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Don't Discourage Growling...?


MattB
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Hi, I've read a few times on this forum that we should not discourage growling. I've not had a dog of my own before and instinctively I assumed I should say 'no' to this behaviour but wondered if someone would be willing to explain this advice?

 

In practice I have one grey who has long nails, after a traumatic trip to the groomer (lots of blood from a really bad nail clipping) my plan was to file a little every few days by hand. Sometimes this is no problem, other times Charlie tells me that he's not in the mood by growling, albeit very gently, at me. Sometimes this is nothing to do with his claws but he doesn't want me to sit near him if he's tired. What makes this quite comical is that he seems to almost immediately express regret after he growls by crying and waving his paws in the air.

 

So my question is, while I should respect his growling, am I right in thinking that he shouldn't learn that growling is the way to get what he wants. In the case of his claws, which I was trying to do in the least traumatic way possible, is this about trying to make him comfortable with the process with rewards?

 

I'm not trying to make out I have a problem dog, he's very cuddly most of the time with people I'm the only person who he's ever growled at.

 

Any thoughts much appreciated.

 

Matt

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A bad nail trim is very hard to get over for the dog. All the years I've done nails, I had one female that I took to the vet and she was so bad he had to sedate her (needless to say, she didn't go often). If it were me, I would not do his nails myself for a long time or do one at a time. I assume the bad nail trim has grown out to the point where your trim is not painful physically?

 

Try a muzzle with peanut butter in it even if you are only doing that one nail. If you do take him to the vet, do the same thing -- muzzle with a little pb.

 

From another site after suggestions the person try professional help:

 

 

If you're insistant on trying it on your own, try a non-confrontational approach like the NILIF (Nothing In Life Is Free) program. This program may be effective if the problem is resource guarding (ie growling when you try to take food or a toy away or try to move them from a chair or the bed).

Other contributors have said: Sometimes it's not a good idea to teach your dog not to growl. This is especially true if there are aggression issues. A dog's growl can be his way of telling you something is making him uncomfortable to the point he is going to snap. I've seen where people have taught their dog not to growl, so now they just bite without warning.

 

I have changed my views on growling over the years and I agree with not correcting for growling. Many years ago (when I was young and foolish :lol) I did resident obedience training and 80% of the dogs I trained were biters. I'd much rather have a growl for a warning than a dog that just skips that part and goes in for the bite or kill.

 

I believe NILIF guidelines are in Greyt Information forum

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Guest Wasserbuffel

You should be working with positive methods to change the dog's mood around things he is uncomfortable with, such as claw trims.

 

My dog, for example, used to get really nervous if people bent close and hovered over her face. Since humans are so wont to hover that way, and are really resistant to being trained I taught the dog to exchange a "kiss" for a reward. She learned to touch my cheek with her nose. Later she learned to do the same when strangers approached. Now she's happy when people bend over her. In fact the tables have turned, and she's the one who often ends up scaring the humans when she comes diving at their faces with her teeth bared . . . she's a little excitable, so her kisses have evolved into something a little scarier than a nose touch.

 

Had she instead been reprimanded for growling/snapping at people for making her nervous, she would probably would have escalated to biting.

 

It is acceptable to tell a dog who is growling just to be a grump to get over themselves. When Jayne first began to sit on our furniture she would growl if we tried to sit with her, or snap if we got too close. We taught her that guarding the furniture means she has to stay off the furniture -- no reprimand for the growl or snap other than to tell her to get off the couch. After a while she understood, but would occasionally give a grumpy growl if we moved in a way that displeased her. At those growls we simply told her to get over herself, and she eventually did.

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Guest Greyt_dog_lover

You need to figure out the reason for the growling. If it is resource guarding such as a bed, that is one thing, but if it is growling because you are invading his space and he feels uncomfortable, that is something totally different. So you cant generalize and say to correct all growling, or on the opposite side that you need to allow all growling.

Example:

1) your hound is sleeping on his bed and you walk over to him to give him a kiss on his head and he growls at you - this is NOT resource guarding of his bed, he is uncomfortable with you hovering over him which is a very aggressive stance to take in his eyes.

2) your hound jumps up on the sofa and you come over to sit next to him and he growls at you - this is classic resource guarding of the sofa. In this situation I would not correct him for the growling, but rather I would take away his furniture privileges. So you set him up for success, not failure, and at the same time you don't have to worry about removing his natural instinct to communicate.

 

There are a lot of reasons that a hound may growl, so before you decide to allow/discourage growling, you need to understand the reason for the growling. Also, as stated above, I wouldnt necessarily discourage growling, rather set up for success with other types of positive training that makes your hound comfortable. Another example of this would be "trade up". A hound has a toy and growls if you try to take it from him. Instead of correcting for him growling, take a very good treat with you and offer the treat. When he drops the toy and takes the treat, give a command such as "drop it". Repeat this until he understands the drop it command. Now you have extinguished his resource guarding and taught him not to fear you when he has something that he really likes.

