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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I want to know if these behaviors are tolerable or not. I have a Jack Russel Terrier/Unknown Breed, 8 month old, female dog which I got about 7 days ago. Unlike most JRTs, she is very mellow. She occasionally growls at people she has not seen before (or even people she hasn't seen in a few days) when they get near her when she is sleeping.

She did this sort of thing quite a bit, to almost every person in my household during the first two days.

For example, on the first two days we had her, she (appeared?) liked my auntie. She was comfortable with being carried around by her and being pet by her. The auntie then went away for the next 5 days (traveling). When she came back (at around 21:00), my dog was sleeping. My dog then opened her eyes and made a low growl at her twice. She then calmed down, sniffed her hand, and then let the her pet her.

Is this behaviour excusable, that she growls at unknown people who cause her to wake up?

Also, on the third day, she seemed to be comfortable with me (her "master" is likely my sister), but when I ran noisily up the stairs to being near the room she was in, she looked in my direction and growled+barked. A few minutes later when I came back, she was calm again and licked me. My theory was that my noisy entry spooked her. Should she have been repremanded for this too, or no?

Thanks!
 

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Do not reprimand a growl. A growl is not aggression; a growl is a warning that aggression is going to follow. It's basically saying "I'm not really comfortable with this, please stop." If a dog is discouraged from growling, she will eventually resort to biting without warning at all, which is even more dangerous than a dog that growls to let you know that she's not happy with what's going on.

I really wouldn't worry about this if I were you. She's only been around a week -- she's naturally wary, and possibly feeling quite vulnerable. She may always feel defensive when people wake her up or when she is startled by loud noises, but she will most likely get used to it as she settles in and is assured that this new environment poses no threat to her.

If she is sleeping and you (or anyone) are approaching, try whistling, saying her name or clapping your hands as you get nearer. It's not uncommon for dogs to instinctively snap if they are suddenly awoken. It's more biological predisposition than an issue with temperament.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
OK, thanks for that!

Also, I had a handyman come over to do some work, and she seems to be threatened by him. She won't stop growling at him. Everybody else she has quickly gotten used to, but she growls at my handyman consistently. She even avoid any area where she saw him for about an hour. I think it may be because he is a big guy; and my dog is comparatively small. How can I stop her from being afraid of him, and will she ever stop doing that?

I worry because I have reletives coming to stay with us for a while, and they could also be classified into the category of "large people". They are somewhat afraid of dogs, and would probably not think good of us if our dog were to constantly growl at them.
 

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OK, thanks for that!

Also, I had a handyman come over to do some work, and she seems to be threatened by him. She won't stop growling at him. Everybody else she has quickly gotten used to, but she growls at my handyman consistently. She even avoid any area where she saw him for about an hour. I think it may be because he is a big guy; and my dog is comparatively small. How can I stop her from being afraid of him, and will she ever stop doing that?

I worry because I have reletives coming to stay with us for a while, and they could also be classified into the category of "large people". They are somewhat afraid of dogs, and would probably not think good of us if our dog were to constantly growl at them.
I personally don't think this behaviour should be allowed whatsoever. If you allow it to growl and be on edge like that, a bite is soon to follow. Your dog is clearly and quickly establishing leadership and that shift needs to happen.

YOU are the dogs leader, and according to her, there are threatening things happening and you are not doing anything. She is protecting her pack and you are allowing it, it will only escalate if left un-corrected.
 

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I have a rat terrier. I would do some reading up on terriers in general if I were you. They tend to be great "guard dogs" because of their territorial nature. However, there are things you can (and should) do to make her more stranger-friendly.

When we first got Ranger, he was extremely friendly to us. But the first friends we had over, he growled at. It completely took us by surprise. He even lunged at a handyman that came to our house. At that point I decided I'd better see if there was something I could do.

Two things that I found that work beautifully with him are:

1. Taking him on a leash outside to meet the new people coming to our house. I give them treats to give him and usually we can go back in the house without any incident.

2. If they are people he's met before, I just give them treats to give him as soon as they come in the door. He thinks this is awesome and will likely follow them around hoping for more treats.

I would also just tell your guests not to bother the dog when she's sleeping. Honestly, that's just common sense. I also tell people just to ignore Ranger until he gets used to them. (It's hard because he's so darn cute!) These things have worked really well for us.

But the best thing you can do is to enroll in an obedience class with your dog. This will solidify your place as the pack leader, which makes the dog feel more comfortable and like they don't have to be on guard all the time. They feel like, "okay...they've got it under control. I can relax."

Good luck and enjoy your new dog. There's nothin' like a terrier, IMO!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
I personally don't think this behaviour should be allowed whatsoever. If you allow it to growl and be on edge like that, a bite is soon to follow. Your dog is clearly and quickly establishing leadership and that shift needs to happen.

