Any ideas on cutting back playful growling?

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Any ideas on cutting back playful growling?

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Old 06-30-2010, 02:33 PM
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Any ideas on cutting back playful growling?

Okay, I'm not sure if it's a puppy thing or something from thatís more ingrained from before I had her, but Willow, my 12 week old pup, likes to playfully growl (and for that matter mouth and chew, but that's been easier for me to work with by teaching her the 'out' command with toys and then using it when she has a hold of my skirt and thinks it's a movable toy, and saying 'no' or loudly yelping when she's actually mouthing -- since I wouldn't call it biting she's more...playfully nipping and chewing people...).

I sort of remember my rottweiler from years ago play growling and I think she grew out of it, but I can't remember if she did or if it was something I had to work with her on. Back in those days the internet was less useful for finding info and I had a library of dog books...twelve years later theyíre all on someone elseís book shelves by now.

The growling is completely non-aggressive. She doesn't growl if I try to take her food or toys, and unless she really doesn't like something she doesnít growl at me particularly. Even when she doesnít like something, she eventually submits that she's going to...get a good brushing for example...and then she's a big appreciative lick-lick hound afterward (meaning she's just getting used to that stuff). But, when she plays or is romping around under feet, she gets herself all worked up and growls at her toys that she's playing with by herself, or at my own or my boyfriends hands or feet or socks, or her own tail, or her non-existent itches that she can't find (because she's probably not itchy and just thinks she is), or as she lunges at her tennis ball when we play with her, or well...I think you all get the picture...she's a silly puppy and does it at just about anything thatís exciting to her.

Anyhows, as a side note, because I know the behavior is often a result of them, we don't play tug-of-war games with her -- I don't like the behavior they instill and so I've set down the law in my boyfriends head that playing tug-of-war means an upset girlfriend and a misbehaved dog, and he's just not willing to take on the challenge of my disapproval.

So, while the growling's non-aggressive and puppy like, I don't want a 50-pound adult basset-hound that growls because she's having a good time. While I know it's puppy behavior (I faintly remember the specifics but I strongly remember the behavior from my last pup) anyone that would meet her would think she's a big mean growly scary rabid puppy that just looks as adorable as she is. I don't want to ingrain the behavior, but by the same token I don't want to stop her from playing or scold her while she plays -- that's not at all fair to her, by playing she's actually doing something she and I both enjoy and that is good.

So, to all you former, current, and/or experienced puppy owners out there, is there anything to do to help her understand the "grrrrrrrrrrrrrr" thing is not cool? Is it something she grows out of and I simply need to tolerate for a few months? Or...is it something I'm unknowingly encouraging?

Many thanks to those who have the ideas.
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Old 06-30-2010, 03:04 PM
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Growling while playing is 100% normal in both puppies and adult dogs. I wouldn't worry much about it.

However I think that it is a good idea to start training her not to mouth/nip or jump on people. When she nips or mouths you just say "ouch" and walk away from her. Saying "ouch" (other verbal words and noises work too) is just to mark the unwanted behavior.That way she will learn that her mouth touching people makes all fun stop!

With strangers or guests, you can keep her on leash and remove her from the room everytime she jumps or mouthes. Wait a minute and then try again. Repeat over and over. She will learn that jumping on and mouthing guests/strangers ends all fun.

Last edited by kmes; 06-30-2010 at 03:07 PM.
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Old 06-30-2010, 03:09 PM
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If YOU don't like growly play then stop it now. Some under socialized dogs will take ANY growl as a threat if they don't know how to speak dog well. Personally I don't like growly play. I prefer growls to be reserved for serious communications. If she growls when playing the game stops, she gets a 5-10 second ignore her time out, then YOU can re-innitiate play at a lower key. Stop each time and say AH... that way she gets the idea that the growl is not appreciated and will end all fun. They'll get the hint.

I agree with kmes with the nipping protocol. Same idea, different application. It's all removal tactics.
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Old 06-30-2010, 03:39 PM
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Yep saying "ouch" or "eep" seems to pretty much stun her when she does the nipping and mouthing thing. She gets a look of ďOh no, I hurt themĒ. She starts back at it and then we do it again...if she goes a third round we ignore her. I wear ankle length skirts and her catching onto 'out' seems to be making some improvements when Iím walking around.

The growling thing's a bit more challenging though because she does it with her own toys when she's playing by herself. I can certainly stop playing or take a toy away when I'm playing with her, but I'm so unsure what to do the rest of the time.

