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My wife and I have a 10 month old Labrashepherd (Labrashepherds - German Shepherd Dog x Labrador Retriever), as I have heard the mixture between a Lab and German Shepherd called, who is extremely affectionate and listens very well. Olivia, the dog, picked up on house training, various commands, and leash training in no time. And, for about the first five months of her life, she was a social butterfly - everyone was a new person to lick.

However, after the theft of my truck the dog began to start barking at strangers and isn't comfortable around people in public (like if we go to Petsmart). A lot of people told me that it is the personality of the German Shepherd in her coming out, but I am not sure about that because my uncle had a German Shepherd that was the biggest lapdog ever. Sorry, I digress.

The real issue is that lately Olivia has been growling at my wife. The growls aren't loud and don't come coupled with showing of teeth, they're just regularly audible growls. And it's not all of the time, just when my wife hugs the dog in one way or touches her in another. The strange thing is, I can repeat my wife's behavior and hug or touch the dog in the same fashion and she won't growl at me. Someone once told me that female dogs can become attached to their male owners and sometimes develop jealousy toward the male owner's female counterpart, but I don't think that theory has a lot of truth to it.

Does anyone have any ideas as to what might be happening?
 

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However, after the theft of my truck the dog began to start barking at strangers and isn't comfortable around people in public (like if we go to Petsmart). A lot of people told me that it is the personality of the German Shepherd in her coming out, but I am not sure about that because my uncle had a German Shepherd that was the biggest lapdog ever. Sorry, I digress.

The real issue is that lately Olivia has been growling at my wife. The growls aren't loud and don't come coupled with showing of teeth, they're just regularly audible growls. And it's not all of the time, just when my wife hugs the dog in one way or touches her in another. The strange thing is, I can repeat my wife's behavior and hug or touch the dog in the same fashion and she won't growl at me. Someone once told me that female dogs can become attached to their male owners and sometimes develop jealousy toward the male owner's female counterpart, but I don't think that theory has a lot of truth to it.

Does anyone have any ideas as to what might be happening?
Has she always growled at wife or did it start after the theft? How does she act when you and wife are sitting together? How about when you hug? Do both of you share the responsibility of caring for her...walking..feeding..playing?
 

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For the reactivity, I know some dogs (all dogs?) go through a couple fear stages in their first year or two. I'm sure someone here who is familiar with puppies can let you know if this is likely, and if so, how to handle that, since I don't have a lot of experience with it myself.

For the growling, who does the training/walking/playing with your pup? And has your wife gotten nervous or frustrated around her recently? My dog can easily read when I'm nervous, frustrated or just plain grumpy, and will pretty much copy my behavior, but she is a lot more tolerant of my hugging/playing since I do 98% of the training and caring for her.

And my dog (who is a Malinois shepherd mix, so similar to GS) does resource-guard me from other dogs, the cats and gets anxious when my bf and I hug (of course part of that last is because hugging part of our "part of the pack is leaving" ritual, and Bree hates it when someone leaves the pack, even when she's barely met them). I don't think it's gender-specific in her case, but rather because I am, essentially, "the provider of all good things" and she'd rather not share.
 

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there are quite a few things that should be considered here...

first, most dogs don't like to hugged, and many do not like to be pet, UNLESS they consider your relationship with them to be intimate. it may be that the dog considers you a bit closer of a friend than your wife.
also, it may be that you think you are doing the exact same thing, but your wife's body language is different from yours in some way that makes the dog uncomfortable.... it is really likely that there are a lot of doggy "calming signals" happening when either of you are hugging/touching her-lip licking, yawning, turning her head away, etc... i would take some time to learn about them.
another thing to consider, handling issues fall into the realm or resource guarding, and that can be the issue here... even if she doesn't seem to mind you taking food/toys from her, she may still be feeling intimidated when you do it
oh, and at 10 months, the dog may look close to grown, but emotionally, she hasn't matured yet, so she is still going through developmental stages. just like human babies that go through phases of loving everyone, to fearing strangers, dogs go through fear periods as they mature, and she could very likely be in the midst of one.
it isn't uncommon for a dog in pain to growl because they hurt, and fear that close contact will be painful, even if she exhibits no other signs of pain/injury, can you say with 100% certainty that she hasn't injured herself in some way? playing too hard, over-exercising, joint pain??? anything like that?
there are some medical conditions that can lead to aggressive behavior too, like thyroid issues... i know next to nothing about them, but you should be aware ;)

