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Our 1.5 year old has started growling at me and my wife. but plays great with our kids. it started when he was asleep in the floor and we'd get up to go to bed. when we'd call him and walk toward him to stir him he'd growl. then it turned into a growl and nip.
now if we are inside and I call him to send him outside or from one room to the next he freezes, hair stands up on his back and he growls. getting closer to him talking very sweetly he does not back down. only when I get in the floor and invite him over which feels like re-enforcement of the behavior or hit reset by leaving the room and call him from the other can we get through it. happened again this morning so I commanded a sit which he did. then later got him outside in a more subtle way.
any insight? PLEASE!
 

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First, as Gunnr always advises, check with your vet to be sure there's no health issue contributing to the behavior change. But that is unlikely. You'll probably get differing perspectives on how to handle it. My perspective is based on data that suggest that anything the dog perceives as aggressive (including showing you are "alpha") can worsen this kind of behavior. So I'd not risk that. Instead, I would change the dog's attitude by pairing the approach or recall command with treats for a while. One of you could call him or approach him, etc (list all the situations in which he growls, rank them by intensity and start with the lowest "threat" situations) while the other one is feeding him treats. That way, he'll learn good things happen when he is approached, disturbed or called (etc). He's probably decided your calling or approaching him is going to take something away that he wants (e.g., his space, his sleeping spot), and that is a threat to him. You might check out the book "Mine!" by Jean Donaldson.
 

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I would like to see what others respond. However, I do think he is stating or claiming his space. "I" wouldn't put up with it for a second! But then again; I'm 6 foot 200 lbs and could care less if he bit me. I would think hard about what he does and when. If he claims space like a door, a sleeping spot, a toy... etc. I would start by taking it from him and confronting him until he backed down. This is a process and you may not want to do it yourself. You can watch videos to get a better understanding of the process. Maybe get some help from someone who wouldn't be scared and would feel comfortable approaching a growling dog and putting him in his place (which would be on the floor laying on his side at your feet). :)
 

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I too am interested in what others have to say. I am not a dog trainer or pretend to have vast knowledge; however, responding from my gut, I would never put up with that either. I may get bit or attacked out of stupidity or the very wrong approach, but I would be inclined to confront it on the spot without walking away. Interesting delimma, because I think a dog who will nip his master will also nip kids. I hope you get lots of good responses, because this type of behavior can't be tolerated. Best of luck to you!
 

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Obviously it's a situation that can't be allowed to continue. But I would be careful how you approach it - if you don't really know why he is growling at you or what it is he doesn't want you to have, you can't be sure what effect any punishment will have. To be safe I'd follow sarah's approach and make it very rewarding for him to come to you. But start when he is awake and playing with you, don't wait until you know he is going to react with a growl or a nip. He isn't doing it all the time so maybe it is something about a specific place or how you speak at that time.

It's all a guess from the other side of the world really :)

In my opinion if it's gotten to nipping I would be finding a good behaviorist trainer. Our trainer said that if a dog ever bit her she would have failed in her job because it would mean she put the dog in a position where it had no choice but to bite. Don't go with anyone who suggests you use 'dominance' techniques, it's stressful for you and the dog and there is research that shows that the theory behind it is flawed. I'll post the link later when find it again.

Good luck.
 

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Cornbread

First make sure there are no health issues, specifically Lyme disease. If he's clean, health wise then you may be going a different route.

I've had 3 male Vizslas, all not neutered, At about the age of your dog, they starting getting, how shall we say it, a little assertive.

Boone caught me off guard. One day my mild mannered little guy decided that he would growl and bite at me. He did it once. I set him up a few minutes later, got the same result, and quick as a snake reached into his crate, grabbed that collar and before his feet hit the ground again he had become intimately familiar with the refrigerator, the stove and the broom closet. All in about 5 seconds. After that I put him back in his kennel and we tried again, and again, and again.

Silkcut decided to try it with a rawhide chew one day, but I was ready. An extremely quick, over the top physical correction and we were good

Rush did it with a pull toy. Same thing.

I called this phase. "Finding the wall".

My way is way over the top, and I know it. Maybe it wasn't the right thing to do, or could have been done in a gentler fashion. But biting is the one cardinal sin I have. It has to be immediately dealt with.

