Quick Post

New dog growling at kids - what to do?

New Topic
New dog growling at kids - what to do?
  • We adopted Max a week ago, after our beloved Aussie died at age 14 1/2.  The "old dog" was very gentle and had been with the kids their entire life (the kids are 8-yr old twins and a 2-yr old).  They got used to doing whatever they wanted with her, and she never nipped or growled.  Max is 1 year old, neutered.

    Max is very submissive, an Aussie/border collie rescue dog.  He has bonded with my husband and me, and is very loving and cuddly.  He hasn't growled at the youngest, but every once in a while he's growling at the 8-yr olds.  Usually in the evening, when he's laying down and they come up to pet him.  It's a low growl, not very loud, and he doesn't show his teeth.

    We're trying to figure out what's going on.  He's not being aggressive towards them - just growling.  We're thinking that maybe he's just telling them "I've had enough" and that they should leave him alone.

    But, I'm also thinking that maybe he's trying to find out who is alpha?  Youngest daughter pushes him around, tells him no and isn't scared at all - she shows NO fear.  So either he's decided she's above ihim on the totem pole, or she's lower and doesn't need to be taught her place.  The older kids aren't very forceful with him and are actually a bit fearful that he's growling.  I'm thinking if he is trying to find out who is top dog, maybe they should forcefully tell him NO when he growls.

    So what do we do?  Tell them to leave him alone when he growls, or to growl back so he'll know they are above him?  He is such a sweet, loving dog and I haven't seen any signs that he'll bite or nip - at first he was submissive to my son, but now he's not doing that. 
  • We're trying to figure out what's going on. He's not being aggressive towards them - just growling. We're thinking that maybe he's just telling them "I've had enough" and that they should leave him alone.

    That is a good possibility.  Have you crate trained Max?  It is always a good idea in case of overnight vet stays.
    Even if you don't wish to confine Max to a crate, he needs one.  It would be his den - a special place where he goes when he wants to be left alone.  The rule for the children would be, if Max goes to his crate, he should be left completely alone.
    I would also recommend NILIF training.  A description of NILIF and pack leader info:

    [font=verdana]So what do we do?  Tell them to leave him alone when he growls, or to growl back so he'll know they are above him? 
    Aggression promotes more aggression.  Growling back is the last thing they should do.  They should yawn and slowly turn their backs.  They don't need to move in slow motion, but they shouldn't move quickly either.
  • [font=verdana][color=#000000][size=3]
    See this post for a list of initial training books:

    Dunbar, Ian[/size][/color][/font], Dog Training for Children, 3/2004, VHS
    [font=verdana][size=3]Kilcommons, Brian
    , Childproofing Your Dog: A Complete Guide to Preparing Your Dog…[font=verdana][size=3], 4/1994
    (See the "Dogproofing Your Child" chapter!)

    Rugaas, Turid
    [font=verdana][size=3], On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, 2nd edition, 12/2005
    Silvani, Pia & Eckhardt, Lynn
    [font=verdana][size=3], Raising Puppies and Kids Together, 2005
  • The adjustment period for a shelter dog and new family takes time. He's probably feeling a little confused and overwhelmed. Maybe your children are just like "puppies" to him. I also have a aussie/bc mix. He's very loving and cuddly (haven't tested him w/ kids yet). It's important for kids to know that a dog is a dog and not a toy though.

    Is he food agressive at all? Do you give him chews? The rescue I got Kiwi suggusts not allowing kids anywhere near the dog when he eats. And not even giving him bones for 1 year. I would even say further, that some dogs are extremely possesive of rawhide. Just something to keep in mind...

    I would suggust a crate as well. I throw a few treats in the back of the crate and say "kennel in". I also feed him in there.

    Do you have any pics? [;)]
  • He does not have a crate, although his foster mom says he is crate-trained.  We had not thought much yet about getting him a crate or not, Mocha never needed one but she was a different dog.  So maybe Max would like a place of his own to retreat to.  Mocha just went outside when the kids got to be too much.
    He's not food aggressive.  We can give him food and take it away without problems - even the kids can do that.  My son is the one who gives him his bowl each evening, I'm going to tell him to make Max sit to 'earn' his food before he puts the bowl down.  We've given him bones and chews during the day, when we'll be at work.
    He really is an awesome dog.  Mocha died 3/26 and I told my husband it just felt wrong to not have a dog in the house.  We went to the shelters and pounds on Thursday the 29th and didn't see anything that really jumped out at us.  When we found Mocha, we both knew that she was supposed to be our dog, and she knew we were her people.  So we wanted the same sort of feeling this time around.  Friday night we went to meet Max and it was really obvious that we "belonged" to each other.  I guess maybe he had second thoughts, because Saturday morning he was gone!  He had dug out of the yard and spent the night at a neighbor's house.  We got him back very quickly, and now he is pretty attached to us.

