advice for growling French Bulldog puppy

Discussion in 'Dog Training Forum' started by indivision, Jun 8, 2005.

  1. indivision

    indivision New Member

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    My wife and I have an 11 week old French Bulldog named Hamlet. We've only had him a few days, but have invested a lot of time and energy and emotion into finding, waiting for him etc. He really is an adorable dog and 90% of the time very affectionate.

    However, today, I was playing with him as usual. He instantiates play by posturing and sometimes barking. Then jumping back and forth and mildly wrestling around. This time, at some point during play, something seemed to snap and he started growling in a non play-like way and whipping around more fiercely. I immediately told him no and stopped the play. But, ever since that moment, he has started to growl at the slightest inconvenience to him. Other corrections, touching the wrong way, etc result in growling.

    In response to that behavior, my wife and I both have given a stronger verbal response, yelling no and making noises to startle him and immediately putting him in an extra bathroom for a 5 minute time-out. We've had to do this 3-4 times today and it appears to be working well. He is now much more responsive to "no" and accepts handling that had caused a growl with no growl.

    I am confident that we can correct this dominant behavior between my wife and I and the dog. The problem is that we are also expecting a baby in 5 months. I am concerned that he is simply an exceptionally dominant typed individual (experts on the breed have said this is highly unusual, especially at 11 weeks). I feel that, my wife and I may be able to establish ourselves as the Alpha(s) but that we will still have a dominance oriented dog that may decide he needs to assert himself on the new baby.

    We are really torn on what to do about him. We are attached but do have the option of returning him to the breeder. Is it likely that this behavior at such an age indicates that he will always have special training needs that most dogs dont? Should we cut our losses and send him back? Any advice on what we should do or can expect from him would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Athe

    Athe New Member

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    First have your pup checked over by a Vet, Hamlet may have a medical problem that needs to be addressed. I would also try getting into puppy socialization classes with a trainer who practices positive training methods only. Before any thing else, please have the pup looked at by your Vet.
     
  3. indivision

    indivision New Member

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    thank you. that is first on the list.

    as an update. he is responding to corrections. sometimes he will catch himself starting to growl, stop playing and back up to look at me with a 'oh crap' look. he went overboard a couple more times and after his time-out rolls on his back voluntarily and is all kisses.

    still, my concern remains that his progress is only in relation to me and that he isnt unlearning the aggressive feelings. im hoping to find some people with very similar experiences to give me an idea of how things turned out.
     
  4. casablanca1

    casablanca1 Happy

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    He won't unlearn being dominant, ie agressive, if that's his personality. It doesn't have to be a major problem, but a peaceful and happy life for him requires that his owners are happy and peaceful being a little agressive too. Not abusive, but intolerant of any bad behavior. Any latitude with a strong-willed and pushy dog gets you into trouble because he'll build on it. It's very easy to discover the dog has trained you to let him do virtually whatever he wants because the consequences of stopping him is a bite. I've had two dogs like that, and they were great dogs, just required more 'maintenance' than a milder dog.

    I'd go to the breeder, tell them your concerns and ask their opinion. At the very least, they should be able to give you some insight into his parents and their personalities. Especially the dam, since they spend so much time with her at the most impressionable age.
     
  5. indivision

    indivision New Member

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    Thank you for the info. We definitely don't mind being more aggressive in training him. Though, I would have prefered any other obnoxious trait over dominance/aggression issues. The wrench is the baby. With the pushy dogs you owned, were they around children? Did they display aggression toward others when you weren't around to maintain them? Were they neutered?

    I've been working very closely with the breeder about this. He, nor his parents had ever shown any of these issues to her. She is very suprised and hasn't experienced this type of behavior in a french bulldog of this age in 15 years of breeding.
     
  6. casablanca1

    casablanca1 Happy

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    Ouch, yeah, I'd be concerned about a new baby too. My pushy dogs were/are both female and both neutered young. They were never around children much. I'd never have left either alone with children - one was a terrier with limited tolerance, and the other is a a collie mix who snaps wildly when she gets over-excited. Either attitude would have been a problem with kids.

