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Old 02-18-2010, 09:25 PM
4Dogs&ABaby 4Dogs&ABaby is offline
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Default Advice Needed: Growly/Barky Dog, not aggressive

This is a cross post from another site, I was advised to try the knowledge of all of you wonderful people! I search to make sure it wasn't answered already and I didn't find anything that sounded quite like my dog.

In November I took on a rehab-type dog off of Craigslist. He was a breed I had been wanting and I figured we could take care of his issues for a lot less than spending $$$ on a registered version I was just going to fix and have as a pet anyway. He is a purebred but unregistered Papillion, turned a year old in November. The owner said he was over protective of her and wouldn't let her husband near her. He marked so he wore a potty-belt thing. Those were the disclosed issues. I had fixed those in other dogs before, so we were confident he would be fitting in in no time here.



Well, he had a LOT more going on than those two things. He would bite you if you kissed him on the head, bite you if you touched his ears, every time he woke up startled he would shriek. His "marking" was almost instantly fixed by getting him neutered (amazing how that works). But he had been wearing the potty-belt thing constantly with the former owner so his poor little boy equipment was really irritated and verging on infected. Nasty. He smelled like pee. He was super weary of anyone but me, but wasn't bonded to me, just less weary of me. He didn't know what "No" meant, didn't know the difference between a happy voice and a stern voice, didn't know sit, NOTHING. He would, however, give you kisses on command. Cause that's way more important then No or Sit. Or Come, he didn't come either. He also had no idea how to play with other dogs. He was bratty and bossy and would attack them when he decided he wanted the toy they had. He was skinny, only 6 lbs when his breed should weigh 10. That might be because of his age, but he seemed so thin to us. His spine stuck up and his hip-bones stuck out.



So, we started out working with him. First, he got a bath, his private area hair trimmed so he could clean himself and we chucked the Potty-Belt. He went to get neutered and his rabies booster the next day after we brought him home. Whenever someone new came in the room he was handed to them and sat with them until someone else new came in. We badgered him touching his ears and gently tugging them, kissing him on his face, everything he hated, and making him tolerate it. He was over all that in about 5 minutes. I took him everywhere with me trying to get him used to people. He LOVES to go places! He marked maybe twice after he came home from the vet. Both times were near other dog's food. I just swatted him and put him outside and he never did it again. He adores my husband and will cuddle with him over me given the choice! We've been really pleased with his progress; his personality has emerged, his eyes are bright, he learned how to play! That was an awesome day when he realized that the other older puppy would SHARE with him and play tug of war with him and he didn't have to worry about her hurting him. They are best buddies now.



The ONLY thing left that is driving everyone in the house crazy is the barky-growly. He doesn't growl at me. But he growls at EVERYONE else. When they come in the house, stand up, shift position in a chair, talk, leave, make any movement whatever. He barks a lot, but we broke down and got him a bark-collar and it's helped a lot. He'll still bark until it uses a high power on him, but it's not near what it was. He is very verbal, and that's fine. He talks and makes these adorable little throat noises like he's asking a question when he wants you to play and throw a toy or something. I have tried everything I can think of and he will NOT quit growling. He isn't aggressive, he growls and then hides under the desk because he KNOWS better. We've tried saying No, tapping his nose, making him lay on his back in a submissive position, putting him outside, etc. The collar doesn't do anything when he growls, and it gives him one or two "free" barks, so I'm not worried about that hurting him. He's actually been able to go a couple days without wearing it a few times and he's starting to stop barking if I get after him verbally, but not always. If someone is at the door he's a lost cause. He is REALLY smart. He learned to sit in about 5 tries and learned to dance by watching the other dogs do it. He is a super-duper dancer. He is just SO stubborn about the growling. So, what are some ideas I haven't tried? Is there a concept about WHY he is barking that I'm missing? I don't think he's scared of people; he'll run up to them while growling, in a happy posture. He'll go up to them when told while growling. He'll sit in their lap after he's quit growling, of his own accord. I'm at a loss what more to do. The others in my house are about ready to kick him out because it is SO annoying to have him growling every time they move. But this is the last of a long list of things we've fixed, so I'm hopeful it's fixable also and I don't want to give up on him.



Isn't he absolutely adorable?!

