1:03 pm

Re: Boundries on play growling?

Post by ANB723 » Mon Dec 13, 2010 11:06 pm

Thank you very much for the information! I'll definitely be using time-outs as much as I can. I've used them with him before and the good thing is, he is easily effected from the forms of discipline that outsmart him such as time-outs or taking an item away. He's like a child where taking things or time away gets the best results ;)

As for the dog park, having him on a leash or a long line really isn't a great option for him. As much as he plays and as rolly-polly as he is, it would wrap the other dogs and himself up instantly. My only idea with that is to get his attention before he sees somebody leave or come in but he's pretty fast and if he will pay attention is not always guaranteed. We're building up his recall more and more but that's his weaker obedient side. He's great on everything else and/or if I have treats but his recall and getting his attention is still building and considering I've only had him 2 months, I can only expect him to improve in time and with more training time in from me. I do try to regularly take him to the local park on a long line working on recall and staying near on a loose leash however I need to get a 50 foot(it's currently 30 ft) because even though he's only 17 lbs, he often makes it to the end of the line and I know that's frowned upon.

I've thought about training him to come to a whistle. I would feel weird being the only one in the dog park calling my dog back on the whistle but if it works, then I really can't complain! :)

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