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Guest carhound
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Guest carhound

Our grey is normally extremely calm and super gentle. She's never aggressive. Last night, I tried to walk her and she greatly limited the distance we walked (normally, we'll walk about 40-45 minutes), walking only about 5 minutes - she did her business and wanted to come home. There wasn't anything going on outside and the weather was great (she is afraid of fireworks, but there were none). We put her in our room for bed. Two hours later, I walk into our room and flash the light from my phone on her, just to see where she was so I wouldn't step on her, and she growled at me. This woke up my wife, whom our dog normally adores. When I tried inching into the room, she kept growling. When my wife tried petting her, she growled. We thought she wasn't fully awake (despite her eyes being open and her head moving) so we clapped really loud. She moved her head with this and stopped growling. This morning, my wife takes her out first thing to relieve herself, usually she has to nudge her to get her up and when she tried, she was snarled at, and the dog was definitely awake. When she took her outside, the dog was extremely alert and cautiously walked the perimeter of our fence. No other incidents after that. My wife took her on a walk and she said she was normal aside from being a little extra jumpy when she heard loud cars or trucks pass. A little background, we've had our grey for over a year and she has never done this and last week, she scraped her pads on the pavement and we've put neosporin on ever since, but they seem to be healing so we don't think it was because she's hurt. Could something have scared her outside that would make her act like this?

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A vet visit is in order. I suspect that she is in pain and letting you know by growling.

 

IMHO, you might want to have the vet check for corns on the pads -- I hope you vet is gravy-aware because corns can be tough to spot.

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Guest PiagetsMom

Has she tolerated your doctoring her pads well? Perhaps she's becoming aggravated by it and growling in anticipation of you approaching her to doctor them again?

 

I can understand her growling when you came into the room with a flashlight.....something different that she's unsure of. That doesn't explain her reaction to your wife this morning, however. As MaryJane said, I'd probably be taking her for a vet check to make sure there's nothing else going on that's causing her pain or discomfort.

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Guest Gemma

Vet check to be sure but I do wonder. . .you said she is afraid of fireworks? Did she have a bad time of it this past week due to the celebrations? If she was shaken up quite badly by the fireworks, she could still be afraid.

 

We had a foster who was terrified of fireworks. I was heading out for a potty break with him when one went off, and he refused to go out of the back door for over a week because he associated it with the fear of that loud noise. He also became sensitive to all loud noises for a while after the fireworks and would be cautious and nervous in the yard. Perhaps your girl is now nervous and defensive because she's still shaken up?

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Guest PiagetsMom

Vet check to be sure but I do wonder. . .you said she is afraid of fireworks? Did she have a bad time of it this past week due to the celebrations? If she was shaken up quite badly by the fireworks, she could still be afraid.

 

I can second this if she was frightened by the fireworks this past week. A while back Maya was scared by something in our backyard (I was with her, but don't know what it was) and it took her weeks to get over her nervousness - both in and out of the house. Her behavior was strange, but she was never defensive towards me or my DH.

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Guest carhound

Has she tolerated your doctoring her pads well? Perhaps she's becoming aggravated by it and growling in anticipation of you approaching her to doctor them again?

 

I can understand her growling when you came into the room with a flashlight.....something different that she's unsure of. That doesn't explain her reaction to your wife this morning, however. As MaryJane said, I'd probably be taking her for a vet check to make sure there's nothing else going on that's causing her pain or discomfort.

 

She's tolerated it pretty well. And we haven't fussed over it too much. She was out in the yard burning off some energy and she came onto the driveway and made a hard stop. She skinned the edge of the Metacarpal pad, somewhere between the size of an eraser and a dime. We have been keeping it clean and putting neosporin on it and a baby sock when we walk. The distance of walks have also been truncated due to the injury and the 100+ temps we've had lately. She seems okay on pavement, but the dry rough grass seems to irritate it.

 

As for as the flashlight, it was the soft glow of cellphone screen. Something both my wife and I have done probably hundreds of times by now.

 

I watch her eat breakfast this morning, and she inhaled it faster than usual and stopped to look behind her several times as if checking something. I was far off to the side so it wasn't me she was looking at.

 

Vet check to be sure but I do wonder. . .you said she is afraid of fireworks? Did she have a bad time of it this past week due to the celebrations? If she was shaken up quite badly by the fireworks, she could still be afraid.

