A friend advised you to make a point of removing the food bowl and to smack the dog if he growls. The friend said something about teaching the dog who's boss, but in all honesty, you're too scared of the dog to try this. What if it backfired? You could get badly bitten. Common sense tells you that it's best to respect the message the dog is sending out, rather than challenge him.
Happily, you spoke to a knowledgeable trainer who uses reward-based training methods. They were horrified by the idea of removing the dog's bowl as a sort of test. Instead, they explained the complexity of why dogs growl and what to do about it, so that the flashpoint of food can be avoided and the dog can continue to live with you.
Instead, it's essential to analyze why the dog is growling (is he in pain, stressed, possessive, or territorial?) and then correct the underlying problem. In the short term, how you react to the growling makes a big difference, so it's important to know what to do (and not to do) when faced with a growling dog.
This is unlikely to be a quick fix, so be prepared to put time and effort into consistently retraining the dog, improving his co-operation, and helping him overcome deep-seated anxieties.
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When guests that she knows try to walk in the apartment, my dog gets aggressive: her hackles come up, and she barks and growls. What can I do to address this? She seems scared, but her behavior is unacceptable.
Hello Michelyne, Check out Jeff Gelhman from SolidK9Training's YouTube Channel. He is a specialist in aggression and has a lot of free resources to learn more about aggression. For aggression related to people, you need to hire a professional dog trainer in your area to help you. There needs to be someone with a lot of experience present when your dog is acting aggressive, who can point out your dog's body language, discover the underlying reason for the aggression and solve that, and correctly and safely show you how to manage the aggression in the moment. Aggressive behavior can be related to a number of things and the way to treat aggression depends on the type of aggression. Without being there in person or having a whole lot more information I cannot say exactly what is going on with your dog. You dog might have territorial aggression, fear-based aggression, a lack of socialization, protective aggression, dominance related aggression, or simply be expressing frustration and excitement in an inappropriate way. Not all trainers are experienced in dealing with aggression. Only use a trainer with extensive experience with aggression. This person should be able to give referrals if requested, should use positive reinforcement, clear communication, as well as fair corrections to interrupt behavior. Most aggression issues need both positive reinforcement and correction implemented in a fair, consistent, and well communicated way. Since I do not know what type of aggression you are dealing with it is best to find a trainer who deals with a variety of types of aggression. You can also start by getting your dog accustomed to wearing a soft silicone basket muzzle. You can fine one online. If your dog is comfortable wearing that, then it will be easier and likely quicker to make progress with a trainer because you will be able to safely do more with your dog. To get her used to wearing a muzzle, show her the muzzle and give her a treat. Practice that until she is relaxed and happy, then touch the muzzle to her and give her a treat. Repeat that until she is comfortable, then hold it onto her face and give her treats through the muzzle holes while you do that. Practice that until she is comfortable, then put the muzzle on her for a couple of minutes and feed her treats through the holes while it is on her. Gradually increase the amount of time that she wears the muzzle for while being rewarded until she is completely comfortable wearing the muzzle for up to an hour without treats. Expect this process to take at least two weeks. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Just rescued her from humane society. She is very hyper and has had episodes where tears through the house and then starts snapping at us. Also met my daughters boyfriend yesterday and growled st him 3 seperate times. She is not leashed trained and seems to not have had much training st all besides sit and shake. We are going to start with trainer next week. Not sure of her past whether she was abused or not so don't want to do anything painful in training. What is your view of choke or punch collars? I am wary of these items if already having aggressive tendencies.
