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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am mom to a 9 year old boy and a 3 year old border collie/blue healer. They act completely like brothers.

My problem is that Jake, the dog, growls at my boy often. There are three specific examples I need help with.

First: when my son pets Jake, Jake growls and leans in to the petting more; yet if the boy stops, Jake will nudge him for more or it seems to be that way. This behavior has happened since we got him from his first owner and Jake was the same way with the owners teenaged son.

Second: When I am sitting anywhere, Jake is usually sitting at my feet, when my son walks into the room or nears me Jake growls. My son has been competitive with the dog and wants his spot at times. The way I have been dealing with this is if the dog growls I tell him NO and/or send him to his rug out of the room, trying to show the dog that the boy is my preference and is my alpha pup.

Third: There are times when Jake will be lying on his rug or anywhere else he tends to lay and my son will walk by him and the dog growls, now, my son has teased him and at times been a little mean, so i have attrubuted this growling to a warning, so I don't blame the dog but regardless of how inappropriate my son has behaved, I don't want the growling.

In overview, Jake is very obedient, very loving to me and my husband, and loves to play ball and be outside with my son, its just this contest between them that is anoying. I have scolded both boy and dog for their unwelcome behavior but as the mom I need to help the dog see that I am not pleased with growling.

One more thing, I have brought boy and dog to relitives homes and Jake does not growl at any of the other children, older and younger, besides my boy. When a stranger comes to our home Jake barks ferociously until he smells the person and deems them friendly or recognizes the person. He has not bitten anyone except niped at my son as a warning.

Any advice would be appreciated
 

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You have a somewhat dangerous situation going on and need to handle this right, before someone gets hurt. It is imperative that you and your son take these warning growls seriously, and respect what the dog is saying. He is saying "stop that! I am warning you! I don't want to bite, but I will if I have to!" Its so VERY important that you not punish the dog in any way when he growls and that you do not make the situation worse by pressuring the dog in any way.

In fact, the right reaction for people, when a dog growls, is to back away. Teach your son to walk away when the dog growls. Stop petting, stop crowding the dog, etc. This is how you prevent dog bites. They way you create dog bites, is to get mad at the dog when he growls, or keep doing what ever it is he's not liking, or keep getting in his face.

The reason you mustn't punish is that then the dog learns he's not allowed to growl. But he still FEELS just as upset, and is just as likely to bite (more likely actually, because now he knows he'll be punished when he feels this way, so he's more scared), and you have taken away his warning signals. Thus, when he gets pushed too far, he'll bite, seemingly "out of the blue."

Again, the dog does not want to bite, but any dog will bite when pushed far enough.

From what you've said, there appears to be a couple of issues going on. The first is Resource Guarding. Go read this sticky and come back with questions.

The second issue sounds like the dog has had some bad experiences with your son, and is now scared/defensive with him. The solution to that will be to train both the boy and the dog. This will take time. Overall what needs to happen is to change the dog's emotional reaction to the boy, by having the boy do lots of things that are pleasant with the dog, and never, ever do anything unpleasant. The teasing must stop. The competition must stop. Children teasing dogs is a sure recipe for a dog bite!

For pleasant things you could start a program of clicker training. First, you learn how to do it, then get your boy involved. Its easy, fun and anyone can do it. Start here.

kikopup's Channel - YouTube

Let me just add that this child and this dog should never be left alone unsupervised. That's generally a good rule with kids and dogs anyway, but in this situation, you have warning that there is potential for a problem.
 

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I agree with Tess.

I'd add that the growling is a genuine blessing - this is your warning that your dog is frightened around your son. Without that you'd be potentially walking into a very frightening situation.

Punishing a dog for growling reminds me of the scene in Full Metal Jacket where the guy loses control because he's been pushed too far. The warnings were there that he was at his limit but he was still crowded and hassled and he finally 'bit'.

