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We just got our second dog last Friday, she's Zoey's half sister (same mother) and we named her Maggie. She's been pretty good so far, she'll come when we call to her and she will go potty right away when we go outside and then come right over for a treat.. Sometimes though when we go to pick her up, she will growl at us.. it's such a tiny, insignificant growl, but a growl none the less.. and I don't know why she's doing it! Well I mean besides the obvious 'I don't want to be held right now' thing.. I don't think it is anything medical, because she only does it -sometimes-, and she doesn't seem to be hurting in any way.. but she has a vet appointment scheduled for the 20th anyway..

The first time she did it was the night we brought her home.. my in laws came over to see her and when I handed her over to my mother in law to hold, Maggie started to growl. My MIL had just put on some pretty strong smelling perfume, so we chalked it up to that, because she didn't do it again that night. Now she does it every once and a while when she's playing and you pick her up, she did it one morning when I came in to get her out of the crate.. she doesn't growl about anything else though.. she's not possessive over her food or toys and after she growls at you, she's fine being held...

I don't like that she's growling at us.. Zoey never growled at us for anything.. ever. How do I teach Maggie that growling at us is not acceptable? She doesn't respond to 'No' or anything like that yet.. But I don't want to let her carry on growling at us just to have it get worse.. Any advice??


This is the new girl btw:
 

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There's nothing inherently wrong with growling. Is she showing her teeth or snarling at you? If not, she may just be vocalizing. I have a vocal girl that makes low rumbling noises, but they don't have the intent of a growl behind them. Your dog might just be expressing, "Oh, I don't like this". She might just be groaning. For me, it's perfectly okay for them to express themselves. A warning growl or snarling is something different, but if it's just a vocalization, I wouldn't worry about it.

She's too cute for words!
 

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Growling is done out fear..feeling threatened...feeling vulnerable. Remove the fear. Practice handling without picking up. If you have to handle with one hand and feed treats with the other that's fine.

Give the treats even if you hear a growl. You are not rewarding the growl...you are changing her perception....good things happen when being handled.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
There's nothing inherently wrong with growling. Is she showing her teeth or snarling at you? If not, she may just be vocalizing. I have a vocal girl that makes low rumbling noises, but they don't have the intent of a growl behind them. Your dog might just be expressing, "Oh, I don't like this". She might just be groaning. For me, it's perfectly okay for them to express themselves. A warning growl or snarling is something different, but if it's just a vocalization, I wouldn't worry about it.

She's too cute for words!
No she doesn't snap at all or open her mouth.. just the noise.. I guess I was just worried it might escalate into that.

Growling is done out fear..feeling threatened...feeling vulnerable. Remove the fear. Practice handling without picking up. If you have to handle with one hand and feed treats with the other that's fine.

Give the treats even if you hear a growl. You are not rewarding the growl...you are changing her perception....good things happen when being handled.
Ooh.. there's an idea. She could be afraid of being lifted.. I'll try the treat thing, I think that might help! Thanks for your replies!
 

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If the growling in the vid clip is what you're talking about, I wouldn't worry about it. That's obviously play growling. Pups also complain about their treatment--like when they want to keep playing, but you want to put them in the crate for the night--but that's more in the nature of "back talking" and not a threat. Puppies can be snotty and self centered until they learn what the rules are.

The biggest danger I can see is that you'll be watching her play and your face may freeze in an idiotic grin. Then you'll have to carry pictures to show people what you're smiling at. She's killer cute. Enjoy her.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
If the growling in the vid clip is what you're talking about, I wouldn't worry about it. That's obviously play growling. Pups also complain about their treatment--like when they want to keep playing, but you want to put them in the crate for the night--but that's more in the nature of "back talking" and not a threat. Puppies can be snotty and self centered until they learn what the rules are.

The biggest danger I can see is that you'll be watching her play and your face may freeze in an idiotic grin. Then you'll have to carry pictures to show people what you're smiling at. She's killer cute. Enjoy her.
Nah I know they're just playing in the video.. I just wanted you all to hear her pathetic little growl :)
 

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OOOOOH PUPPPPPPYYYYY!

Too cute. Eatable cute. lol

I know a little Jack/Shih mix who vocalizes the entire time you handle him..sounds like vicious dog but it really is just him talking to you. His body language is all "kiss me hug me, let me lick your face" but his talking is disconcerting if you are not used to it.

The body language says much more than the vocalization...is there a freeze? Can you see the whites of her eyes? (whale eye), what is her mouth placement (lips forward, backward, grimace or lifted?) These are the things that truly help you to know what's going on in that little mind.

Just for general information: Punishing or subverting a growl through correction is never a good idea. It is the first step in a series of escalating communications...if you remove the growl the next step is a snap...no one wants a dog to snap or bite without warning. Respect the growl (if it is a true growl) as what it is, a warning. Figure out why the warning occurred and then condition to the dog through positive experiences (CC) to learn to look at the situation as a good thing, not a reason to be uncomfortable. Your groomers, vets and children will thank you for that.
 

