Very, very sporadic aggression/growling

I am hoping to get some ideas to deal with a sporadic problem that I have with my 2 yr old GD.  I read below about on leash aggression, but our occurs off leash, maybe once a month, depending upon circumstances. It never occurs between my dogs, she is 2nd to my 3 yr old, just with a few other dogs and never on leash.  She is sweet to all people and usually all dogs.  One example would be a month ago, when we were having dinner at friends (3 GDs, 1 lab and 1 pug), she would growl when the sweet pug (i've known since puppyhood) would approach to sniff her butt).  Shelby would turn and growl.  Bella didn't react at all to the growl.  I would correct. If not corrected, Shelby would try to move away from Bella.  She never confronted.

 

Then we have my neaighbors, who occasionaly would have their daughters boxer over.  The 3 dogs play ball in my yard and are usually fine.  Once in awhile, Shelby will growl at the boxer.  Sometimes when she doesn't want the boxer to approach my neighbor. (Shelby loves my neighbor).  Last night, Shelby (suddenly, according to my husband, husband and neighbor were standing right there) growled at the boxer.  The boxer growled back and they went up on their hind legs and growled and made lots of noise.  No biting occurred.  My husband got Shelby's attention and pulled her away and brought her into the house.

 

This behavior has been hard because it is so sporadic.  Even with the dogs that it happens with.  Shelby had been playing with that boxer every day or every other day for the last week and a half.  My neighbors are keeping the dog for their daughter for the next 6 months.  Any help is appreciated.  Shelby has been to training.  She will go back and do some more starting next week.  She attended doggie day care over the winter and did great by all accounts from the workers there.

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  • Great advice here as always. The one thing that I would like to add is that growling is used by dogs as a warning and should not be punished. If we punish a dog for growling they may feel the need to eliminate the warning and go straight for the next level (which could be a snap or bite). This does not mean that we should not be paying attention to the warning. The advice of a time-out is an excellent one, especially in the way that it was described by Lynne B. It is important when doing this that there not be any anger involved on the human's part. There is a difference between punishing a dog for growling and addressing the situation that is illiciting the growl.

    I am always so impressed by the level of advice given here in Doodle Kisses. If only more people had access to this information!
  • Thank you so much for your advice. I will start to put a short lead on her tonight. I appreciate your time.
  • I agree with Lynne. All growling is not bad, and dogs growling at each other is one way they communicate. They also growl during play. If you watch videos of young puppies playing with their littermates, you hear lots of growling.
    In fact, when foster dogs come into a new foster home, it's a good thing if the home dogs use growling to tell the newcomer what is allowed and what isn't. Very normal and of no concern.
    The resource guarding that seems to be happening with the neighbor is a separate issue, and i agree with Lynne on that as well.
  • Lynne thanks for the great advice. My 6 month puppy Eddie seems to do the same sporadic thing.
  • Growling doesn't necessarily mean much. Dogs growl at one another to let them know they don't like what's going on. The other dog will usually walk away, or it might decide to 'argue' but unless both dogs are very poorly socialized it generally won't lead to a fight. Dogs that 'go up on their hind legs' aren't wanting to fight- that is not a fighting posture, it's a play posture or a warning posture. If those two wanted to fight, believe me, they would get close to the ground and go at it, and it would happen so fast you wouldn't be able to stop it. .

    It sounds like your dog is 'resource guarding' your neighbor. Here's what my dog trainer did with Beck when he decided to resource guard tennis balls: Have a slip lead ready or keep a very short lead on your dog, don't scold yell or anything, but when he growls or shows some threatening display just say "time out" and pull him away by the leash to a place where he can't see the other dog. 5 minutes is usually enough. Then with no drama, just release him to play again. Repeat it every time it happens. If you are really worried that your dog's threatening display might turn into aggression, keep a spray bottle with water ready to interrupt the situation if it gets out of hand.

    My trainer says that dogs between 18 months and 3 years are like 17 year old boys, they are impulsive, bossy, and frequently short tempered, but that 99% of the time it is just a 'phase'.
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