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Teddy is now 5 years old and he is starting to act differently around other dogs.

It's not every dog, but I do think I have a behavior issue that needs to be addressed, I am not sure where to start.

Within our social circle, we used to be the only ones with a dog. Now, everyone is getting a pup! 

Teddy reacts great with some, and not so great with others. 

I am not experienced with dogs, and need all the help I can get. I have found that introductions go better if I take Teddy off leash, to let the dogs circle and sniff each other. Sometimes it's all great, sometimes it ends in a skirmish with growling and snarling. (and it could be small dogs or large dogs)

Teddy knows his commands and loves people more than other dogs I believe. But I am not knowledgeable enough to know when is a growl serious or play?

At first, I feared that we taught Teddy to growl during play time, as we the humans would growl when playing with the toys.  Now, because of repeated bully behavior, I think I might have an issue I need to work out. 

It is normal for us parents to play with Teddy and he growls and he likes to show his teeth, but his mouth is always open. It's not an angry or scary 'show your teeth'.  Our hands are always going in and out of his mouth and even his body posture Teddy is either on his back or head down in a mid summersault position. 

I have noticed he does the same growl, snarling when he is playing with other dogs.  His one buddy, a lab, continues to play, but the lab's hair is standing straight up, which makes that owner nervous. I am like, tails are wagging, so let them be.  But do I have a problem here? 

Other interactions when I am playing with the dogs together, and I correct puppy behavior, Teddy will try to bark at the pup.  I have corrected Teddy when this happens as I want him to know it's not his place to correct puppy behavior. 

When it's quiet time and dogs are looking for places to snuggle (people laps, couches), I have had a couple instances with Teddy too.  Our social circle allows dogs on couches. And this particular instance, Teddy was curled up next to a human on the couch. Another dog Bear (large dog in size, but only 1 year old) decides to also curl up to said human on the couch. Teddy growled and jumped on Bear and Bear got off the couch. It sounded so horrible, but no bite marks or hair or harm to either dog.  Teddy was put into another room, locked in a crate immediately. 

I have noticed that when Teddy is playing with his buddies (labs, terriers, doods), that they do 'nose each other ears' to get the game of 'chase' going.  Sometimes, it ends up with a barking/growling skirmish which freaks out all the owners.   Since I am the one with the 5-year-old, I feel responsible. how does one know when play and chase goes from calm running buddies to growl/snarling ball of dogs?

We love our circle of friends and that they are all adding puppies to their lives, but it is causing some stress in all the get-togethers. 

I am afraid I have raised a Bully.  The majority of our time it's just us parents and Teddy.  He is a well-mannered dog and knows his commands (he still likes to jump up to greet people) but he does have a pretty cushioned lifestyle.

He goes to play camp with other dogs sometimes, more frequent in the Summers.  Play camp officials say he really doesn't engage much during Play Time.  As I have asked them to see if he exhibits Bully behavior while at camp. Their official response is 'he is not really into dogs'. 

So, what have I raised? A dog that thinks he is better than other dogs? That he is the top dog? 

How to correct this? Where to start with the re-training of appropriate dog behavior towards other dogs? 

Thank you

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Replies to This Discussion

I have a Doodle who can be a bully and reactive with some dogs.  We have his behavior under control now, and I'll share some of the key things that we have learned along the way.

  • It seems like Teddy had you all to himself and now there are other dogs (probably cute pups) in the mix.  That's an adjustment for him and the right time to teach him some "manners" when he's with the other dogs.
  • If you are still playing with Teddy and growling yourself or allowing him to growl and show teeth, I think it's the right time to find a different way to play.  It actually reinforces the behavior that you're trying to correct.  You are adult humans so you know that the teeth bearing and growling is harmless but a new dog who doesn't know Teddy could easily take this to be threatening behavior which could create a very difficult situation.  If you see him doing this with another dog I would verbally correct and remove him from the situation.  Eventually he'll get the message.
  • The situation you described on the couch would be concerning to me.  He's "guarding" his position and that could certainly generate a fight.  For now you might try allowing him on the sofa only when you invite him and you are in a position to control how he is reacting to other dogs coming near the couch.  The minute you see his body language change in any way, I would get him off the couch and put him in a down/stay next to where you're sitting.
  • My "Bully" goes to Daycare once a week to keep up his socialization.  It is a well managed "pack" so he knows exactly what he can get away with, and he's not pushy there.  He is especially reactive on leash, so I don't walk him in places where we will see off-leash dogs or where there a lot of other dogs that would be walked past him.  I find it's easier not to put him in a position where he's going to react and have to be corrected.

I think he'll be fine...he just needs you to take the lead and show him your expectations for how he needs to behave around these new pups who have joined your social circle.  Consistency will be so important so you may need to be sure that everyone interacting with him in these situations knows "the rules".

Hi Missy! I will just throw out some random thoughts for you.

- now that Teddy is 5 he may have less patience for puppy antics. It may be natural for him to issue corrections when the puppy gets too carried away. This is called “revoking his puppy licence.” I can see a new puppy owner freaking out a bit when they see this but it may be natural. Is it your sense that the corrections are over the top or within reason?

- i think that growling and snapping during play time can also be natural. It depends on the energy of both dogs. Do you think it is over the top? The bottom line though is that if either owner is uncomfortable with it, then you should intervene to stop it.  I don’t see anything wrong with how you play with Teddy, but again you can try playing a different way with him and see if his behaviour changes. I think the important part is that you set the tone and decide when playtime starts and stops.