I love my dogs, but biting is just too dangerous of an issue to deal with.
 

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I agree that confrontational training is not good for the dog or the owner and certainly will effect the relationship long term. However, this is not a situation of training a pet who will not or doesn't respond to a command. Growling and biting is a stance on a specific issue. It's an attitude that must be confronted. I'm not saying that it must be done forcefully but, something must be done. I would think hard about what the dog is trying to tell you. Has he been taught to act like this? Has he been rewarded for protective behavior? If so, that is where the corrective measure should start. With the humans. If not; he needs to be put in his place immediately! It's kinda like the teenager that will test the rules. Why? Because they can. ;D
 

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I think we all agree on a few things here! ;)

Growling at the humans is unacceptable and this behaviour must be changed.

Confrontational training as a routine method is not great.

We just differ in how we'd approach this specific situation. To be honest I don't think I know enough about why the dog is doing it to be able to say whether he is 'testing the boundaries' or whether it is something else.

The reason I advocate positive methods is that I have a dog who started growling at cyclists and joggers and I went down the path of voice reprimands, leash corrections, forcing him to sit whenever they appeared and even got my husband and a friend to ride past us and kick out at the dog as he ran up at them. This is despite going to clicker training classes as a puppy - it all went out the door when he started acting aggressively because I did not want the behaviour to continue. After a couple of months the situation was getting worse so I found a trainer. Within a week I was managing things better so that the dog wasn't practicing chasing cyclists anymore and within a month his behaviour had improved. It has taken a LONG time and a LOT of patience but in my experience worked better. And after all, if you don't have to get physical, why bother? (I'm not petite but i'm not 6 ft or 200lbs :eek:)

My trainer says that yes punishment does work for most dogs– if applied correctly and at the correct moment. But the consequences of incorrect punishment can be worse than the consequences of incorrect rewarding (eg setting up a fear response as opposed to training progressing more slowly).

So back to this situation, if it were Merc refusing to come in the house when he was on his bed...... for starters I’d make sure it wasn’t physical or something about that room or that situation that was weird (like sometimes he won’t go to his bed and when i go and have a look it’s because the cat is refusing to let him onto it) and also be sure that he knew what i was asking him to do. Then every time he came in the house and settled on the floor I would call him and reward him. So before he goes to sleep or anything else happens, just practice and reinforce that if he comes when i call he gets a reward and gets to go back to his spot. I would probably also leave a short leash on him so that if he doesn’t respond to the first call I can pick up the leash, ask him to come with me and walk off. It’s really hard to know without seeing what is actually happening what I would actually do.
 

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I had a feeling we'd get a lively discussion on this one. Yes, Merc--from the positive training perspective...the fact that the behavior is unacceptable doesn't mean that force is what will work best. We do all agree that the behavior is unacceptable (as is flesh biting, as is mauling, maiming, and--God forbid--killing...which all dogs are physically capable of, I'm afraid). What determines what will work best (for all forms of dog aggression, from growling on up) is a careful assessment by someone with knowledge of the relevant research literature and of principles of animal behavior modification. That's my (additional) two pennies. The professional dog training community has a consensus on how best to address dog aggression, and it doesn't include use of force. Many dogs growl or "air snap," and they do not all turn into contact biters. But they can. Precisely because you're dealing with a potentially serious issue like aggression, I'd go with what the professional dog training community advocates, not what you feel like or what you see done on TV.

Oh, and hey...I just turned into a "super member," so you'd better listen to me (lol).

I'm still talkin'...Here's another article FWIW http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/tips/aggression.html
 

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Hmmm.....

I think I need to amplify my response. It may seem as if I beat the snot out of my dogs.

