Quick Post

How to correct growling?

New Topic
How to correct growling?
  • Just adopted a 6 yrs old fox terrier. He is obidient, understands sit, stay, catch. Plays well with kids, does not bark or growls at strangers. However, around mid-day he will start growling at the kids or me if we just pass him by. For no apparent reason. Lets say he is laying in the middle of the hall and I'm trying to get from point A to point B which means I have to pass by the middle of the hall. He will then growl at me. I'm not sure what he is trying to tell me. He is on my way, I need to pass by him, I have no intention of petting or moving him; but he is reacting with the growl. any suggestions?

  • First I would rule out any medical problems like thyroid, or some sort of pain, or losing sight.

    Assuming that's not it....is he basically sleeping/resting during the mid-day when this happens?  If so, I'd try giving him his own space to rest, like putting him in a crate or in another room for a while if he wants more personal space.

  • I don't "correct" growling.  A growl is a warning, & if you suppress the growl, then you've got no warning before a bite occurs.

    I would have the dog move to a bed or crate in a less active area of the house.  It may just be that he feels vulnerable/insecure with people moving around or stepping over him. 

  • Foxy09
    He is on my way, I need to pass by him, I have no intention of petting or moving him; but he is reacting with the growl. any suggestions?

    Pirate knows a vague 'go on' command that means, for him, to get out of the place he is, because I need to be there.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is I wouldn't correct the *growl*, I would correct the situation that's making him feel uncomfortable enough to have to growl.

  •  Ask him politely, but firmly to move.  Give him a place to rest which is away from tramping feet. 

    In this scenario, a growl is not completely unreasonable because all animals are vulnerable when they let their guard down to rest.  He may be concerned about being trodden on, or even kicked (perhaps he was not well treated at a previous home?) or maybe he is just feeling tired and grumpy and dislikes being disturbed.  We all have days like that!  There is a reason for the saying "Let sleeping dogs lie".

    A growl is not misbehaviour, so there is nothing to correct.  A growl is usually just: "hey! watch it - that is making me feel uncomfortable" or a variation on that theme. 

    And yeah, if you correct thatm you risk that the dog one day doesn't give you an obvious warning like a growl before escalating to a snap or a bite.

  • If you correct the growl then you are correcting also the BEHAVIOR behind it so don't be afraid of ending "not having a warning" before the bite. You are correcting the dog by saying "I don't like the growl AND the attitude"

    I use corrections and I have corrected growls by dozens and I have never ever come across with a dog not growling anymore and going directly for a bite, ever. People who say that, actually don't use corrections whatsoever so they at only speculating, a wrong speculation.

    Just like if I tell you how it feels to ride a motorcycle when I have never done it before.

    I would just stand there without moving, you will be showing the dog that you are not there to bother but he has to learn how to share space, if you move you will be teaching him that growling makes you go away like he wants. Do not move until he stops growling an he clearly has accepted you to be around at that moment, you have showed him that nothing wrong happened.

    I have dealt with this behavior with many dogs before and it has never take me more than literally 2 minutes of standing there to have the dog stop growling or moving himself instead.

  •  My dog will do the same thing - growl to protect his place. Espencer's suggestion of just tanding there, not moving, is a pretty good one - that way you're neither making the situation worse (approaching the dog, making the dog feel defensive) nor letting the dog think it "won" (by you backing down). Basically you're forcing the dog to realize that you're not a threat, and the dog is being ridiculous and needs to get over itself.

    What I do with Rascal is turn the situation from a confrontation (he thinks I'm after "his spot") to a cooperative exercise ("let's work on this together") by asking him to respond to a command. He growls, the person he's growling at asks him to "sit" or "come" or do something else that he knows well, Rascal grudgingly obeys (because this command has been reinforced many many many times), and then all of a sudden he's not growly anymore and you can reward his obedience! Yay, everyone is SO happy, time for a treat! You get the idea. Wink That way you gently reassert who is in control (you) by doing something positive (asking the dog to do something, and then rewarding him). It turns from a fight to a positive experience.

     Good luck!

     

    (Side note - espence, we tried the "just stand there and don't move" method with Rascal once when he was guarding a bone he had in his crate - my boyfriend stood next to his crate for over 15 minutes with Rascal growling, non-stop, before we gave up and lured him away from his bone with other treats. Generally I think the method works very well, but there ARE times when having a "backup plan" is a good idea! You should have heard him... 15 minutes... he sounded like a stupid motor boat!)

  •  I *have* corrected a growl, and ended up with a dog who didn't warn. She bit a dog trainer in the face, for getting in her space. It was my fault, for removing her warning, and the trainer's fault, for getting too close to a dog she knew was touchy.

     

    Perhaps, if someone knew exactly what they were doing, and had excellent timing, correcting a growl might be ok. For a novice dog trainer, though? Not ok. 