- do you have any sense that Teddy is acting out for any of the following reasons: fear, insecurity, attempting to protect you? If so you need to project to him that you’ve got this. You may need to keep him on leash and issue a correction then redirect if he is acting out with your friends dogs.

- the couch, well i would not allow him on the couch. From what you describe he is either claiming the couch or claiming the person on the couch and i would not allow that to happen. Also you need to get the jumping under control as i think that he is exerting himself on people.

- how are your walks going? I would start elevating the humans a-bit. I would do this by starting super structured walks. Walking at heal, no sniffing etc.  Make yourself large and in charge.  Also keep any feeding structured. Make him wait for his meals.  No treats unless they are earned. Talk less to him and be more action oriented (for example don’t say “wanna go for a walk?” Just leash him up and take him with no words. Ignore him more (i know its hard but it is so powerful). 

I hope you find some of this helpful.

Thanks Jane, I do think Teddy might be having a hard time 'sharing' me.

We will stop the play growl sessions. As I have been wondering if things get heightened when other dogs don't know Teddy is playing.

Do you have suggestions on how to teach the 'manners' with the dogs?
So far, I have been using the 'time out' rule. Teddy gets removed from the situation for a cooling period. And then gets brought back into the situation on leash for a bit, if I see he holds calm demeanor in the situation, I release from the leash.

Yeah, the couch thing did seem "guarding" so we will have the 'dogs on the floor' rule.

We can't get to Day Camp often, usually only when we board him. But I will have to try to take him to some new environments where I can work on this dog interaction issues.

thanks for all the advice. We are all 'new dog' owners and we look at each other dumbfounded what to do sometimes. So I will take the lead and initiative to have some ground rules worked out for our gatherings.

I think what you're doing now...giving a time out for Teddy to calm down when you feel the behavior is getting out of hand is a great way of teaching "manners".  Every now and then my two Doodles get too crazy and the behavior starts to escalate from rough play to some aggression....that's when I verbally correct and separate them.  They calm down and then they go back to playing appropriately.

ok thanks!

Thanks BG.
There have only been a couple instances I thought Teddy over reacted to puppy antics. But it is mostly the larger size dogs.

These large pups can be rough because of size. Like once he had his foot stepped on by this larger dog and Teddy growls and puts this dog down to ground with his paw holding his head to the ground. Owner freaked as this was her baby!

I have since made sure those two dogs have plenty of room to play, so Teddy can get out from under the puppy crashes.

yes, we are going to have no dogs on couches with people and dogs around. I too think it was a guarding thing.
We continue to work on the jumping thing. It's getting better, but there are always corrections.

Our walks are limited due to where we live. But when I travel I do let him have walks and I do not do the heal thing or no sniff. Interesting, but I think that is something I will incorporate. He does have the run of the house most of the time, so I can see where he might be getting too puffed up! Life is quiet for him on the normal, but when we socialize it is with lots of people and dogs. So maybe he is not transitioning too well between the extremes. thanks much!
I'll just add that it is not at all unusual for an adult dog to have very little patience with the pestering of puppies, and to "say" so. I have a 5 mo old puppy, and whenever he spends time with any of my friends' older dogs, there is always a point at which the older dog growls and/or shows teeth to let Jasper know he is being a pest. This never alarms me; I know the dogs involved, I know it's normal canine behavior and in fact, it's welcome behavior, because it teaches Jasper appropriate behavior around other dogs. I personally disagree with the idea that "it's not Teddy's place to correct puppy behavior". I think he has the right to say to any dog, "hey back off."
It's also not unusual for an adult dog to be more people focused than dog focused, and this is perfectly okay. There really is no reason an adult dog has to play with other dogs if he doesn't care to. That doesn't mean he thinks he is "better" than other dogs or that he's a bully, it just means he is "not really into other dogs". That's perfectly normal and your friends (who are probably also not very dog experienced) need to understand that, too.
Also, keep in mind that a wagging tail doesn't always equal happy or friendly. It depends on the way the tail is held and the way it's wagged, i.e. loose and relaxed, stiff and slow, etc. There are a lot of articles online that explain dog body language and how to interpret them, including the way a dog wags his tail. Here's one example. https://www.thesprucepets.com/dog-body-language-wagging-tail-1118252

Luna was always super gentle and submissive with adult dogs but would put puppies in their place.  If they got on her nerves she'd snap at them (never bite) and do a high-pitched yip to get them to back off.

Experienced dog owners did appreciate the reprimands she gave when the puppy was being "rude".  Inexperienced dog owners may have seen it as aggressive but she really didn't have an aggressive bone in her body.  

Teddy himself was corrected by older dogs when he was a puppy. So I can understand how this feels as new dog owner.  I put my trust in the older dogs owners (experienced owners) and after a few puppy corrections, it was peaceful gatherings. 

Because I don't view myself as an experienced dog owner, I don't have the confidence in knowing proper puppy corrections. :)  thanks for the encouragement.

oh, I have to read this article. Thanks for posting.  

Thanks for the encouragement that Teddy might just be correcting puppy behavior. And that he is ok NOT playing with other dogs. He really is a great dog, and others have gotten a dog because of seeing Teddy as the family pet.

I need to educate myself, so that I might educate all these new dog owners. thank you

Sadie, too, has zero patience with puppies. She will growl and even bark at them if they get in her space, but never snaps or bites, and almost all the puppy owners we've encountered seem to appreciate her willingness (ha!) to help with their training. 

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