YOU are the dogs leader, and according to her, there are threatening things happening and you are not doing anything. She is protecting her pack and you are allowing it, it will only escalate if left un-corrected.
I have a rat terrier. I would do some reading up on terriers in general if I were you. They tend to be great "guard dogs" because of their territorial nature. However, there are things you can (and should) do to make her more stranger-friendly.

When we first got Ranger, he was extremely friendly to us. But the first friends we had over, he growled at. It completely took us by surprise. He even lunged at a handyman that came to our house. At that point I decided I'd better see if there was something I could do.

Two things that I found that work beautifully with him are:

1. Taking him on a leash outside to meet the new people coming to our house. I give them treats to give him and usually we can go back in the house without any incident.

2. If they are people he's met before, I just give them treats to give him as soon as they come in the door. He thinks this is awesome and will likely follow them around hoping for more treats.

I would also just tell your guests not to bother the dog when she's sleeping. Honestly, that's just common sense. I also tell people just to ignore Ranger until he gets used to them. (It's hard because he's so darn cute!) These things have worked really well for us.

But the best thing you can do is to enroll in an obedience class with your dog. This will solidify your place as the pack leader, which makes the dog feel more comfortable and like they don't have to be on guard all the time. They feel like, "okay...they've got it under control. I can relax."

Good luck and enjoy your new dog. There's nothin' like a terrier, IMO!
Thanks to both of you for your advice! Well, we had the Handyman over today again, and she didn't (outwardly) seem to be hostile to him. She looked pretty calm. So I think she might have calmed down about him.

Regarding "there are threatening things happening and you are not doing anything", what could I do next time she gets spooked? I can't really ask a handyman to leave in middle of some work. So any ideas?

And funny thing about my JRT/Unknown mix is that contrary to all the things I hear about JRTs; she is pretty quiet and actually a bit lazy (sleeps a ton). So I think she has more of the charateristics of that Unknown breed (though I think she looks more like a JRT).

Your (ColoradoSooner) advice also brings up another interesting problem. The dog was sort of raised on table scraps, and she really doesn't like any treats or (dry) dog food we buy! We don't want to give her any human food, as the Vet said that she won't get the proper nutrition. She will sniff it, and then just turn her head away. Any tips on this?

Sorry about all the (perhaps stupid) questions, but I am still a little anxoius to raise her to be healthy and kind.
 

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Choose a high quality dog food or decide to go with a raw diet. Prepare the meal, put it on the floor, and leave it for fifteen minutes. It might be a good idea to walk away...some dogs get nervous about being watched while eating. At the end of the fifteen minutes, pick the uneaten food up and put it away. Repeat at the next meal time.

No healthy dog starves itself. Eventually your little beast will realize she's hungry and if she doesn't eat when given the chance, she will lose the opportunity.

In the meantime, you can totally use people food as treats. Cheese cubes, hot dog chunks. You could try Natural Balance rolls or dried anchovies. Usually the worse the treat smells to you, the more your dog will like it!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I personally don't think this behaviour should be allowed whatsoever. If you allow it to growl and be on edge like that, a bite is soon to follow. Your dog is clearly and quickly establishing leadership and that shift needs to happen.

YOU are the dogs leader, and according to her, there are threatening things happening and you are not doing anything. She is protecting her pack and you are allowing it, it will only escalate if left un-corrected.
Choose a high quality dog food or decide to go with a raw diet. Prepare the meal, put it on the floor, and leave it for fifteen minutes. It might be a good idea to walk away...some dogs get nervous about being watched while eating. At the end of the fifteen minutes, pick the uneaten food up and put it away. Repeat at the next meal time.

No healthy dog starves itself. Eventually your little beast will realize she's hungry and if she doesn't eat when given the chance, she will lose the opportunity.

In the meantime, you can totally use people food as treats. Cheese cubes, hot dog chunks. You could try Natural Balance rolls or dried anchovies. Usually the worse the treat smells to you, the more your dog will like it!
Excellent! And just to make sure I'm doing things right, what would the recommended feeding times be (ie what do you do with your dog?).

Also, is it at all recommended to do obedience training on your own, or is it recommended to hire an obedience trainer?
 

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Our little "terrierist" was also a picky eater. Like someone else said, she won't starve herself. Just put it down and pick it up after 15 minutes. We also added some chicken broth to his food and that seemed to make it more palatable. Now he just eats dry.

And I would HIGHLY recommend enrolling in an obedience class with an actual trainer. I would ask around and do a little research. I know they have some at PetSmart but I can't vouch for how good they are. The great thing about a really good obedience class is that it teaches YOU how to talk to the dog, if that makes sense. Obviously we don't speak the same language but a good trainer helps you understand how to communicate more effectively with you body, etc. You'll love it when you see that light go on in your dog's head "HEY! I understand what you're saying to me!"

