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Proper response to growling...

811 Views 5 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  Capt.Marbles
A few days ago, almost exactly to the day of Dexter turning 8 months old, he started growling when my girlfriend or I cuddle with him. Although not really an aggressive growl, he rumbles mostly when she cuddles him but has done it for me a few times. Our response is to pretty much laugh it off and give him a some space but not let him go, as we feel that this will reinforce the growling. However, as soon as he tries to move we let him go, hoping that this will reinforce him just getting up and going instead of growling at us to let him go. Whenever he tires of cuddling and leaves our lap on his own we make sure to praise him with "good dog". Sometimes he sends mixed messages with a growl followed by a whimper because we stopped petting him. He's never growled at another person besides us, and never growled at another dog.

Is our response to his growling a good way to precede, and is this something he'll grow out of or something that is a potential red flag requiring the help of a trainer?

We let him on the couch but not in the bed at all, and make sure that when one of us comes from work Dexter gets greeted last. My guess is that it is a recent teenage dominance thing and that he is just testing his boundaries.
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I was proceed in the the following manner:

1. Try to figure out why he's growling. Could there be a health problem/injury? This is something you should bring up with your vet to be sure.
2. Once you come to a conclusion, address the reason for the growling. Don't put him in the positions that are likely to result in growling. Praise and lavishly reward appropriate behavior.
3. I'd try Nothing in Life is Free (NILIF). I probably wouldn't let him on the couch but if I did, I'd definitely make sure it was completely on my terms.
4. If you haven't already taken one, I'd enroll in a basic obedience class. This will give you access to trainers whose brains you can pick on problem areas.

I definitely agree that he's testing your boundaries, as he's entering adolescence. He's starting to care about his rank in the pack. This is a great opportunity to show him just how firm your boundaries are.
Some dogs will growl as a means of "talking" - you've got to know your dog although it does sound like he's on the defense.

Does he "growl" when you come home as a greeting as well?

I personally would sternly say "No" and put him in a down in the corner - time out for a couple of minutes. But I'm no trainer.

I'll step aside here and let the trainers tell you how to handle it as I've not had a Golden growl defensively like that.
I'm with Griffyn's Mom on this one...I'd be the LAST person to allow a dog to growl, or to make excuses, but are you sure he's growling? The Tito monster greets with a very strange growly noise that he reserves for his VERY favorite people, but he's not growling, he's talking.
Some dogs just plain don't like to cuddle. Maybe in the past he has tried to convey that by moving away or leaning away. If you continued, he may have felt he had no option but to growl to let you know it was very uncomfortable for him. The other thought I had is that maybe he has some pain when you are cuddling up to him.
We have been through an obedience class and reinforce/practice daily. He did have a yeast infection in his ear that we went to the vet for about 5 days ago, and noticed two days ago that there was some irritation in his ear. We called the vet and they told us to use the ear flush once a week until empty instead of once a day. I just checked now and the irritation looks much better. That might have had something to do with the problem.

As for cuddling, he is a very touchy feely dog that is either playing, sleeping, or trying to crawl into our laps. However, I have noticed in the past month that he has been spending much more time lying near us instead of on us. So, with the changes in adolescents he might be moving away from the cuddling comfort of puppyhood. Good thoughts.

He has a chair that is his, and the couch is strictly an invite only piece of furniture.
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