Hello Dottie, I never recommend choke collars that are made of one loop that can continuously tighten, opposed to martingale collars which only tighten enough to keep the collar from slipping off. Choke collars, because there is not a stopping point and because of the way they correct at the front of the throat, can potentially cause damage to the trachea, windpipe. It is also difficult to correct properly with a choke collar. The only time I would recommend one would be for a very large, strong dog, who does not pull, because these collars do tend to be strong, BUT if the dog does not pull, you would not need one then anyways. Pinch/prong collars I do recommend for some but not all dogs. They are often fitted and used wrongly though, and are ineffective and can be harmful if not put on and used incorrectly. Pinch collars are supposed to be worn high on the neck, right below the ears. They are supposed to be tight enough for all of the prongs to gently touch the dog's skin all the way around without poking into the dog at all between corrections. Fitting the collar this way creates an even correction, that distributes the pressure throughout the entire neck, not just the windpipe in the front. This even correction and the feeling of a pinch is typically far more effective at getting a dog's attention, using very little force. A good prong collar should have prongs that are at an angle and not straight down, so that the collar feels like a squeeze and does not actually poke the individual prongs into the dog's neck straight down. I always encourage people to put it on the fatest part of their own arm and feel it for themselves before they use it on their dog. You should never use a tool that you do not feel good about or understand. Also, when you are between sizes, go down in prong width, rather than up. You can always add more prong links. A good prong/pinch collar should also have prongs that are rounded on the ends. With all of that said, a dog who is behaving aggressively might need corrections, and sometimes an effective tool when used correctly can help you communicate better with your dog without having to be as close to your dog, putting yourself in harms way, and with less physical force. When it comes to aggression that is rooted in fear and not dominance, rudeness, learned behavior, genetic, or some other form of non-fear related aggression, then I would be very cautious using punishment too much. I would suggest using food rewards to get your dog used to the things that he is afraid of. Focus on changing his view of things from scary to pleasant to deal with the root cause of his aggression. You may need some corrections to interrupt him when he gets to aroused, to give you an opportunity create a different mindset for him to be open to learning, but corrections alone with him will not solve the problem. They are simply a management tool, the focus needs to be on positive reinforcement training mostly. Your main goal should be to deal with the underlying cause of his aggression, which is potentially fear and involves pairing the source of his fear with things that he loves like food. With that said, it is not black and white. Sometimes you need to use a very intentional amount of correction to stop an unwanted behavior long enough to have the opportunity to show the dog something different in a positive way. Like telling him no to one thing and yes to another thing. You should never use punishment alone, without communicating with a dog when he does something correctly also. Punishment's role is to create opportunities to teach a dog a good behavior by interrupting a bad one long enough for the dog to have the opportunity to learn, and to enforce a command that your dog already knows and is able to do but simply choosing not to. The punishment should be fair, understood, and for the purpose of teaching a dog something. The punishment does not have to be harsh, simply effective enough through consistency and by being paired with rewards for good behavior for a dog to be motivated to perform the good behavior instead of the unwanted behavior. The short answer to my very long post is that I cannot tell you whether or not you should use a prong collar for your specific dog. That is why it is very important to find a trainer that you trust. Ask questions about what the trainer is doing and why, with a desire to understand his training. A good trainer should be able to explain it and their answer should put you at ease, even if the training is hard. If their answer makes you feel uneasy or doesn't make sense, then look for another trainer or ask to do things differently. A skilled trainer should be able to train a dog in different ways, even if his first choice is the way he believes will work the fastest. Most dogs can be trained to do something two or three different ways, some ways are just more effective or much quicker or have more lasting results. Either way I do not recommend using choke collars because they can cause physical damage. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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I am adopting a dog from a rescue and he is currently in a foster home. I have not personally experienced him growling but when I was introduced to him I asked the foster parent and she said he has growled when looking at him under the table with a bone, when she tried to stop him from licking his paws too much, and another time when she felt she may have been too much in his space. How can I address these issues when I first bring him home?
