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Hello - I'll start off with a little background. I have been an animal person my whole life. I have trained and loved many dogs and animals. I have never had the pleasure of having a Chihuahua, as I am more of a big dog person. I quickly fell in love. I have an almost 8 month old male Chihuahua. We got him when he was 4 months old. We neutered him when he was 6 months. We also have a 8 year old pit bull mix in our home. Both are rescues. Our Chi (Biscuit) has been great so far until recently. He seems to be having some growling behavior issues, which only started within the last two weeks and getting worse!

Examples: He will come and sit on your lap, he's happy, content, and you start to pet him - he does a low growl. I do a correction (tap of my finger and a firm no). He lays on his back and licks me, wants a pet and I pet him ... He growls again (he is in my lap mind you!)

Same thing happens with my husband and my daughter so this does not happen more or less with any specific person.

He crawls under the covers with my 11 year old in her bed!!! She moves or pets him - he growls and then eventually snaps!

I don't get it. I'm going to take him to the vet to make sure everything is medically ok, but this is the most bizarre behavior and I feel it is getting worse. For once I am at a loss on what to do or what to try??? He comes to us, wants to be pet and snuggle yet he is growling at us .... What is he trying to say? Help!
 

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Correcting for growling is a bad idea. The dog will learn not to growl but the behavior is still there so it's more likely to 'just' bite. Because he's learned not to growl around you. Get a medical check first, he could be in pain and that can make dogs grumpy. Also some dogs do growl when happy. Is he also showing teeth?
Now snapping at your kid isn't good. I wouldn't let him up on the bed if he is going to do that. And if he growled while on a lap stand up/get him on the floor. He looses what he wants if he is going to growl. You should also look into a positive reinforcement trainer.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Hello and thanks for the replies!! Very appreciated. It's just weird, he is so sweet and it doesn't happen every time he is on our lap ... Usually more towards the evening. We don't always say no ... We have also tried the cold shoulder by putting him down and walking into the other room or not letting him into the bed (however that took 20 tries). Since I think he is teething we also try putting him down and then giving him a toy to chew on but maybe that is reinforcing bad behavior?

Yes - he is showing teeth, which is a pre-bite warning in my book. Also - he is not allowed on our laps after growling. Let's be clear he is growling ... Showing teeth and he has bit my daughter - not just a nip! She is now scared of him when he gets in that state. :-(

He is showing some other odd compulsive behavior - chasing and obsessing over shadows and dust particles. Digging in his water bowl (looks like he trying to grab something that is not there). Also - constant licking of well anything. A little licking is cute ... But this is compulsive.

He is actually training nicely, he sits, gives his paw, dances and lays down. He doesn't come when called (unless it involves food lol) and doesn't stay yet but still working on it.

I strongly believe in posisitive reinforcement. I don't know how to positively reinforce him not growling on my lap, other than to put him down.

It's like he is resource guarding but he is the resource.

Also, the comment about him not wanting to be pet. That doesn't seem right. So we will have this dog for 15 years or so and we won't be allowed to pet him while he is in our lap? Sounds like the dog has all the control there. I understand that there may be a part of his body that he doesn't like being touched but that doesn't make sense in this case as he is pet all over most of the day with no issues.

As I stated in my original post I am taking him to the vet this week to rule out anything medical. I just wanted to see if maybe someone else experienced similar behavior.

I think this is also beyond my expertise and will probably have to look into getting a dog behaviorist.

He is just so sweet and I don't want him to turn into one of those devil Chi's while he is still trainable.
 

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That is very strange, I'm glad your taking him to the vet.
If a dog doesn't enjoy being pet I doubt it has to do with control. But I don't know if that is what the problem is here.

Are you sure there aren't any signs that he is uncomfortable that you are missing?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cGDYI-s-cQ
http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/calming-signals-10084/
http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/growling-86338/

I'm not sure if it is resource guarding but here is the resource guarding sticky http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/resource-guarding-causes-prevention-modification-7511/
The Training and Behavior Stickies has a ton of resources so maybe you could look through there and see if you can find anything helpful :)

If you can I would definitely hire a behaviorist, its very hard to give advice over something like this on the internet. http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/finding-trainer-behavior-consultant-behaviorist-113946/

I don't think you need to worry about him turning into one of those. In my experience most "devil Chi's" are really just very scared dogs who feel they have no other options. Their warnings have been ignored or even worse they have been repeatedly provoked because for some reason people think it is soo funny/cute when little dogs growl or snap.
 

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There are some pets that do not like to be petted due to their history, you said you got the pup at 4 months old, do you know where the pup was or its previous history? Was he mistreated? Maybe he needs to learn how to trust humans again.
My Kelpie was a rescue and he was quite fearful of many humans, as he was mistreated. it took a few months but he is now happy around humans. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Hi MrsCunningham!