Also, you don't need to show the dog that your son is your alpha pup. Have a look at this thread. http://www.dogforum.com/dog-behavior/dogs-social-behaviour-13482/

I agree about not letting your boy and the dog be alone together. He could try some calming signals when they're together (supervised) http://www.dogforum.com/dog-behavior/calming-signals-10084/

Also, I may be wrong because I haven't been in this situation, but I don't think this is a 'contest' between them - perhaps from your son's point of view but not the dog's.
 

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I agree here. From your explanation, it seems that your dog is resource guarding you from your son.

You can NOT allow "competition" for this "spot" any longer. Because of the nature of the problem and the age / vulnerability of your child, I do not feel comfortable providing advice to "what to do" in this situation, aside from hiring a behaviorist, immediately to help you in-person, safely and in a controlled manner.

iaabc.org

This is a very serious situation, with a potentially harmful outcome. The immediate need is to manage the interactions by disallowing any situation where your son and your dog are in conflict.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Wow, I am honestly suprised at the severity of this situation. And I will take it seriously.

I am suprised because the boy and dog play together a lot and at other times have no problems. I often find Jake sleeping at the foot of my sons bed some nights (til I tell him to get down). I live in the country and Jake will bark or growl at anything that drives by. Tell him to get a ball and your his best friend.

I am also glad to have the responses because I have told my son repeatedly to only be kind to Jake. I read your responses to him and it seems that he believes you all. Hopefully hearing the advice of others that are knowledgable other than "Mom" will open his eyes. I will also take the time to look up the links you advised.

Thanks a bunch and if you have any other coments I am all ears!
 

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Wow, I am honestly suprised at the severity of this situation. And I will take it seriously.

I am suprised because the boy and dog play together a lot and at other times have no problems. I often find Jake sleeping at the foot of my sons bed some nights (til I tell him to get down). I live in the country and Jake will bark or growl at anything that drives by. Tell him to get a ball and your his best friend.

I am also glad to have the responses because I have told my son repeatedly to only be kind to Jake. I read your responses to him and it seems that he believes you all. Hopefully hearing the advice of others that are knowledgable other than "Mom" will open his eyes. I will also take the time to look up the links you advised.

Thanks a bunch and if you have any other coments I am all ears!
One of the interesting things about resource guarding, is that it can happen in a flash, and is more or less out of the dog's "thinking" control part of the brain. Its almost like a reflex. So an otherwise happy, sociable dog, can have a very unexpected aggressive incident. So truly, read through that sticky on RG to get a better understanding of that aspect of your issue, and how to deal with it.

I'm really glad your boy is listening to the advice here. The thing is, dogs speak "canine" and humans don't really understand that language very well. So while the dog is shouting "stop that! I'm getting really upset! Don't make me bite you!" a person only hears "this is a bit annoying.."

Again, I think you have two things going on: resource guarding, and a relationship between boy and dog that is problematic.

One more thing, stress makes a dog's RG issues worse.
Lots of things stress out dogs. The antics of kids can be very stressful, even just normal play. Teasing by kids is extremely stressful.
Dogs need rest and peace and quiet, just like adult humans, so make sure your dog gets good quality rest.

Anyway, hope some of this has helped. It certainly would be a good idea to find a behaviorist to evaluate the situation and give you specific things to do to help the dog. If you hire someone, hire a qualified behaviorist, as found on the link Tonka gave you. Don't hire just any old trainer out there. There are more bad trainers than good ones. Anyone who advises you to use harsh or corrective measures on this dog is leading you down the wrong path and will make your situation much more volatile.

Here's why you don't want to use aversive techniques...
 

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Nice one, Breezy! :thumbsup: Welcome to the forum.

To your lad:

You've got a really big chance to turn this around now.
 

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One of the interesting things about resource guarding, is that it can happen in a flash, and is more or less out of the dog's "thinking" control part of the brain. Its almost like a reflex. So an otherwise happy, sociable dog, can have a very unexpected aggressive incident.
Tess, thank you. Can't stress this enough. I'm pretty confident that I know what I'm looking for now, and it still happens quickly. I'm caught off-guard less now than I was the first time it ever happened, but resource guarding - if you're not picking up the signals - seems to go from 0-100mph in a split second, with a level of intensity that is overwhelming.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Ok, I have begun reading the sticky on RG and I have a few questions coments to start with I have a wierd situation... Jake growled at my son the day they met without any harm initiated.

