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This is my first ever dog and I'm not quite sure what the appropriate response to this is. My wife and my dog and I all like snuggling on the couch together. Our dog is always just laying near us anyway, sometimes she'll lay on our lap or somewhere else on the couch. If we need to readjust or get up off the couch or anything that involves us moving her, she wakes up and growls all grumpy and puts her weight down so we can't move her. I know she's just grumpy and doesn't want to be moved most likely because she's been snoozing feeling all safe and comfy, but we do have to move her sometimes as it's a small couch and you can't exactly get up with her laying on you (and we like sharing the couch with her too!). My question is, is that behavior that we should be correcting? I've been told that dogs should never growl at their owners ever. Is that true? She's our first dog and we have no clue. (I think we're doing fairly well in terms of training her- we've taught her sit, stay, lay down, roll over, beg, shake, army-crawl, to ring the doorbell when she needs to potty, to sit and make eye contact before she eats, etc; the things she needs the most work on is stuff like listening when she's distracted, not pulling on her leash when she sees other people/dogs/creatures and not jumping on people when she's excited and such. Would love to do professional dog training but it's way too expensive so we're just kinda working hard on our own even though it's a bit like the blind leading the blind lol).
 

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First, there is a reason for the saying ”let sleeping dogs lie”. Nobody, humans included, likes to be shifted from a comfortable spot. I'll come back to what you can do in a moment but first a word about the growl.


The growl is an important communication from your dog and should be respected. Dogs give a series of signals that they are unhappy, but unfortunately most people don't recognise them because they can be quite subtle. To begin with there is often wide eyes, lip licking and yawning. There is also muscular tension in the body. Then the ones we sometimes do see - growl, snarl, nip then bite. If the early signals are not seen (or, in the dog's view, ignored) she won't bother with them because us stupid humans pay no attention anyway; so she may go straight to the bite. So it's important never to ignore the early signals. Definitely don't ”correct” it, that would be like taking the battery out of a smoke alarm.

As to what you can do, I generally have no problem with sharing the sofa but with your dog, I'd be tempted to have a super comfortable bed for her right next to it so you don't have to move her.

I also wouldn't make her give eye contact before giving her food. To a dog, direct eye contact is quite intimidating body language and you don't want to create tension over something as important as food.

You mentioned jumping up - the easiest way to stop that is to teach an alternative and incompatible behaviour like a solid sit (she can't jump while she is sitting).

For this, and other training, check out Kikopup on YouTube. She has loads of short videos on everything from basic manners to tricks. This is her video on loose leash walking.

 

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The growl is her way of saying that she's not comfortable - LOVE the growl, thank her for letting you know how she feels. But of course you can't sit still on the sofa all evening because she doesn't want you to move.

My dog does this and our solution is that he can't share the sofa with us - he can go on it, but when we want to sit down, we ask him to get off and go to his bed instead. What you MIGHT be able to to is train a good 'off the sofa' and then when you want to get up, ask her to get off before you move. But if she's really settled on your laps, she might object, and who can blame her when she's nice and comfy!

When teaching 'off the sofa', you want to train it as a fun trick - teach her 'on', rewarding her for getting on, then teach 'off', with a better reward for getting off. Never be confrontational, make sure you're not standing over her blocking her way off - you're not 'ordering' her but asking her to do her fun trick. My dog pops off like a lamb when asked nicely - or sometimes when we just walk into the room - but if I 'ordered' him off he would probably get grumpy and snarky.
 

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Chalk me up as another one who WANTS her dog to growl. I want to know if he's upset, and if I teach him to not growl what I'll have is a dog that's still upset but who's next way to let me know might very well be to snarl and snap.

