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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
PLEASE FORGIVE MY LONG WINDED EXPLANATION BELOW, I just want to paint a clear picture so I can get some sound advice. Thank you SO MUCH to anyone who can offer some help!


I have two young dogs, we got them around 6 months apart. They are both French Bulldogs, one male (the older-1 year), and one female (6 months). Our male was our first dog, and we did two levels of training classes with him. Our female has not been to formal classes, but I have taught her sit, down, sit pretty, high five, shake, leave it, drop it, wait, bang play dead, roll over. They are both fixed dogs.

I've been increasingly curious if I should be looking into modifying how we approach our dogs interactions. They play together well, they mouth a lot and wrestle, chase, etc. Our male has always been a good dog, he likes other dogs, wants to play with them, we've always had good dog park visits, etc. My female is similar, eager to interact with dogs, etc.

We are beginning to show signs of some resource guarding on the part of our male. I started watching closely after we returned from vacation a week ago and my mother-in-law told me that she had brought the dogs out to a soccer game one day while we were away. She said that "[Our male dog] was aggressive!". To which I was rather shocked. I inquired a little further, was he excited about another dog? He's usually quite eager if he's on leash to want to go meet other passing dogs. Her description was that he was growling and barking, and her impression was that it was not in a nice way.

Okay, well--perceptions of others can be difficult to interpret. But this got me thinking. So I started trying to observe more what's happening. At home, he is growling a lot with our female. Now, I take the blame here, because I have not addressed this before now. We have two dogs who of course, only have interest in an item if the other dog has that item. Our female does not actively go looking for toys (we do not leave toys lying around much, only 2 nylabones and that's all), but if our male has a toy, or is playing fetch--it is her sole purpose in life to want to get ahold of the item he has. He ADORES fetch with my husband, they play every day when he gets home from work. Our female like fetch only because she gets to chase the male, and then run with him after he gets the Frisbee while trying to strip it away from him. If you toss the Frisbee for JUST HER, she will go after it, and then not pick it up. I've heard him growling at her because she came looking to take an antler chew from him. My husband recorded a video last night, they were playing with a green flexible plastic toy that has two ends (intended for tug of war), but if he got the toy stripped from her and she came back to try to grab the other end, he would growl. They were longer, deeper growls--so I know he is trying to communicate that he wants to take the toy for himself.

I have brought both of my dogs to the dog park in the past, not with any consistency or regular schedule but anytime I have free time I try to bring them. And I've always supervised, but I've never felt concerned or worried that anything negative would happen with them. I'm accustomed to it being quite light hearted, the male wants to play, chase, wrestle with other dogs. But I've brought him twice since this "aggression" mention from my mother in law (only him). And he seems much more detached--he wanders around the dog park area, he'll sniff other dogs, but doesn't engage in play bowing to initiate (which is something he used to do regularly). If two dogs in the park begin jumping at each other, or chasing another dog--he races to be in on the action and he quite forcefully tries to get into the middle of it. I can hear him growling, he kindof gets crazy eyed and I feel like if he could use words he would maybe be saying "Come at me Bro! I'll get you!!" He really tries to forcefully get himself in on it. And he was also displaying the growling over tug of war type toys with other dogs at the park. If he gets it stripped but the other dog comes to share, and reengage tug of war, he puts his mouth on the toy and gives a growl.

I'm realistic that these are early warning signs. We have not had him go stiff, expose teeth, lunge, or bite at all. But these are both my first dogs in life that I'M responsible for, that I'M raising. And I'm just so puzzled about where to start. Do I focus on keeping my female from trying to strip toys, or steal things from him? (And honestly, he has done the same to her, they've spent a lot of time stealing from each other in the six months they have been together--which is part of why I haven't been trying to stop it..it would be like having another job!) Or do I start working with him on this growling over toys thing? Can I reasonably address both? I want to address it NOW while things are only mildly concerning and before we've had any major issues. If anyone has been here, please share your story with me! What helped you? Do you think having a consultation with a behaviorist would help us? Is this something I can do on my own with a newer set of rules and practices in our home? Should I even be concerned!? My husband thinks I'm a nutso for obsessing over this and saying we should consider a behaviorist. But I also want to note that my husband is rather laid back with our dogs, and I don't know that they view him as their alpha. He complains that the growling thing happens more than I've been able to witness, because they're often playing like crazy and running around a lot and being "unruly" when I'm not home. But when it's just me, I rarely have this experience. Sure they play a bit, but I don't get the sense that they are crazy. Just last night I was home for two hours before I had to leave, and they were resting in bed and following me around like they usually do. I'm the one who has tried to assert that "I'm in charge" with them, have worked on most of their tricks, take them on walks, etc.