overall, dogs don't growl when they feel secure/confident, so anything that is intimidating to her, though not necessarily the cause of the behavior, is definitely contributing to it. notice that i said "intimidating TO HER" just because you, the human don't think something is/should be intimidating to the dog, doesn't mean it isn't, it really has to be considered from the dog's perspective. some dogs are really "hard" and can almost literally be bashed around with a brick, and enjoy it, while others are "soft" and don't do well with even a slightly raised voice.

what sort of approach have you used for training? is one of you the primary care giver (ie walks, food, potty trips etc) what does a typical day look like for your dog? how are you and your wife doing since the theft of your truck? that sounds like a scary thing for you to go through, as you understand the implications of it, what makes you think that it would affect the dog?

it can take a bit to narrow down the reason behind the growling, for now, make sure that you and your wife RESPECT the dog trying to communicate her boundaries to you. NEVER and i mean under no circumstances EVER should you punish a dog for growling. you may be able to teach her not to growl, but you will not solve the issue of what is causing the growl in the first place, instead you will take away the dog's ability to give warning, which will frustrate the dog and very likely escalate the behavior (ie, if i cannot give vocal warning, i'll have to snap at you to let you know i don't like something) i would suggest that both of you refrain from getting too snuggly with her for a while too. even though she is more tolerant of you doing these things, until you figure out why, that may not last, and you don't want to make the situation worse...



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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Has she always growled at wife or did it start after the theft? How does she act when you and wife are sitting together? How about when you hug? Do both of you share the responsibility of caring for her...walking..feeding..playing?
She never started growling at *anyone* before the theft. Well, except the cat when he would drink out of her water bowl. After the theft, she still didn't start growling at my wife until recently. And it is only when my wife has interaction with the dog. Hugging Olivia a certain way or touching her a certain provokes a growl. If my wife doesn't touch or hug the dog in those ways, Olivia is fine and happy.

As for responsibility, I do the feeding, bathroom duties, etc. We all play with her, and my wife will regularly go with us to the dog park. So we both have a very active role in the dog's life, though I guess you could say Olivia is with me more than anyone else.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
For the reactivity, I know some dogs (all dogs?) go through a couple fear stages in their first year or two. I'm sure someone here who is familiar with puppies can let you know if this is likely, and if so, how to handle that, since I don't have a lot of experience with it myself.

For the growling, who does the training/walking/playing with your pup? And has your wife gotten nervous or frustrated around her recently? My dog can easily read when I'm nervous, frustrated or just plain grumpy, and will pretty much copy my behavior, but she is a lot more tolerant of my hugging/playing since I do 98% of the training and caring for her.

And my dog (who is a Malinois shepherd mix, so similar to GS) does resource-guard me from other dogs, the cats and gets anxious when my bf and I hug (of course part of that last is because hugging part of our "part of the pack is leaving" ritual, and Bree hates it when someone leaves the pack, even when she's barely met them). I don't think it's gender-specific in her case, but rather because I am, essentially, "the provider of all good things" and she'd rather not share.
When it comes to actual training, I've done it all. My wife has helped and takes on the role of disciplinarian if Olivia misbehaves and I don't see it or I am not around to do so, but this has never been a problem before. Olivia will sleep in the bed with us at times and rather than lay on just one of us, she will drape herself over both of us. So, it isn't as though my wife has a bad/strained/weird relationship with the dog.

Unfortunately, we all get a little frustrated around the dog at times, but Olivia seems to take a proactive response to this by coming over and licking our hands or trying to "console" us in some dog-like fashion. Olivia can be a *very* emotionally sensitive dog, but when the growling has gone on, everyone was in a good mood and my wife was just giving the dog a hug.
 

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Don't hug the dog. Although humans/primates think this is a great show of affection, what you must realize is that from the dog's point of view, it is a show of intimidation and domination.

In other words, you are having the opposite effect on the dog you intend. You are trying to express love, but the dog "hears" a message of hostility.

Fawkese's links are excellent.