Hello Bella, First, look into hiring a local trainer to come to your home and help you. Since this dog does not know you, is large, and is an adult, you need to take precautions to avoid possibly being bitten when you work on these issues. Get professional help so that you guys get off to the right start and he learns to trust and respect you before he gives you attitude. He likely needs a lot of structure and boundaries right off the bat to build his respect for you without you having to be overly confrontational. Structured obedience training and making him work for the things that he wants are good ways to do that. Check out the article that I have linked below and follow the "Obedience" and the "Working" methods under the supervision of a trainer. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you The next part of addressing his growling is to get him used to being handled. You will need a trainer to help you do this safely. Get Willie used to wearing a soft silicone basket muzzle when he arrives. Once he is comfortable wearing the basket muzzle, then practice gently touching him and giving him a treat every time you touch him. Do this while he is wearing the muzzle. A basket muzzle will let him open his mouth up and receive treats through the muzzle's holes still. You need to have him wear a muzzle at first because you do not know how he will react to every location you touch or how predictable his reactions will be. If done correctly this exercise should be pleasant for him, especially if the muzzle is introduced properly, which I will go over. The way this should work is to touch an ear and give him a treat, touch his paw and give him a treat, touch his tail and give him a treat, touch his belly and give him a treat, touch his muzzle and give him a treat. You will repeat this with his entire body, spending the most time on the areas he seems worried about. Be extra gentle with those areas though. You can also do this at meal times and feed him his entire dinner one piece at a time this way for a couple of months whenever you get the chance. To get him used to wearing a muzzle show him the muzzle and give him a treat. Practice that until he likes it. Next, touch it to him and give him a treat. Repeat that until he is comfortable with it. Next, hold it on his face and give him a treat. Repeat until he is comfortable with that. Next, hold it on his face for longer, and while you are holding it feed him treats through the muzzle's holes. Do that until he is comfortable with that. Finally, put it on him for a few minutes and give him treats while he is wearing it, then take it off again. Gradually increase how long he wears it for and space your treats further and further apart until you do not need treats anymore. Do not rush this process. You want him to become comfortable wearing it. Expect this to take a couple of weeks or longer if he is shy. Also, work on teaching him the "Drop It" and "Leave It" commands in a positive way. Once he understands those commands practice trading him one toy that he has for a more loved toy, or a bone for a treat that he likes better than the bone. You want to build his trust and teach him that giving you something of his will be pleasant for him. You essentially trade him his lesser item for your better item. That is going to be half of the picture. The other half will be building his respect for you. To effectively deal with possessive behavior, which is what the growling over the bone was, you need to build both trust and respect. Willie needs to know that you are in charge and everything belongs to you, but he needs to learn that you are a trustworthy leader also. Get a trainer to help you. Working on these issues with a trainer should also form a good foundation for your relationship together early on, since trust and respect are vital to other areas of your relationship too. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Hi, jack has recently started growling at our little girl since she began walking, he is fine in the garden but in the house he growls anytime she is getting close to him and runs away so maybe its a fear issue, is there anyway of solving this problem?? Thanks, Tim!!!
Hello Tim, I would highly suggest hiring a local trainer with experience dealing with aggression and fear since this could potentially become a larger issue. It sounds like fear aggression and a need for more tolerance. Get Jack used to wearing a soft silicone basket muzzle. To do so show him the muzzle and give him a treat. Repeat this until he is comfortable with seeing it. Next, touch the muzzle to him and give him a treat when you do. Repeat this until he is relaxed and happy also. Next, hold the muzzle against his face and give him a treat. Repeat this as well. Next, hold the muzzle for longer and feed him treats through the muzzle's holes while it is against him. Finally, put the muzzle on him for a couple minutes and feed treats through the holes, then take it off again. Gradually increase how long he wear the muzzle for as he becomes more comfortable with it, also gradually space your treats further apart until he does not need them for as long. Expect all of this to take a couple of weeks practicing once per day. While you are getting him used to the muzzle also get him used to being touched and handled by yourself more. Do this by touching an area of his body and feeding him a treat everytime you touch. Touch his ear and feed a treat. Touch his tail and feed a treat. Touch a paw and feed a treat. Repeat this with his muzzle, his belly, his chest, his head, and everywhere else do this until he enjoys being touched in those places. Practice this with all of the older members of the household. When he can do it with all the older people, then put the muzzle on him and practice this with your son touching him. Guide his hands so that he will be gentle and either the one to feed the treats through the muzzle or help your son to. The idea is to help Jack associate your son's touch with pleasant things. Also, work on rewarding Jack whenever your son is around for being calm, in his presence, and tolerant. You can have your son toss treat if he can or help him feed it out of his hand, or toss it yourself until he is old enough to do it. As soon as your son leaves stop the treats so that it is associated just with him. Finally, do not let your son get in Jack's space, touch him when he does not want to be, or pester him. Teach Jack to leave the area or go some place where your son cannot get to him when your son won't leave him alone. They should both learn to leave each other alone with your supervision and help. Anytime you catch your son in his space, which you want to avoid but real life happens, if Jack is being tolerant then give him several treats and remove your son so that Jack does not feel like he has to do something about the situation. Discipline Jack with a stern but calm attitude when he act inappropriately toward your son. Jack needs to feel like you are handling the situation and make the rules so that he does not have to with your son. They both need boundaries and structured ways to play together as your son gets okder, like treat training and fetch, not chase or wrestking. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Sometimes when Violet gets a hold of something she that is not hers or that she isn’t supposed to have, she growls. We want her to drop it and she occasionally does, but sometimes she gets aggressive and won’t give it up unless we use a treat to lure her away. We are not sure what to do.
