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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone –

Sorry if this has been covered elsewhere, but I have a concern about my 16 month-old-gsd.


He’s been doing some troubling growling lately with my wife. A typical situation is that she’ll be sitting at her desk working, he’ll calmly walk over and sleepily put his head on her lap, she’ll pet him and be sweet to him, and then while he’s being petted and is seemingly super calm he’ll let out a very quiet growl for no reason that we can discern. When this happens my wife will disengage, make a little distance, and tell him sternly “No! You do not growl at me!” She’ll then put him through a series of obedience commands. His reaction is to get really excited and race through the commands like he’s trying to make it up to her. It almost seems like he surprises himself with the growls. This only happens once in a while (like once in every 50 times they snuggle) and the growling has never happened with me.


To give you a little background: my wife and I try to split the his care pretty evenly: I feed and exercise him in the mornings and the evenings, but she takes care of him all day since she works from home. He’s been through a few levels of obedience training and we’ve been doing NILIF with him since day one. All of this has helped him to overcome some fearful reactiveness he had when he was younger (always with strangers – growling at us is new), but he’s still clearly a work in progress.

Any suggestions on why this may be happening? It’s not like she’s bothering him or invading his space – usually he’s coming to her!

Any suggestions on how to address it? It’d be a hard behavior to replicate for a behavior list because he does it so sporadically.

Thanks!
 

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The dog doesn't care about her yelling no... she backed away so he got what he asked for from her. (assuming it was an actual aggressive response directed at her)

Dog growls at me means I immediately let him know that doesn't fly with me. Its a behavior you want to extinguish, not modify. Immediate and strong correction is appropriate I think.

caveat: make sure it was actually an aggressive growl and not just a noise that sounds like one before you start correcting. My male's breathing every once and a while sounds like a muffled growl. Also, make sure it wasn't directed at the other dog, or a bird, or something other than her.

Don't anthropomorphize :) He's a dog. He wasn't making anything up to her. He just wanted the reward he was expecting after the obedience.
 

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Are you sure he's growling? Or is he just talking? Jax talks all the time and it could sound like a growl.

On the other hand, be careful about correcting for growling. Growling is a warning. You won't want them to NOT warn you because you've taught them to not growl.

And by immediately going into an obedience drill, you may have taught him that growling at her gets him attention.
 

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btw... he has no space. All the space in the house is yours and your wife's (except for his kennel, which is his) If my dogs choose to lay in their kennel, I don't bother them as a rule. Everywhere else is mine
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the input so far.

I'm pretty sure it's not any other noise. He is a great source of entertaining yawns and farts and burps and heavy breathing noises, but this is unmistakeable growling. It's quiet and pretty tame sounding compared to his "mailman growl" or his "I-don't-care-if-you-are-the-vet, don't-touch-me-there growl," but it's a growl.

Please do keep the opinions coming.
 

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Are you sure he is growling? It just doesn't sound like a scenario that would cause a dog to growl. They will make all sorts of sounds to "talk" to you. Sometimes when Max is relaxed and lying down he will make a deep "moo" sound or grunt.
 

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My GSD has a low 'growl' noise when he is very content. Usually when scratching his face or chest. He'll even close his eyes and enjoy it.
 

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I agree with the others. It would be very very unusual for a dog to come up to someone, solicit attention, and then growl at them while receiving the attention. My dog makes a low growl when I'm rubbing his head and ears, but it's an expression of pleasure.
 

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Are you sure he is growling? It just doesn't sound like a scenario that would cause a dog to growl. They will make all sorts of sounds to "talk" to you. Sometimes when Max is relaxed and lying down he will make a deep "moo" sound or grunt.
My dogs will do this too....
 

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I agree with the others. It would be very very unusual for a dog to come up to someone, solicit attention, and then growl at them while receiving the attention. My dog makes a low growl when I'm rubbing his head and ears, but it's an expression of pleasure.
Xander does this too - it's like a deep sigh or exhale and then groan...it's always when I rub right behind his ears :)

A for the OP - sorry though - IDK. Some of the other PP's had some great ideas as to what it could be or what to do.
 

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I agree the scenario that is happening when he "growls" sounds a bit off from what you usually hear about. But it's hard to say since we aren't htere to see actual body language. Especially if he's getting all excited to be getting her to pay "real" attention to him (making him work for her). I have a feeling it might be an attention getting growl rather than a warning--at least in the way it's described in the post.

I know Elsa does a sort of "rarah rwah" sort of sound when she's being spoiled on the couch and we stop petting her--it's soley wanting attention.
 

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It doesn't sound the norm, but I won't rule it out if you're confident that is what you are hearing.

My Cade is almost two and lately he's been reacting more to our old male who's been posturing at him alot lately through the crate (We don't allow it if we are there to prevent it, but their crates are in the same room. We've recently put a board up between their crates as well) Male hormones I guess. I've noticed sometimes when I let Cade out of his crate, he's a little tense. We'll go out into the main part of the house and if I go to pat him, he'll let out a low growl. He did it this morning to me when DH let him out, he came to get up on the couch with me and let out a low growl. I think it's sort of like redirected aggression. He hasn't totally let go of the state of mind that he had when he was in his crate. A few quick obedience commands and he's usually right as rain. Is it possible that something could be bothering him that he hasn't let go of when he goes to visit your wife?

I would continue to work through some NILIF and increase your wife's role in pack leadership for awhile. Most important is to NOT back up. If he is growling, you cannot act afraid of the dog. Make him back up. Stop petting him and tell him to down or sit and when he complies then put distance between you. If it ever escalates, personally, that is when the dog and I would have a Come to Jesus chat. I do agree that that sort of behavior has to be extinguished quickly and if that is not something you or your wife is comfortable with then you need to get a trainer who is.
 

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This may seem like a silly question, but is there a window in your wife's office? Is it possible that he is growling at something he sees out the window? I was down on the floor with Willow the other night and she became alert and started growling but she was looking right at the patio door and I knew she either heard or seen something. I asked her "What?" and she got up and ran right to the door.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks again for the suggestions everyone.

I guess it could be a sort of "contented rumble" like some have mentioned rather than a back off growl. In support of this theory is the fact that he doesn't show teeth, curl lips, or get his neck hair riled up in these situations.

Can anyone recommend a good way to test this "contented rumble" theory without risk of escalating the situation if is a back off growl?

We're thinking of trying this: if there's a growl/rumble, she will immediately start ignoring him and go back to whatever she was doing. We're thinking that if it was a back off growl he'd walk away and if it was a "contented rumble" he'd hang out and solicit more petting. After we are able to test his intention like this a few times we'd be in a better position to know whether we need to be correcting this behavior going forward.
 

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Video tape it and post it on here.
 

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Our male GSD, (4 1/2 year old), started the growling behavior at my wife, also. Everything has been fine up until about 3 months ago. There is no mistaking this type of growl. The dog is attached to me and I think it is a protective type of behavior. He will do it if the dog and I are in a back bedroom and my wife walks in. He will get up and give a long drawn out aggressive growl. It can get loud. It scares my wife and I don't know what to do. No other problems with Pal other than that. This thing has just started...I can't think of any changes in the household and Pal does not do it when I am not around. My wife does not deserve this!

What is the correct way to stop this? Harmony in the house like it used to be is the goal... Help! What training do us humans and canine need to do?
Redbug, this thread is a year old and about a completely different issue. You might get a better response if you start your own thread as people usually only read the first post or two in a thread to see what it's about.
 

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Oh, sorry Emoore. I will start a new thread. Good idea.
 
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