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Minor Space Issues

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Our newest addition has been with us about 9 months now. He's an amazing, happy, confident and loving 5-year-old boy. He's definitely loves to cuddle - if you even touch him when he's laying down he will just push his head into your hands and close his eyes. He's just a sweetie and he loves to cuddle.


However - sometimes when he falls into a deep sleep and is awakened suddenly, he snaps. Now, we've always respected his space, our previous boy had major space issues and got nervous when people would just sit next to him - we gave him lots of space, always woke him by calling his name and never let anyone disturb him and we were careful. But our new boy will fall asleep in our arms, cuddle up and then (sometimes) snap 30 minutes later when we move and accidentally wake him. He doesn't bite, just barks loudly and gives an air-snap and it has only done this a handful of times - other times he's fine and barely even looks at us. It has happened when he has fallen asleep next to the couch and we move our feet or something.


Anyway, our previous boy got "better" with us after a couple of years, never great - but definitely improved. In your experience, for those of you who had a dog with minor space issues, does this improve or go away in time when your dog has settled in totally? My husband keeps wanting to put him in bed with us at night and I'm not doing that, lol. I can't imagine waking up to a big bark like that and an 86-pound-dog snapping at me!

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You've described one of ours to a T, though when he is awoken, it's a bark of displeasure - no air snaps. We've had him for a year and a half now...he sleeps in our bed by our feet and the only issue I have are the couple barks in the middle of the night because they wake me up! I wouldn't say he is getting better. There is no aggression, just protest on his part and I would say he probably does it about 2-3x per week. We live with it and move on. When he is on the floor, he'll only do it if Bumper or one of the cats gets near his feet. Again, not a big deal. He's chatty to begin with so we take his grumbling with a grain of salt.

Doe's Bruciebaby Doe's Bumper


Follow my Ironman journeys and life with dogs, cats and busy kids: A long road

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Guest TBSFlame

Our first grey would do this when we first got him. He did get better over time. You can help. I was talking about this yesterday with someone that said she used a rolled up sock and would toss it on her boy while sleeping while calling his name. That helped him get over it.

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I've had Howie 8 years and his sleep aggression (which is what you are describing) HAS improved to the point that we rarely have any "wake up snappy/growly" incidents anymore. I can't remember the last one. In the early days, however, I got him used to sleeping on a body pillow at the end of my bed and that is pretty much how we have done things (yes, totally dumb of me to LET him sleep on the bed in the first place but I don't claim perfection). Now, if we are cuddly on the couch, he is fine, but we did have the same exact thing you are describing happen early on.


One thing I did to try to desensitize him was to throw pillows or socks or stuffies at him while he was sleeping (every once in a while..not constantly!) to try to get him used to be woken suddenly. I think that helped.


We spent a good bit where he was not allowed on the couch when I was, too, but I eased up on that later on down the line. If you have kids or small pets, I don't recommend couch or bed priviledges.

Missing our Raisin: 9/9/94 - 7/20/08, our Super Bea: 2003 - 12/16/09, our Howie: 9/17/97 - 4/9/11, our Bull: 8/7/00 - 1/17/13, our Wyatt Earp: 11/22/06 - 12/16/15, and our Cyclone 8/26/05 - 9/12/16

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Guest mcsheltie

Witty would snap when we first got her. At people other dogs and the cats. She no longer does it. Doesn't even think about doing it.