He is actually very well acclimated as far as I can tell. He is well socialized and not shy as he goes out frequently interacting with other dogs and humans. We got him from another owner who ended up having back surgery and couldn't care for him and his high energy level so we took him in vs. him going back to the pound.

Can dogs be bi-polar? That's almost what it seems like. As I said he loves to be pet on a normal basis. His mood just seems to switch on a dime.

I am noticing that he loves to be pet and is more affectionate in the morning. Towards the afternoon is when he seems to get more growly. But now he is growling and lunging for a bite. Again mind you he is on our laps. It is not consistent behavior and it's confusing.

This is a hard one to diagnos I suppose if you are not witnessing it for your own eyes. I am reading the boards and stickies to see if I can gleen anymore info.

He was checked out by the vet! She said he is in good health.

Argh... Guess we are going to have to find a behaviorist.
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Also Our pitbull was a rescue and was beaten severely and was 1 day away from being uthinized. We have had her for 7 years and she is the most loving beautiful ever once we rehabilitated her. She used to hide and shake in the corner. Seeing her today you would never know! :)

Believe me we know what scared looks like. This Chi is just different. Maybe needs meds? I have never had a dog that needs meds .....
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So when being pet he doesn't do things like lick his lips or turn his head/body away?
How do you tell when he wants to be pet?
Also in your example in the first post you say he rolled over and licked you, that doesn't necessarily mean he wanted to be pet again it sounds more like appeasement behaviors.
Do you still correct him/ When did you start correcting him?
You said this started 2 weeks ago? Can you remember the first time it happened and how did you respond?
Does he dislike being picked up?
What did you think of the resource guarding sticky and the video I posted?
Does he only growl when being pet on your lap?
Sorry for all the questions haha :) I really appreciate that you are taking the time to try to figure this out and work with your dog. I understand it must be frustrating.
 

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Hello CoyotePro!

First, thank you so much for taking the time to help me figure this out.

Answers to your questions:

Yes! I watched your video and read/watched the links you gave me!!! The calming signals were most helpful and very enlightening. I have been around animals all my life and have trained my own pets. I am no pro though just have a nack for it. I never knew about the calming signals and I think this will be very helpful.

Ok - body language when he gets into his growling state. Now with the knowledge of the calming signals I will watch him more closely and will report back on what I see - stay tuned.

How do I tell when he wants to be pet? Ha! I guess I don't ... But again thanks to video I will be more vidgulent to the signals he is giving. Usually if he runs up to my showering me with kisses I'm pretty confident he wants some love back! I don't really have a ton of experience with small dogs only big ones like Pitbulls, Malamutes, Huskies, Rottweilers, etc etc. I figured he is a lap dog, he sits in my lap and wants to be pet (poor assumption on my part hindsight). He follows me everywhere and wants to be everywhere I am and his attention span is zero which is expected from a puppy.

When he growls and I say he wants to be pet after I stop ... I get that mostly because as soon as I stop petting he nudged his head under my hand and he licks my hand sometimes ... Every incident has been a little different. He also sometimes tried to curl up under my chin (after he growls).

I do not correct him anymore. I first started to do it when I thought he was just being grumpy. But, soon realized it was something else as the behavior kept repeating. Now we just put him down (kind of hard though as he had already reached an aggressive state by then). So we try to slide him off.

So first time it happened and what did I do? Hmm not sure I remember but probably did not text appropriately ... I'm guessing some yelling and shock. Btw, this is my 11 year olds dog - he sleeps in her room etc. however, he is with me the majority of the day and I do the majority of the testing while she is at school. We then train together, when she's home. This happens sometimes when I am not in the room ... So hard to say exactly how my daughter responded - before we realized this was an issue. Guessing she told him no.. I have directed her to get up and walk away and to get me if this happens. She had been following this direction.

He loves being picked up, no growling when doing that as far as I am aware.

I have to watch the resource guarding video still. Only times he has ever growled at us is if we touch him while he is eating or touch his bowl while he is eating. Second time is when he is sitting in our laps. That is the only time he growls (sometimes during play but that is normal usually playing tug of war.

He has sat in my lap all day today just about - no growling yet but I bet by tonight it will start again. Sigh lol

I want him to be a happy healthy dog!! I would rather not get a behaviorist as they are expensive but if I have to I have to.

Any reccomendations on counter conditioning as a possibility? Should I be trying anything different other than just taking him off our laps and walking away? That is five for time being but it would be great if he could overcome whatever it is that's bugging him.

I use positive reinforcement for any type of training I do.