Hello Bree, First, I recommend teaching her the "Drop It" command using the "Drop It" method from the article that I have linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/not-guard-toys-1 Second, once Violet knows "Drop It", then instead of chasing her down with the item tell her to "Drop It". If she does, then reward her with one of her own toys or a treat or genuine affection and praise. If she disobeys at this point, now that she knows "Drop It", then correct her. When you correct her you want to avoid a potential bite so you need to be able to correct remotely. I highly suggest hiring a very experienced trainer who can train with electric collar stimulation or vibration if she will respond to just vibration. You can buy a high quality dogtra, garmin, e-collar technologies, or sportdog collar with a lot of stimulation levels and often vibration to choose from. Get a good quality collar that has at least fifty levels so that you can use the lowest level of fair correction that she will respond to. A qualified trainer should be able to help you with choosing a collar and stimulation level too. E-collar technologies mini educator or EZ-900 are a good general choices. The correction should be for clear disobedience though for something she has been taught and knows how to do, e.i. "Drop It". You do not want to simply start correcting her without teaching "Drop It" and rewarding obedience first or you can actually make the resource guarding worse. You should also continue to heavily praise and reward obedience in this area in the future, even if that reward is just one of her own toys. Be very careful addressing this on your own. I strongly advise hiring someone who can help you using electric collars. Check out this video on using corrections properly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpTeJRHqHVw Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Daisy is good with dogs and cats but she growls whenever someone comes near her when she is laying down. Doesnt matter if she is on the couch or in the bed she growls. I have 2 children and a baby on the way so we want to try to figure out how to get her to stop and not act so aggressive. She has bitten my 6 yo daughter already but I think it was because she wouldn't let her go and was constantly trying to hold her. I am working with my daughter to teach her to not be so smothering with her. She is fine with her as long as she gets to make the decision of when she gets love. My husband doesnt want to have an unpredictable dog with a new baby so I'd like to fix it now. Do you think I need to get a professional trainer? Thanks for any advise.