And DO take these growls seriously, as clear expressions that the dog is feeling scared and threatened and thinks she needs to tell you to back off a bit.
And do NOT scold the dog for these growls and other signals that she is uncomfortable. She is communicating very clearly in her own language. She does not want to get more hostile. She is trying to warn you/wife/other people so that she does not have to escalate to showing teeth or biting.

Respect the communication.
Learn what it means.
Work with the dog to help her get over her fears.

Best of Luck!
 
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When it comes to actual training, I've done it all. My wife has helped and takes on the role of disciplinarian if Olivia misbehaves and I don't see it or I am not around to do so, but this has never been a problem before. Olivia will sleep in the bed with us at times and rather than lay on just one of us, she will drape herself over both of us. So, it isn't as though my wife has a bad/strained/weird relationship with the dog.

Unfortunately, we all get a little frustrated around the dog at times, but Olivia seems to take a proactive response to this by coming over and licking our hands or trying to "console" us in some dog-like fashion. Olivia can be a *very* emotionally sensitive dog, but when the growling has gone on, everyone was in a good mood and my wife was just giving the dog a hug.
Careful! Its quite likely the "discipline" is being interpreted by the dog as "human aggression". Its also likely that getting frustrated with the dog is also a significantly negative-scary experience for the dog.

The dog is afraid. That is why she is growling.
I know it is horrifying to realize that one has been scaring one's own dog to the point where the dog feels the need to defend herself, but indeed that's what is going on.

Forget all the "discipline". Teach the dog using positive methods only. This dog is not resilient to "corrections".
Using negative methods (stern voice, leash corrections, shake cans, taking dog by the collar, anything else physical... etc.) is very likely to result in an aggressive adult dog.

Change course now. You have time to fix this, but you need to put yourself through a crash course on Positive Reinforcement training methods and totally give up the "traditional" methods you have been using.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
there are quite a few things that should be considered here...

first, most dogs don't like to hugged, and many do not like to be pet, UNLESS they consider your relationship with them to be intimate. it may be that the dog considers you a bit closer of a friend than your wife.
also, it may be that you think you are doing the exact same thing, but your wife's body language is different from yours in some way that makes the dog uncomfortable.... it is really likely that there are a lot of doggy "calming signals" happening when either of you are hugging/touching her-lip licking, yawning, turning her head away, etc... i would take some time to learn about them.
another thing to consider, handling issues fall into the realm or resource guarding, and that can be the issue here... even if she doesn't seem to mind you taking food/toys from her, she may still be feeling intimidated when you do it
oh, and at 10 months, the dog may look close to grown, but emotionally, she hasn't matured yet, so she is still going through developmental stages. just like human babies that go through phases of loving everyone, to fearing strangers, dogs go through fear periods as they mature, and she could very likely be in the midst of one.
it isn't uncommon for a dog in pain to growl because they hurt, and fear that close contact will be painful, even if she exhibits no other signs of pain/injury, can you say with 100% certainty that she hasn't injured herself in some way? playing too hard, over-exercising, joint pain??? anything like that?
there are some medical conditions that can lead to aggressive behavior too, like thyroid issues... i know next to nothing about them, but you should be aware ;)

overall, dogs don't growl when they feel secure/confident, so anything that is intimidating to her, though not necessarily the cause of the behavior, is definitely contributing to it. notice that i said "intimidating TO HER" just because you, the human don't think something is/should be intimidating to the dog, doesn't mean it isn't, it really has to be considered from the dog's perspective. some dogs are really "hard" and can almost literally be bashed around with a brick, and enjoy it, while others are "soft" and don't do well with even a slightly raised voice.

what sort of approach have you used for training? is one of you the primary care giver (ie walks, food, potty trips etc) what does a typical day look like for your dog? how are you and your wife doing since the theft of your truck? that sounds like a scary thing for you to go through, as you understand the implications of it, what makes you think that it would affect the dog?

