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Portia 08-27-2014 03:08 PM

Adolesecent growling at my son when he enters my room
Hello everyone!

My first time posting here.

We have a eighteen month old male, Zeus, working line, unneutered. Everything has been going well with him so far. Friendly with people, reactive to dogs, but getting better. He was reactive to other animals(horses, goats, cows...) as well, but has improved a lot with counter conditioning.

Recently he has started growling(low growl) and trying ot block him at the door whenever my thirteen year old son enters a room I am in. Usually Zeus is like my shadow. Although he loves playing with the children, and follows them around the house or on offleash walks. They train him as well every once in a while.

I am a bit confounded with this new behavior. So far all I have done is 1) I just started putting him in his crate if I am not watching him or if he is in the room with me. (his crate is in my room, but he hasnt really needed to be crated till now)

2) having my son take him out of the crate and train him using treats.

3) having my son give him his food.

I also have two girls and Zeus is entirely fine with them when they come in to the room.

My son has always been kind, and gentle and I have made it a point that they are never unkind to the dog(leave him alone if he is tired and resting, dont tease him with food or toys, let him eat in peace, etc.)

I understand this is very serious and should be nipped right now.

Is there anything else I should be doing? Appreciate all advice.

Pax8 08-27-2014 03:21 PM

42 Attachment(s)
Boundary guarding. He has a boundary (the door) and he plans to protect it.

Mine tried to do this. Wanted to shove in front and give everyone a sniff down before they can enter. Didn't escalate any further because I stopped it when I saw it, but that was the start of it.

He has a "place command" where he goes to a mat when I ask him. I taught him that if someone comes into the room, he needs to either not move or I will "place" him if he gets up. He is not allowed to greet people at the door. He has to wait for them to enter the room before he can be invited to greet. Basically what needs to happen is you have to "own" that space (the doorway) in your dog's eyes so that he doesn't feel the need to guard it. I would not let him approach the doorway without permission when someone is coming through. This is also a good time to use a down stay if you don't have a place command.

With any guarding behavior, it usually boils down to a lack of ownership on the human's part. Dogs won't guard things they know that humans "own". My dog loves playing with his ball and his chew stick, but when it comes down to it, I've taught him that I own those and he will give them up readily to me. Same with the door. When people come through the door, I own that entryway space. When I am ready, I will invite Kaiju into it to greet, but he does not control it, therefore there is no need for him to guard it. Always remember that just like food, toys, and chews, dogs will also claim and guard space if they believe it is important. It can be as simple as a comfortable corner of the room or a doorway. But if they feel that they can get away with owning space like that, especially space that regularly has humans passing through it, it can definitely be a problem.

Portia 08-27-2014 03:34 PM


Yes, he does lie down in places of traffic, but he doesn't guard it. Everyone can step over him or ask him to move and he does.

However, this growling only seems to be happening if I am in the room and lying down or sitting at my desk. My back is to the door then, and Zeus is asleep. Could it be that he thinks he owns me? I have never allowed him to be dominant. Has to wait at doors before going in or out. No toys unless I give them to him and then take them back. He brings me anything he has if I ask him to. After the growl, I asked him to go to my son and he did, tail wagging and body low.

Perhaps this is just the beginning of his guarding behavior?

Pax8 08-27-2014 03:48 PM

42 Attachment(s)
He could try to guard you if he feels you are a valuable resource (you provide affection and attention, so you could be a pretty valuable resource to him). If your room is where you spend most of your time, maybe he sees that space as very valuable. I wouldn't say it is so much about any kind of dominance. More about he feels he has a resource (possibly you when you are in your room) that he feels he needs to control and protect from anyone who he feels might want to take it (possibly your son).

This is why I like the place or the down stay. This way, it becomes clear that if someone comes in, he cannot go up and try to control that space. Another thing you could do is if he growls at someone coming into the room, you could remove him to a different room and have a "time-out". This way if he is guarding you, he learns that if he tries to guard, then his resource goes away. It could be helpful, but it doesn't give you as much control over the situation and is more reactive than proactive.

It probably doesn't happen in other places of high traffic because they do not have the same association or the same value. My dog tried to guard the front door, but could have cared less about the back. They were both doors, almost exactly the same, but the front door was where new people came in. So that was the one he tried to control because he liked the attention he got from visitors and he did not want anyone else to control it.

Portia 08-27-2014 03:52 PM

That helps a lot! Thanks! I will do the proactive thing going forward.

David Taggart 08-27-2014 04:48 PM


he liked the attention
We tend to misread our dogs, and our dogs tend to misread our words. He might like the way you speak to him when it happens ( while you think you pronounce forbidding command - he thinks you are simulating him), the way you touch him, and that which follows he might like as well. Young males like to pretend that they are guarding you. Their natural instinct tries to find some situation, and, if there's none, it will use avaliable means. When we watch puppies playing - we smile, but, in fact, that are their natural instincts revealing themselves, in any puppy play you can see a bloodthirsty predator and a fearless fighter if you try. I wouldn't punish him with "time-out", but would rather ignore his behaviour. But, if he's such a character, ignoring him growling at your son will stop him growling only at your son, his instinct would find another opportunity somehow, which might occur even less desirable than with the son. You have to redirect his instinct. Provide him with the object to protect you from, place and specific time. 15 min walk together with your son around your block just before going to bed may not only solve your problem, but will put your son into different position in the eyes of your dog. Being protective is in blood of GSD, your dog should learn protecting members of your family from something (at night), not practicing within the family.

LoveSea 08-30-2014 08:34 AM

My rescue did that the first few months we had him. He only growled at my 14 year old daughter, not my 12 year old son. It was so upsetting I called the rescue & said I can't keep this dog! But my family wanted to keep him. What I did was give him less run of the house, another thing that really helped was 3 - 4 times a day my kids would be in charge of giving commands & treats. The key to his heart was treats, so that worked perfectly. They also take turns each night feeding him. Now he follows my daughter around all throughout the day, never growls again.

Lots of good advice from others here.

sourdough44 09-10-2014 05:14 PM

There is a threshold that can be broken through with the dog, to let it know what is unacceptable inside the home. Once that barrier is dealt with, all is clear for the dog.

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