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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-21-2014, 07:45 AM Thread Starter
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Puppy Socialization- growling at dogs

Hello,
My 13 weeks old Havanese growls and cowers when she meets new dogs, big or small. She is only just vaccinated enough to be taken to parks etc and I am starting puppy classes with her this week so hopefully that extra socialization will help. My question is, how should I react to her when she does this? It does appear to be a fear growls more than aggression. Do I say "no" or do I try to reassure her somehow? I don't want to reinforce the behaviour but also don't want to reprimand her for feeling scared. Also, is that a fairly common Havanese trait, or something more specific to my little girl?
Thanks!
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-21-2014, 08:02 AM
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Hello,
My 13 weeks old Havanese growls and cowers when she meets new dogs, big or small. She is only just vaccinated enough to be taken to parks etc and I am starting puppy classes with her this week so hopefully that extra socialization will help. My question is, how should I react to her when she does this? It does appear to be a fear growls more than aggression. Do I say "no" or do I try to reassure her somehow? I don't want to reinforce the behaviour but also don't want to reprimand her for feeling scared. Also, is that a fairly common Havanese trait, or something more specific to my little girl?
Thanks!
It's not a Havanese "trait" for sure. You ARE starting her socialization on the late side, though certainly better late than never. And I am quite sure you are right, it is fear, not aggression. If she wear my dog, I'd try Very hard to find some friends with older, well socialized,non-rambunctious, puppy-tolerant dogs and just let her spend time with them, on the ground (or floor) not in your arms. SHe may growl at them to start with, but if she has room to get away from them, and is left to figure it out, she will start to see that they are no threat.

If this isn't possible, take her,on leash, to somewhere that she can observe other dogs from whatever her "safe distance" is. Don't make her get so close that she feels the need to growl or try to get away. give her LOTS of cookies and praise her HIGHLY. Over a LONG period of time, as she begins to tolerate them better, move a bit closer, but still within her comfort zone, and repeat.

This is ALL I'd do with her without a professional to help you. Your puppy class, if it is well-run, will help you too.


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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-21-2014, 08:42 AM
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Question on the growling, barking at other dogs/people. If a dog lets out a growl or bark and then looks at you, what does that mean - is he fearful of the dog or is he trying to warn you?
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-21-2014, 08:57 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks Krandall. She has met and been socialized with dogs in my family, including my own, I've had to keep her away from strange dogs until she was vaccinated though. She growled at first to all of them then got used to them, she growled at my cats too! I did carry her around lots but that's not quite the same as having her walk on her own. Now that I can take her out I notice this is her reaction with all dogs she meets. I REALLY don't want a dog aggressive dog, I had one in the past and it's not fun!! The reason I think it's fear, not aggression, is because she cowers while she does it, definitely looks fearful. But of course fear can lead to aggression, and I really want to avoid this becoming the case. I will try keeping her at a distance and giving her treats for good behavior though, thanks!
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-21-2014, 09:48 AM
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Thanks Krandall. She has met and been socialized with dogs in my family, including my own, I've had to keep her away from strange dogs until she was vaccinated though. She growled at first to all of them then got used to them, she growled at my cats too! I did carry her around lots but that's not quite the same as having her walk on her own. Now that I can take her out I notice this is her reaction with all dogs she meets. I REALLY don't want a dog aggressive dog, I had one in the past and it's not fun!! The reason I think it's fear, not aggression, is because she cowers while she does it, definitely looks fearful. But of course fear can lead to aggression, and I really want to avoid this becoming the case. I will try keeping her at a distance and giving her treats for good behavior though, thanks!
Most dog "aggression" is fear based. It's an attitude of "I'll chase them away before they can hurt me!". And it gets reinforced continually because the people then pull the two dogs apart, and the one who was reactive thinks it "worked" and is more likely to try it the next time. Carrying a dog around actually is likely to make this worse, as is trying to introduce dogs on leash. In both cases, they are MORE likely to be reactive, because they have no way to escape.

There are a lot of good articles on reactive dogs, and hopefully Dave will come up with some. (he's much better about keeping that sort of thing at hand than I am) But the basic premise is that you keep the dog at an under-threshold distance, and reward them HEVILY for remaining calm and quiet. You never EVER want to discipline or punish a reactive dog for three reasons. First it is likely to make matters worse, second, even if it doesn't make things worse, it definitely won't make matters better, and third, you are setting the dog up to bite YOU if s/he gets too far over threshold.


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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-21-2014, 10:58 AM
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talk to your trainer before you start classes to see what she recommends. Classes are not always adviseable

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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-22-2014, 07:22 AM Thread Starter
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Suki's first puppy class was last night. I did email the trainer and she said to come and early and set myself up away from other dogs at first. I did that. She did growl/bark at each dog (3 other dogs, 2 big one small breed). It was definitely fear-based because she was literally shaking. I was to reward her whenever she showed good behaviour, and she did eventually calm down. During the off-leash puppy play, I remained behind a fence with her on-leash and let her watch, and treated whenever she showed interest. Eventually the larger dogs were leashed and the small shihtzu mix left off-leash. Suki was taken off-leash and given the choice to come out from the fence and play if she wanted. She did play, and it was sooo cute watching the two chase each other around the room! By the end of the class she could approach the larger dogs without growling too (although she was still a little nervous of the very exuberant lab-mix puppy). Anyway, I hope these classes help her, the trainer seems good and respectful of her needs. It is an ongoing class too, everyone starts at a different time, so every week or two Suki will have to meet a new strange dog in this nice controlled setting, and not just get comfortable with the same set of puppies.
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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-22-2014, 08:14 AM
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Sounds like a perfect fit for both of you!


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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-22-2014, 11:18 AM
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The puppy class I went to was like that. The little dogs were separated from the bigger puppies. Then the bigger puppies were put on leash while the littles were allowed to play. My job was to provide legs to hide behind.

Your instructor/trainer shows as if they understand. You may want to add a couple of private classes as well. See if they do 1/2 hr. ones. I find one hour long classes exhausting and stressful for the puppy and me. My brain shuts down.

TTFN,
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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-22-2014, 07:29 PM
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I'm no expert - and in fact just posted a growling question myself - but I'd be really careful letting Suki approach those bigger, exuberant puppies. I know you're in a controlled environment and the trainer sounds terrific. My experience was that, being young and energetic, the big puppies were also unpredictable. (They all are, I suppose, just scarier when the pups are 3 or 4 times the size of our Hav babies) I was holding Griffin (he was about your pup's age) and a Lab puppy, also being held, just sort of lunged unexpectedly forward. The lab puppy wasn't being mean, but it scared Griffin to pieces. They never made physical contact, but Griffin pulled back and yelped and he has, to this day, had some fear-based growling issues around other dogs that appear to have started with that incident.
Certainly sounds like you're doing everything right and I hope the classes go well!
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