-Jake never RG his food. My son feeds him and gives him treats and there is never any growling.
-Jake never growls at me at all. I can do anything to him even pull out porcupine quills with no problems.
-the rug doesn't seem to be a special spot it seems to be Jake is warning my son to stay away from him... the rug is where I have him lay to "dry his feet" when he comes in from the snow or rain, he cleans his feet. I sometimes tell him to go lie down on his rug when he is in the way or following me too much like if I am about to leave to go somewhere. I guess it is sorta used as "the corner"

Jake must be guarding me and/or coming to me for protection. He can tell if I am angry at my son and heads for the rug. porr dog must think I am angry at him.
 

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Ok, I have begun reading the sticky on RG and I have a few questions coments to start with I have a wierd situation... Jake growled at my son the day they met without any harm initiated.

-Jake never RG his food. My son feeds him and gives him treats and there is never any growling.
-Jake never growls at me at all. I can do anything to him even pull out porcupine quills with no problems.
-the rug doesn't seem to be a special spot it seems to be Jake is warning my son to stay away from him... the rug is where I have him lay to "dry his feet" when he comes in from the snow or rain, he cleans his feet. I sometimes tell him to go lie down on his rug when he is in the way or following me too much like if I am about to leave to go somewhere. I guess it is sorta used as "the corner"

Jake must be guarding me and/or coming to me for protection. He can tell if I am angry at my son and heads for the rug. porr dog must think I am angry at him.
You have lots of good questions/observations here.
Let me see how much I can help...

First off, RGing can be very situation specific. For example, my dog Josey, had an RG issue about his food. So I began to hand feed him all his meals. I did this in his specific place in the kitchen where he eats. In short order, he totally lost his RG reaction to me around feeding time... in that one location only! If I fed him in a different area, he got all RG-ish again! So I learned I had to do the hand feeding in several places around the house before he generalized "Oh, Mom is not going to take my food away!"

The fact your son feeds the dog has probably been a huge blessing. This has prevented any RG issues over food between your son and the dog, if indeed there would have been any problems.

The fact Jake lets you handle him in any way, is not really about RG or not. What you have is a dog who is very comfortable with handling in the first place, and you have not messed that up by doing anything to give him a big fright.

Jake's rug and/or its location, is indeed a thing Jake seems to be RGing with regarding your son. It may also be that Jake, to a certain extent, feels tense when he is there in the first place, as it appears he is sent there when something "bad" in his world has happened, that is you are mad or his feet are dirty (which elicits negative energy from his people).

That said, I think it is a very good thing to have a place for Jake to go that is his sort of retreat/refuge. This is something often taught to dogs by the pros. I might just try to change the emotional association a bit for Jake by giving him a treat when he goes to his rug... a treat and a "good boy" so he starts to feel a bit happier about being there. Your son could drop a treat to Jake as he walks by Jake's rug.

I think your interpretation that Jake is guarding you is just a wee bit off base, but close. Its not that a dog is guarding the owner as in the owner needs protection... what is really happening is that Jake considers you a "valuable resource" and he is trying to keep that resource for himself, and repel anyone (the boy) he finds a bit scary.
So far you have been successfully managing this by sending Jake to his rug. This is good in that it gets Jake away from that which he is RGing... you. The only downside to this system is that you are just managing, not changing the dog's emotional/instinctive reaction to the situation. One thing you might do to make the whole routine a bit more positive, is send Jake to his rug, then toss him a treat! So he starts to learn, "oh, the boy gets here, I go to my rug and get a treat!" which is more of a positive thing then "the boy gets here, mom gets mad and sends me to my rug."

The whole key to training RG issues is to create positive associations for the dog over the things that formerly caused them great anxst (and don't underestimate how much the dog can think his life depends on the resource he's guarding.) So for example, I got our Josey over his RG about food and certain high value objects, by giving him something fabulous when ever I got near his bowl, or his precious toy. After a few dozen repetitions of this, I could see his facial expression changing from one of "guarding" to one of open curiosity to see what I was going to bring him.