Thank you so much!
From,
Concered first time dog owner
 

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I kind of wonder if some of it has to do with your female losing her 'puppy license' and the male starting to let her know when things aren't okay.

Basically, (the same as we are with human children) older dogs allow puppies to get away with behaviours that they wouldn't accept from other adults, because they know puppies don't know any better. Once the puppy gets older and gets more into adolescence (as your female is now) the adult will start correcting them and laying down the rules. So it may not be that your male's behaviour is changing per say, but that he is starting to let the younger female know to knock it off.

Nothing that you've described really screams to me that there is or will be a serious issue. Bulldogs are known to be rough vocal players, so that doesn't really concern me.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I kind of wonder if some of it has to do with your female losing her 'puppy license' and the male starting to let her know when things aren't okay.

Basically, (the same as we are with human children) older dogs allow puppies to get away with behaviours that they wouldn't accept from other adults, because they know puppies don't know any better. Once the puppy gets older and gets more into adolescence (as your female is now) the adult will start correcting them and laying down the rules. So it may not be that your male's behaviour is changing per say, but that he is starting to let the younger female know to knock it off.

Nothing that you've described really screams to me that there is or will be a serious issue. Bulldogs are known to be rough vocal players, so that doesn't really concern me.


I appreciate that insight! I've also wondered if he is just setting some rules up. But my concern over it is the display of the same reaction of a dog coming to play with a toy he has at the dog park. He puts his mouth on the toy and gives the same growl that he gives her when she's attempting to take toys at home. Since the response in the same, but with different dogs, I just wonder if that's a clue that it's in fact more of a growing problem indication. Thank you!
 

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I know Frenchies are quite people orientated so has the stress of you going away triggered something? I would get a behaviorist for a consultation because they're trained to be able to read body language you cannot so they will tell you if it's an issue or not.
Even if it's an hour session at $60 and you have peace of mind that what you're seeing is normal atleast you know it isn't going to progress. I'd rather catch something early by being over cautious with a behaviorist than wait and let a behavior have a lot of practice and be harder to fix.
 

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I know Frenchies are quite people orientated so has the stress of you going away triggered something? I would get a behaviorist for a consultation because they're trained to be able to read body language you cannot so they will tell you if it's an issue or not.
Even if it's an hour session at $60 and you have peace of mind that what you're seeing is normal atleast you know it isn't going to progress. I'd rather catch something early by being over cautious with a behaviorist than wait and let a behavior have a lot of practice and be harder to fix.
That is pretty cheap for a behaviourist! I'd expect upward of $100 easily, I know one here that I would highly recommend and she starts at $200 for in person consultations.
 

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That is pretty cheap for a behaviourist! I'd expect upward of $100 easily, I know one here that I would highly recommend and she starts at $200 for in person consultations.
Well I'm in the UK and my consultation was £30 which is approx $45. I think she's just starting out though but knew her stuff so maybe it'd be closer to your price range but still, worth it IMO for peace of mind
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I know Frenchies are quite people orientated so has the stress of you going away triggered something? I would get a behaviorist for a consultation because they're trained to be able to read body language you cannot so they will tell you if it's an issue or not.
Even if it's an hour session at $60 and you have peace of mind that what you're seeing is normal atleast you know it isn't going to progress. I'd rather catch something early by being over cautious with a behaviorist than wait and let a behavior have a lot of practice and be harder to fix.
If you know where I can find a behaviorist for less than $100 in MA then I would take it! I did look several up, so far I'm looking at the very least $125 for a two hour consult. It's likely I would still go for it, but I wanted to gain some insight before I tried to convince my husband we should pay for it haha!
 

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And also, I suppose it is possible there was some stress over us going away. But we went away in the summer for a week, and the male was taken care of at a Pet Hotel for a week, and we had no issues upon returning. This time around we were gone for 6 days and we had a dog sitter stay at the house with them, so their routine was interrupted very little.
 

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Nothing to wrote seems like an issue to me. Granted it was long so I may have missed some things, but to summarize:
- he occasionally growls over toys when the female tries to steal them
- he growls during play with other dogs, but doesn't seem to escalate to fighting or even to be giving aggressive signals

Growling during play is completely normal. Some dogs growl more than others, and it can sound aggressive, but it's just play. If he's not giving any other body language, or starting scuffles, and if the other dogs keep playing, it's nothing to be worried about. Growling while playing tug is also normal as a dog gets really into the game.

