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Old 10-08-2019, 04:58 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default It's me with the growling pup again

Our rescue minipoo mix is a year old now and I wrote some other posts about how he began at 10 months to growl/guard his toys. We called in a trainer and were making great strides, then a few days ago the puppy growled at my son (12 years old) after a cuddle session: the dog had come to my son to sit on his lap, my son petted him carefully as the trainer told us- staying away from the dog's head and not making him feel closed in- and then my son put his hands under the dog to scoop him off his lap (they were on the floor so it was only 8") and the dog growled. I was devastated all over again. There was no reasonable trigger here. The only thing I do know that could explain it is that the dog does not respect my son, gets mouthy with him and humpy with him where he doesn't with others.

The trainer is coming back next week to work with my whole family and especially my son on leadership skills, but I am frustrated and scared. Has anyone here had a dog that seemed to have weird/ unreasonable triggers? The dog doesn't get bothered every time, so it makes it hard to work with him and to know what will set him off. I don't know if I will ever trust him, or how long to try this before I call it and rehome him to an educated house. I'm tired of being scared and of not trusting him. I'm happy to work with him if there is an end point, but I don't know that there is one if he is beginning to come up with new and crazy triggers.

He has been to the vet on and off for various minor things through the summer, I doubt it is something physical, especially since it's not every time.
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Old 10-08-2019, 05:13 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I'm sorry you're experiencing anxiety with this dog. What is meant by leadership? What kinds of things does the trainer have you do that she describes as leadership?

What kinds of exercises has she had you practice to help over come some of your pup's worries?

I believe there is a trigger but you haven't identified it. Remember, growling is only a communication so that should not be punished or anything. Your dog is trying hard to communicate that he doesn't like something. And you can thank your lucky stars he's giving a warning. And if you don't know what it is, then naturally, it appears it's happened out of the blue. But in reality, there is something going on that is bothering him. The trick is figuring that out.

How does everyone in the family interact with the pup? Do you have other kids?

Has he ever bitten anyone? (other than play bite) Do you know about his history? Is this why he was given up? Something might have scared him before you adopted him and it's just left a bad mark. Or maybe he has an inherently poor temperament.

How does this trainer train if you don't mind my asking? Is she a member of any organization? What is her philosophy? What does she believe in?

So let us know how and what your trainer has been having you do and a little bit of detail in your pup's responses to various stimuli.


I'm really sorry you're having issues with him.
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Old 10-08-2019, 05:41 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I have no patience for dogs who growl at kids. See your trainer again but sometimes, some dogs are just better off in special homes, with very experienced people who know how to deal with this kind of behavior. And who donít have kids who could be harmed.

This is where I draw the line. I love my animals, but no living thing will threaten my kids.
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Old 10-08-2019, 05:53 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ashirah View Post
the puppy growled at my son (12 years old) after a cuddle session: the dog had come to my son to sit on his lap, my son petted him carefully as the trainer told us- staying away from the dog's head and not making him feel closed in- and then my son put his hands under the dog to scoop him off his lap (they were on the floor so it was only 8") and the dog growled.
My Maltese will not let children pick her up. She's absolutely fine with gentle petting, but will not tolerate restraint or being picked up by youngsters. I assume it's from a lack of socialization with children--she does not feel safe. If your son is holding the pup on the floor, what happens if he just gently starts to get up, letting the pup jump off of his lap, versus being scooped up? I'm not saying your son is at fault in the slightest--the pup clearly has issues. But I think *maybe* they can be worked out since your son is an older child and the dog is small.

What does your son do to take care of the dog? Does he walk him? Feed him? Sorry, I'm sure you've answered these questions elsewhere, but I can't remember. Oh, and one trainer I worked with said play is one of the best ways children can bond with dogs and build trust.
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Old 10-08-2019, 11:39 PM   #5 (permalink)
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While I think this dog's issues are probably minor and easily overcome in the right setting, I don't think it is good for any of you to be in a constant state of dread and anxiety. Is your son very fond of your dog? Would any of you be devastated if he were rehomed? Sometimes it is best to accept that a dog and your family are just not a good fit, and that you cannot change either home or dog enough to make it work. If you are fearful the dog will be aware of it, and it will feed his own fear and stress, creating a vicious circle.