I got Boone when he was 7 weeks old,and everyday we used to give him a treat, and take it away and repeat the process. He always got the treat in the end though. The intent was to condition to give up whatever he had in mouth. A toddler could have climbed into his kennel and taken a steak out of Boone's mouth safely.
I grew up with Husky's, Malmutes, Pit Bulls, Dobermans, Boxers. Big strong dogs, and this is how their owners, my dad included, trained them to be safe around children. Believe me when I say that we had two Pit Bulls that absolutely earned the right to take a "little nip" out of us. They never did though.
So the day that Boone decided he didn't have to give up his treat, a prime rib bone, It was completely out of the blue. He first snapped at my wife, then me. He was in his kennel with the prime rib bone growling at us, and any attempt to get near the door was met more aggressively. So I flipped his kennel over backward, reached in and got ahold of him and the bone together. Yanked them both out, with the bone in his mouth, and pulled him out very quickly.
With my hand clamping the bone in his muzzle we had a very loud discussion. I never hit him once, but we did a little wrestling in the corner of the kitchen. For the next 1/2 hour I put that bone in his mouth and took it away repeatedly, until he finally gave it too me. The I put him back in his crate and did the same thing. I worked on this for the next week every night.
He was never beaten. He just simply had to understand that he would always end up with the treat, but that he would give it up if asked.

My other two dogs were done the same way, but Boone taught me to look for it and stop the behavior before it got to that point. I never beat them, or hit them.

All of my dogs are conditioned this way. I want a toddler to be able to climb into that kennel, and grab whatever is in the dogs mouth safely.
 

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Gunnr, hope I didn't seem to suggest that you beat the snot out of your dogs! You do use confrontational methods to handle aggression, and they seem to work for you. There are lots of dog trainers that still use those methods, it's just that (to my understanding) the general consensus among professional dog trainers now is that those methods are outdated because in recent decades they've been shown to be less reliable than less confrontational approaches. Regardless of which side of our debate cornbread is moved by, I do think a consult w/ a professional trainer or veterinary behaviorist is a good idea. It really helps not to do it alone.

P.S. speaking of snot, in case I sound snotty...it's partly because I'm a human psychologist--so I probably get a bit overzealous about behavior modification topics. The truth is I'm not an animal expert and, were it not for the help we're getting from true experts, we'd really be just muddling through w/ Rosie.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Sorry. didn't have "notify" on so I'm just now getting back to checking.
First of all. Thank you everyone. Very helpful feedback.

Cowboy is a little better this week. I think because I've exercised him a little more but I believe his "feelings" are still there. just not as boldly expressed.

let me clarify. I'm in the door way, exterior, bedroom, of his kennel calling him to pass through it to go outside or kennel up, what have you. He stops about 12 feet away and freezes. then may take a very very slow motion step very focused on me. if I wait he'll eventually get to me, but that's an absurdly slow process and clearly he's not being obedient...his response is on his timing.
So, if I raise my hand to encourage him, wave on the growl kicks in. if I reach toward his collar that's when the air nip has happened twice. I kneed his jaw (like when they jump up you raise your knee) and put him in a sit. then came back to it a few minutes later and he went out.

when we have him on a leash or drop cord he's responsive but that's not practical because I have ankles that don't like rope burn. so I'm going back to treats which we did a lot of his first year (not so much during the past 6months). just had a check up so illness is not likely.

has anyone used an e-collar that has a vibrate mode on it? (not interested in shocking / nicking). If I can catch him in the act of something and correct it seems to only take one time and he learns. he's just so fast I can't correct even if I'm a two feet away without a leash, etc which is just not always possible. for instance: he was nosing the gate open and heading off to a friend (dog') house. I caught him and threw an empty coke can with pennies in it at the gate. then set the coke can on the gate for about a week. now if the gate is left open he won't go through unless allowed.

so RE: the growling. I'm going to re-enforce the good behavior with treats to see where that gets us.
thanks again, all very helpful.
 

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Thanks for the update cornbread. It's probably enough speculation from me, and kind of a long shot, but since you mentioned the gate...any chance the correction re the gate came before this behavior? Is it conceivable that he somehow has decided it may not be okay if he goes through a doorway (or outside) and his conflict or confusion about this makes him more agitated? Though you would think your calling him to come to you would be a clear cue it is okay. Regardless, be glad to have an update when you have new info to report. And an air snap definitely has a different meaning in a dog world than contact biting, though it is a warning that you could get a bite if you don't back off.
 