  • Cita
    espence, we tried the "just stand there and don't move" method with Rascal once when he was guarding a bone he had in his crate - my boyfriend stood next to his crate for over 15 minutes with Rascal growling, non-stop, before we gave up and lured him away from his bone with other treats. Generally I think the method works very well, but there ARE times when having a "backup plan" is a good idea! You should have heard him... 15 minutes... he sounded like a stupid motor boat!)

    Good job from your boyfriend to never give up.You dont have to be macho about it or bully about it but the human has the advantage, why? because the human is calm and the dog is not. By nature a calm state of mind can last longer that a stressful state of mind and therefore the dog can not last as long as you, they get tired mentally and just stop, the good thing is that they alsio realize that you are actually doing anything to them and there is no reason to guard.

    jennie_c_d
     I *have* corrected a growl, and ended up with a dog who didn't warn. She bit a dog trainer in the face, for getting in her space. It was my fault, for removing her warning, and the trainer's fault, for getting too close to a dog she knew was touchy.

    Dogs have a "warning zone", if you dont cross it they will growl. If you cross it they still give you an indication on what you are going to get, that indication can last less than a second depending on how fast do you cross the "warning line"

    Growls are not the only warning that a dog has in their repertory, there is a classical one that many persons overlook often: When the dog is having his mouth closed, pointing his nose to one direction but looking to a different direction thats a clear indication that the dog is not comfortable with the situation.

    Here is a video of a couple dogs not growling but showing that warning.The dog's warning lasts less than a second because the fake hand keeps getting closer too fast, therefore the hand already passed the "warning zone" (the first dog gave that warning without biting but the second time the fake hand got closer he gave the warning and went for the bite right after)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s57BB9YnHbk

    Dogs have tons of ways to let you know that you are doing something they dont agree with, is on the human to be able to recognize them.

    If you correct the growl while in the warning zone you are defusing the whole behavior, you are letting them know safetly that the behavior is not allowed, you are now having a 2 way communication with the dog. It's not just the dog thinking that he is communicating something to you and you are not listening.

    He is letting you know that he does not agree with you getting closer BUT you are also communicating him that you dont agree with that attitude and it's not fair after all the care, attention, food and love he gets from you.

  • Foxy09

    Just adopted a 6 yrs old fox terrier. He is obidient, understands sit, stay, catch. Plays well with kids, does not bark or growls at strangers. However, around mid-day he will start growling at the kids or me if we just pass him by. For no apparent reason. Lets say he is laying in the middle of the hall and I'm trying to get from point A to point B which means I have to pass by the middle of the hall. He will then growl at me. I'm not sure what he is trying to tell me. He is on my way, I need to pass by him, I have no intention of petting or moving him; but he is reacting with the growl. any suggestions?

     

    I'm wondering if he is guarding space.  Space can be a resource, just as food, water, toys, or people can be a resource.  Is the reason you "have no intention of petting or moving him" because you are afraid to do so?  Trust your fear if that is the case, and get a professional behaviorist to assess the dog and the threat level.  Do not "test" your dog or correct him for growling, rather find out the reason and then deal with the underlying behavior.  Contrary to some advice farther up this thread, you are NOT necessarily correcting the reason for the behavior if you try to correct the growl, you are merely correcting the RESPONSE to a trigger, which is not the same thing as correcting (or even identifying) the trigger.  Some dogs that guard space are quite good at seeing that you can't move freely in your own home.  If you even think that might be the reason your dog is growling, get professional help from a positive behavior professional (IAABC's web page is a good starting point).

  • spiritdogs
    Contrary to some advice farther up this thread, you are NOT necessarily correcting the reason for the behavior if you try to correct the growl, you are merely correcting the RESPONSE to a trigger, which is not the same thing as correcting (or even identifying) the trigger.

    espencer
    People who say that, actually don't use corrections whatsoever so they are only speculating, a wrong speculation.

  •  

     

    espencer

    spiritdogs
    Contrary to some advice farther up this thread, you are NOT necessarily correcting the reason for the behavior if you try to correct the growl, you are merely correcting the RESPONSE to a trigger, which is not the same thing as correcting (or even identifying) the trigger.

    espencer
    People who say that, actually don't use corrections whatsoever so they are only speculating, a wrong speculation.

     

    That is rather a big assumption to make - that spiritdogs never uses corrections, has never used corrections and has never witnessed them used, correctly and incorrectly.   Gosh and there was me thinking she was a rather experienced trainer....

    It's not just speculation, as at least one person has pointed out that correcting the growl led to a bite without warning.

    In any case, growling is not necessarily misbehaviour.  It's communication.  As there is not usually any NEED to correct the growl in cases like these, why risk inhibiting the dog's willingness to warn, when there is no need?

  •  Ok, espenser, I think you're assuming that I (a groomer of 6 years, now, with no serious injuries) and a dog trainer couldn't see the dog warning, when we were in close proximity of her. She was in my arms. I do not have muzzles in my shop. I am deeply involved in dog training, competing, troubleshooting, etc. The dog didn't warn, she just bit the woman's face off. Ok, maybe it was a warning snap gone wrong. Maybe she froze for half a second, and tensed, before she did it. For all intents and purposes, a half second freeze is *not* a warning. It took several years of hard work for her to be comfortable enough to warn in my presence, again, and I did not correct her severely, by any means.

