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Hi

Our springer puppy, Digby (5 months old), seems to be doing well in general but we recently had our first male guest to the house and encountered a problem. He would not stop barking and growling for 20 minutes. He did not go near the guest and made no attempt to snap or bite, but still the noise as deafening. A lot of the time, he just wanted to be near myself or my husband.

He did quieten down for quite a while but every now and then, when the male guest moved, he would start up again.

The male friend's wife was with him and although Digby did bark at her at first, he soon calmed down and was eventually lying at her feet calmly.

We had my mum to stay recently and it was the first time that she had met him. He got a bit excited but no growling or anything similar.

We have been out and about and attend training classes taken by a man, and we have not encountered any male-related issues. The trainer can pat him etc. and Digby even shows him his belly. He has never growled at any men when we have been out.

I wondered if this was because if was the first time a male (not my husband) was in HIS house or whether it might be testosterone related (I think he is getting to that age now).

We definitely want to train this out of him before it gets truly aggressive.

any tips or advice greatly welcome.

ThankA
 

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It might be as simple as Digby simply not liking this guy and being a bit vocal about it.

My best advice would be if that friend visit again to give Digby a favorite toy and putting him outside or in a part of the house where he can't see the ''intruder''. I realize it's not an ideal situation and definitely not ideal to help Digby being a more social dog but I think in this case it's best for everyone's sanity (and hearing). If you have to put him outside during such a visit make sure you're feeling utterly calm and confident and absolutely do not make any excited noises or scold him (speak as little as possible and in a low voice). Dogs are masters at telling our true feelings and if you give Digby any negative energy he's going to throw it right back at you.

Perhaps other more experienced owners would have better advice.
 

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I forgot to add: if it does happen that this guest and Digby comes into contact the guest should simply act as if there's no dog around. It might help Digby think ''OK, I tried scaring this guy to death and he's completely ignoring me...let me go find something more exciting to do''.

Personally I don't think it's ''aggression'' you're dealing with since Digby was consistently using the same two ''warnings'' of barking and growling. If his intent was aggression he most likely would have escalated to nipping/biting. I'm not saying completely ignore the barking/growling since it's a natural part of a dog's defense system but, as I said, I think in this case it was just Digby telling you he didn't like the visitor and luckily had the common sense to not escalate the situation to nipping/biting.
 

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Max didn't like men until he went deaf. Those same men were best friends after that. For him it must have been the timbre of their voices. While they all liked animals and had pets they did not understand them so would get down low, use a gruff voice and stare at him telling him they were nice and he needed to be quiet. Yes I told them constantly and kept Max away. Since they acted the same way when he was deaf it had to be the voice but that manner can upset dogs as well. When he barked and the man simply looked at your pup that was scary since Digby was already reacting.

Max's barking as fearful and fear will turn into snapping and worse if dog is pushed so don't try to 'flood' puppy by keeping him in a place he has to settle down. Move him where he is comfortable and move him closer from that point. This is huge, it's giving him a breather to calm down rather then have to do it in the face of extreme fear. I put the noisy beast crated in another room and listen for the change in voice that means he wants to see rather than monster is going to eat me. I'm sure you've heard the bratty dog that wants out NOW and you wait until he's settled? Wait for that tone of voice.

Put dog on leash and arm yourself with loads of tiny delicious treats. Advance feeding constantly and retreat if you move forward too quickly and he reacts by barking. Using his words [sit, down, come, stay] to make this an obedience lesson helps too. I allowed Max to sniff legs and fingers but scary person cannot turn and look at him and giving treats was too much for him. Likely be fine for your pup as he has successfully met new people. If puppy can happily greet people and eat treats and show off his awesome ability to sit on cue in the room with scary person then you are doing a great job.

Scary people can be fun Max found. One scary person would drop yummies on the floor. Another went for the best walks. Another figured out a great game that didn't include touching. They still couldn't look at or touch him though. A kibble hunt might help. Start off the game yourself by rolling kibble away from you so pup gets to chase and eat it then have other people do the same. Dog doesn't have to approach scary person, scary person doesn't have to look at dog. If that goes well make it better, ask pup to sit before kibble is rolled - you first then friends then scary person as before.

Oh, if scary person changes appearance by standing up or turning he is a whole new person. Max once peed on the floor when a person he actually liked stood up after being seated when he came into the room. So shovel treats and be prepared to move away if that scary person needs to move. I'd assume putting on or taking off hats and jackets would elicit the same sort of reaction.

For more look at the reactive dog sticky thread at the top of this forum. If you have a method of dealing with it then when it comes up again pup will know he can trust you to keep him safe.
 
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