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Thanks for the responce! Sounds like a daily routine of giving him commands and taking space is what he needs. I'll bet he is looking for attention and direction. A friend described a Vizsla to me as a "nervous dog". I asked what he meant. He said, "they always need to know what you expect of them, and need to have something to do". Every time my Copper tries to be the "big" dog in the house; I walk up to him and make him back down or move away. I never let him go through a door or a gate before me. He is told to give me space and not allowed to proceed through the opening until I say "OK". He is my dog, and needs to be reminded that he sits, stays and waits where I tell him to. Not where he wants to, or when he wants. Reward the good behavior! ;D
 

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Discussion Starter #18
the other thing he did this weekend was to what I'll call "buzz the tower". my child was walking about 10 steps behind me I turn around to see the dog is running right in front of her path. didn't touch her but it seemed like a move he'd have made in the pack for some unknown reason to me other than maybe prove his position in the pack. in the house the play together like brother and sister (where he knows he's not allow to go nuts!).

no comments on the two items I thought would get some response...the notion of this being caused by lack of exercise and getting an e-collar to aid in remote corrections. no thoughts from the you all on those two items?
though I think the behavior may be simply exacerbated by my being busy and not taking him on long jaunts.
 

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Cornbread said:
Sorry. didn't have "notify" on so I'm just now getting back to checking.
First of all. Thank you everyone. Very helpful feedback.

Cowboy is a little better this week. I think because I've exercised him a little more but I believe his "feelings" are still there. just not as boldly expressed.

let me clarify. I'm in the door way, exterior, bedroom, of his kennel calling him to pass through it to go outside or kennel up, what have you. He stops about 12 feet away and freezes. then may take a very very slow motion step very focused on me. if I wait he'll eventually get to me, but that's an absurdly slow process and clearly he's not being obedient...his response is on his timing.
So, if I raise my hand to encourage him, wave on the growl kicks in. if I reach toward his collar that's when the air nip has happened twice. I kneed his jaw (like when they jump up you raise your knee) and put him in a sit. then came back to it a few minutes later and he went out.

when we have him on a leash or drop cord he's responsive but that's not practical because I have ankles that don't like rope burn. so I'm going back to treats which we did a lot of his first year (not so much during the past 6months). just had a check up so illness is not likely.

has anyone used an e-collar that has a vibrate mode on it? (not interested in shocking / nicking). If I can catch him in the act of something and correct it seems to only take one time and he learns. he's just so fast I can't correct even if I'm a two feet away without a leash, etc which is just not always possible. for instance: he was nosing the gate open and heading off to a friend (dog') house. I caught him and threw an empty coke can with pennies in it at the gate. then set the coke can on the gate for about a week. now if the gate is left open he won't go through unless allowed.

so RE: the growling. I'm going to re-enforce the good behavior with treats to see where that gets us.
thanks again, all very helpful.
Cornbread

Something is jumping out at me here;

"I'm in the door way, exterior, bedroom, of his kennel calling him to pass through it to go outside or kennel up, what have you. He stops about 12 feet away and freezes. then may take a very very slow motion step very focused on me."

Where is the light coming from. In front of you, or behind you. From his perspective, not yours.

" if I raise my hand to encourage him, wave on the growl kicks in. if I reach toward his collar that's when the air nip has happened twice."

Are you certain that he can see you. Something isn't right in all of this. It really seems as if he's being startled.


As for your last post.

"the other thing he did this weekend was to what I'll call "buzz the tower". my child was walking about 10 steps behind me I turn around to see the dog is running right in front of her path. didn't touch her but it seemed like a move he'd have made in the pack for some unknown reason to me other than maybe prove his position in the pack"

This actually isn't all that abnormal. You and your child are in the wrong position for him. He should always be in front of the lead person, you,or the people should be abreast. A hunting dog is a "forward dog". It should always either be leading, or at heel. Never behind the first person, or in between.
Get him in front of you. It's where he is supposed to be.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
good question, but it's all well lite scenario's. sometimes I think its obvious to him even before I call him "outside". I've been giving him some more love / touch and talking more up chatty encouraging. that seems to help. we were with another dog at the lake all weekend and there were no instances. even when our friend male was getting him to go out (but he was more tired and I think wanted to go out to play more than he maywant to go out when we're at home (where I suspect he's getting bored quicker).

good insight on the "lead"! thanks for that.
 
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