it can take a bit to narrow down the reason behind the growling, for now, make sure that you and your wife RESPECT the dog trying to communicate her boundaries to you. NEVER and i mean under no circumstances EVER should you punish a dog for growling. you may be able to teach her not to growl, but you will not solve the issue of what is causing the growl in the first place, instead you will take away the dog's ability to give warning, which will frustrate the dog and very likely escalate the behavior (ie, if i cannot give vocal warning, i'll have to snap at you to let you know i don't like something) i would suggest that both of you refrain from getting too snuggly with her for a while too. even though she is more tolerant of you doing these things, until you figure out why, that may not last, and you don't want to make the situation worse...
Honestly, I can't say that I've ever had a dog that didn't like to be hugged. And with Olivia it is even more "extreme". There are times when she becomes really happy and, if I am sitting on the floor, will tackle me and start licking my face while laying on my chest. Olivia has been a very "clingy" dog since almost day one. She seems to prefer always being right next to or on someone all of the time (which is largely myself or my mother-in-law).

It could be body language. My wife is not a meek person. Even though she's never even raised her voice toward Olivia, I can imagine maybe some of the body language is coming across as mixed signals. And Olivia is 100% healthy, to answer that question. No injuries, healing surgeries, etc.

I used the same method of training I always saw my mother use as a child. Crate training to house break, repetition and rewards for good behavior, etc. It actually didn't take very long to house break Olivia, and she's quick to respond to commands - and even learn new ones. Like my last dog Molly, Olivia comes across as more of a person in a dog's body than just a "regular" dog.

Olivia's typical day is started with a bathroom trip (she knows to always go potty after coming out of the crate or getting out of bed). We come back inside and she has breakfast while I tend to things around the house. When she's finished with breakfast, Olivia will go along with me. If I have to go anywhere and don't need to go inside, Olivia will go in the car with me. When things have calmed down, we play either outside or inside (that largely depends on the heat and humidity - it's been BAD here lately). When I go to pick up my wife from work, Olivia typically comes with me. I try to include the dog in pretty much everything I do. As it stands, Olivia is with me nearly 99% of the day. She's definitely become a bit of a daddy's girl. Anytime something goes wrong, she feels bad, etc, she comes running right to me.

I'll have to take a look at the links you provided. It might just be something as simple as unintentional body language because this growling is not a common thing. I just wanted to get opinions on it in case it became bad.
 

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When you say "discipline" what exactly does that entail?

Overall the pup sounds clingy and insecure... not your fault at all, just a personality she has (my male setter is this way). She is likely then very sensitive to negative input, and as you say, body language.
She is also likely to be uncomfortable with strangers.

I had "easy" dogs my whole life. It is only with the two I have now, that I have been forced to re-evaluate everything I thought I knew about dogs and how to be with them. You may be about to launch on a similar journey.

Growling at a member of the family and barking at strangers, all from an 11 month old pup, are non-trivial behaviors that you should take seriously. This is not your "easy" dog that you are used to, and grew up with.
 

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ditto tess ;) and i had the same experience with my dog, totally had to re-think EVERYTHING i thought i knew about dogs because of him (thankfully ;) i've learned so much!)

tbh, from your response, it sounds like the issue is a pretty insecure dog. (which is at the core of resource guarding and reactivity) if you or your wife are doing ANYTHING that intimidates her (even a sharp "no") it will only make her less secure and thus increase the situations where she will feel the need to do this. you are lucky that you caught this at 10 months, so that you can start working on it now, as she continues to mature! start now and learn how to build her confidence as a part of her regular training. set her up for success as much as you can. we can give you tips for how to go about this approach, if you are interested, otherwise, i would start reading up on the following things:
resource guarding
calming signals and body language
reactivity
handling shyness
counter-conditioning and desensitizing
building confidence

stay away from anything that touts dominance/pack leadership routines or corrections, they will not help, you want to build up the dog so that she doesn't feel the need to be defensive, not force her to submit.

there are some great links here, (kikopup, and sophia yin are really awesome resources)
http://www.dogforum.com/dog-training/helpful-training-videos-articles-11426/



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Does anyone have any ideas as to what might be happening?
The growl off means dont and your wife is still doing what the dog does not want. I have a dog like this and although she would never bite she uses her growl all the time with family members when they are doing something she does not like. She will accept certain behavior from me that she growls off with any one else. Your wife can simply stop doing what the dog is clearly telling her that she does not like or counter condition the dog to accept all touching if you think that is important.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
When you say "discipline" what exactly does that entail?

