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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 19387
Experience:  Behaviorist /Trainer and Dog breeder 18+ years
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My 3 year old male boxer has always been very friendly with

Customer Question

My 3 year old male boxer has always been very friendly with other people and dogs. Over the last 2 months he has snapped at a person who was petting him while he was sleeping. The first time I did not know the person was rubbing his ear while the dog was sleeping on his dog bed( other guests told me about this) and the second time he was sleeping again when a person got close to his face and woke him up. I am now having him leave the room at his bedtime so people at a party do not try to engage with him while he is sleeping. Should I be worried about this behavior?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 1 year ago.
Hi JaCustomer,
My name is ***** ***** I’ve been involved professionally with dogs in the health and behavioral fields for over 18 years. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.
In order to supply you with an informed answer, it is necessary for me to collect some additional information from you. When I receive your response or reply, it will likely take me between 30-45 minutes to type up my reply if I am still online when I receive notice that you replied. I hope you can be patient.
Has he displayed any other aggressive tendencies?
Has it only been when he was sleeping?
Is he neutered?
If he has displayed aggression in other circumstances, can you explain those?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
He has never displayed any other aggressive tendencies. He plays in a supervised pack play with other dogs twice a week and there has never been a problem in 2 1/2 years. The 2 snapping incidents have been only while he was sleeping. He is neutered
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 1 year ago.
Hi Jacustomer,
Thanks for that information. It doesn't sound like it is really a big issue. Many dogs if disturbed while sleeping will lunge and snap at what ever is around. Dogs like humans do dream and we don't know what they dream about but often they are running in their sleep, growling and even barking in their sleep. It is very possible that when a dog is sleeping and they hear or feel something close to them or touching them, their dream may interpret that as a threat and they wake already moving.
I mmyself was bitten as a child when I stumbled over my dog sleeping in the hall. She didn't mean to bite me but I hurt her when she was asleep and she reacted before she was fully awake.
The best course of action is to have a place that is his alone where he won't be disturbed. Most owners use a crate. The dog does not have to be contained in the crate, just make it a "safe" place for the dog. Have a sign made that states "Do not disturb dog when in crate". Teach your dog to go there to sleep.
Most people start a dog training to a crate by feeding them in the crate with the door open and giving them treats in the crate and putting a nice comfy mattress in the crate for the dog. Usually we recommend you not close the door for weeks but after a little while, shut the door when the dog is eating and open it up the minute he is done eating. This helps him get used to the door being closed without him wanting out.
You can even set up situations so he will learn that the space is his and he won't be bothered there. You can bring people over who will be allowed to pet him and follow him (as long as he is fine with that) but then take him to the crate and when they get close to the crate, have them back away and leave him alone. Then you can give him a hot dog treat so he knows that his going into the crate got him the treat and the added benefit of the people going away.
Even if you just put him in the crate when he is ready to sleep and company is over, it still helps him have a safe place and will remind people not to be interacting with him when he is sleeping.
I hope this information is helpful to you. If you need more information or clarification, please reply and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. If you are satisfied, please take the opportunity to rate positively.
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 1 year ago.

Hi, I'm following up to see if you found my answer helpful and to see how things are going?

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