Praising a growling dog

Discussion in 'Dog Training Forum' started by corgipower, Jun 13, 2012.

  1. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    What would happen if you praise a dog while he is growling? Would it reinforce aggression? Would it cause increased growling/aggression? What if you give treats/ toys when he growls?
     
  2. PWCorgi

    PWCorgi Priscilla Winifred Corgi

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    I know Kathy Sdao is a pretty big supporter of treating while growling in aggression/reactivity cases. She says that once the way the dogs view of the stimulus changes the growling will subside.

    I know she has/had a student that had a GSD who was fearful/reactive toward children. The woman would do short sessions on the other side of fenced playgrounds, but leave very quickly because she worried that people would call the cops when they saw her giving her dog steak and praising it while it was growling at children :rofl1:

    I know with Frodo I would still treat while he was grumbling at people, and there wasn't any increase in the growling/barking, he's better with people now than he ever has been!

    I'm pretty sure Sdao explains her whole reasoning in her DVD Cujo meet Pavlov.
     
  3. Maxy24

    Maxy24 Active Member

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    I do not think it would increase the growling, and even if it did it would only be increasing the behavior, not the emotion behind it (so like teaching a dog to show his teeth on cue, he would look like he's snarling but would be happy as a clam and friendly). But I really think for most dogs it would onot even increase the behavior, they are not really thinking about growling, it's more like a person gasping, it's an automatic reaction to an emotion. Eliminate the emotion causing it (and treats may do that) and the behavior also goes away.

    I would most likely remove my dog if he were growling, create distance between him and what he's growling at, or take a step back in training if it's resource guarding or aggression about being handled. Generally when doing any sort of training you want the dog under threshold. But like right now I'm working on getting Tucker not to bark at dogs out of the window and I am rewarding growling, it's not barking and I am unable to bring the dog more under threshold simply because of the set up. If I am able to make him stop worrying about the dogs I fully expect the growling to cease even though he's getting treats while he does it. He's also getting treats for silence and for whining, it's not as though I'm requiring him to growl or only giving treats when he growls, I don't think he would ever assume that's what he's getting rewarded for. Perhaps a VERY clever dog would, but I've never heard of it happening.
     
  4. PWCorgi

    PWCorgi Priscilla Winifred Corgi

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    Yeah, that! That's what I was trying to say but my words aren't as good :p
     
  5. Emily

    Emily Rollin' with my bitches

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    I agree with the above responses. Keeva thinks it's fun to guard the lobby at work (she's tethered/crated, obviously, not running loose!) from incoming dogs, and I pretty much just showered food on her no matter what she was doing. Her attitude towards the doorbell has changed significantly.

    I think to truly reinforce growling or even aggression, you have to make the dogs' aggression effective from the dog's point of view, i.e. allow them to drive away (or access, depending on the type of aggression) the trigger. I use a lot of CU techniques that involve reinforcing undesired behavior and putting it on cue. Keeva also likes to stick her freaking face through this gap in the desk to bark at dogs and then gets mad if they stick their heads back through, so I taught her to "peak" on cue (stick your nose in the hole). Problem solved.
     
  6. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    This is what I have implemented in my work with aggressive/reactive dogs professionally. You're not rewarding the growling so much as you're creating a positive association with the stimuli or trigger. Dogs generally aren't thinking about their own behavior or analyzing it like we are. These things like growling are an emotional response...a more direct reaction to something. They're more focused on that "something" and so they're apt to pair the treats with the object of their reactivity. Distance is always used to minimize or make the stimulus more of a mild thing at first. When the dog is calmer when presented with the trigger because of a little more distance, that's when you can make going away a reward. For instance, the dog sees the object of his reactivity but it's mild. Treat, treat, treat, then go away further. Over some time, the trigger actually becomes a conditioned reinforcer representing and preceding reward... (going away further to safety plus treats.) Dog sees scary dog or person which predicts good feelings are about to come...the calm of being further away that he has experienced over and over and good treats.

