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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Breeder,Behaviorist, formerVet Asst
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 16719
Experience:  Former vol Vet Assistant.Breeder 16+ years Dog trainer / behaviorist
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My dog growls whenever you want to pet him but then if you ...

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My dog growls whenever you want to pet him but then if you stop he roots with his head on your hand and wants to be petted, then growls again. I stop petting him when he growls so as not to reinforce it, but still one or both of us is confused! I have him come to me in submission and reward him verbally , etc., so he knows I'm boss. What else do I do? How do I correct the growling?
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 7 years ago.
Hi Nina,

What breed of dog is he?
How old is he?
Have you always owned him?
Does he do this no matter who tries to pet him?
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Reply to Jane Lefler's Post: We got him when he was young but we haven't always had him. He is a shelty mix. He is now 6 years old. I'm sure in some way the growling is a "who's in control" issue. My kids were still at home (teenagers) when we got him and I know for sure that one of them used to pick at him because he thought it was funny and probably made the dog feel uncomfortable (i.e. used "flash powder" on his fingers to create a flash in front of his face and now no one can get near the dog with a camera). I'm not really sure if they did anything else to him that would have made him feel uncomfortable, but it seems like a reasonable possible explanation. Anything I can do to reassure him or stop him from growling? He growls at everyone the same. I am definitely the alpha in the family and my husband lets him drag him all around when they go walking, doesn't take control of the dog, so I could understand why the dog would be confused about submission and who's in control in that relationship.
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 7 years ago.
Nina,

First make sure that he doesn't have a medical issue with his ears or head that may be causing him pain when touched. I suspect there isn't,but best to be sure.

I think the problem you have is that he has discovered that if he growls, he can intimidate people. And so far, it's worked for him, giving him an alpha position. When you stop and don't pet him when he growls, then pet him when he wants and then again stop when he growls, he is controlling you.

He needs to learn that he is not allowed to growl at anyone. Depending on your comfort level, you can do this next part with a cloth type muzzle on him to prevent a bite if you think he will bite you or without. Have tiny tasty treats handy. The smaller the better. I'd practice this in a room away from everyone else, so there is no distraction as well.

Practice petting him even if he growls at you. If he growls, do not hesitate, continue petting him. If he attempts a bite, give him a firm "NO" in a low tone voice. If he does not growl as you pet him, reward him. If fear is a factor, this will show him that you are not planning on hurting him. Practice this for about 15 minutes at a time, several times a day if you can manage it. While this training is going on, I'd have a house rule of NO Petting the dog at least not on the head. This way he'll see the only petting he is getting is from you during your training sessions. He should learn first that growling is no longer intimidating you and then learn that if he doesn't growl he gets a treat.

Once he's got that part down with you, if you are using a muzzle, do the practice without the muzzle. Once you are comfortable that he is no longer growling at you, introduce another family member and do the same practice. It should be quick with each successive member of the family. And he may catch on in the meantime and stop growling for everyone on his own.

Of course, no one can be abusive to the dog, but I'm sure you already know that and feel bad enough for what the kids may have done. Kids are kids and not as easily trained as dogs.

I think this method will work well if you work at it and can get the rest of the family to follow the rules while he is in training. If strangers want to pet him, just tell them he is in training and it is not allowed.

A good obedience class would be a good idea to reinforce obedience in him.

Hope this helps. If I can help further, let me know.
Jane Lefler, Breeder,Behaviorist, formerVet Asst
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 16719
Experience: Former vol Vet Assistant.Breeder 16+ years Dog trainer / behaviorist
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