Dog Forum banner

1 - 8 of 8 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
5 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Hi friends :) I'm a newbie to the forum. My own background is that I've had dogs my entire life, even had 2 pugs that lived to 16 and 19 years respectively! My boyfriend was a cat person, but is a natural with our dogs.
We both now have 3 rescue cats, 2 rescue huskies and our rescue cocker mix (we think with pointer). I've read a few old threads about cockers and growling, especially one with advice from a user named Tess (2012). We will try her method of tossing some treats, not staring him down. I know that growling and baring teeth is a reason for concern...but I will still ask my questions!



We adopted 8 year old Jack 6 weeks ago. He is a sweet little guy. He was terribly obese and I'm sure in pain at 50 pounds when we got him. He's lost 15 pounds since and is at a great healthy weight now. He's become more energetic, playing with the other dogs and loving his walks. Yet, he's very protective of bones and toys to the point where he growls, bares teeth, won't let go when we tell him to drop. He's gotten better over the last month because we're patient, and swap for treats now and then. Sometimes he surprises us by dropping the item without the teeth, but the growl is still there, yet he jumps up, tail wagging, ready to lick our faces and be affectionate a second later...and sometimes it's like he needs to calm himself slowly as the growls get less and less. It's confusing because, even when he hasn't had access to toys and bones, he cuddles up next to us, shows his tummy for a "tummy rub" but shows his teeth growls the whole time...it seems so UNaggressive...if we stop, he looks at us like "why did you stop???".

It's kind of hard to explain...it's like he gets so excited (or possessive with toys/bones) or anxious maybe?...that he doesn't know when to stop growling or something...We have corrected him with the choke collar (we took obedience courses for our other 2 rescue huskies so we know we're doing it right) and he drops things immediately or calms down the teeth/growling slowly. We have no fear of the little guy, we just hope that he will trust that we won't hurt him...if that's why he's doing it. We have no clue of his background, we can only assume the previous owners maybe caused this?

Have I confused you all yet? ;) It's confusing for me to try and explain it.

We know he's extra sensitive and we show him a lot of love, give him lots of exercise, feed him well and correct him when needed.

So that's kind of the background...does anyone think the growling ISN'T aggressive? We truly don't feel it is. One of our other huskies shows aggression when she growls and our gut feeling is that the husky is showing aggression, where Jack the cocker mix seems to just be overly excited.

Maybe it's wishful thinking lol...he's never bit and like I said, he's getting better, but that growling is like second nature to him.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
Oh just a postscript, I'm asking the question because everything I've read states that NO growling should be tolerated or it WILL escalate. Of course, we don't want this, but like I said above, it's confusing because it just seems like a natural noise coming from him. Another postscript, and some may find this crazy, but when he's showed his teeth and growled during affection, I've put my finger up to his mouth and he either licks it or turns away so I have that trust that he won't hurt me, misguided? Thanks again.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
316 Posts
First, congratulations on the new addition! All new dogs are challenging in some way, and I think it's awesome that you're committed to helping this new guy in spite of him having some behaviors that are maybe a little outside your comfort zone. He is cuuuute!!

Growling is just communication. It generally falls into the category of "distance seeking behaviors," meaning that it's something dogs do when they want some space or are uncomfortable/insecure. When a dog is in possession of something prized, and growls when approached, most people use the term "resource guarding." It just means the dog feels insecure about being approached, perhaps fearing that their treasure will be taken away, or that something else bad is going to happen. Personally, I always want my dogs to be able to express how they feel, so I don't believe in the idea that growling has to be squashed. Growling is a signal of how a dog feels, so why would anyone want to teach a dog that it's not okay to express how he is feeling?!

However, I do understand wanting to CHANGE how a dog feels. My dog was quite anxious about a large number of things when we adopted her, and I wanted to help build her confidence. I didn't want to stop her from communicating discomfort, I just wanted her to feel comfortable! I think it is always important to address the underlying emotional cause of a behavior, not just try to prevent a dog from expressing his feelings.