    Re: the agression toward others - the terrier wasn't really dominant, simply wanted to go her own way. The collie mix is very dominant-ambitious, which completely shocked me because she's so open and affectionate. She'll be sweet and loving, and still growl at you over being ordered off the couch. I've been utterly intolerant of that behavior since I got her five years ago, and she still tries it. Not all the time, but once in a while. It's part of her personality - push the envelope, see how it goes, apologize abjectly if you get the evil eye, wait two months, try again. That's the maintenance - they never accept defeat. She will be agressive toward others when I'm not around, herding and jumping at people, and barking. She doesn't bite, but she uses her teeth glancingly, another behavior I crack down on and still she tries. To be fair, I've never really been too tough about the herding, because she tries it on adults who are pretty agressive themselves - my family tends toward being dominant.

    The issue is your and Hamlet's future happiness. Are you comfortable having a baby with him around, and will he be happy living with a child? If he's reliable with you, or with you and your wife, but must be kept apart from your child - not just as a baby but as a toddler and little kid - except under close supervision, is that acceptable to you? In this case, since the pup is so young and there's a baby in the picture, returning him to the breeder and searching for a milder puppy might be the best thing. Or a grown dog. My childhood dog was 7 when we got her from the shelter. She growled once in her life, when she was old and a child crawled under the couch to poke at her with a toy.

    Good luck, whatever you decide.
     
  7. indivision

    indivision New Member

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    Thanks again. Your story is a big help. If Hamlet is indeed a "permanently" dominant dog, my answer is no, I won't be comfortable with him around the baby. I'd like to have a dog that I can trust even to be protective of the child.

    Now, to Hamlet's credit. Before coming to us, he had very limited human contact. The growling started on the day after he arrived and appears to have gone away after 4-5 corrections. I've since tested him numerous times, putting him in very uncomfortable physical situations (rolling him on his back, grasping his hind legs, etc). Not only has he stopped growling in those situations, he doesn't seem to be uncomfortable about it now. I suppose the next step is to arrange similar tests but with strangers and/or children. The breeder has agreed to take him back if we want to but our plan is to watch him closely and test as much possible for the next week or so before making a final decision.
     
  8. Athe

    Athe New Member

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    Dominance is over rated, a dominant pup or dog usually knows it's place and is quite comfortable because it has confidence. Your pup is showing signs of fear and confusion. How can you expect a young pup that has not been handled enough and socialized to just fit into it's new life with ease. The puppy is fearful, and by handling the puppy by rolling it over and disciplining the pup for showing defensive actions you are reinforcing defense actions and fear. A fearful dog is unpredictable. Put yourself in your pups situation, think how scary a new home, new people, new situations can be, then add that with someone who is pushing you around and punishing you when you show a reaction.
    Your puppy is only 11 weeks old, the window of social learning ends at around 16 weeks. You have the opportunity right now to socialize your pup, reward for good behavior (wagging tail, wiggly happy etc.), and for bad behaviors ignore them. If the puppy growls play time or affection time ends abruptly. The pup will soon learn the right behaviors to recieve affection and attention. Handle the pup often and in positive happy ways.
    As for baby's, you should be taking your pup out now and getting him socialized in controlled environments. Take him to a freinds house who has children, give each child a treat and tell them to let the puppy come to them...nothing can scare a puppy worse than a child or a few children coming at them. Have the children get down on the floor and hold out the treats, allow the puppy to sniff them, and encourage the children to give belly rubs and pat only under the chin, never come from over top of the puppy until you get pup desensitized to such a movement. Coming down on the puppy in a is very intimidating for pup and can put them into a defensive behavior.
    I would recommend you purchase dog behavior books by Jean Donaldson and Dr. Ian Dunbar.
    Socialize, Socialize and then socialize. Handle your pup A LOT and when handling reward for good puppy behavior. I usually talk to puppy's in a high pitched excited voice. Belly rubs are a fantastik way of allowing a pup to trust you. Remember to gain the puppies trust, don't force things on a pup that has not had proper socialization...encourage the pup to love being around you. Make sure all experiences are positive and uplifting, remember Hamlet is only a pup, don't scare the heck out of the little guy :) Encourage happiness and fun with the pup, don't force your pup into submissive postures, that is only going to confuse the poor little pup.
    This is going to create a confused little puppy that may not trust you. There are better ways to properly socialize a pup. And please do not roll a puppy on its back and grasp the hind legs, IMO that is a little cruel and is putting th pup in a fearful state. When you have children around the pup don't allow them to roll the puppy on it's back in this manner. Just let the children pat and give treats to the puppy. If the puppy has belly rubs he will soon learn that when rolling over and exposing belly to humans will lead nice relaxing belly rubs. By conditioning the pup in nice easy relaxed pleasurable manners you will teach the pup to have loads more patience when he is an adult. Think positive not forceful. ;)

    http://www.sfspca.org/behavior/top10.shtml
    http://www.canismajor.com/dog/donald1.html
    http://www.takingthelead.co.uk/2/ChatHist/jean_donaldson.htm
    How to order her books
    http://www.dogwise.com/SearchResults.cfm?Search=Jean Donaldson&SubSearch=author
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2005
  9. Athe