My dog is trained to Move when I ask him to. He knows he don't have to get down, and will be allowed to lay back down, so he'll generally move without a problem. He also knows Off, that means he needs to get off of the couch or bed. In your case I'd use a very high value reward, like chicken, hot dogs, or cheese, to reward new "trick", and start when he's awake. I'd also make my waking him up as something highly rewarding for him, start by gently touching him when he's asleep, while AT THE SAME TIME, saying his name and holding the reward in front of his nose. You want the reward right there in the beginning, but as he gets better you can make touching him and saying his name the marker for his getting the treat.
 

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Thank you all!! I felt like it would be wrong to get onto her for growling for being woken up, but was told by some friends that a dog should always obey and never growl (sounds a bit too strict for my taste lol) so wanted a second opinion. We do have nice comfy beds for her (she has a nice big orthopedic bed next to the couch, a bed in her crate, and another comfy bed in another room. She does nap on the beds (and the floor sometimes too) but she loves snuggles and naps on the couch with us too! And we like that with her too, especially since she doesn't sleep in bed with us (I just prefer having my bed to myself- and she prefers it in her crate now too; once there was a bad thunderstorm so we brought her in thinking she'd prefer it, but nope, she wanted back in her crate lol). I just wanted to make sure it wasn't one of those things where letting her growl and get grumpy when we shift her around wasn't her thinking she was the boss of the house, so to speak.

As for jumping- we do tell her to sit, and she is an angel at home; it's outside of the house that's the issue (and which I know means she's only half trained. A dog isn't fully trained unless it listens well EVERYWHERE, right!). We live in a very small rural area where the weather tends to be either much too cold or much too hot, so it's rare that people are ever outside; we can walk for hours and not run into anyone, and the nearest big city is over half an hour away (which isn't exactly big at a population of 24 thousand but it's big for here lol). So on the rare times we do run into someone, she gets SUPER excited, and we'll tell her to sit but people will just come up and pet her and let her jump on them. We do tell them not to and to wait for her to sit, but it's usually older people who are like "ohhhh it's okay if she jumps, I love dogs!" and are already petting her by the time we can be like, "no, seriously, we're trying to train her." -.- Which they're usually great about it if we ever run into them again at least. There's a dog park about 40 minutes away that we like to go to, but 90% of the time there it's people who are stopping by on a drive and their dogs are really pent-up and misbehaving. We would LOVE to do dog training but it's an hour away, expensive, and we both work full time. So, we just watch Youtube tutorials (such as Zak George) and do clicker training and all that. It's just hard to be consistent when we live in a ghost town! :/
(also, with the eye contact, I don't mean it's a long thing or anything- we just tell her to sit down and look at us while we're pouring her food, since when we first got her from the humane society she was free fed and just immediately gobbled up food while you were pouring it, so now she sits and waits while we fix it for her and then we look at her and say okay, good girl, go eat, and she'll eat! We do the finger movement and the 'look at me' from the Zak George videos.)

As of now, the biggest thing I would like to see in her is just listening when we're out, she gets distracted SO easily, and I would never ever trust her off leash. I've heard that some dogs, depending on their breed, are just like that? That if they have hound in them for example, they just have that instinct and might take off to chase? It just worries me because I know that like, IF she somehow managed to run, say her leash slipped through my hand or something, she would run out in front of a car or something (doesn't help she has zero fear of the roads; there are hardly any sidewalks in these areas and the roads often dead, so you walk on the roads). I would love to be able to say STOP or NO and she just stops and listens. But instead I fear I would shout and do everything and she'd just totally ignore me to run off. When we train her out in a fenced area, and she's off leash, she still doesn't listen very well. We've trained her with treats (even delicious ones such as baked chicken) and toys and pets and bottom line is she starts sniffing something and it's like she has doggie add and can't focus! Any advice for dealing with that? thank you again in advance, I really appreciate you guys!
 

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I actually read somewhere that when a dog is sniffing, she won't be able to listen - I'll see if I can find the science later.

I think basically you have a gap in your training between no distraction environments (where she listens) and high distraction environments (where there is just too much going on). Proofing your training somewhere in between would likely be a big help - for example with people nearby but not close enough to be jumped on.