You don't say what kind of a growl it was - a minor grumbly "Do I have to?", or a snarling, hard eyed crescendo. The former is in my opinion an acceptable communication and fairly easily addressed by on/off training for treats, for example. The latter would be far more worrying, of course.
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Old 10-09-2019, 06:04 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Ashirah, please let us know what the trainer says.. Also maybe your son needs to start feeding the dog too. I watched an educational video on a dog trainer (Victoria Stilwell) use this trick for feeding dogs who need to learn their place in the family. Before setting his food down, have your son ask for the dog to sit and watch. Then have your son act like he is taking food out of the bowl (with his hand) and feeding it to his own mouth. This is an alpha move for dogs because the alpha eats first in pack. And/Or you can try to have your son control when your dog eats from the bowl too. When setting it down, make sure your son gives the cue for when the dog can eat... until the it is "sit. Stay. Wait."

This is just an idea from watching Victoria Stilwell's videos "It's Me or The Dog". She is all over youtube and the video I am talking about is on there. In the video, there was a dog who disrespected the wife's role in the house but loved/respected the husband. To show the dog that he was not alpha over the wife, she would control his eating and act like she was eating from his bowl, making sure the dog was looking at her eating the food. Then she would set the dogs food down and queuing it when to eat. ((worked for this dog))

Some people may not agree with this method but it is something that has worked for many people Victoria Stilwell helps.

Truly hope you find a solution! If not, maybe Dechi is right that some dogs need special homes. Some dogs are not good with children unfortunately but I truly pray this is not the case for you all.
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Old 10-09-2019, 01:17 PM   #7 (permalink)
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So I have a bit of different take on growling because it is communication. "Something is not right and I need it to be different" is kind of the standard growl in translation. Depending on the severity of the growl this would be followed with "or else". So growls like barks come in so many variations - the problem is that they are interpreted almost always as aggression and that is actually untrue. In a normal dog (not abused - not traumatized) a growl is the very avoidance of aggression...and that is how I like to see it. I have had growly dogs that were shy and growly dogs that were very full of themselves. The same level growl means something different in those two dogs. In the shy one if would be the equivalent of "Help!" where in in the bossy one it would be more like" Hey, watch it!". Same growl different meaning.
Louie and his 12 pound frame will growl when he is cornered and feels unjustly scolded. It is in no way dangerous or a troubling sign - it is a bit the equivalent of a back talking teenager. Depending on the school of thought of any trainer they would either freak out about it or tell me to ignore it. Having had the company of very different kinds of dogs from 8 pounds to 160 pounds I know very well where on the "is this actually something to worry about" scale Louie's growls fall. I would be very annoyed if a trainer (who doesn't know him) would try to put this into his/her personal perspective - not that I am saying you don't need an expert opinion in your case but please keep in mind it just comes from their personal point of view and is not necessarily what the dog intended. I think you need to really observe what is going on - when and how this is triggered and what can be done differently. To be clear I am in no way advocating to ignore it, but I am very much in favor of putting it in the right frame for evaluation. Lifting a dog up is always a sort of emasculating and power stealing move - Louie for instance does not like it one bit (macho with a Napoleon complex) but has been taught to tolerate it (without growling). I am very much in favor of being able to manipulate any part of his body as part of what I as his owner am "allowed" to do - especially in light of grooming needs - however I have no illusion that he is actually comfortable at all times, and he may let me know that he is not (not necessarily growling but other body language from cow eyes to licking me trying to distract me - but I could see any dog giving a growl as a sign of discomfort). Just wanted to share my opinion in case this helps you evaluate what is going on differently.
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Old 10-10-2019, 05:21 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Thanks very much, everyone. It is helpful to hear all the thoughts and the range they cover. All I can say is I'm not sure what the growl was, except that it sounded scary. I hear him growl when he hears someone coming up the path to the house, when he's playing tug-of-war, and when he wants to get our attention (like, 'hey, I'm still in my kennel let me out!' kind of thing.) None of those growls worried me. When he was guarding his toys that was scary- body hunched over and tense, felt like if I push it he may snap at me. The other night with my son I wasn't looking at that moment but heard the sound and turned around to ask, "Did he just growl at you?" It sounded like a "back off!" bad growl but it all happened so fast and so unexpectedly.

