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Growling At Strangers, Only In Our House

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I've had my grey Henry for about 3 months now. He's a very nice dog, somewhat submissive in nature. Just some background info: Henry is a 2 1/2 year old red brindle. We adopted him from an organization where the dogs are kept in kennels, so he had not been fostered before we adopted him. He loves other dogs (especially other greyhounds) and shows no sleep/food aggression. We had him tested for everything by a vet who specializes in greys (thyroid, UTIs, you name it) and he's in excellent health. He stays at home by himself during weekdays while I'm at work (no crating), and has shown no separation anxiety, no potty-training problems, etc. Right now, we're working on basic obedience training once a week with a certified dog trainer (clicker/positive reinforcement training) and responding very well.


The problems we're experiencing deal mainly with fear-aggression. We started noticing it around children. His eyes would get real big when they approached him, and he'd try to hide behind me. Then, probably within the first few weeks of getting him, he growled and snapped at my sister-in-law (an adult). I thought it might have been a one-time thing, since she tried to lean over him when he was on his bed in the corner of the room. But then he began growling at certain people who come over to our house. He gets visibly nervous if certain strangers try to touch him (but with other people, he's fine). It seems strange that he has these (seemingly) arbitrary moments of aggression, because he spends a lot of time around strangers. We take him everywhere, and he is great with strangers in pet stores, parks, the training center- all public places. But when people come to our house, the growling seems to get worse. He especially doesn't like my sister-in-law, who now doesn't like to come over because of Henry. We've tried giving him treats when these moments happen, but he acts totally uninterested. I've tried to find a pattern with the people he's shy around, but I don't see one. He's growled at men, women, children, adults. I'm absolutely willing to keep working with him. But what should I do?

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Might be worth consulting a behaviorist if there's a good one in your location.


If you're concerned he might snap, a plastic basket muzzle (kennel/turnout muzzle) is your friend. So is the obedience training you're doing.


You might try putting him on leash and greeting visitors outdoors -- say, at the end of your driveway or front walk; have visitor mostly ignore him but feed bits of hot dog or cheese as you walk toward and into the house. Once indoors, you want the visitor to ignore him, and you want him to have a safe place to hang out while they're there. If he seems just a little uneasy, it can help to clip his leash on and run him hrough a short obedience routine with good treats -- heel, sit, lie down, etc. That can help a fearful/uncertain dog figure out what he's supposed to do during unsettling circumstances.

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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Very simple answer here, for immediate "relief."


When you have people over, baby gate the dog into a room and tell people to leave him alone.


For long term benefits, what Batmom said sounds very sensible!!


I wouldn't consider what you're describing "aggression." Sounds like fear to me, and the growling is his only way of saying, "Back off."


He needs a safe space where he can't be bothered to adjust to life on the outside! 3 months is really still pretty new in your home.


Susan,  Hamish,  Mister Bigglesworth and Nikita Stanislav. Missing Ming, George, and Buck

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Guest scfilby

I totally understand, I don't like children or my in-laws in the house either...


Like batmom says, muzzle in the house and give lots of space. Baby gate in a quiet room if possible. We put our pups away when certain non-dog people come over because our hounds give everyone the sniff test and Mickey insists on kisses.. Cy barks and growls like crazy when strangers come in to the house (spooky fear). It's his house.. what are these strange people doing in it?


ETA= Welcome to Greytalk!!!

Edited by scfilby
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Guest Greyt_dog_lover

Personally what you describe doesnt sound random at all. In public he is fine, but in the house he is fearful. Maybe in the house he is in his safe zone and being encroached upon. He is obviously uncomfortable and as others have said, he is unable to express that except with a growl. Dont treat him when he is growling, otherwise you are actually enforcing the behavior. You need to treat the calm moments, not after he becomes visible disturbed. One thing to note, your hound, when in his bed should NEVER EVER EVER be approached (meaning right next to), and definitely not have a human stand over the top of him. This is probably one of the biggest reasons for nips, as you have experienced. When he is in his bed he should not be bothered. It is his safe zone, and since you have a fearful hound, allow him his area where he can relax. Think of it this way, you are in a hotel, and the cleaning crew comes in, even though you said "no thank you", then follows you into the bathroom and proceeds to join you in the shower. Would you be upset? This may be how your hound feels when he is on his bed. What to do if he is in bed and you want to pet him or something else, call him away from his bed with a treat. You are reinforcing your recall, and bonding, win win. The suggestions from Batmom are very good suggestions for long term training.



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Thanks to everyone! Your answers are definitely appreciated! I spoke to our trainer, who confirmed what everyone here has said: He's fearful of strangers encroaching on the area where he feels most safe. When we first got Henry, he was very shy- so all things considered, he's made a great deal of progress in three month's time. The training class especially has been incredibly beneficial in helping Henry come out of his shell. Now that he's gained some confidence, he's started to express his fear more overtly (growling, etc). The trainer suggested many the same things that were brought up here- namely leashing him, and asking guests to leave him alone when they enter the house until HE is ready to say hello. She also gave us the idea of "Treat, Retreat," where we can ask our guests to throw him treats (instead of hand-feeding). This way, he begins to associate strangers with good outcomes with as little risk as possible. She also said that it's important not to discipline him or baby him when he growls. The less we focus on the bad behavior, the easier it will be to phase it out of these situations. We're going to start trying all these things, and I'm certain he'll get better with time. Thanks for all your help!

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Sounds like you're on the road to getting this straightened out. Good for you - you NEED to deal with this RIGHT NOW - if left unattended - this could escalate into a very bad mess.


One thing I'd also suggest - Do you have a friend willing to be a guinea pig? For desensitization training? I'm thinking come to your house, come in - you deal with your dog - through leashing , treats , whatever, and they leave. And do it again. And again. Until the dog gets used to someone coming in - and behaving well.


We did this with one of our fosters that liked to jump up on visitors. Basically - one of my friends volunteered to walk into my house once an hour for a whole Saturday! :eek It gave me the opportunity to repeatedly work with the dog, correct, reinforce, reward - over and over and over. By the end of the day - we were ALL exhausted - but it worked. You've got to have a REALLY GOOD FRIEND for this! :)

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