Hope some of that helps.
 

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-the rug doesn't seem to be a special spot it seems to be Jake is warning my son to stay away from him... the rug is where I have him lay to "dry his feet" when he comes in from the snow or rain, he cleans his feet. I sometimes tell him to go lie down on his rug when he is in the way or following me too much like if I am about to leave to go somewhere. I guess it is sorta used as "the corner"
It might be that Jake feels trapped on his rug and unable to get away from your son. If the "rule" is "stay on your rug" and the boy approaches, then Jake cannot get away, in his own mind. So you might be right... this may or may not be totally RG. In any case the cure is the same.... your son respects the dog's space, doesn't crowd him, and if he does need to walk by, he can drop a treat to Jake on the way past. That would change the emotional response Jake is having to the "stimulus" of the boy walking by.
 

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Are you sure the first instance you mentioned is growling?
Numbers two and three sound more alarming (and I think you should follow the advice already well given), but border collies can be very talk-y dogs. If he is soliciting more petting (as long as he is not being held in place or backed into a corner) it most likely means he is enjoying it. Our border collie moans and groans while receiving affection and will butt his head under your hand or paw at you if you stop.
Here's a video of a collie being vocal, sound familiar or does the tone seem different?
 

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I am mom to a 9 year old boy and a 3 year old border collie/blue healer. They act completely like brothers.

My problem is that Jake, the dog, growls at my boy often. There are three specific examples I need help with.

First: when my son pets Jake, Jake growls and leans in to the petting more; yet if the boy stops, Jake will nudge him for more or it seems to be that way. This behavior has happened since we got him from his first owner and Jake was the same way with the owners teenaged son.

Second: When I am sitting anywhere, Jake is usually sitting at my feet, when my son walks into the room or nears me Jake growls. My son has been competitive with the dog and wants his spot at times. The way I have been dealing with this is if the dog growls I tell him NO and/or send him to his rug out of the room, trying to show the dog that the boy is my preference and is my alpha pup.

Third: There are times when Jake will be lying on his rug or anywhere else he tends to lay and my son will walk by him and the dog growls, now, my son has teased him and at times been a little mean, so i have attrubuted this growling to a warning, so I don't blame the dog but regardless of how inappropriate my son has behaved, I don't want the growling.

In overview, Jake is very obedient, very loving to me and my husband, and loves to play ball and be outside with my son, its just this contest between them that is anoying. I have scolded both boy and dog for their unwelcome behavior but as the mom I need to help the dog see that I am not pleased with growling.

One more thing, I have brought boy and dog to relitives homes and Jake does not growl at any of the other children, older and younger, besides my boy. When a stranger comes to our home Jake barks ferociously until he smells the person and deems them friendly or recognizes the person. He has not bitten anyone except niped at my son as a warning.

Any advice would be appreciated
So let me understand this you think that your child should be able to so whatever he wants to the dog & the dog can't do anything about it? Growling is a warning, the dog is saying " I'm not comfortable with this" when he growls, repremand the child for causing the dog to growl not the dog for growling. If he thinks he can't warn, then he might go straight to biting.
 

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Resource guarding depends on what the dog holds as high value. I myself could take my dogs food away from him at any point with no problem.... But if he had a tissue? All help would break loose if I even entered the same room as him let alone approach him!! Weird huh? But that's just what he loved!

Being on the recieving end of a warning bite turned real bite yeah you do have to take it seriously! Your dog may have had a bad experience with a teen or, like my old boxer never had a bad experience but for some reason just doesn't feel comfortable with them. Whether you know why or not, there is real reason Jake feels the need to protect or guard you.

Your son is not 'alpha pup' he is your son and the dog is a dog. The situation needs to be handled calmly and your son needs to bond with Jake not challenge him! And you need to read the RG sticky to help you stop Jake guarding you.

Good luck! This problem can be sorted with vigilance and consistency!
 
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