 

We had a foster who was terrified of fireworks. I was heading out for a potty break with him when one went off, and he refused to go out of the back door for over a week because he associated it with the fear of that loud noise. He also became sensitive to all loud noises for a while after the fireworks and would be cautious and nervous in the yard. Perhaps your girl is now nervous and defensive because she's still shaken up?

 

Not that bad, it was worse last year. She used to get startled and stop dead in her tracks and not move. Now she hurries up and squeezes out #1 and #2 in record time and starts heading for how. We both reassure her when it does happen so that she understands its not going to hurt her.

 

A vet visit is in order. I suspect that she is in pain and letting you know by growling.

 

IMHO, you might want to have the vet check for corns on the pads -- I hope you vet is gravy-aware because corns can be tough to spot.

 

She did try to run in the only carpeted room in our house last night. She's had a lot of pent of energy since we haven't been letting her run outside. It consisted of lots of quick direction changes and juking. I'm wondering now if she gave herself some sort of carpet burn. :(

 

Lol gravy-aware vet... I dunno he's a pretty lanky guy. I'm not sure he's found out about gravy yet. :P

 

 

 

 

A couple other items to mention that may have an effect on her behavior:

-Skunks have moved into the neighborhood (she's familiar with the scent though, they were around all last year) it was particularly pugnent last night.

-We have seen foxes in the area

-she got into a teethbaring snarling fit with a family members poorly sociallized antogonistic Cairn Terrier. I put an end to it quickly and took her out of the room for a time out, while the other dog was taken home.

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All of this sounds fear based to me. Sounds like something has scared her. It could have been the fire works or something outside or even something while you've been away from the house, The turning and looking behind while she's eating makes me think she's afraid something is going to interfere with her meal and growling in the dark sounds fearful to me. A vet check wouldn't hurt but I'd be watching her closely to see if you can find something that has made her quite fearful.

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Guest carhound

All of this sounds fear based to me. Sounds like something has scared her. It could have been the fire works or something outside or even something while you've been away from the house, The turning and looking behind while she's eating makes me think she's afraid something is going to interfere with her meal and growling in the dark sounds fearful to me. A vet check wouldn't hurt but I'd be watching her closely to see if you can find something that has made her quite fearful.

 

Forgot to add one more thing, I am installing new trim in our house, and I'm using a nailgun for installation. This has been going off and on periodically for a few months, she's never really reacted too it. But now I'm thinking the couple hours worth of work I did before her walk and bedtime combnined with everything else was possibly too much for her to handle.

 

Based on her actions I'm leaning towards fear-based. I'll continue to check for unseen ouchies, and schedule a vet visit if the aggression seems pain motivated. But in the meantime we'll be sensitive to loud noises and give her lots of reassurance that everything is okay, as well as space if she gets growly again.

 

If it happens again, what is the best way to handle it assuming it is fear based? Seems to me telling her "no" is not the right thing to do. She is scared and I'm sure the last thing anyone human or canine would ever want would be their caregiver to punish them for expressing fear.

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Guest Greyt_dog_lover

Don't reassure her.

 

You are encouraging the behavior by acknowledging the behavior. Ignore the fear. She will gain confidence through your actions, when you coddle her during her fearful reactions, you are telling her it is ok to have the fears. They dont understand what you are saying, so what they think you are encouraging is the behavior immediately before the reward (coddling). I have a fearful girl and when she gets into her mode of being afraid (large crowds), I simply shorten up the leash to a handlers length (1') and keep her at my side and walk like nothing is happening. In the house, I ignore her. It has taken a few years, but she is now able to handle fireworks going off around the house and thunderstorms.

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Don't reassure her.

 

You are encouraging the behavior by acknowledging the behavior. Ignore the fear. She will gain confidence through your actions, when you coddle her during her fearful reactions, you are telling her it is ok to have the fears. They dont understand what you are saying, so what they think you are encouraging is the behavior immediately before the reward (coddling).

 

You cannot reinforce fear. You may, inadvertently, reinforce a behavior that happens when a dog is fearful, but you are not reinforcing the fear itself. What I am trying to say is that it is perfectly ok to comfort your dog when she is fearful. Think of it this way: if you are scared of something, and someone gives you a hug in the presence of the feared item and tells you everything is going to be ok, are you going to be more scared when you see the scary item the next time? That's what would happen if comforting actually reinforced fear. Odds are that you might feel a little better about the item, or perhaps just as scared. Now, you do want to do the comforting in the right manner. Be matter-of-fact, reassuring, motherly, if you will. But do not do the frantic, baby-talking, quick motion kind of comforting, because that can make a dog more anxious, since that doesn't translate as comforting in a dog's world.

