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Old 06-13-2012, 01:40 PM
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Default Praising a growling dog

What would happen if you praise a dog while he is growling? Would it reinforce aggression? Would it cause increased growling/aggression? What if you give treats/ toys when he growls?
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Old 06-13-2012, 01:50 PM
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I know Kathy Sdao is a pretty big supporter of treating while growling in aggression/reactivity cases. She says that once the way the dogs view of the stimulus changes the growling will subside.

I know she has/had a student that had a GSD who was fearful/reactive toward children. The woman would do short sessions on the other side of fenced playgrounds, but leave very quickly because she worried that people would call the cops when they saw her giving her dog steak and praising it while it was growling at children

I know with Frodo I would still treat while he was grumbling at people, and there wasn't any increase in the growling/barking, he's better with people now than he ever has been!

I'm pretty sure Sdao explains her whole reasoning in her DVD Cujo meet Pavlov.
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Old 06-13-2012, 02:02 PM
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I do not think it would increase the growling, and even if it did it would only be increasing the behavior, not the emotion behind it (so like teaching a dog to show his teeth on cue, he would look like he's snarling but would be happy as a clam and friendly). But I really think for most dogs it would onot even increase the behavior, they are not really thinking about growling, it's more like a person gasping, it's an automatic reaction to an emotion. Eliminate the emotion causing it (and treats may do that) and the behavior also goes away.

I would most likely remove my dog if he were growling, create distance between him and what he's growling at, or take a step back in training if it's resource guarding or aggression about being handled. Generally when doing any sort of training you want the dog under threshold. But like right now I'm working on getting Tucker not to bark at dogs out of the window and I am rewarding growling, it's not barking and I am unable to bring the dog more under threshold simply because of the set up. If I am able to make him stop worrying about the dogs I fully expect the growling to cease even though he's getting treats while he does it. He's also getting treats for silence and for whining, it's not as though I'm requiring him to growl or only giving treats when he growls, I don't think he would ever assume that's what he's getting rewarded for. Perhaps a VERY clever dog would, but I've never heard of it happening.
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Old 06-13-2012, 02:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maxy24 View Post
I do not think it would increase the growling, and even if it did it would only be increasing the behavior, not the emotion behind it (so like teaching a dog to show his teeth on cue, he would look like he's snarling but would be happy as a clam and friendly). But I really think for most dogs it would onot even increase the behavior, they are not really thinking about growling, it's more like a person gasping, it's an automatic reaction to an emotion. Eliminate the emotion causing it (and treats may do that) and the behavior also goes away.
Yeah, that! That's what I was trying to say but my words aren't as good
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Old 06-13-2012, 02:11 PM
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I agree with the above responses. Keeva thinks it's fun to guard the lobby at work (she's tethered/crated, obviously, not running loose!) from incoming dogs, and I pretty much just showered food on her no matter what she was doing. Her attitude towards the doorbell has changed significantly.

I think to truly reinforce growling or even aggression, you have to make the dogs' aggression effective from the dog's point of view, i.e. allow them to drive away (or access, depending on the type of aggression) the trigger. I use a lot of CU techniques that involve reinforcing undesired behavior and putting it on cue. Keeva also likes to stick her freaking face through this gap in the desk to bark at dogs and then gets mad if they stick their heads back through, so I taught her to "peak" on cue (stick your nose in the hole). Problem solved.
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Old 06-13-2012, 02:28 PM
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This is what I have implemented in my work with aggressive/reactive dogs professionally. You're not rewarding the growling so much as you're creating a positive association with the stimuli or trigger. Dogs generally aren't thinking about their own behavior or analyzing it like we are. These things like growling are an emotional response...a more direct reaction to something. They're more focused on that "something" and so they're apt to pair the treats with the object of their reactivity. Distance is always used to minimize or make the stimulus more of a mild thing at first. When the dog is calmer when presented with the trigger because of a little more distance, that's when you can make going away a reward. For instance, the dog sees the object of his reactivity but it's mild. Treat, treat, treat, then go away further. Over some time, the trigger actually becomes a conditioned reinforcer representing and preceding reward... (going away further to safety plus treats.) Dog sees scary dog or person which predicts good feelings are about to come...the calm of being further away that he has experienced over and over and good treats.

Anyhow, this is basically (with some variations) how I've treated dogs with these kinds of issues. So, no...giving treats when a dog is growling doesn't tend to have the same effect as giving treats for a dog that sits when asked. Sitting is such a conscious act...it goes through a different part of the brain..the cortex. Growling, snarling and all that reactivity is, I think, coming straight through the limbic system.
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Last edited by Doberluv; 06-13-2012 at 02:43 PM.
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Old 06-13-2012, 02:28 PM
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Yeah, I agree with the above. When Sophie starts growling and going all Cujo in the car I interprete as her shouting " This is my truck, my human, stay away from us you better not come near us you better not...". I think all the noise is fear. Maybe she can't see so good I dunno.

When it's like a seed spreader that she imagines as a dog on leash it gets silly. I just pat her butt and talk soothingly and she gives a few more warning barks and sit down all proud...she protected me from another rabid weed wacker...whoo hooo
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Old 06-13-2012, 02:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doberluv View Post
Sitting is such a conscious act...it goes through a different part of the brain..the cortex. Growling, snarling and all that reactivity is, I think, coming straight through the limbic system.
Yeah, see, I have no idea what cortex and limbic are.

But I liked the rest of your post.
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Old 06-13-2012, 02:48 PM
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LOL. Thanks CP. The cortex is where higher brain functions take their shape...the thinking, logic, analyzing and acting etc.

Here's something that is put into better words.
Quote:
The limbic system is a set of evolutionarily primitive brain structures located on top of the brainstem and buried under the cortex. Limbic system structures are involved in many of our emotions and motivations, particularly those that are related to survival. Such emotions include fear, anger, and emotions related to sexual behavior. The limbic system is also involved in feelings of pleasure that are related to our survival, such as those experienced from eating and sex.http://biology.about.com/od/anatomy/a/aa042205a.htm
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Old 06-13-2012, 02:54 PM
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Oh, Carrie, I do love you. Thank you! It is now as clear as mud.
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