As far as growling when your female tries to steal his things, that's fine too. If he has a toy he's allowed to tell her "no, this is mine, back off". Adults will often let puppies get away with stealing things when they are small, but start to set limits as the puppy grows. I would only worry if she did not heed those warnings and kept pushing him, but if she backs off appropriately and he goes back to happily chewing his toy, no big deal. I wouldn't be concerned that he does this with other dogs either, as long as they also back off and he doesn't escalate it. He shouldn't have to allow other dogs to steal his stuff. In the dog world, possession is 99% of the law. If a dog has something, it is his, and he's allowed to politely tell other dogs to back off. And other dogs should have enough social skill to listen. Part of it is probably that he is becoming mature and starting to assert himself more instead of letting other dogs take his things.

One last thing. Don't worry about that "alpha" stuff. Dogs do not think that we're dogs, and they don't have a pack structure that includes an alpha dog anyway. That theory was based on faulty observation of captive wolves and the scientist later retracted it when better information came out. Train your dogs, reinforce what you want, and either ignore or manage the things you don't want (or train an incompatible behavior). Dogs listen to people who are consistent and who spend time working with them.

I wouldn't personally see a behaviorist for any of this, since from what you've described it all sounds like normal dog behavior and nothing to be concerned about. But if it would set your mind at ease then maybe it would be a good idea. I saw a behaviorist with one of my dogs a few months ago and it was $450 (in NY)
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thank you for the thoughts! Can I counter note one thing?

I didn't include that she doesn't take his growls seriously at this point. She continues to try to take the toy. And to me, his growls sound different. Longer, lower. I'm used to hearing them growl a bit, but they're usually light, quick...not quite this growl that's coming from him now. He just seems much more....intense about it. Which is why I worry about it escalating. But I haven't yet noticed him going stiff, hackles up, teeth bared, etc.....I just don't want it to grow to that point and then it becomes habit. So perhaps the answer is to be teaching her to take him seriously if he's growling. But I have no clue how I would do that.
 

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Thank you for the thoughts! Can I counter note one thing?

I didn't include that she doesn't take his growls seriously at this point. She continues to try to take the toy. And to me, his growls sound different. Longer, lower. I'm used to hearing them growl a bit, but they're usually light, quick...not quite this growl that's coming from him now. He just seems much more....intense about it. Which is why I worry about it escalating. But I haven't yet noticed him going stiff, hackles up, teeth bared, etc.....I just don't want it to grow to that point and then it becomes habit. So perhaps the answer is to be teaching her to take him seriously if he's growling. But I have no clue how I would do that.
If she's not listening to his growls, then I would remove her and put her in time out. The problem is more that she is not taking the hint and leaving him alone, so that requires him to escalate his behavior to get his message across. Rather than thinking of him as the problem, I would think of the puppy as the problem and help her learn to be more polite. If you remove her every time he growls and she keeps pushing him, she will figure it out. She's young still.

Here's a story about my puppy that might make you feel better. When my puppy was 3 months we took her on vacation with our adult dog and a friends' adult dog. The other dog is guardy with his stuff, and our adult dog reads him very well and backs off. But the puppy just did not get it and would pester and pester him every time he had a bully stick or was trying to relax. She wasn't listening to his growls, so one day he jumped off the couch snarling at her and she ran and hid under the table. He did not touch her or hurt her in any way, but he got his point across and she was much more appropriate towards him for the rest of the vacation. Sometimes puppies just need a good correction from an adult. My adult dog rarely corrects her for obnoxious behavior, but a few times when he did not want to give up his bully stick he growled, then barked loudly right in her face. She got the idea and left him alone.
 

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If she's not listening to his growls, then I would remove her and put her in time out. The problem is more that she is not taking the hint and leaving him alone, so that requires him to escalate his behavior to get his message across. Rather than thinking of him as the problem, I would think of the puppy as the problem and help her learn to be more polite. If you remove her every time he growls and she keeps pushing him, she will figure it out. She's young still.