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I say she's dangerous! Best to send her to me for safe containment. There's no telling what sort of mayhem she might create in the hands of someone who doesn't understand how to handle a killer.
 

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There have been several posts lately about growling...dogs 'challenging' their owners...being 'dominant', stubborn, willful, etc.

Dogs have only two ways (actually 3) to respond to threatening or fearful situations...either flight or fight. Both are fear based. You fix the fear...not how they respond to it.

Taking away the growl does not remove the threat or the fear....it leaves the dog with no option but to take it to the next level of self protection....a bite. This common missunderstanding of how dogs behave/react to situations is why we have so many dog bites.
 

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I have great difficulty with the concept of backing down in any way from my own dog that growls at me. To me a warning is also a challenge, and an unmet challenge empowers the challenger.
"An unmet challenge empowers the challenger." This presumes the dog is voluntarily challenging you. Fear is not operant behavior, therefore it would not follow the laws of reinforcement. Fear is a condition of the perceived threat. Escalate this threat by challenging the dog for his growl, and what choice does the dog have?

You are claiming, I think, that correcting a growl will teach a dog to bite without warning.
Or it could teach the dog to pee on himself, flee, or freeze, among other possibilities - biting being one of these fight, or flight responses. Then there's the possibility it has no effect at all.

I am, respectfully, curious as to the reasoning / evidence behind your claim.
The evidence is in the laws of classical conditioning. The extreme of which is termed learned helplessness.
 

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This will you need to expand on for me if you please.
An example: replace the tone with you + a leash, and no growl for salivation. Add this to the original threat eliciting the growl and how else can the dog respond to this escalated threat if he's associated you + leash with no growl? If he's a dog, submissive posturing is not the only innate behavior possible. Dogs respond in all kinds of ways to leash jerks (noun). Possibly the worst way (and worth the caveat) is in biting the threat or his handler.
 

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Or he can submit. Give up the bone. Get off the couch. Stop protesting whatever he is protesting.

I agree with you to a degree if it is a truly fearful dog in a fearful situation, scared of being hurt, cowering in a corner. That is not the normal situation with an owner.

I would not categorize a dog being picked up, for the hundredth time by his owner, of being asked to give a toy away, get of the couch etc in the same manner.


This will you need to expand on for me if you please.
I have owned, trained, exhibited and occasionally bred and raised Rottweilers for over 20 years. You learn fast that brawn and challenge is not the way to deal with large powerful dogs, no more than it is for smaller ones.

I prefer to use my primate brain, my most powerful training tool. ;)

Sometimes I will flood a dog who is slightly uncomfortable with a certain situation or touch. I gently repeat what is eliciting the growling behavior, and food reward all progress towards acceptance.

I teach my dogs very early that a hand approaching them is always bringing something good. Instead of punishing a dog for growling or protecting his food or resources, I teach the dog that I am always bringing something good. In this way the dog becomes safe for ANYONE to approach while he is eating or has a toy. He relaxes`because people approaching him now means something good rather than a reason for him to be anxious and try to protect his resources.

My puppy who was a growler when picked up and snuggled now is the biggest fan of head hugs I have ever had. He was carefully reconditioned to enjoy this type of contact. I work very hard on this with my dogs because it is nearly impossible to prevent people from doing it when you have your dog out in public.

Just a little food for thought and my point of view, coming from Rottweilers.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I have owned, trained, exhibited and occasionally bred and raised Rottweilers for over 20 years. You learn fast that brawn and challenge is not the way to deal with large powerful dogs, no more than it is for smaller ones.

I prefer to use my primate brain, my most powerful training tool. ;)

Sometimes I will flood a dog who is slightly uncomfortable with a certain situation or touch. I gently repeat what is eliciting the growling behavior, and food reward all progress towards acceptance.

I teach my dogs very early that a hand approaching them is always bringing something good. Instead of punishing a dog for growling or protecting his food or resources, I teach the dog that I am always bringing something good. In this way the dog becomes safe for ANYONE to approach while he is eating or has a toy. He relaxes`because people approaching him now means something good rather than a reason for him to be anxious and try to protect his resources.

My puppy who was a growler when picked up and snuggled now is the biggest fan of head hugs I have ever had. He was carefully reconditioned to enjoy this type of contact. I work very hard on this with my dogs because it is nearly impossible to prevent people from doing it when you have your dog out in public.

Just a little food for thought and my point of view, coming from Rottweilers.

That makes a lot of sense. When you conditioned the dog who would growl when picked up and snuggled, did you wait till after he stopped growling to bring in the 'good' (tasty snack I'm assuming) or did you do it while he was still growling?? I was trying it out today with some hot dog pieces but I wasn't sure if I should be waiting until after she is done or give it to her while she is still growling..
 