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Guest burgerandfrey

Sounds very similar to our boy Zeke. We adopted him last Summer when he was 5 (he is about to turn 6). He raced for a couple of years, and was fostered in a home with a lot of other dogs. From the start he was a happy and affectionate boy who likes to follow us around and sometimes cuddle. He wasn't big into cuddling when we first got him, but sometimes he would climb up onto the sofa with one of us. We discovered quickly that Zeke had three issues:


  1. - When he is suddenly startled in his sleep, or even when he seems to be startled by a bad dream, he will jump up and bark. Sometimes he will snap, but most of the time he will just bark.
  2. - He does not like it when people sit down next to his dog bed. It was like he felt threatened. I understand that these dogs are used to the security of a confined space when they are sleeping, so it seems understandable that they would be a little protective of their bed in an open area like a living room...at least until they feel secure in their new home.
  3. - He doesn't like it when he is lying down and you either stare at him from close range or try to push him off of the furniture he is on. He will growl and sometimes even snap... or at least he used to. He will also sometimes growl if he is on the sofa or bed and there isn't much room left for you...and he thinks you're going to take what he thinks is his spot.


Fortunately for us Zeke has always been very clear and consistent about his boundaries, and we have done the following to make him feel more secure and to avoid any situations where he feels like he needs to snap: The first thing we did was train him to get down off of furniture like sofas or beds just by using voice commands so we would not be at risk of getting bitten if he felt threatened by being pushed or pulled off. If he is on the sofa, and I want to sit down I tell him to get down and he does - immediately. When I sit down he will sometimes get back onto the sofa which is fine with me... as long as he knows I get to sit there first and then he is welcome to any space that is left or if he feels like cuddling.


We have also tried to make him feel less threatened about his space by sometimes sitting next to his bed and giving him a treat while petting him. He never seems to feel threatened when there is a cookie involved :lol Then we leave him to his bed. Over time he seems to have mellowed and does not act uncomfortable when we sit by his bed. We still ask visitors to respect his bed space, however.


It has been about 10 months since we adopted Zeke, and I would say that for the last few months or so he has really improved. He hasn't growled or snapped in a long time (knock on wood) and he has rarely been so startled in his sleep that he wakes up barking or snapping. He is also much more cuddly than he was five or six months ago. Overall he just seems to feel more comfortable and secure in his surroundings.


Perhaps your new boy will improve over time, but I've read about greys and other dogs who just never get over their space issues enough to be good bed partners. It's difficult to deny their bed privileges once you allow them in, but we did just that with Zeke. Even though he mostly just stood up and barked (only time he has ever barked is waking up startled), it was waking us up...and it's kind of a scary way to wake up. The last straw came when my wife tried to push him off the bed after he woke up startled and he snapped at her face and grazed her arm with his tooth. He lost his bed privileges for a long time after that. He still doesn't quite have them back, but we have an arrangement that all seem comfortable with: Our girl Lola, who has no space or snapping issues whatsoever and is the cuddliest dog we have ever had :), gets to sleep in our bed at night. Zeke sleeps on the floor in a dog bed. Sometimes Lola will get down if she gets hot. Sometimes we make her get down because she gets up and turns circles in the middle of the night. Then Zeke might get into the bed and we haven't had any incidents (knock on wood). This is partly because he will get down immediately when we use voice commands, and partly because he has simply gotten more comfortable. I think he knows he is safe with us and in our home, but a bad dream could still wake him up barking.


As the weather heats up we will probably kick both dogs out of the bed! I bet your new boy will improve, but don't let him in the bed until you are confident that he has improved...and even then sleeping with a greyhound or two isn't always what it's cracked up to be. They take up a lot of room, poke you in the back with their feet, turn circles in the middle of the night, roll on top of you, or just make the bed too hot! It is nice to cuddle with them, but you could restrict that to the sofa. Even if you keep him off the furniture completely, he will forgive you and you'll still have a great relationship.



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Thanks, all. He's such a darling boy and when he's awake or just dozing, you can cuddle up with him in bed and he is SO soft and he just nuzzles with you and it's great! But he has a LOUD bark - I think that scares me more than anything because it's just so startling, lol. He's definitely not anywhere near as space-aggressive as our previous boy...nowhere close! Our girl sleeps with us now, but my husband doesn't think it's fair that he can't, too. I told him to go to the guest bedroom - hah! I'd rather not wake-up to a 200 decibel bark in my ear at 4:00 in the morning. :)


I'll start trying to desensitize him a bit. He's such a goof, if I throw socks at him he'll probably just pick them up and play. :lol

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When Spud first arrived here, he had space aggression, my DS's friends would be over and play video games, and if one came too close to Spud's dog bed, he would growl. That did go away, we gave him space, and nobody bugged him on his bed, but over time we moved closer, and now we can sit on his dog bed and pet him, he is fine.