Some dogs are never reliable off lead, a long line is useful and you could attach it to a belt round your waist so there's no risk of it slipping out of your hand. And on the dog, only attach it to a harness, never a collar, as she won't know when she is about to reach the end and if she is running she could be stopped suddenly and damage her neck.

If you do want to work on recall, don't fall into the trap of repeatedly calling out ”come here” or similar - that just teaches that your first shout out is optional. In my view there are three main reasons why a dog doesn't comply. First, she doesn't understand. Second (what you are seeing), the reward, benefit, motivation of what she is doing already is far better than doing what you ask. Third, you are fighting against a deeply rooted breed trait (the hound and recall thing). All are surmountable at least to a degree although the breed trait can be harder, it depends on the dog. For recall, coming back to you has to trump anything else she may be doing. I can't remember who the trainer is who says ”bmfi” - be more f* interesting ... but essentially it's about upping the reward to outweigh everything else, whatever that reward may be. And proofing in the house, the garden, a low distraction environment and building up. But there may be some places you never trust her. A friend has a highly trained Brittany who competes in gundog trials and has champion level responses - in the ring. In the woods, she is always on a line. I don't have time to write more just now, if you need more advice (and @JudyN may have some) nudge us again.
 

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What breed/cross is she? Scent hounds can be more challenging to teach recall as they're 'in the zone' one they've picked up the scent. Sighthounds not so much, as they tend to need to see the prey before they turn deaf to anything else. There's a book called When Pigs Fly that focuses on getting your dog's attention, which may help - it's a long time I read it though so can't remember the details of the approach.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thank you so much for the informative response! I'll definitely read that article, that sounds super interesting!!
I learned the hard way in my first month of having her not to put a long lead on her collar. I had her on her 50ft long lead when my wife was walking home from work. She sprinted full tilt and watching her hang herself like that was HORRIBLE (luckily, she was perfectly okay- I think her being quite low to the ground helps, but gah. It was horrible to see and I was terrified she hurt herself). We've had her about a year and three months now (and we suspect she's about a year and a half, we adopted her from a rescue and that's what they guess).
We aren't sure on the breed either- she looks like a mini lab? She's about 45 pounds and looks just like a black lab except shorter and thicker (she looks fat but she's not, she's just naturally squat and a bit fluffy, especially around the neck). We suspect she might have some beagle and maybe corgi in her? She has that corgi butt wiggle, and the thicker 'mane' around her neck, and when she barks she sounds like that beagle howl. Plus when you google beagle lab mix, it looks just like her, especially the ones that are black with the white marks on the chest.

My dad recently got us a dog dna test for christmas and we discovered it was quite useless :p it came back as boston terrier, shetland sheepdog, and great dane. LOL
 

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Have you heard the story about the journalist who sent off some of his own dna to one of these testing companies and the results said he was part spaniel?
 

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Yeah long lines on a harness only.. In fact we ony use harnesses with our dogs.

Having had one full beagle and now being the poor fool in charge of a beaglish hound I know only too well the perils of letting them off the lead. Training with such dogs is hard and made harder still when they are adopted later in life. Personally I dont punish growling . I view it as a warning or a method of communication. If one of mine growls my response is nor,ally to ask 'what is it'? If Murphy thinks its an intruder (possible cat) he will go to the door he says is the problem although last night we had a storm and it was just a vent fan but he still got a pat and a ';good boy' for telling us there was a problem. Growling doesnt have to be negative .. Moving a sleeping or comfy dog is often met with protests and I always do this gently talking frst then stroking and gradually moving them .. George grumbles and slides off slowly Murphy snorts in disgust and then runs off to a more comfy place.

As regards daft people who dont listen, this is a huge problem which you will never solve so you have to be on the alert all the time, although you can help by using a vest with In Training printed on it. That helps put some people off..
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