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In the old days we would give a correction to a growl; it was believed that an uncorrected growl would be a prelude to a bite. Dogs were expected to heed their owners warnings, not the other way around.

I have great difficulty with the concept of backing down in any way from my own dog that growls at me. To me a warning is also a challenge, and an unmet challenge empowers the challenger.

You are claiming, I think, that correcting a growl will teach a dog to bite without warning.

I am, respectfully, curious as to the reasoning / evidence behind your claim.
I believe the unmet challenge actually DISempowers the challenger. This is a paradigm shift of great proportion for many people (not only people working with dogs..lol). Think of it as "not rising to the bait". This idea of not forcing submission is not about allowing the behaviour to continue, nor to allow it to escalate...it is about changing the perception of the situation (for both dog and owner) to allow a change in the behaviour to occur.

For example:
A dog is resource guarding the couch. You are given the "eye", stiffness and a bit of a snarl. If you FORCE this dog, who has given you a series of communications (This is my couch, don't push it), the chances of a bite being delivered are high. The bite not only injures you but causes a real change in the attitude on both of your parts. The dog learns biting works and you learn not to trust your dog. Bad news for both.

If, instead, you lure the dog off the couch with food or a toy you are not being a threat to the dog and he is not a threat to you. Ask for a sit and get it. Dog is rewarded. Then you 'manage' for a period by catching the dog BEFORE he gets on the couch, ask for a sit, and reward it. Or you leave a leash on if he does manage to get on and SAFELY remove him from the couch, ask for a sit and reward the sit. What happens eventually is that the dog LEARNS it is more rewarding to be on the floor in a sit, than it is to get on the couch. Dog also learns the couch is just not that big a deal.

The basis of this is in nonconfrontational learning. It works with people too, believe me.

As for the sequence...it goes like mentioned above. Freeze (very short duration), lift of lip, if they are guarding something the head is often directed towards the "thing" but their eyes are on you. Then the growl. Then a snap (if your dog has good bite inhibition it will be a miss), then a bite, most likely a good one. Dogs are MUCH faster than humans so depending on your own speed to be able to "correct" the bite before it happens is very very risky.

Growling comes from many things and in many "tones". There is a big difference between the "I'm uncomfortable" growl and a true warning growl. A true warning growl is more likely to be very low in tone, almost so you FEEL it more than hear it. Dogs growl in play, when they are in pain, feel threatened or are guarding. This is all a form of communication and to respect our dog's communication means we can look at the "issue" and change it. NILIF is a big component of earning your dog's respect, force is unnecessary. If you take the growl out of the sequence and do not know to look for the other parts of the sequence (as many people do not, hence the "he bit me out of the blue" comments that come up in forums like this) the human is MUCH more likely to put himself in harms way.

Another point is that if you respect the growl as communication and work on the issue at hand the dog never gets the chance to "practice" the next step. This is stopping the sequence at a safe place and the dog never gets to "learn" that a bite works. Since dogs do what works..this is the safest option.

Giving up the "idea" that this behaviour is a challenge to you personally and that is based in disrespect of your 'leadership" is a tough one for us humans. Almost all aggression is based in fear or anxiety. There ARE truly handler aggressive dogs out there who do 'challenge' their owners and anyone else who happens along, but thankfully they are truly rare..but the advice for them is often the same.

I hope I managed to answer the question. I'm a bit boggled today. LOL.
 

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Or he can submit. Give up the bone. Get off the couch. Stop protesting whatever he is protesting.
Taking a dogs bone/food is a threat...making him leave a safe, secure place is a threat. This isn't about dominance or power...it's about training to prevent Resource Guarding, comfort with following commands...not a contest of wills.
 

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That makes a lot of sense. When you conditioned the dog who would growl when picked up and snuggled, did you wait till after he stopped growling to bring in the 'good' (tasty snack I'm assuming) or did you do it while he was still growling?? I was trying it out today with some hot dog pieces but I wasn't sure if I should be waiting until after she is done or give it to her while she is still growling..
I would pet, massage, and talk to the puppy and pretend like he was not growling at all. As soon as he stopped, his face got stuffed.

:D
 

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That makes a lot of sense. When you conditioned the dog who would growl when picked up and snuggled, did you wait till after he stopped growling to bring in the 'good' (tasty snack I'm assuming) or did you do it while he was still growling?? I was trying it out today with some hot dog pieces but I wasn't sure if I should be waiting until after she is done or give it to her while she is still growling..
I would suggest holding the food reward in one hand such that the dog has to nibble at it, or cup the reward in your hand such that the dog has to use her tongue to get it out. Then use your opposite hand to handle the dog at the same time you're feeding her. If she growls withdraw your handling hand and stop feeding. You're trying to paint a picture, handling + food = good, no handling + no food = ok, but definitely not as good as hot dog + handling. Repeat and handle only as much as the dog is willing to be handled without growling.
 
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