With resource guarding, a dog is expressing concern that something bad will happen when he is approached while in possession of a treasure. So the way to change that is to teach him that something good always happens when he is approached. That's an over-simplification, but you can find a step-by-step guide in Jean Donaldson's book Mine!. It was written a few years ago, but is still the best book on resource guarding available, so I would order a copy ASAP! Her other book, The Culture Clash, is also really good for understanding dogs in general.

In the meantime, I would stop issuing collar corrections (or any other kind of punishment) for growling. Think about it: the dog is growling because he is worrying that something bad will happen, and then something bad actually happens. So his fears are confirmed, and the underlying cause of the growling gets worse. Even if he eventually stops growling (out of fear of another correction), the underlying emotional distress is still there (or worse). I know some of the more old-fashioned obedience schools still teach collar corrections, but there are better, more modern, and more effective approaches.

Jack looks like a terrific sweetie, and definitely ready to learn that life has great things to offer. I hope you get the book I recommended. There are also some resources in this thread that might provide some assistance: http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/resource-guarding-causes-prevention-modification-7511/
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Thanks SnackRat :) Jack is definitely a cuddler. What you said makes sense, actually last night I was thinking about that and my bf and I discussed how to react to Jack in the two situations:

1st: Growling and baring teeth when he has a toy or bone: swapping with a treat and major affection and vocal rewards when he drops the item. Like you said, he'll associate something pleasant with dropping the possession instead of what (may have) happened with previous owners.

2nd: Growling and baring teeth while being pet: I wonder about what you said, the growling is a request for space or an insecurity...but he really shows that he loves the affection so it's a very confusing behaviour he has. When I go to pet him, he sometimes growls, but then immediately cuddles up beside me, lays on his back and loves his tummy rub, growling and showing his teeth the whole time. My bf and I don't even bother with that growling anymore because he loves the affection...we're kind of likening it to a cat purring at this point! I guess if he walked away or turned his back, then we'd react and give him some space, but he even jumps on our laps for more affection, all the while growling.

The third growling situation is when all the dogs play together, but to us, that's just play growling and very acceptable. When we first got Jack, boy did the growling intimidate us...but over the weeks, we've come to think of him as "Growly Jack" or "Grumpy Jack" and kind of find it endearing, I know that sounds a little odd lol...it really doesn't bother us anymore.

I love these dogs, they are sweeties and it pains me to think that he's afraid of us for any reason, but each dog has had its own experience and we have to be patient and loving. And...it's only been 6 weeks with Jack. We want to do the best thing for him. As I mentioned, we read that growling only leads to worse things...but with Jack I wonder if the second situation is really all that bad or not. The possessiveness though, we'll work on that slowly!

Oh and thank you for the book recommendations, I'll look for them on Amazon! :)
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
4,613 Posts
When he curls up beside you and lays on his back, what is his posture like? Specifically what does his tail look like, what is the expression on his face, and is there any lip licking?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
When he curls up beside you and lays on his back, what is his posture like? Specifically what does his tail look like, what is the expression on his face, and is there any lip licking?
Hi Shandula, no lip licking, his posture goes from stretching out completely to relaxed, he keeps eye contact and his tail is relaxed too. Not wagging or between his legs. He will often fall asleep while we're petting him in this position. Any thoughts?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3 Posts
My silkie terrier mix growls when he pees and kicks back. Especially if it's a new area but there doesn't have to be any dogs or others in view.
I found it alarming at first, didn't want to give others the impression he's aggressive, he's not at all. Can take food out of his mouth, loves to play with most dogs. Gets along with the cat. Growls appropriately, but never aggressive.
He's a rescue I've had 3 mo and he's perfect in every other way. I used to give a verbal correction but have since given up if it's not over the top. I've decided it's a way he feels better, almost a "Look at me, I'm here!" announcement to the world. He can also kick wood chips and gravel a good 10 ft. Have to keep him away from certain yards especially with a Mercedes parked near by!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,652 Posts
please don't use aversive methods, like a choke collar. It's okay to not hurt your dog.

some dogs also sound like they're growling when they are happy. Sancho start grunting in bliss when you scratch him at certain spots. ^^"
can you make a video of his behaviour? it is difficult to say just by text.
 
  • Like
Reactions: timber
1 - 8 of 8 Posts
Top