Beyond growling as she chews her own "chew this over the couch" type toys she sometimes just does it out of being hyper. By way of example, she likes to be at our side as we walk anywhere and if she's in a hyper mood then she'll start. Sometimes we'll be sitting on the couch she'll be playing on the floor by herself and then she'll just take off from one end of the apartment to the next in hyper-drive "grr...grr...grr"ing as she moves on through. Before yesterday we'd immediately stop and pick her up because she was not allowed to run, but now she's allowed to do so and she probably does need to so that she gets the excess energy out. Also sometimes she's laying up us on the couch and then will start growling at herself (non existent itches because none of us, including her can find them) or her tail. Her tail's wagging at she's doing it, her ears are attentive and happy and her brow line remains compassionate...but...it doesn't sound friendly because to people growling isn't friendly.

Similarly I don't like the growling unless there's an actual issue. I'm just not sure how to stop it when she's passively doing it when she's not playing with me...she's just playing or doing things that come naturally to her from being a dog.

Dog Shrink (and other people of course) you have some great ideas so far, how do you handle that sort of growling behavior?
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Old 06-30-2010, 05:14 PM
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My boyfriend has a basset hound, and she growls a lot when playing. We allow this because she's just having fun. It's no different then a kid making a "bang bang!" sound when he fires his toy gun. He's mimicking the sound of his pretend gun, and a dog is mimicking the sound of hunting prey.

Tug-of-war does not lead to misbehaved dogs. In fact, tug is the only game my dog will play. She doesn't care too much for chase, fetch, or games that most other dogs love. I like that she plays tug because it's a good outlet for her. She was bread to hunt, and tug simulates a good kill, just as chase and wrestling simulate other aspects of the prey drive. Here's a video that explains safe tugging:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9mPoWuvnLg

Jean Donaldson's book "The Culture Clash" talks about this in more depth. It's a good book that I every dog owner should read.

If you don't want the dog to growl, teach her to do something else instead - like bark. You can't stop a dog from growling and barking all together. That would be like forcing a child to stop crying or speaking. Growls, barks, whimpers, whines and howls are how dogs communicate with us. You might be able to limit how much your dog does these things, but asking him/her to stop completely is unreasonable, unrealistic, and unfair to your boisterous playful pup.

Last edited by pawsitiveside; 06-30-2010 at 05:16 PM.
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Old 06-30-2010, 05:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kmes View Post
Growling while playing is 100% normal in both puppies and adult dogs. I wouldn't worry much about it.

However I think that it is a good idea to start training her not to mouth/nip or jump on people. When she nips or mouths you just say "ouch" and walk away from her. Saying "ouch" (other verbal words and noises work too) is just to mark the unwanted behavior.That way she will learn that her mouth touching people makes all fun stop!

With strangers or guests, you can keep her on leash and remove her from the room everytime she jumps or mouthes. Wait a minute and then try again. Repeat over and over. She will learn that jumping on and mouthing guests/strangers ends all fun.
Good post. This removal technique can also be used for growling. When she growls - remove her for 30 secs to a minute.

There's also positive interrupters. When she starts growling, make some type of noise (kissy sound, 'ch-ch', a whistle, etc.) to get her attention. When she stops - wait about 5 seconds and praise her.
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Old 06-30-2010, 05:47 PM
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i really really think you should read up on canine behavior to better understand whats going on here. growling is part of a dogs natural, vocabulary, if you will. just as barking, whining, etc. is. growling also releases energy, as does barking. i wouldnt shun a dog for being vocal and expressing themselves while playing. this is natural and mentally healthy for them. and tug does not mean youre going to have behavior problems with your dog. that theory runs with all the dominance training BS. (things like alpha rolling, etc.) tug is probably one of the very few games my dogs play and enjoy, and alas i have no behavior problems because of it. as for your nipping, that is a problem, and you have received good advice on dealing with that. as far as running through the house... well thats a puppy, and that puppy is telling you its bored and needs stimulation. i would suggest more training, playing, walking, etc. or that will only continue to get worse.
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Old 06-30-2010, 05:54 PM
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A puppy's play growling has never bothered me at all. Of course I have said many times that pups can do no wrong. That's just me though.

Oh and I've never had a pup/dog I didn't play tug with in spite of the many rumors/myths/old wives tails etc.

Last edited by wvasko; 06-30-2010 at 05:58 PM. Reason: More stuff
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Old 06-30-2010, 07:21 PM
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Never thought to stop our dogs when they're growling during play. I do understand being a bit put off by the idea of an adult dog growling during play, but it isn't any more threatening than a child screaming on a playground. Our GSD mix Magpie sounds like a BEAR when she is playing. People are quite put off by it and I have to explain again and again that she is just talking and means absolutely no harm. Any time she is legitimately bothered by another dog she doesn't make a sound, just bares her teeth and backs away.
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Old 06-30-2010, 07:38 PM
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I don't worry about play growling. Our dog's play growl is a hoot and loud! It does freak some people out, but to me it tells me she's having fun and I'm all for that. Oddly, she's never growled when playing tug, only when we play chase.
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