 

It is possible to, as I said, inadvertently reinforce fearful behavior, much the same way that a kid can learn that if they start crying after they fall down they will get a kiss and a treat, and start doing that even when they are not that hurt. But it should be fairly easy to tell when they are faking it, and then just start working on changing that behavior, if you find that you are in that situation.

 

I will also add that being scared causes certain physiological changes, due to hormones, that can take up to a week to dissipate, and which will pre-sensitize a dog to fearful situations that happen in that week. In other words, if your dog is scared (like many are on the 4th of July), and then encounters a feared item on the 6th, they are going to react more strongly than they would have if they met it on the 3rd, since the body is already dealing with fear-based hormones. It's like when you deal ok with the rush-hour traffic, and your boss yelling at you, and spilling red wine on your favorite blouse, and then blow up because the soda machine took your money. Things just build up until the body can't take it.

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My blog about helping Katie learn to be a more normal dog: http://katies-journey-philospher77.blogspot.com/

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If you think it's the noise of the nail gun freaking her out, you could try having your wife hold her on a leash where she can see you working and offer her yummy treats whenever the nail gun goes off (preferably at the same time or just immediately after) - use something extremely high value, meaty, and smelly. If it's not the nail gun, this won't work, but it's something to try. I had to do this with my guy during thunderstorms - he thought the thunder meant someone was outside trying to get in, and would start barking like crazy to scare them off or warn us. He's (finally) realized that thunder doesn't mean someone is coming to get him.

Mom of bridge babies Regis and Dusty.

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I agree with the other responses already given. My guess is that her recent grumpy behavior is due to the combination of multiple stressors - the recent fireworks, her pad injuries, the recent confrontation with the cairn terrier, the nailgun... Stress causes hormonal changes within the body, and even after the stress is gone, it can take days for these hormones to return to normal. When there are multiple stressful events, it builds up in the system, leads to a more intense response, and can take even longer to dissipate. Stress tends to make individuals more jumpy and reactive, be less tolerant of normal interactions. We see the same response in people - stress makes us have a shorter temper less tolerant of minor annoyances.

 

I agree with philosopher77 that you can't reinforce (in the operant sense) emotional states like fear. However, I do think that our responses to our dogs can sometimes heighten fear due to their sensitivity to our moods and emotions. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with comforting a scared dog, as long as it's done in a calm, confident manner that provides the dog with emotional support.

 

I think the reason 'coddling' becomes a problem and can make fear worse is because many owners do it in a way that transmits anxiety and insecurity to the dog. If the owner is very worried and feels sorry for the dog, I suspect the dog interprets this as the owner also being scared of whatever is making the dog anxious. So the dog feeds off of this anxiety and gets worse. Unfortunately, this seems to be the way many people naturally responds to their dog's fear.

 

Forgot to address the question of how to handle it if she growls again. I would look at the growl as a form of communication in which she is telling you she's uncomfortable with the interaction. Respect what she is telling you and give her space. If you know certain things might upset her, avoid those things for the next week or two, such as not physically nudging her to move. Find another way to get her to do what you want. For example, if she doesn't want to get up, use a leash and some treats and encourage her to follow you.

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Guest carhound

Thanks for all the replies everyone. We had a very normal evening last night, and a normal morning. I fed her dinner by hand just to have some 1 on 1 bonding time with her and I took her for a walk earlier (still daylight) and was very much herself. She didn't act scared at all.

 

Forgot to address the question of how to handle it if she growls again. I would look at the growl as a form of communication in which she is telling you she's uncomfortable with the interaction. Respect what she is telling you and give her space. If you know certain things might upset her, avoid those things for the next week or two, such as not physically nudging her to move. Find another way to get her to do what you want. For example, if she doesn't want to get up, use a leash and some treats and encourage her to follow you.

 

This is exactly how I handled the situation the night before, I understood that she was communicating her uneasiness and gave space and told her everything was okay. Her eyes were dilated (which is odd as the would have constricted once the overhead light was turned on) and sorta glazed over Thinking about it more I think I startled her while sleeping and that scared her. The way she was laying that night I was practically already on top of her when I opened the door to the bedroom.

