Becoming A Serious Issue!

Discussion in 'Dog Behavior Problems' started by Sarah.D, Jan 25, 2013.

  1. Sarah.D Well-Known Member

    For those of you who know me from my past posts about my German Shepherd, Yuma, know that I have been working with him quite a bit on several things.
    Well, he is becoming a well mannered boy (in some cases he isn't so much :p ) and I am continuing to work with him.
    His most recent issue is showing his teeth to me and growling at me when he is in trouble. PLEASE NOTE THAT HE DID THIS NOT FROM A SPANKING BUT FROM ME SCOLDING HIM. Just a few seconds ago he was eating his afternoon meal and as I walked by I went to scratch him on the rump as I always do. From puppyhood he has been taught NOT to growl at me and allow me to take his toy, food, treat, etc. without the guarding instinct. Never has he done this before until now.
    The growling is becoming a serious issue and I fear him biting. Each time he has done it before (which now totals 2 or 3) it was for being scolded for not coming inside when asked or for chewing on something he wasn't supposed to.

    Also take note that when I say "scold" I mean talking to him sternly and my body language showing that I am not pleased. NOT getting in his face or anything that crosses his boundaries. Normal reaction to the scolding is he would turn his head and hide it with a "I'm so sorry" sort of look then it was over with.

    Please help me with this. I don't know what has triggered this but I have considered that it is because he is nearing 2 (will be at the end of May) and maybe his hormones have the effect? I plan to neuter him soon regardless.

  2. southerngirl Honored Member

    I don't know how to help you others on the forum will, I just want to say Never Ever correct Yuma for growling.
    Dogster, jackienmutts and MaryK like this.
  3. sara Moderator

    DO NOT get mad at him for growling, it is a warning that he's uncomfortable, if you get mad at him for growling, you effectively train out the warning and his next step is to bite. He WILL bite if you give him heck for growling. If the dog growls, YOU need to back off and figure out why. Then you either desensitize him to whatever you're doing that makes him growl, or you need to avoid that trigger completely.

    If he's growling at you near his food, you need to look at the thread about food aggression there's alot of ideas on how to help a dog feel more comfortable with you near his food. as for him growling when you scold, he is obviously uncomfortable with you scolding him, maybe figure out a way to keep you from having to scold.
  4. MaryK Honored Member

    Sara has said EXACTLY what I was going to say NEVER, NEVER SCOLD A DOG FOR GROWLING!!!!!!!!!! All Sara says is absolutely right and has it been proven scientifically!!!!!!!!!!

    When a dog growls it is not saying "I'm going to bite" but, as Sara says, it's a warning that the dog isn't comfortable with the situation and asking you POLITELY in doggy language which is NOT English, to back off! Scold for growling and the dog WILL, again as Sara says, escalate to actually biting. Dogs growl, in a pack situation, to let another dog know to back off, not I'm going to attack. Ignore that warning though and I WILL attack.

    I personally thank a dog who growls, as he/she is letting me know something I'VE done has made the dog feel uncomfortable, or I'VE put the dog in a situation which has made them feel uncomfortable. A growl let's me know that and then I can work, safely, to eliminate or desensitize whatever has caused the growl.
  5. jackienmutts Honored Member

    I'm right there with everyone else. Please please NEVER "correct" or punish a growl. Take away that growl, and you're taking away perhaps the largest and last communication tool the dog has before the bite. Tell the dog "no more growling, it's not allowed" and they say "fine, I can't growl anymore, I'll just bite next time you do something I don't like, you obviously won't let me warn you". As stated above, dogs don't speak English, and we don't speak dog. To each other, and to us, when there's something they're uncomfortable with that we're doing (or another dog is doing - we're not talking about dog/dog play here) they will growl and bare teeth to express their discomfort/displeasure. We - or the other dog - have a choice - we can either back off, or not. A "polite" dog will growl and then hesitate and give us (or the other dog) a moment to choose. If we back off, problem solved. If not - the bite most likely will happen. If we're smart, we will back off. And at that point, we need to sit back and figure out what's going on, what we're doing to upset our dog, and how we can improve the whole situation.

    I have to wonder, in your situation ... is it necessary to pet Yuma once you've put his food down? Maybe he's just sick of being petted once he's eating. I know once I've started enjoying my meal, I'd get tired of someone deciding that that would be a nice time to constantly give me a shoulder rub or comb my hair or mess with my food. :eek: If it happened constantly, I'd probably finally lose it and yell at them to stop it or else!!!! Doesn't mean you'll never be able to take things from Yuma, but maybe he needs to be able to eat his meal in peace. I can take anything away from mine, but I respect them both, and when I put their meals down, I let them enjoy their meals without disturbing them. I can pet them later.

    If you can give more detailed info about how/when you "scold" Yuma (like when he doesn't come, or when he chews something inappropriate), and exactly what happens then, what he does, growl, bares teeth, etc, and what you then do, we can give you suggestions as to how to better handle it to change his attitude and behavior. The last thing you want is a GS who will bite. It will change the trust between you forever. It's not too late to turn your relationship around, but it sounds like the "scolding" is the first thing that may need to be changed.

    Can I ask - what training methods have you been using on Yuma? Have you been using positive reinforcement? I know from your previous thread you were considering Don Sullivan's method. Just wondering what you went with, how you've been training, etc. It all helps put together a picture of what Yuma's used to. Please give more info, and we'll try to help.
    Dogster, MaryK and southerngirl like this.
  6. k9 crazed Experienced Member

    I was thinking about you today as I was reading this book, you may be interested in it. It is "Barking the sound of a language" by Turid Rugaas. (I was thinking about you when I was reading the growling part) I hope you are getting stuff sorted out.
    MaryK likes this.
  7. MaryK Honored Member

    Great book! Highly recommend!
  8. Sarah.D Well-Known Member

    "Scolding" means that I usually say something along the lines of "What did you do?" but my tone and body language makes it clear that I am unhappy with the situation. In the past, which was always until this incident, he would look away and duck his head and that would be it. When this showing his teeth thing happened, it shocked me! Never had he done that when I said those words to him and never have I given him a reason to escalate anything other than turning his head away as a sign of submission. I stand a good distance back when I speak so he isn't crowded.

    Training has been positive reinforcement and positive punishment. No harsh collars/chains/abuse. Clicker for new things. If/when he doesn't really respond well to anything in those categories so we've just been going with the flow and figuring out what works yet still gets the training implemented that I want.
  9. MaryK Honored Member

    Dogs read our body language very clearly! This means that Yuma is feeling very upset by your body language, looking away and ducking his head, is not something I would like to see my dog (or any dog) do. He's already showing you right there that he's NOT happy, so it's no surprise he went up a level when his 'warning' was ignored.

    It's best to totally ignore the 'naughty' things and reward the good to put it briefly. That way your dog ALWAYS respects and loves you and is not afraid, as the ducking and turning away shows, of you.

    Ignoring is the only punishment which should be used.

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