Hope my answer ms are helpful? As I said I am no pro ... :)
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BTW - I meant training not testing (auto correct) - in the paragraph about my daughter. Sorry for any other typos I may have missed.
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I am no expert either haha but I will try to help you as much as I can. Definitely contact a behaviorist if possible, its just so much better to have an expert and someone there to see it for themselves. It can be really hard to give advice online and I definitely don't want to confuse you or give you bad advice. There are just some times when a professional is needed. Though I completely understand the expensive part, make sure you really do your research when finding one.
It does sound like this might be resource guarding. The book "Mine" by Jean Donaldson is a great guide for dealing with resource guarding, I would highly recommend getting it if you can. I think you would find it really helpful :)
As stated in the resource guarding sticky, (http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/resource-guarding-causes-prevention-modification-7511/) its important to manage the situation so you can prevent the dog from practicing the behavior. This means you would probably need to prevent him from getting on the bed/couches/laps all together, at least for now. The sticky explains what you can do next.

I'm not sure but maybe the thing that is worrying him is you removing him from the nice comfy couch/lap and that's why he feels nervous when you have your hands on him, its not that he doesn't like being pet but maybe he isn't sure what your intention is? He might have learned that hands on him means he might be moved from the nice place he is at. And since you remove him when he growls this further confirms his fear? I could be way off and I'm kind of bad at explaining myself but just wanted to throw out some ideas.

I would work on making sure he thinks getting his body being handled = good things. It might not be the problem but I don't think it would hurt to try :)
I can't seem to find a video example, but basically touch certain parts of his body (starting with the places you know he enjoys) for a brief time then give him a treat. You can slowly move to other parts of his body and then you can start increasing the amount of time you spend touching him.
The book I mentioned above also goes over body handling desensitization.

I'm glad you found the links about calming signals informative, hopefully it will help you see when he is stressed before he feels the need to growl/snap.
 

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He is showing some other odd compulsive behavior - chasing and obsessing over shadows and dust particles. Digging in his water bowl (looks like he trying to grab something that is not there). Also - constant licking of well anything. A little licking is cute ... But this is compulsive.
I would immediately have your dog looked at by a vet for neurological issue are these compulsive behaviors are normally undiagnosed neurological problems (including Seizures).
 
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I do not correct him anymore. I first started to do it when I thought he was just being grumpy. But, soon realized it was something else as the behavior kept repeating. Now we just put him down (kind of hard though as he had already reached an aggressive state by then). So we try to slide him off.
You should stop petting at the "peak of fun", way before it every gets to aggressive. Pet for say 30 seconds then stop and walk away. You need to be in charge of when he is getting love/petting/attention not him. He knows how to control you, I am going to jump up in their lap and they will pet me, you need to nip this in the bud. You start the affection interaction and you end the interaction on YOUR TERMS, not his.

The Nothing In Life Is Free program can be a huge help for this type of behavior:
http://www.franklincountydogs.com/assets/pdf/fact-sheets/nothing-in-life-is-free.pdf
Nothing In Life Is Free For Dogs Either: A Shake-Up/Shape-Up Program for Turning Any Dog Into a Great Dog Practically Overnight - Kindle edition by Henry Askew. Crafts, Hobbies & Home Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.
 
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Discussion Starter #18
CoyotePro - So still researching - after observing him yesterday and today I find that he shows these calming signals way more than I ever could have imagined. No wonder why he is frustrated. Now that we are aware he is nervous ... we can hopefully help him better. I have been watching a lot of the videos and reading the stickies for calming signals and resource guarding. I think it is a mix of both. I would like to put some of the things I learned into action and if that still does not help I will get a behaviorist. You are also not confusing me at all. Makes perfect sense. He did show less growling as we were paying attention to his leave me the hell alone signals lol. Now we just have to work with him on it.
 

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I would immediately have your dog looked at by a vet for neurological issue are these compulsive behaviors are normally undiagnosed neurological problems (including Seizures).
Interesting and bummer - we just took him to the vet this week and this did not come up. Next time we go we will have him assessed for that.
 

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You should stop petting at the "peak of fun", way before it every gets to aggressive. Pet for say 30 seconds then stop and walk away. You need to be in charge of when he is getting love/petting/attention not him. He knows how to control you, I am going to jump up in their lap and they will pet me, you need to nip this in the bud. You start the affection interaction and you end the interaction on YOUR TERMS, not his.

The Nothing In Life Is Free program can be a huge help for this type of behavior:
http://www.franklincountydogs.com/assets/pdf/fact-sheets/nothing-in-life-is-free.pdf
Nothing In Life Is Free For Dogs Either: A Shake-Up/Shape-Up Program for Turning Any Dog Into a Great Dog Practically Overnight - Kindle edition by Henry Askew. Crafts, Hobbies & Home Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.
Thank you for the advice!!! I will also take that into consideration and I totally agree with you about the control thing!!!!!! :)
 
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