  • espencer
    By nature a calm state of mind can last longer that a stressful state of mind and therefore the dog can not last as long as you, they get tired mentally and just stop, the good thing is that they alsio realize that you are actually doing anything to them and there is no reason to guard.

     

    As usual, my hare casts doubt on that assertion. I can tell you, we are coming up to 5 years together and he has taught me to be an absolute master at appearing calm. Make myself small, still, don't look at him, lean away from him if he's still, slow, steady breathing, relax the shoulders... some days it works and some days it doesn't. Sometimes just being there is too much and the longer he is feeling stressed the more stressed he becomes. I have sat there calmly watching him go from hopping over to take treats from me to shooting all over his cage banging into things. I think I even have it on video. You have to know when to cut your losses before you actually reinforce the stressful mindset just by being there.

    I think that to a degree, you can defuse (thank you espencer for spelling that correctly!) a tense situation with a "correction" if you do so in the warning phase. It doesn't necessarily have to be a correction, though. All you need to do is distract them. If your dog knows what "look here" means, you can use that instead. Provided it's got a very good reinforcement history. Or any other incompatible behaviour.

    I disagree, though, that correcting the growl somehow tells the dog not only to not growl but to not feel aggressive. This is a point we will have to agree to disagree on, because my reason for disagreeing is yet to be proven. I just don't think growls and aggression are so firmly linked in a dog's brain. I do think they are somewhat linked, but not that linked. Smile If I interrupted Penny when she started to growl or gave Kivi one of those "I will so bite you" looks, I could prevent her from snapping at Kivi provided I was able to hold her attention. But most of the time I was not close enough, and then she became deaf anyway, and if I wasn't looking when she was in the warning phase then she would do what she pleased.

    I think that if you punish a dog for growling you are just punishing the growling, not the whole chain. But, if you can get your dog to act calm and reward that, with time your dog might feel calm. So it follows that if you punish a dog for growling and they stop growling, over time they might feel less need to growl. On the other hand, growling is a good deal more complex than being calm, and there are a lot of other ways a dog can communicate that they don't like something without growling. The problem is, they are all more subtle than a growl.

    My partner's parents were here with their dog recently. They would put poor little Alex close to Kivi so that Alex would feel a need to growl, then smack him. It's this misuse of punishment that is so common and quite upsetting. It makes sense to people, but it doesn't make sense to their dog. Alex stopped growling at Kivi and just took to trying to bite his face off instead. Alex was tiny, though, and Kivi has very thick fur, so Kivi found this more rewarding than punishing. Alex stopped doing it and instead just patiently put up with Kivi's sneak licking attacks, having learnt that they were not terribly threatening.

    Anyway, so yes, ignoring the growling so that the animal learns it is ineffectual does work, but what really calmed Alex down in the end was learning that Kivi was not going to hurt him. Once he had figured that he didn't need to growl or bite anyone. In Penny's younger days she gave warnings a mile long. It was great. It gave you so much time to judge how annoyed she was and do something about it before it got worse. I would hate to jeopardise long warnings by cracking down on the most obvious of them. I've never actually seen Kivi growl, but if he ever did I would damn well take notice and I'd be quite happy he was being so obvious about it instead of lying down helplessly.

  • corvus

    I think that if you punish a dog for growling you are just punishing the growling, not the whole chain. But, if you can get your dog to act calm and reward that, with time your dog might feel calm. So it follows that if you punish a dog for growling and they stop growling, over time they might feel less need to growl. On the other hand, growling is a good deal more complex than being calm, and there are a lot of other ways a dog can communicate that they don't like something without growling. The problem is, they are all more subtle than a growl.

     

     I think one of the things that makes everything so tricky is dogs growl for different reasons and the hidden meanings behind them can vary greatly.  For instance there is a big difference between a dog growling who is serious about inflicting a serious bite if its warning isn't acknowledged, and a dog that is putting on a bluff in hopes of getting its way.  When Kirby was dealing with his fear reactivity toward other dogs he sounded like a mini Cujo on the end of the leash.  If his bluff didn't work however his next move wouldn't be a bite or aggression but attempting to flee.  Thus with his nature, correcting his growling most likely wouldn't turn him into a biter.  At the same time however stopping the growling wouldn't have neccessarily helped his anxiety level around other dogs either.  I could stop the growling with a loud sound correction, but it also caused him to shut down and did little to help his overall problem.  In that case I decided to focuse on going to the root of the problem and work on desentizing him to his fear and pairing other dogs with positive reinforcements.  He then lost his insecurty and in then turn the growling stopped because he no longer needed it.

     I have a feeling that part of the reason people can be loud about not training out growls is because for many of us less than gifted doggy speakers it can be hard to judge the entire message behind our dogs growl.  There is always a chance when you tell someone to stand up or correct their dog over the internet, they could be dealing with a canine that might be willing to take their warning to the next level and in fact have a bite far worse than their bark.