    Anyhow, this is basically (with some variations) how I've treated dogs with these kinds of issues. So, no...giving treats when a dog is growling doesn't tend to have the same effect as giving treats for a dog that sits when asked. Sitting is such a conscious act...it goes through a different part of the brain..the cortex. Growling, snarling and all that reactivity is, I think, coming straight through the limbic system.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2012
  7. Kaydee

    Kaydee Guest

    Yeah, I agree with the above. When Sophie starts growling and going all Cujo in the car I interprete as her shouting " This is my truck, my human, stay away from us you better not come near us you better not...". I think all the noise is fear. Maybe she can't see so good I dunno.

    When it's like a seed spreader that she imagines as a dog on leash it gets silly. I just pat her butt and talk soothingly and she gives a few more warning barks and sit down all proud...she protected me from another rabid weed wacker...whoo hooo
     
  8. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    Yeah, see, I have no idea what cortex and limbic are. :p

    But I liked the rest of your post.
     
  9. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    LOL. Thanks CP. The cortex is where higher brain functions take their shape...the thinking, logic, analyzing and acting etc.

    Here's something that is put into better words.
     
  10. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    Oh, Carrie, I do love you. Thank you! It is now as clear as mud. ;)
     
  11. ~WelshStump~

    ~WelshStump~ New Member

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    I couldn't say for sure, for every dog, but I had enough of it, and used the solution of "teach a barker to bark on command, then to not bark on command", and this is what I got:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xcg9_8xoHsg
     
  12. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    Pretty neat Welch. It really looks like your dog is :mad:. If it's really just a trick, then cool! The thing is, the OP's dog doesn't sound like it's just about barking...ie: yapping. There's something else going on that needs to be addressed....from the bottom up. If she just put barking and not barking on cue, that wouldn't solve the issue the dog is having which is producing the growling, I don't think.
     
  13. Emily

    Emily Rollin' with my bitches

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    Maybe it depends on the dog, but this is actually part of what McDevitt utilizes in CU quite extensively. Things like the Dog in Your Face game, Look at That, etc. The mere act of putting the uncomfortable situation on cue and creating structured game out it does help resolve the issue. She calls it "reframing". I personally find it to work really well with motivated, marker-savvy, operant dogs. :)
     
  14. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    Welsh, I can't watch video of barking dog right now...I'm at the library. :p

    Carrie, as the OP, I can assure you that at the moment I don't have a dog with a growling issue...barking, yes, but I've never tried to change that. The question was put up as a curiosity and because when doing web searches I came up with an awful lot of conflicting answers, ranging from "go for it!" to "never ever!".

    So I figured I'd ask here where I know the people replying and know whether or not to trust what they say.:D
     
  15. Danefied

    Danefied New Member

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    Very interesting discussion. I don’t know... I think there can be so many different things behind a growl, that its really hard to say, you’d just have to take it on a case by case basis...

    We have danes, and danes are very vocal and “grumblyâ€. Breez will growl because the sun came up. She growls to get you to play, she growls at the other dogs when she’s tired and bitchy, she growls when she’s happy... She just talks - a lot.

    The first time I heard Lunar growl I did praise him like crazy because he didn’t have a growl when he first came. I was toweling him off after a stream outing and was apparently too rough toweling off his privates. He scooted and growled and I told him he was a wonderful good boy and that I would be more careful with his delicate parts next time. :D

    He does growl more now since he never did before, and personally I’m grateful for it. I’d much rather he be comfortable communicating his discomfort with a growl than with a bite! He’s also a lot more relaxed than he was before too.
     
  16. ~WelshStump~

    ~WelshStump~ New Member

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    Precisely ;)

    Oh no, don't worry about the sound, he's just growling, no barking. Here's a still photo though:

    [​IMG]
    Grr face by ~WelshStump~, on Flickr

    For Jinjo, his growling was mostly resource guarding, it just got too annoying passing him in the living room with a chew, or his going over to the door of the room where I use to keep his food and sitting there growling. By putting it on cue I could make him stop but I also found he changed his attitude as well at that moment "Guard, guard, guard..." "Hushhhh" "Oh Cookie!!! More cookie? Please, more cookie?" You can see that mid video, he found where the cookies where and was more reluctant to perform again, lol.