 

I really do think her nerves were a little frayed from being off schedule for most of the week, the fireworks, and everything else I had mentioned earlier. That's a lot to handle and I can understand not being as easygoing as a result.

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Guest Greyt_dog_lover

Philosopher, did you think I was saying you can reinforce fear? If so, please re-read my post as it clearly states the word "behavior" as to what you are reinforcing, not fear. While I do use the word fear in my post, it is simply an explanation of the reason for the behavior. Thank you, have a nice day. =}

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Don't reassure her.

 

You are encouraging the behavior by acknowledging the behavior. Ignore the fear. She will gain confidence through your actions, when you coddle her during her fearful reactions, you are telling her it is ok to have the fears. They dont understand what you are saying, so what they think you are encouraging is the behavior immediately before the reward (coddling).

 

You cannot reinforce fear. You may, inadvertently, reinforce a behavior that happens when a dog is fearful, but you are not reinforcing the fear itself. What I am trying to say is that it is perfectly ok to comfort your dog when she is fearful. Think of it this way: if you are scared of something, and someone gives you a hug in the presence of the feared item and tells you everything is going to be ok, are you going to be more scared when you see the scary item the next time? That's what would happen if comforting actually reinforced fear. Odds are that you might feel a little better about the item, or perhaps just as scared. Now, you do want to do the comforting in the right manner. Be matter-of-fact, reassuring, motherly, if you will. But do not do the frantic, baby-talking, quick motion kind of comforting, because that can make a dog more anxious, since that doesn't translate as comforting in a dog's world.

 

It is possible to, as I said, inadvertently reinforce fearful behavior, much the same way that a kid can learn that if they start crying after they fall down they will get a kiss and a treat, and start doing that even when they are not that hurt. But it should be fairly easy to tell when they are faking it, and then just start working on changing that behavior, if you find that you are in that situation.

 

I will also add that being scared causes certain physiological changes, due to hormones, that can take up to a week to dissipate, and which will pre-sensitize a dog to fearful situations that happen in that week. In other words, if your dog is scared (like many are on the 4th of July), and then encounters a feared item on the 6th, they are going to react more strongly than they would have if they met it on the 3rd, since the body is already dealing with fear-based hormones. It's like when you deal ok with the rush-hour traffic, and your boss yelling at you, and spilling red wine on your favorite blouse, and then blow up because the soda machine took your money. Things just build up until the body can't take it.

I agree with the other responses already given. My guess is that her recent grumpy behavior is due to the combination of multiple stressors - the recent fireworks, her pad injuries, the recent confrontation with the cairn terrier, the nailgun... Stress causes hormonal changes within the body, and even after the stress is gone, it can take days for these hormones to return to normal. When there are multiple stressful events, it builds up in the system, leads to a more intense response, and can take even longer to dissipate. Stress tends to make individuals more jumpy and reactive, be less tolerant of normal interactions. We see the same response in people - stress makes us have a shorter temper less tolerant of minor annoyances.

 

I agree with philosopher77 that you can't reinforce (in the operant sense) emotional states like fear. However, I do think that our responses to our dogs can sometimes heighten fear due to their sensitivity to our moods and emotions. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with comforting a scared dog, as long as it's done in a calm, confident manner that provides the dog with emotional support.

 

I think the reason 'coddling' becomes a problem and can make fear worse is because many owners do it in a way that transmits anxiety and insecurity to the dog. If the owner is very worried and feels sorry for the dog, I suspect the dog interprets this as the owner also being scared of whatever is making the dog anxious. So the dog feeds off of this anxiety and gets worse. Unfortunately, this seems to be the way many people naturally responds to their dog's fear.

 

Forgot to address the question of how to handle it if she growls again. I would look at the growl as a form of communication in which she is telling you she's uncomfortable with the interaction. Respect what she is telling you and give her space. If you know certain things might upset her, avoid those things for the next week or two, such as not physically nudging her to move. Find another way to get her to do what you want. For example, if she doesn't want to get up, use a leash and some treats and encourage her to follow you.

Excellent advice on both counts. :nod

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Jen, CPDT-KA with Zuri, lab in a greyhound suit, Violet, formerly known as Faith, Skye, the permanent puppy, Cisco, resident cat, and my baby girl Neyla, forever in my heart

"The great thing about science is that you're free to disagree with it, but you'll be wrong."

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