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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a question on how I should handle something. Pax is with me at work and one of my coworkers was petting him, and he was leaning into her seemingly affectionately, but then started growling and showing his teeth. He's known her a long time and it was really weird. I just said "hey now" and pulled him away from her and made him lie down. I inspected where she was petting to make sure he wasn't sore for some reason, but he was fine. Now, he approached her first and asked to be pet, he leaned into her while she pet, and then he started growling and showing teeth so I'm just really puzzled as to why he would be doing that, and what should I have done differently and what can I do going forward?
 

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Which part of him was she petting?

Some dogs object to having their head pet. Some dogs might find it frightening for someone to reach over them to pet the opposite side of them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
She was petting the lower part of his back near his tail, he has never minded that before and in fact likes it usually. And what confuses me is how he was perfectly amiable one second, then instantly, seemingly for no reason, he goes rigid and starts the growling.

And like I said, I checked him over and he didn't have any painful spots and was perfectly happy with me messing with him.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
he was looking straight at her face. :/
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I texted my trainer and she thinks it sounds weird. She thinks he may just be testing what he can and cannot get away with doing with other people, but without seeing what happened, she can't say for sure.
 

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I texted my trainer and she thinks it sounds weird. She thinks he may just be testing what he can and cannot get away with doing with other people, but without seeing what happened, she can't say for sure.
Sorry but that sounds like a bs answer.

Has he ever done this before? Or something similar?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
He's had minor resource guarding in the past, but that seems to be resolved with me. I can pick his food up or pet him while he eats and he doesn't care, but my bf pet him while he ate and he growled pretty loudly. I guess since I feed him every day, he associates good things with me and the food. He'll also growl at random strangers if they're wearing hoods covering their face.
 

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He's had minor resource guarding in the past, but that seems to be resolved with me. I can pick his food up or pet him while he eats and he doesn't care, but my bf pet him while he ate and he growled pretty loudly. I guess since I feed him every day, he associates good things with me and the food. He'll also growl at random strangers if they're wearing hoods covering their face.
Was she wearing something odd? Or that could be interpreted by a dog as scary?
 

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Yeah, I don't like your trainer's answer either.

Dogs growl because they are uncomfortable. It is a polite way of asking for space, and I'm very glad you responded by immediately pulling Pax out of a situation that, for whatever reason, wasn't working for him. It's fairly likely that he was signaling some discomfort before he growled, but so subtly that no one noticed (or mistook it for pleasure at having his rump scratched -- freezing, pulling ears back, etc. could probably be mistaken for several things). Learning to watch for the subtler signs would probably be good, so that you can intervene faster. Listening to your dog is important for trust as well as safety...I think you did a good job respecting him and his needs in the moment.

Dogs don't have to be in actual pain to feel uncomfortable (though they may be). There are lots of things people do that can make dogs uncomfortable, and just because a dog initiates contact with someone doesn't mean they are automatically okay with everything that person does to them. Just because you were okay with hugging a friend, for instance, doesn't mean you'd be equally okay if the friend pressed his forehead against yours and held sixty seconds of sustained eye contact, or licked his finger and stuck it in your ear. Maybe she leaned over him, made prolonged eye contact, accidentally hit a sore spot, scratched in an unpleasant way, or was wearing the wrong perfume...no way to know via the internet, and it might have been subtle enough that you wouldn't have noticed it in the moment either.

Please don't treat this as an issue of testing boundaries. In terms of future unexpected growling, take him out of the situation (no need to make him lie down) and try to notice what triggered him so you can work on it during a better moment. Making a dog feel more comfortable about a variety of things can take several forms, but the most straightforward (and effective) is usually counter-conditioning. Other resources and thoughts in this thread: http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/growling-86338/

You might also want to check out the threads on resource guarding and reactivity.
 

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you say the dog was at work with you? how old is he/she?
i guess you spoil your dog at work, making it comfortable. so to me it sounds like your co worker intruded in your dogs comfort zone.
the dog thinking it is ok to start with, and now doggie is finding his feet, he dosnt like strangers on his me time patch.
How long has your dog been coming to work? to be honest, i would say, your dog hasnt got a place at your work.
 

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If this was a one time event, it might be something he smelled, or heard at that particular time. In my experience they won't do that for no reason, its just that the reason may not be apparent to us. Sure makes you wish they could talk, sometimes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
@SnackRat I made him lie down because he's super responsive to that cue and I just wanted to redirect his focus onto something else and I figured obedience was a good go-to. I do not mean that I lied him down in that weird submissive stance, nor was it a punishment, just a way to get him focused off her and onto me.

@Arwen He's not spoiled at work, I actually have strict rules about how people interact with him because the guys tended to rough house with him and it made him mouthy :/ He's usually in a place - stay or chewing on a toy.
I work in a pretty casual environment and he's been coming since he was 10 weeks old and he's 9 months old now.

I don't know, it just unnerved me! He gets pet all the time at work, I don't usually think anything of it.
 

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I've known several dogs that growl and show teeth when being petted, and it's actually a happy thing. 2 dogs that come to my barn do it all the time and it has nothing to do with aggression or pain. I'm not saying that's what it is, but it's a possibility.
 

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I've known several dogs that growl and show teeth when being petted, and it's actually a happy thing. 2 dogs that come to my barn do it all the time and it has nothing to do with aggression or pain. I'm not saying that's what it is, but it's a possibility.
I was thinking this same thing. Was his body language backing up his noises/teeth? My friend has a dog that when she's really relaxed and enjoying herself she starts making throaty growls and will lift her lips showing teeth however the rest of her body is relaxed and loose, her eye contact soft, and her ears floppy. She only does it with her close circle of people friends.

Was he staring at her face in a "back off" way with tension and intense eye contact? Did his body go tense?

If it was a defensive growl then we can guess all day at what changed in the situation to switch him from enjoyment to nervousness, but it'll be just that - guesswork. I would say you did the right thing removing him from the situation. I would continue to let people to pet him just monitor closely to see if this behaviour dissipates or whether it persists. If it persists, then you'll need to do some sleuthing and controlled "experiments" to see if you can nail down what it is that starts bothering him and causes the sudden shift from "love me" to "back off".
 

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Sometimes Jessie will show her teeth when she is happy its her way of smiling and if i stroke her or cuddle her she also shows teeth again smiling because its so good. Could the growl have been a grunt as if to say oh thats good? 9 months is teenager could he be rebelling a bit?
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
He went tense when he did it
 
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