Now the bark, he did that too, whenever he wanted something, like going outside, or be fed. not aggressive, but he let out one loud woof, right in my face, and it would send me into orbit, every single time. I think over time he just got that it startled me, he is not doing it anymore, I'm not even sure when that stopped, I think when I got a second Grey, and he noticed she communicated much quieter, yet effectively. I think I probably let out a startled shriek over the barks, so maybe try that, but mostly over time, he will come to realize there is no need to be worried about being disturbed while sleeping, they just need to get used to it. I would not let him sleep in the bed until he is bombproof, in fact, I don't to this day, mostly because I don't want 75 pounds of dead weight in my bed, he is quite happy to sleep on his dog bed, most of the time not even in my bed room.


Ivon, Spud, Karma & Sasha

Missing Darla (05-22-96 03-01-2010)

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Might improve with time and desensitization, might not.


My angel Batman had sleep startle. Every now and then, if he got startled awake, he would come up with a huge snarl and a snap like something out of a Jaws movie. He was a dog who could eat a cow hoof, for example, like it was a milk bone. Not something you wanted to get in the way of. Neither improved nor got worse over time. I learned not to let him fall asleep if we were having a cuddle, and to make sure he was well awake if I needed to doctor him etc. when he was lying down. He didn't get on the furniture -- never had any desire to. He wasn't otherwise space-sensitive with people, just if truly asleep.

Star aka Starz Ovation (Ronco x Oneco Maggie*, litter #48538), Coco aka Low Key (Kiowa Mon Manny x Party Hardy, litter # 59881), and mom in Illinois
We miss Reko Batman (Trouper Zeke x Marque Louisiana), 11/15/95-6/29/06, Rocco the thistledown whippet, 04/29/93-10/14/08, Reko Zema (Mo Kick x Reko Princess), 8/16/98-4/18/10, the most beautiful girl in the whole USA, my good egg Joseph aka Won by a Nose (Oneco Cufflink x Buy Back), 09/22/2003-03/01/2013, and our gentle sweet Gidget (Digitizer, Dodgem by Design x Sobe Mulberry), 1/29/2006-11/22/2014, gone much too soon. Never forgetting CJC's Buckshot, 1/2/07-10/25/10.

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Guest larock

Interesting topic. We've been having a simular issue with Roodie, our male, whom we've had for about 1.5 years. He's as sweet as they get and loves to snuggle but will occasionally wake up with a start, and jump up growling. I must say it was a bit frightening at first but we've been able to ask him to leave the couch and he does without any further protests. Thankfully, our current two (Roodie and his fur-mom, Frightz) sleep on their own dog beds in our room at night so we don't have any other sleep issues to worry about. I'm going to keep working with him though, he seems to be improving.



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Guest LindsaySF

Agreed with Batmom's post.


Some dogs learn to trust you in time and they don't snap anymore. In my experience these are the dogs that will snap when *awake* and will look at you nervously and warily. Over time they come trust you and stop fearing you being near when they are laying down, they might even accept cuddling, etc.


But to me it sounds like your dog does not have a trust issue (not if he enjoys being petted and falls asleep with you), he just genuinely forgets where he is when he's asleep and wakes up snapping. IMO this is "true" sleep aggression, not just newbie space issues. My boy Teagan is like this, and I think he always will be. If that is the case with your dog, I would NOT let him fall asleep near you or sleep with you in the bed. One day you might be bitten, and badly, it's just not worth the risk.





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