 

Chad

Edited by Greyt_dog_lover
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I would say that you don't need to reprimand for growling, just deal with the reasons for it. After all it is just a way of communicating.....if you got told off every time you tried to express yourself you would soon get a bit peeved. As others have said, find the cause and deal with it appropriately.

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The reason we don't correct for growling is simple. Dogs cannot speak our language, they speak their language. They are very, very good at picking up cues from us and at reading body language, but they can't reproduce what they know about our language so that we can understand them in return, they have to use their own language; they have to speak 'dog'.

If they get uncomfortable with any given situation (afraid, nervous, upset, annoyed, hurt, cornered, whatever), they have a strict order of 'language' they use to let us know, and warn us that if all else fails, they will use their teeth to get the message across. Here's how it goes:

 

First they'll try to use subtle 'dog' body language to let you know they want you to back off. This includes tensing, blinking & other eye movements, and showing the white of the eye in a particular way (known as 'whale eye').

 

If you don't get the message, they'll use 'calming signals' licking the lips, turning the head away from you, yawning, maybe lifting a paw (you'll still see the earlier signs at this stage as well).

 

If none of this works, they'll try to move away and escape.

 

If they can't escape, they will progress to an audible signal: growling. This is communication, NOT aggression. If you don't pay attention and the situation doesn't change, they may move on to snarling.

 

The next step (if you're still not paying attention) is the air-snap - the 'fake' bite. This is not intended to connect, but our human reactions are so slow that we sometimes move in the wrong way and get banged or scraped. And the sad fact is that our skin is not as tough as dog skin and what wouldn't injure another dog will bruise or cut us. So people think of these snaps as bites anyway.

 

Of course, you know what happens next. If nothing changes, if you don't back off, it's a serious, intentional bite. This will always cause a real wound, not a bruise or a scrape or a graze, but deep punctures, and maybe more than one set.

 

What happens if you teach the dog that it's not OK to snarl or growl is that they progress directly from calming signals - which so many people miss - to a bite. That's why we advise people not to discourage growling.

 

So what do you do? You cultivate mutual trust and you respect the dog. Learn how they communicate and learn to manage the situation before it escalates. If one of my dogs growl, I back off a bit and reassure them, because - like the situation you find yourself in now with the nail clipping - it's always due to fear or uncertainty or anxiety.

In this case, I'd work on desensitising him to the nail trimming. I've had to do this with Jeffie. Don't start out expecting to trim all the nails in one go, and don't try to do them while he's lying on his bed resting..

I started by working on getting him happy to have his feet handled. Then to having his feet handled while I was holding the clippers. Then to tapping a nail or two with the clippers, and finally to trimming a tiny bit from ONE nail, making sure I was holding it straight and firmly enough so there was no twisting or wrenching. With baby steps, we went to two nails, then three, then four (a whole foot!). We progressed from that to proper clipping of one nail, then two, then three, etc. Now I can trim them all in one go, on a good day, but I am still watching carefully to judge his comfort and tolerance levels and when he's had enough, I let him go. Jeffie tolerates it much better standing than lying down, but they are all different, and Sid prefers to lie down while he has his manicure.

 

It's about trust. If he trusts me not to insist when he's beyond his limits, he lets me do more. They're not complicated creatures!

 

 

(Edited because I wrote this very late last night. I've made it a bit easier to read and corrected a couple of grammatical mistakes which were bugging me)

Edited by silverfish

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Guest normaandburrell

 

 

What makes this quite comical is that he seems to almost immediately express regret after he growls by crying and waving his paws in the air.

 

How cute! :rofl

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Agree with everything else that has been said. Just one tip re: nail clipping. I do both my dogs' nails once a week, but it took awhile to get a process that worked for both of them. I tried the desensitization route, and I found that neither will tolerate having their nails done if they're lying down. Truman has to be standing up with a second person holding and petting and talking to him. Henry has to be lifted up off his feet and held in the air (he basically just goes limp). It's much easier if you have a second person to help. Also, I dremmel instead of clip, which is less stressful for me because there's way less margin for error and injury. Good luck!

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I didn't see mention of using a dremel - the only certain way to avoid a problem. Cordless, with a coarse sandpaper wheel - $50 - $100. Dog standing, with a muzzle on, one person holding the head, giving praise, and feeding high value treats while the other demels away.

 

For lying down situations I am a big proponent of allowing a dog to growl. In fact when there was a growl I would offer a "good boy" and move away. Our dog no longer growls. People can crawl into his bed with him without incident. He has learned complete trust I assume and it only took 2 years.

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Rudy has always been uncomfortable being hovered over or touched much when he is lying down, so I do his nails with him standing up. For him, I use a dremel and try to make the sessions fairly brief. I smear some peanut butter on a cutting board and set that on a chair and he licks at that while I lift each foot and do a bit of dremeling to each nail. He has actually gotten to where he gets excited when I pull out the dremel. I just lift each foot up and bend it back towards me at his "knee" as if he were a horse having foot work done.

Edited by k9soul
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