ADDED:
From the posts I read here before posting it makes me wonder more WHY he is growling. He isn't aggressive at all. He doesn't growl and then bit. You can pick him up and love on him while he's growling, he is happy to be loved on. He will growl and then jump in the person's lap when they sit. He will growl and bark when he hears something in the other room, on the other side of the thin walls, etc. None of the other dogs will be alerting and he'll be growling or barking. He is NOT aggressive at all. Doesn't bite, LOVES people, new people he's never met. I can hand him to them while he's growling and he'll happily cuddle up to them. So, I'm not worried that it's a precursor to biting. I assume it must be that he is still insecure about some part of his life and I don't know what to do to fix that. I know that most of what I've tried is negative reinforcement, so please give me some ideas on positive reinforcement that I can have the whole household doing. He doesn't usually growl at me and not always at my husband. But if he can't see the person he always growls. And if it's anyone else besides me and sometimes my hubby he growls whenever they move, no matter where he is. He sleeps in a crate at night, so he's not protecting his house. He happily shares his toys. He isn't protective of anything concrete that I can tell. Any input and ideas would be much appreciated. Thanks!
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Old 02-19-2010, 04:07 PM
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Old 02-23-2010, 11:04 AM
Maura Maura is offline
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Gosh, it sounds like you are giving him a great home. Do you know if he has been raised with cats? Dogs will sometimes learn to purr from the cats. Of course, that is going to come out as a growl.

Set up a training situation. When you know he is going to growl, be prepared with a treat. At the first growl give him a command (hushhh) then treat him. Hold the treat at his nose. He has to stop growling in order to sniff the treat (air can't go in and out at the same time). After a few times, tell him hushh and see if he won't stop growling anticipating the treat. Have him wait for one second before treating. Use one second for three times, then have him wait two seconds. Since you've been training him you are familiar with his learning curve. When he is doing well, switch to a chewy treat that will keep his mouth busy and make him forget about the growling.
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Old 02-23-2010, 05:47 PM
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lizzybeth727 lizzybeth727 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 4Dogs&ABaby View Post
ADDED:
From the posts I read here before posting it makes me wonder more WHY he is growling. He isn't aggressive at all. He doesn't growl and then bit. You can pick him up and love on him while he's growling, he is happy to be loved on. He will growl and then jump in the person's lap when they sit. He will growl and bark when he hears something in the other room, on the other side of the thin walls, etc. None of the other dogs will be alerting and he'll be growling or barking. He is NOT aggressive at all. I assume it must be that he is still insecure about some part of his life and I don't know what to do to fix that. ... But if he can't see the person he always growls. And if it's anyone else besides me and sometimes my hubby he growls whenever they move, no matter where he is. He sleeps in a crate at night, so he's not protecting his house. He happily shares his toys. He isn't protective of anything concrete that I can tell. Any input and ideas would be much appreciated. Thanks!
Generally speaking, I don't like to worry too much about WHY a dog is doing a particular behavior, because we will never truely know what a dog is thinking; so hypothesizing about what he's thinking usually just causes more problems than it helps.

BUT, I think you're right in assuming that he is growling because he's insecure. From the description the previous owner gave, it doesn't sound like he was ever a very confident dog, and then to move to a new home with a lot of new people probably doesn't help him feel more secure.

So, with that in mind, you will have to think of the growling as a symptom, rather than a problem that needs to be fixed. For example, if my leg hurts I can take pain meds to make it feel better; but it doesn't fix the problem. You could continue working to teach your dog not to growl, but it doesn't fix the underlying problem of his insecurity.

I read in your post the many things that you have done to try to fix this problem, and it sounds like it's all punishment based - saying no, tapping his nose, alpha rolling, etc. Knowing that he's growling because he's feeling insecure, do you think that these punishment methods are going to make the problem - the insecurity - better or worse?

I would suggest doing training and games that help build his confidence. Clicker training is great for that becase clicker training focuses on what the dog is doing right, rather than what he's doing wrong. Basically, no matter what the dog does he will get the answer right (as long as you've set up your training session correctly), which is a huge confidence booster. I'd suggest checking out Karen Pryor Clickertraining for tips on how to clicker train and how to get started with your dog.

About the growling, probably the best thing you can do is to just ignore it. Making a big deal out of it is either going to make him more insecure, or will teach him that whenever he wants attention he can growl to get it.
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