Overall the pup sounds clingy and insecure... not your fault at all, just a personality she has (my male setter is this way). She is likely then very sensitive to negative input, and as you say, body language.
She is also likely to be uncomfortable with strangers.

I had "easy" dogs my whole life. It is only with the two I have now, that I have been forced to re-evaluate everything I thought I knew about dogs and how to be with them. You may be about to launch on a similar journey.

Growling at a member of the family and barking at strangers, all from an 11 month old pup, are non-trivial behaviors that you should take seriously. This is not your "easy" dog that you are used to, and grew up with.
This means that I put her in her crate for about 20 to 30 minutes. There is never any physical discipline, I don't believe animals ever learn from that. I will use a stern voice with her when she is behaving, so if she is like you believe, then it's best I not continue that practice.

Her discomfort with strangers is going down a bit each week. The wife and I have been taking her to the dog park during peak hours to better socialize her and it has been going well. Where she used to hide behind our bench at first, she is now approaching people and letting a few regulars pet her while she licks them.

On the other hand, with discipline, I try to reward good behavior at every turn either with praise or with praise and a small treat. It seems like, though, that the "easy dog" phase of my life is over with. While Olivia trains pretty easily, it looks like I have a bit of reading to do on behavior.
 

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Well, we have a cur that hates to be hugged by me and my daughter, but accepts it well from my son in law. She will growl if we put an arm around her neck (especially if we are bending over her!!). Sometimes she will be fine with it but often she lets us know that we are threatening and invading her "space". We take the growl VERY seriously and back off and let her know that we understand she is "not in the mood". We have a pretty good relationship and basically praise her for letting us know...then its all tail wags and she offers her paw to us!! I WOULD NEVER HUG ANOTHER DOG AS THEY DON'T LIKE IT!!
 

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She never started growling at *anyone* before the theft. Well, except the cat when he would drink out of her water bowl. After the theft, she still didn't start growling at my wife until recently. And it is only when my wife has interaction with the dog. Hugging Olivia a certain way or touching her a certain provokes a growl. If my wife doesn't touch or hug the dog in those ways, Olivia is fine and happy.

As for responsibility, I do the feeding, bathroom duties, etc. We all play with her, and my wife will regularly go with us to the dog park. So we both have a very active role in the dog's life, though I guess you could say Olivia is with me more than anyone else.
I was thinking about this while I was grooming today. I hug dogs all the time a lot of them are not even mine. I have only had one ever growl at me. He was my own Giant Schnauzer who I found out had thyroid problems.

You may want to get her thyroid checked. The theft might just be a coincidence.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I was thinking about this while I was grooming today. I hug dogs all the time a lot of them are not even mine. I have only had one ever growl at me. He was my own Giant Schnauzer who I found out had thyroid problems.

You may want to get her thyroid checked. The theft might just be a coincidence.
Thyroid issues? Hmm, I can't say I was aware that would cause a dog to weirdly growl at certain people. I'll have to send my uncle a text and see what he can tell me. I guess it helps having a vet in the family.
 

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Thyroid issues? Hmm, I can't say I was aware that would cause a dog to weirdly growl at certain people. I'll have to send my uncle a text and see what he can tell me. I guess it helps having a vet in the family.
Great to have a vet in the family :)..Thyroid can cause aggression towards people and other dogs. This male did it to me but not my roommate.
 

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She is a little young for thyroid issues, but its not out of the question.

I have two hypothyroid dogs, and indeed, without medication, they are stressed out dogs, much more likely to react defensively and be clingy and anxious.
 
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Let me just add that anything which compromises a dog's health can make them more reactive. If you have not had her checked recently for tick borne diseases (the 4dx snap test... if you live in tick areas) and for heartworm, its not a bad idea to run these checks.

My guess is that she's a sensitive and slightly reactive dog and you are just starting to see these issues as she matures. Handle them carefully and things will be fine.

You seem like a very thoughtful and caring dog owner, one who is willing to keep learning and who will try to see things from the dog's perspective. Keep that up, and you will learn a lot from your dog, and both of you will be richer for it! :)

Dogs make us better human beings.
Sensitive dogs, work us even harder in this direction! ;)
 
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