    Athe New Member

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    Many dogs and pups learn to love babies especially when the baby is first eating solid foods ;) the more food the baby drops or hurls encourage pup or dog to wait for what falls. The pup/dog will associate good things and treats when baby is around. ;)
     
  10. avenlee

    avenlee New Member

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    Good Idea Athe! Good advice from everyone :)

    Good luck Indivision. Your puppy mabe just needs to know its place. I wouldn't jump and rehome him just yet.
     
  11. Renee750il

    Renee750il Felurian

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    Excellent advice, Athe! An 11 week old puppy is a baby, newly snatched from home, mother and littermates, and you've just got to remember that. Of course it's going to be apprehensive and defensive in a strange world - but that's a far cry from being 'aggressive' or 'dominant.' Those two terms are much over-used and completely misunderstood and misapplied.
     
  12. casablanca1

    casablanca1 Happy

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    Done as teasing to harass a dog who clearly hates it, I'd agree with you, but I think the OP is just testing the dog's reaction, not playing alpha games. And I do think an owner should be able to insist on being able to handle their dog even in ways the dog finds uncomfortable. Otherwise, how else do we get a pill down their throat? I don't think I'd have other people do it, though, that seems likely to just upset him unless he's really easygoing. Seeing how the puppy interacts with children and strangers, say at Petsmart, would be how I'd test him with others. How fast he adjusts to things, how soon he begins seeking out people and other dogs, how he reacts to awkward pats and running children, how excited he gets, how much he looks to his owner for direction, etc.

    I agree that you wouldn't want kids to just manhandle the dog, but I'd be happier - if I had kids - having a dog I could trust to react gently and nobly to manhandling by kids. You can't control everything your child and their little friends will try with a dog. Sooner or later, some kid is going to be bratty with the dog.
     
  13. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    Please get it out of your mind that your pup is acting dominantly. Very few dogs are truly dominant and a pup of this age isn't trying to take over the world. Please don't treat your puppy aggressively. As it was said, you put him on the defensive...a very dangerous place to put a dog. You'll ruin his trust in you, his confidence. You'll instill fear into him and then you're really going to have problems. Don't think of the dog - human relationship as a contest of wills. You do not need to dominate your dog.

    As it was said, socialize him thoroughly and make all experiences pleasant and rewarding. Start teaching him some skills; sit, down, wait (for his food bowl to be set down) Ask him to sit before he gets a treat or dinner. Ask him to sit when he'd like some pats and attention or when he is greeting someone. Reward good behavior. Distract him from undesirable behavior and reward him for his stopping it. This is how you establish his trust in you as his leader. It also builds confidence in himself. A confident, unafraid puppy who works for reward, turns into a responsible adult dog. You don't need to be punishing a dog harshly and especially not a baby.
     
  14. poeluvr

    poeluvr New Member

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    maybe dog obedience would halp him?
    have u tried that
     
  15. BlackDog

    BlackDog Guest

    I think the best thing you can do is get your dog into a dog class to help you out. 90% of problems that arise are because the owner doesn't know how to deal with the dog the proper way. So the class is really more to train the owner, not put the dog in its place.

    Your dog behavoir sound prefectly normal. You've only had him a short time if I remember correctly, right? He's just getting settled. He doesn't know where his mother or litter mates are. It's a scary and confusing time for him. This is the time when you need to be the most understanding, and consitant in your training. I wouldn't use the alpha roll on this dog. Like others said, I don't think he is a alpha dog. He's just being a puppy. Growling is sometimes a part of play. It depends on how he does it. If it becomes inapproproiate then do what you were doing the first time you posted and ignore him untill he stops. He'll learn that he only gets attention when he doesn't growl. It will take time for him to learn whats going on, but he'll get there. You have to be consistant though. Otherwise you are setting yourself back a notch. You will only confuse your dog and get yourself upset for nothing. Decide what your reaction will be to a certain behavoir and always give that reaction everytime that behavoir happens.
     
  16. poeluvr

    poeluvr New Member

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    yep exactly what i said
     

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