  • Max is 1 year old, neutered.

    Max is a teenager (not an adult until 2 years) who is still very unsure of himself in your home.  One week is not very much time to adapt.  Frankly I would not have let a rescue play with the children for the first week, but that is water under the bridge right now.
    If you think that the twins would obey an instruction to leave the dog's bowl alone at other times, allowing them to feed Max would help to establish their higher pack rank.  Of course, they shouldn't handle Max or his food while Max is eating.
    Tell the twins to be very gentle with Max.  He may have been hurt or frightened by children their age.  The 2-year-old is probably getting "puppy license".  Max simply knows she is a baby.  Dogs let puppies get away with a lot.
    Critical Periods in a Dog's Life -- Developmental Stages:

    [font=verdana][size=3]They should yawn and slowly turn their backs. 
    I forgot to explain what this means.  The yawn says "calm down".  Turning your back means "your behavior is not acceptable".  The dog should be completely ignored for 2 minutes after turning your back - don't even look at him.[/size]
  • Friday night we went to meet Max and it was really obvious that we "belonged" to each other. I guess maybe he had second thoughts, because Saturday morning he was gone! He had dug out of the yard and spent the night at a neighbor's house.

    He could have just seen a cat and didn't remember how to get home.  [:)]
  • Thanks for all the input.  We will try these suggestions and see if Max changes as he gets more used to us.
    What is the difference between a resuce dog and an adopted dog?  I may be using bad terminology.  We don't believe Max was abused, but he was rescued from the pound.  A shepherd rescue organization took him in as he wasn't very friendly and outgoing, and they didn't think he'd be adopted.  His foster mom had him for 3 weeks and housetrained him, and he was fine around her 18-month old grandchild.  Another family adopted him the weekend before we got him and brought him back because he wasn't housebroken and he was chewing.  But he was fine with their kids.  Part of picking out a dog was letting the kids play with him, if it wasn't a good kid-friendly dog we wouldn't take it.  He has been great with them, very friendly and sweet.  He just growls every once in a while, and since we don't "know" him yet, we're a little unsure what he means by it.  The kids equate growling dog with angry dog.  If this is just his way of saying "give me some space" - fine, we can respect that.  But if it's the start of something more, it needs to be nipped in the bud.
    Turns out he really IS housebroken - no accidents, and he's really, really good about pooping in one spot in the yard.  But he does chew!
    The first time he growled, my son snuck up on him and startled him.  As soon as he saw who it was, he rolled on his back and let him do a belly-rub.  But the next time it happened, he didn't roll over. 
    A lot of it is that we were so used to our other dog.  She was old and didn't play much, but my husband reminded me that when she was younger she DID used to play-growl with us.  It's weird to have a young dog again who wants to take walks and is capable of jumping into the van or onto the bed.
  • He could have just seen a cat and didn't remember how to get home.

    Maybe! [:D]
    We went to bed at 9:30.  He was out of the yard at 10:30, walked straight up to the neighbor working in his garage.  They walked the street looking for where he could be from, but no luck. 
    We woke up at 5:30 and drove around from 5:30-7:30 looking for him.  At 7:45 we got a call from the foster mom asking how Max was doing.  I told her I really couldn't tell her, since he was gone!  She gave me the neighbor's number and I called them and we laughed when we realized how short a distance he went.  Lazy dog...we were thinking he might have run off into the desert near the house, where the coyotes hang out.  No, he just walked up to them and made himself at home.  I walked out my front door and the neighbor was standing in front of her house with him.  Now we know where to look if he goes missing...
  • I'm going to give a slightly different opinion here because I don't completely agree with the previous poster. I don't think that the dog should be allowed to growl at the kids - ever. And if the kids yawn and walk away then they are reinforcing the growling behavior. I'm not saying that the dog should be beat or frightened but I think it should be up to the parents to tell the dog, by giving a sharp "no", that this growling is not acceptable.  It is also up to the parents to set limits on the kids, atleast until the settling in period is over.

    The dog definitely should be given a crate (that I agree with), especially during this transition time, where it can go and snuggle with some blankets and a chewie (chewing relieves stress) when it needs to relax. The kids need to understand that the crate is off limits to them when the dog is in there.

    Just to give you an example, when I was at the vet in the waiting room the other day, a full grown un-neutured male dog started to growl at my 3 month old puppy (the dog was at the end of the leash sniffing/growling). The owner of the dog didn't do a thing and just let it continue. I looked at the dog and gave it a sharp NO, snapping my finger, and the dog stopped growling immediatly. From then on it would look at me first, very submissively, then sniff my puppy. No more growling.