Hello Courtney, I would absolutely recommend hiring a professional trainer who will come to your home and work with you, and incorporate the kids into the practice sessions. You want someone to show you how to desensitize Daisy to being touched, by practicing pairing treats with food. You can get Daisy used to wearing a soft silicone basket muzzle for this when you get ready to incorporate the kids. Done right, the muzzle shouldn't be a big deal for her to wear. A basket muzzle will let her open her mouth still and will have holes for you to pass treats through to her while the kids gently touch her one at a time. You want to find a trainer who will desensitize her with treats to being approached while she is laying down, so that she expects those interactions to be positive. You also want someone who will use fair corrections when needed, when she does try to control a situation through her aggression. Daisy needs structure and some new boundaries and respect training. Essentially you want someone who has successfully dealt with your type of issue and who will use a lot of positive reinforcement but also work on discipline and boundaries where needed. You want Daisy to learn that it is never acceptable to use aggression toward people, but also that if she is tolerant, then she can trust people and the experience will be pleasant when she cooperates. Both respect and trust need to be build. You need a professional there to teach you because of the delicate nature of the situation with the kids, and because someone needs to do this with you in real time where you can read Daisy's body language and learn how to physically get her used to being handled and approached, which requires demonstration. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Is being aggressive to my husband (if he is in my lap or close to me) if he comes near me
Hello Betsy, Odie needs some strict house rules. By acting the way he is he is communicating that You belong to Him. This is not alright. First, every time that you give him anything that he wants: petting, affection, meals, treats, toys, walks, or anything else that he wants, make him do a command first, like Sit. Second, he is no longer allowed to touch you unless you initiate the interaction for now. If he tries to climb into your lap without being invited, stand up! When you are ready to invited him, then pat your lap or the spot next to you and give him a command, such as "Here". Work on teaching him the "Off" command using treats. During training sessions, encourage him onto the couch and tell him "Up". When he jumps up, give him the treat. Next, tell him "Off" and encourage him to jump onto the floor. When he does so, then praise him and give him a treat. After practicing this five times, only give him a treat during the "Off" command, not the "Up" command. Do this while he is wearing a four or six-foot leash and if he refuses to get off, use the leash to quickly and smoothly move him off the couch. He is likely claiming the furniture too, so be patient but very firm about him getting off. Have your husband practice the "Off" command with him and any other commands that he knows, to gently build respect for your husband too. Finally, teach him the "Out" command. To teach this, call him over to you with a large treat in your hand. Tell him "Out" and toss the treat a few feet away, in the direction where you would like him to go. Point your index finger with your throwing hand when you do this. Make the toss exaggerated and slow enough for him to see where the treat goes. If he misses it, then toss another. Practice this until he begins to anticipate you throwing a treat and goes to where the treat will be before you throw it. When he does this, praise him and toss several treats to him over there. After each repetition, tell him "Okay" to communicate that he can come back to you. This will be important later. Once he is anticipating the treats being thrown, then give him the command and make the same hand gesture, but wait until he moves at least part of the way there before you toss the treat to him. When he can do all of this, then start using "Out" in every day life. Whenever he is being pushy, being nasty toward you husband, trying to block your husband from getting to you, nudging you to be petting, climbing into your lap uninvited, or generally just acting like he is in charge, tell him "Out" to make him leave the room. When he disobeys your "Out" command at some point, then get in front of him, tell him "Ah Ah", and calmly but sternly walk toward him until he backs out of the room. Block him from getting around you until he gives up and leaves the area completely, sits, or lays down. He can do whatever he wants, he just can't go back to the area where you told him to leave, until you tell him "Okay". When he stops trying to get around you and you can walk away, if he follows you back into the area while you are leaving, then repeat walking toward him again. Do this as many times as it takes for him to stay out of the area until invited back in. Expect to repeat this a lot at first. You are completely changing the dynamics of your household, so he is likely to try to push the boundaries at first. Ultimately, all of these things should also help him to relax and be more tolerant in general though, so it's also for his benefit. Right now, he is likely constantly trying to control things, instead of trusting you. The goal is to gently but firmly build trust and respect for you and your husband and give him clear boundaries. If you are struggling to implement the training, then hire a trainer to come to your home. Ask a lot of questions to find out how they train and if they have experience with aggression. You want someone who knows how to also handle aggression that is not fear-based. Many trainers only know how to treat fear-based aggression and the treatment can be different for fear-based aggression vs. things like possessiveness. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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We rescued dakota about 3 days ago. She growls at our puppies that we've had for a while though when they're trying to play with her and just jump into bed with her. Were scared she might bite on of these days.
Hello Courtney, I suggest you hire a professional trainer who is experienced with evaluating aggression and have the trainer evaulate the dogs. The growling could be a harmless and controlled warning in response to the puppies being rude and not following canine etiquette for how to interact, it could be a play growl, or it could be something dangerous. I suspect part of the issue is the puppies' behavior too. In order to know for sure what needs to happen between the dogs someone experienced needs to watch them together. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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