    This may not work for every growl situation, me personally, I do like my dogs to growl as it ends up being "all talk", to me a quiet dog is a dangerous dog. But with Jinj who took it over the top and still does, I can just give him a Hush command and he changes his attitude.

    I don't think I would ever praise a dog who's growling though, to me it is more just listening to find out "why" they are growling, then try and fix the situation. Enda growls, for her it's a moment of being uncomfortable usually, she growls at other dogs when we're out often, she's not very social. She turns her head and gives a low growl as to say "I'm uncomfortable with this/you", and for her I just give her the space to move away and call her over to me. I might pet her or talk to her a softly as we move away.
     
  17. Lyzelle

    Lyzelle New Member

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    Zander doesn't growl in anger, so I wouldn't even know where to begin with something like that. He'll yell in annoyance, happiness, playfulness, talk just to talk, so on so forth. But he doesn't really growl or snarl in any aggressive, frightened, or dominant sort of behavior. He stiffens and he looks away. If you continue, he'll just grumble and walk away with a huff, puff, pout. He's just too much of a pushover, I guess. And when it comes to aggressive behaviors, he thinks it's all a game. So I suppose it's partly dorky clown as well.

    I've always rewarded him for EVERY sound that comes out of his mouth though. I love vocal dogs that TELL you what they want. More quiet/reserved dogs...they make me nervous. Lol. I'm too afraid I'll miss something when looking at body language. So I'd probably treat a growl anyway.

    Interesting discussion.
     
  18. ihartgonzo

    ihartgonzo and Fozzie B!

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    I agree with this. The quiet ones ALWAYS explode, eventually.

    I love vocal dogs! Their bark is far, far worse than their bite and that's ideal. My dogs will grumble at each other, but it's never escalated past that and I appreciate that they have conversations. I would correct/redirect/body block/put Gonzo away when ever he growled at Fozzie as a puppy. He hated him and refused to have anything to do with him. Once I was sick of it, and just let them communicate freely, giving each of them lots of praise and rewards in each other's presence, they became best friends. They'll be the first to snark at a rude dog, but have never laid a tooth on another dog. People look horrified like "did your dog just GROWL?! BAD DOG!" and I tell them to kindly stop trying to correct my dog for communicating. A growl is not a promise of a fight, it's a way to prevent a fight! Every dog fight I saw in daycamp started with two silent, frozen dogs - not dogs who effectively warned each other and understood each other's boundaries.

    I do not feel that rewarding/praising a growling dog reinforces aggression, at all. That to me is on par with the myth that comforting a crying baby will make them cry all the time. Dogs don't want to be afraid, it's not fun for them, it's stressful and taxing on them... and all warnings, displays, and aggression stems from fear. To introduce rewards & praise when they're reacting is to change their state of mind and change the way they look at what they fear. I'm deathly afraid of spiders. But if a hundred dollar bill fell from the sky every time I saw a spider, I would be delighted by them. :)
     
  19. Tazwell

    Tazwell New Member

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    In Archie's case, that's exactly what I did to handle the biting issue. He was pretty much a grumpy old man, but when upset, he would launch directly into a bite. Not a snap or nip, a bite. His triggers were dogs, resource guarding, and handling.

    I started off by praising any growling, and removing whatever te trigger was, while also working to desensitize him to those triggers.

    After that, he growled all the time, but not so much biting! It was a great step in solving his aggression issues. He could actually communicate that he was upset, and solve the issue without biting.
     
  20. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    This is what I've always thought. No animal wants to be in a state of fear, which should make it quite difficult to reinforce fear even if you tried, I think... Glad to hear others agree. :)

    Not quite ALL aggression stems from fear, though, but I'd say 90-95% does.


    That's actually what got me started thinking about this. The issue in question has been resolved for some time now, but a couple years ago Ares quit growling and would just bite the other dogs with no warning. So I set him up in ways that would (hopefully - and thankfully did) get him to give a growl instead, and I praised him. I praised him because I wanted him to growl. I needed him to give warnings.

    As soon as I praised him, I noticed him relax a little, though.

    Ultimately I ended up with him not only back to giving warnings, but being far more tolerant of things he used to very much want to kill.
     

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