    Dogs need to know boundaries and it should be up to the parents (i.e. the alpha of the pack) to make those boundaries clear.
    P.S. he is a very cute dog!
  • For god's sake do NOT yell at a dog who growls at a kid. GROWLING IS GOOD. That's the very first warning to get the dog out of that situation. If you teach him it's not okay to warn, he might just bite next time. A growl means Hey, I need this kid out of my face. A snarl means MOVE FASTER. After that, hopefully with several steps in between, comes the bite. Seriously, don't take away his comfort with giving a warning growl. Obviously ideally the dog would never growl, but very few dogs are so bomb-proof, and obviously he is not 100% comfortable with those kids (yet?).
  • What is the difference between a resuce dog and an adopted dog?

    Basically the terms are the same, except that a rescue can be a dog that is just being fostered.
    Even if a dog likes kids, he is getting used to his new home (sounds, smells, etc.) and trying to figure out the pack structure in the first few weeks.  You may not even see Max's complete personality for 6-8 weeks.  Of course, since he is still growing up, there may be additional changes. 
    [font=verdana]He just growls every once in a while, and since we don't "know" him yet, we're a little unsure what he means by it.  The kids equate growling dog with angry dog. 
    Growls can mean all kinds of things
    (1) Leave me alone.
    (2) I don't like that.
    (3) I am afraid of you.
    (4) I am tired.
    (5) I am having fun playing.
    Most bites occur when people ignore the growl.  I rescued a dog who was on death row for biting.  His previous adopters had him for only 3 days and didn't have sense enough not to stick their hands in front of the mouth of a snarling dog.  My evaluation showed that they had scared him, didn't realize it, and tried to "dominate" the dog.  In his next home he did just fine.
    My guess is that Max is just getting overstimulated and still isn't really sure that the twins aren't going to hurt him.  That should pass - especially if he has a crate.
    Please do not punish Max for growling!!  If a dog is getting upset, you want him to growl before he progresses to something more serious. 
  • if you punish a dog for growling then he could potentially become one of those dogs that bites w/o warning.

    He could be telling your kids.."I'm tired right now..I need some alone time" for example. Obviously you don't want your dog growling at your children. You'll learn what his growls mean with time as well. My dogs growl when they are playing with me, but it's harmless.

    I would def get one of those books asap! I'm sure it could tell you an appropriate way to deal with it.
  • We are working on training the kids AND the dog!  I would prefer that he never growl or feel the need to growl - but I also want him to be able to give them notice that he is not happy, and they need to back off.  It is so amazing how gentle Mocha was, I don't know that I've ever trusted a dog as much as I trusted her.  We knew 100% without a doubt that she would never growl or bite or snap, at any child of any age.  You could lay on her like a pillow and she would just put up with it.  Of course you can't trust a new dog like that right away, it does take time.  
    The kids have been warned - if Max growls, move away.  They have been told that Max likes to play during the day, and in the evening he is tired and wants to be left alone.  That is his right, and they need to respect it.  Just like their parents get tired and snippy towards the end of the day, so does Max.
    I think we will get him a crate very soon.  Maybe even tonight...I'd like him to have a place of his own where the kids aren't allowed.  Since he was crate-trained, should I have to do much to get him to use it?  I don't want him to feel like he's being banished, I want him to feel that it is his safe place when he doesn't want to be bothered.  The foster mom said he'll whine a couple of minutes at first, then settle down.
    At first my husband was concerned that Max was aggressive and a bit dangerous.  He was looking at the dog as if it were some deranged pit bull (I know, stereotype - we had a pit bull rescue dog and she was gentle, but she definitely scared people who didn't know her).  Then he realized that Max was always gentle and hadn't done anything but growl, and only towards the end of the day when he was trying to rest.  I pointed out that HE also gets grumpy at the end of the day and starts to snap at the kids, but nobody's talking about sending him off to the pound!  Now he's realized that Max is a great dog, but he just needs a bit more space than Mocha did.
  • Good for you for realizing that Mocha needs his space. You are starting to get to know him and understand him. My oldest dog, who is 12, get's grumpy at times too. I'm also glad you are willing to work with Mocha and your family to find solutions. Good job! [;)]

    Also, thank you for rescuing a dog in need. He is very cute!

    You're not alone. I'm having some issues with my rescue as well. He's a 10 month old aussie/bc mix. He's very loving and gentle. But he's plays extremely rough with my dog. So have to teach him to play nice. He's very active too.

    BTW. It seemed like you were leaving him out in the yard at night? Or did I read that wrong? Anyway, he probably shouldn't be unattended as he doesn't know where "home" is yet and for awhile..