Here's a story about my puppy that might make you feel better. When my puppy was 3 months we took her on vacation with our adult dog and a friends' adult dog. The other dog is guardy with his stuff, and our adult dog reads him very well and backs off. But the puppy just did not get it and would pester and pester him every time he had a bully stick or was trying to relax. She wasn't listening to his growls, so one day he jumped off the couch snarling at her and she ran and hid under the table. He did not touch her or hurt her in any way, but he got his point across and she was much more appropriate towards him for the rest of the vacation. Sometimes puppies just need a good correction from an adult. My adult dog rarely corrects her for obnoxious behavior, but a few times when he did not want to give up his bully stick he growled, then barked loudly right in her face. She got the idea and left him alone.
That is some good thoughts, and thanks for the story! I think we will focus our effort on ensuring she is respecting his warnings. When they play fetch outside, he's actually pretty tolerant of her trying to strip away his Frisbee or toys. So I think that he is trying to appropriately communicate rather than being nervous or defensive of his things. That's in part why I've allowed the stealing and so on until now, because I haven't seen him go stiff or bare his teeth or snap. In fact, she's displayed some light guarding that's a bit more primal like that. She did once to me, and I did some training with making exchanges with me and she hasn't shown that issue with humans since then. But he went sniffing at her food once (they are raw fed and her bone was on the floor) and she immediately lunged to snap at his face. She's also gone tense and given a little growl when he's come sniffing around when she's chewing a raw hide, that stuff was a bit more early on. They seem to get that they want to be in separate areas when they have a chewy, delicious something now. I'm also on alert for those signs and make sure they BOTH have something delicious if something like that is going to be in play at all.
 

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That is some good thoughts, and thanks for the story! I think we will focus our effort on ensuring she is respecting his warnings. When they play fetch outside, he's actually pretty tolerant of her trying to strip away his Frisbee or toys. So I think that he is trying to appropriately communicate rather than being nervous or defensive of his things. That's in part why I've allowed the stealing and so on until now, because I haven't seen him go stiff or bare his teeth or snap. In fact, she's displayed some light guarding that's a bit more primal like that. She did once to me, and I did some training with making exchanges with me and she hasn't shown that issue with humans since then. But he went sniffing at her food once (they are raw fed and her bone was on the floor) and she immediately lunged to snap at his face. She's also gone tense and given a little growl when he's come sniffing around when she's chewing a raw hide, that stuff was a bit more early on. They seem to get that they want to be in separate areas when they have a chewy, delicious something now. I'm also on alert for those signs and make sure they BOTH have something delicious if something like that is going to be in play at all.
Sounds like you're doing a great job! Managing the situation and giving them their own chews to have in their own area is the best way to prevent issues.
 

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OMG if you heard Lincoln playing you would swear he is killing the other dog haha.

But all joking aside, this doesnt sound like anything to be worried about and i would keep letting the male correct the female, as lomg as it doesnt get too out of hand. I personally try not to step into doggy conflicts, I wasn them to learn how to reslove it themselves, unless it is DA, or same sex aggression.
 

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And also, I suppose it is possible there was some stress over us going away. But we went away in the summer for a week, and the male was taken care of at a Pet Hotel for a week, and we had no issues upon returning. This time around we were gone for 6 days and we had a dog sitter stay at the house with them, so their routine was interrupted very little.
You should keep in mind that dogs change, sometimes significantly, between puppyhood and adulthood. What didn't bother your male at 6 months may bother him a great deal at 1 year or 2 years (approximately when larger breeds hit sexual maturity). So it's impossible to say "this thing doesn't bother my dog", you haven't had him long enough to know, and it may change in the next year.
 

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You should keep in mind that dogs change, sometimes significantly, between puppyhood and adulthood. What didn't bother your male at 6 months may bother him a great deal at 1 year or 2 years (approximately when larger breeds hit sexual maturity). So it's impossible to say "this thing doesn't bother my dog", you haven't had him long enough to know, and it may change in the next year.
That is very true. My male went from liking to hating other intact males around 1.5. It was like a light switch flipping on and he hadn't had any bad experiences (in fact he had plenty of good experiences with intact males, who he now hates). So yeah, dogs do weird things as they mature. Things that were ok before when they were a puppy are suddenly not ok. It's normal development.
 

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If you dont think that he will hurt her in correcting her, I would let him give her one good correction like the one elrohwen explained. If you are sure he would correct her like that (startling her and not really hurting her) then I see no problem with letting him handle it. Removing her is great, but it also removes her opportunity to learn first hand from another dog not to do something, and when all possible, dogs should teach other dogs, they do it so much better than we do LOL
 
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