Growling when greeting other dogs - need some fresh eyes

Discussion in 'Dog Training Forum' started by *blackrose, Jun 1, 2010.

  1. *blackrose

    *blackrose "I'm kupo for kupo nuts!"

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    Chloe, my currently three year old Australian Shepherd/Collie mix, has had this problem since she was a puppy. Whenever she greets another dog, she always does the proper sniff greeting, but then she just explodes into a growling/snarling mess. It doesn't matter how calm/annoying/submissive/dominant the dog is being...unless it is a puppy, she WILL growl at it.

    She has made great strides in ignoring other dogs (as she used to trigger at just the sight of another dog and if it got too close she would growl/lunge). Now this only happens when she is greeting.

    Just today, for example, we have had three incidents.

    #1. Passed a Boxer by on a trail at the park. The owner was standing still holding the dog, we were walking by. I didn't get a good look at the Boxer's body language as I was focusing more on Chloe, but I'm assuming it was being friendly from the way his owner was saying, "No, you can't play with that dog." Chloe was being cautious, but nothing aggressive. She sniffed noses with it in passing and then three seconds later exploded with growls. I just tugged her with me (she was wearing a harness) and continued walking by.

    #2. Came across a loose Dachshund at the park. The Dachshund was very calm, friendly, and after the initial sniff pretty much just ignored us. When she came up to Chloe, Chloe sniffed for a few seconds and then growled. I grabbed Chloe by the muzzle and jerked her face up to break eye contact and my brother stepped between the two dogs. The Dachshund was cool with it and just followed us around. Once I let Chloe loose again she completely ignored the Dachshund. She was comfortable with it around and didn't do anything to it - much like the Dachshund was doing with her.

    #3. A friend of the family brought out to the house a littermate of Chloe's that she just adopted over the weekend. The dog's name is Lacey. She is very calm, has no qualms around other dogs, and while she isn't belly up submissive she also isn't dominant either. Chloe was VERY excited to go and meet Lacey. Loose wagging tail, whining, etc. Nothing aggressive or defensive about her posture at all. Maybe anxious or over stimulated, but not aggressive. We had the dogs on leash and let them greet. They each went side by side and proceeded to sniff one another. A few seconds went by and all was well and then Chloe exploded. She tensed a split second before she did, but that was the only warning. I jerked her back, Melissa reeled Lacey in (who didn't react to Chloe's explosion), and I had Chloe sit. Chloe tried to lunge one more time (to which I grabbed her muzzle and broke eye contact) and then resumed her normal stance and acted like she wanted to go greet Lacey again. We didn't let them, but I did give Chloe full run of the leash and she just seemed inquisitive.

    Chloe ALWAYS does this. It isn't unique to these situations. Even in puppy kindergarten she would growl/lunge at the other puppies when they would try to greet her or she them. She'd seem fine, then she'd just explode. She isn't dog aggressive (she has never attacked another dog before) and once she makes a doggy friend she loves to play. Typically after a few introductions over a span of a few days she is happy to engage with the other dog.

    Since she does get along with dogs after a few introductions and is fine with puppies, I really don't mind (considering almost all of my dogs have had dog/dog issues of one flavor or another), but it is just really annoying! I'm sure she feels insecure and that is why she reacts, but I have no idea how to go about fixing the problem. People always say, "Just let her meet more dogs to increase her confidence!" Um, no, that isn't working. It just reinforces this exploding behavior since she is allowed to do it every time she greets another dog.

    This has been going on for three years now and I don't even know where to begin to fix it. Most of the advice I have gotten on this issue has helped greatly with her ignoring/tolorating other dogs nearby (which she now does very well), but it hasn't touched the greeting issue. Anybody have any ideas?
     
  2. lizzybeth727

    lizzybeth727 New Member

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    Luna used to do this too, I don't know why they do it but I can help you fix it. :)

    What worked for her was to click her for sniffing the other dog. When I clicked, she'd stop sniffing and come to me for a treat, so it broke the pattern of sniff-growl-pull away. Then after she got her treat I'd let her go to sniff the dog again, and click/treat her again. In the beginning I'd click her for quick sniffs - because I wasn't sure when she'd growl and I wanted to be sure to click her before she did - but the more practice she got the longer I'd let her sniff before I'd click her. Eventually, she'd sniff long enough to be done with it, and the other dog was done with her, and they'd just casually walk away... and then she'd get a click/treat. ;)

    I think some dogs - like Luna - just didn't come with very good social skills, and don't understand that growling like that with other dogs isn't really appropriate. But this training method teaches them that calmly sniffing another dog - and letting them calmly sniff her back - is a great way to earn treats so it's a good thing to do.
     
  3. RawFedDogs

    RawFedDogs New Member

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    Is this always on leash? Does she ever meet dogs off leash? How does she behave meeting dogs off leash?
     
  4. *blackrose

    *blackrose "I'm kupo for kupo nuts!"

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    She almost never greets any dogs off leash at all, because a.) you can't have an offleash dog in public and b.) our yard isn't fenced so she is almost always tethered or dragging a line when she is outside.

    However, the few times she has greeted another dog off leash, she does the same thing. Sniffs/growls/I body block/remove her.

    She is a very reactive dog...in this case, I just don't think she is only leash reactive. Just reactive in general. She is one of those dogs that has "issues" and I've been struggling with them since I adopted her. She improved, but she is still "issuey" and I don't think she'll ever not be completely sane. But I love her anyway.

    Thanks for the advice! I'll definitally give it a shot, especially since she is soooooooooo food motivated.
     
  5. RawFedDogs

    RawFedDogs New Member

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    You might find the booklet "Fiesty Fido" by Dr. Patricia McConnell helpful. It's a quick easy read and its pretty cheap but has some good info in it.

    ETA: I had a dog that was leash aggressive one time. I found that he was ok with other dogs as long as the leash was loose but the least bit of tension in the leash caused him to react aggressively to the other dog.
     
  6. lizzybeth727

    lizzybeth727 New Member

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    This is an excellent point. When the leash is tight, dogs can feel "trapped" and their stress levels definately go up. Also if they're pulling against the leash, it forces them into a "dominant" body posture, which can be perceived by other dogs as being aggressive. Definately try to always keep the leash loose when you're introducing your dog to another dog.
     

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