I have done a ton of work making sure this puppy knows I am boss (though less so with my kids training him, which is one place we can improve and I think what the trainer means by leadership skills.) And the puppy responds incredibly well! He is super smart, focused, willing to please. He has very good impulse control. He loves to meet everyone he sees and we've never found anyone that made him shy away. There is no such thing as a stranger.

We got him 6 months ago at 6 months old. We were told that his first home, after the breeder, gave him away because he was too small (full-grown I think he'll be 10-12 lbs) and the second home gave him away because they thought their toddler would hurt him. (However, he hasn't held it against toddlers or boys as far as I see. The smaller the person the more happy he is to meet them.)

I understand the concerns about picking the dog up. Just to explain, this dog gets picked up all the time because he is so small and living on a homestead: so if we're doing goat chores were they might try to butt him, going over boulders on a hiking trail, getting him in and out of our truck which is high, or even lifting him up when he asks to sit in our laps while we're doing computer work. He never ever tenses or shows any sign of discomfort. To the contrary, I kind of think he likes it. He just gets relaxed and looks around at the world.

I really thought this dog had an incredible personality, the way he loved everyone and took everything in stride. He is a little weird, in that he almost neurotically wants to sit in someone's lap, but he's gotten much calmer since we got him. He will settle with a toy on his rug on the floor now, when he wouldn't before. Also, he doesn't come push against you for petting like lots of dogs I've met. He wants to say hi, then he's happy to go be on his own, then he comes back and really wants to sit in your lap, but he doesn't "ask" for petting the way I am used to with the other dogs I've had and been around. He does roll over for belly rubs when he is very calm and sleepy, which I figured is a good sign.

The trainer is coming Monday and I will let you all know what she says. I've also heard about another trainer nearby who specifically works with dogs that have problems. How does one go about getting a "second opinion"? Do you just tell your first trainer that you also want someone else's read on it, like with a doctor, and they should support you in that?
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Old 10-10-2019, 05:41 AM   #9 (permalink)
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As a trainer/behavior consultant, I've worked with dogs that had all kinds of behavior issues that made life difficult for the owners and dogs alike, including various types or reasons for aggression, which as Moni pointed out isn't always aggression...most aggression is based in fear. This is why I asked all those many questions. Without getting a good feel, especially when all we have is the Internet, can't see the dog to evaluate, it's impossible to know what's going on. That said, I have to wonder what you do exactly in various scenarios to "show your dog who's boss." I wonder what your trainer is telling you to do specifically... to show leadership (can you give some for instances?)...am wondering what her philosophy is, her education, training, if she's part of an organization etc.

And no, I don't think there's anything wrong with getting a 2nd opinion. But I'd want to know the trainer's method or philosophy, training etc. That "show 'em who's boss" perks up my ears.
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Old 10-10-2019, 06:07 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Sure, that makes sense and I could have said it better! The trainer is very gentle and just uses positive reinforcement and treating for good behaviors. A mixture of what she's told us and what I've come up with on my own: I tell the puppy to wait for me to go out the door first, then tell him he can come out, wait until he is sitting quietly before he is allowed to get out of the truck or out of his kennel. If he greets us by jumping (which is always, still!) we just stand there until he sits, then pet him and tell him what a good dog he is. If he jumps up again we stand again and sometimes turn away, until he sits again or atleast put all four feet down. For the first several months I hand fed him and used it as training time, but he's not super food-oriented though he is treat oriented and the trainer told me to just train with treats for now because of that. She also is having me begin to mix petting in as the reward some now.

Lots of training sessions holding treats by the puppy or dropping them on the floor, and telling him 'wait', making him wait a few seconds then telling him 'okay' and giving him the treats. When he began to growl about toys the trainer had me use non-high value toys and, when the puppy was playing with them, pull out a treat, ask him to "drop" and make sure the hand with the treat was coming towards him as my other hand came to pick the toy up, hold it briefly, then give it back to him. He liked this so much I often had trouble getting him to pick up the toy again so we could do the training again, because he was suddenly focused on the treat instead. Except the flirt pole, which we have put away for a while because dropping that toy is a MAJOR trigger for him so I'm waiting until we get more things under control. (It doesn't matter which toy is on the pole, it's the fact that it is on the pole that does it.)

She also told us to make sure we pet him under the chin and not over the head so he wouldn't feel intimidated, let him initiate petting/contact, and leave him wanting more! I don't know if she is part of any organizations.
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