And there are NO stupid questions. I think it's great that you're here asking them. People get into so much trouble with their pets when they just assume they know what to do . Good for you!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Our little "terrierist" was also a picky eater. Like someone else said, she won't starve herself. Just put it down and pick it up after 15 minutes. We also added some chicken broth to his food and that seemed to make it more palatable. Now he just eats dry.

And I would HIGHLY recommend enrolling in an obedience class with an actual trainer. I would ask around and do a little research. I know they have some at PetSmart but I can't vouch for how good they are. The great thing about a really good obedience class is that it teaches YOU how to talk to the dog, if that makes sense. Obviously we don't speak the same language but a good trainer helps you understand how to communicate more effectively with you body, etc. You'll love it when you see that light go on in your dog's head "HEY! I understand what you're saying to me!"

And there are NO stupid questions. I think it's great that you're here asking them. People get into so much trouble with their pets when they just assume they know what to do . Good for you!!!
OK, thanks to you and thanks to everyone else! I hope I can use all your advice to raise a happy dog. :)
 

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According to Nick Dodman, you might also decrease the amount of protein that you are feeding him to reduce aggression.

However, it is normal for an "Unsocialized" dog to growl when startled or awakened. To reduce this in the future, you might try slowly getting the dog used to being awakened and being startled under controlled circumstances, when you can give a treat or reward for not growling.

Note, that you are not punishing for growling - I agree that this is a bad idea, because you would shut down the warning system, resulting in no warning before a bite. Instead, you are training the dog that his world is a safe place, so that he can remain calm.

- Hank Simon
 

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I personally don't think this behaviour should be allowed whatsoever. If you allow it to growl and be on edge like that, a bite is soon to follow. Your dog is clearly and quickly establishing leadership and that shift needs to happen.

YOU are the dogs leader, and according to her, there are threatening things happening and you are not doing anything. She is protecting her pack and you are allowing it, it will only escalate if left un-corrected.

Sorry, but this has NOTHING to do with LEADERSHIP!!! It's FEAR. Fear often leads to aggression so you WILL need to get her desensitized to the handyman. He may even remind her of someone who was unkind to her.

Use this excercise to desensitize her:
Desensitizing A Dog To Inanimate Objects Or Noises


Have the handyman be sure he DOES NOT look her straight in the eyes, it's a very threatening thing to do.

You might also want to read this thread, similar situation, just in the earlier stages than your dog. Same protocols you need to use.

Fearful agressive dog.....
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
According to Nick Dodman, you might also decrease the amount of protein that you are feeding him to reduce aggression.

However, it is normal for an "Unsocialized" dog to growl when startled or awakened. To reduce this in the future, you might try slowly getting the dog used to being awakened and being startled under controlled circumstances, when you can give a treat or reward for not growling.

Note, that you are not punishing for growling - I agree that this is a bad idea, because you would shut down the warning system, resulting in no warning before a bite. Instead, you are training the dog that his world is a safe place, so that he can remain calm.

- Hank Simon
That sounds like a good idea. She is not being aggressive 99 percent of the time. We will begin to socialize her more once she gets over her sickness (colitis). I will remember to avoid punishment for growling (however bites would be a different story). However, does the "punishment" also include saying sternly saying "NO MIMI NO"?

Sorry, but this has NOTHING to do with LEADERSHIP!!! It's FEAR. Fear often leads to aggression so you WILL need to get her desensitized to the handyman. He may even remind her of someone who was unkind to her.

Use this excercise to desensitize her:
Desensitizing A Dog To Inanimate Objects Or Noises


Have the handyman be sure he DOES NOT look her straight in the eyes, it's a very threatening thing to do.
The handyman is familiar with dogs, because he owns one. And I think she is more calm with him now. I will be sure to bookmark that link. I love the idea of having strangers whom she may be afraid of pass little hot dogs in her direction!
 

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Do not tell your dog not to growl, IF she growls, move BETWEEN her and the object she's growling at without speaking to her, this assures her that YOU are in control and makes her feel safe, as well as cutting off her line of vision.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Do not tell your dog not to growl, IF she growls, move BETWEEN her and the object she's growling at without speaking to her, this assures her that YOU are in control and makes her feel safe, as well as cutting off her line of vision.
OK, I will keep that in mind. Thank you!
 

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I agree with the "move between method" but that is usually used for barking rather than growling, so pay attention that she doesn't escalate/increase the volume of the growl when you get near. If she reduces the growling, keep doing it, but if she doesn't, then don't force the issue... because you may not be reducing her fear...

- Hank Simon
 
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