TIP #1: DON'T PUNISH YOUR DOG'S GROWL
It's very common for dog owners to punish their dogs for growling. Unfortunately, this often suppresses the growl - eliminating his ability to warn us that he's about to snap, literally and figuratively. On other occasions, punishing a growling, uncomfortable dog can induce him to escalate into full-on aggression.
So, if you're not supposed to punish your dog for growling, what are you supposed to do? The next time your dog growls at you, try this:
1.) Stop. Whatever you're doing, stop. If your dog's growl threshold is near his bite threshold - that is, if there's not much time between his growl and his bite, get safe. If his growl doesn't mean a bite is imminent, stop what you're doing but stay where you are. Wait until he relaxes, then move away, so you're rewarding the relaxed behavior rather than the growl.
2.) Analyze the situation. What elicited the growl? Were you touching or grooming him? Restraining him? Making direct eye contact? Taking something away from him? Making him do something?
3.) Figure out a different way to accomplish your goal without eliciting a growl. Lure him rather than physically pushing or pulling him. Have someone else feed him treats while you touch, groom, or restrain him. If you don't have to do whatever it was that elicited the growl, don't - until you can convince him that it's a good thing rather than a bad thing.
4.) Evaluate the stressors in your dog's world and reduce or eliminate as many of them as possible. For example, if your dog is unaccustomed to strangers, then having your sister and her husband and three kids as houseguests for the past week would undoubtedly stress your dog. Noise-phobic dogs might be under a strain if city crews have been digging up a nearby street with heavy equipment or there was a thunderstorm last night. The vacuum cleaner is a common stressor for dogs. A loud argument between you and your spouse could stress your dog as well as you, and your stress is stressful to your dog. Harsh verbal or physical punishment, an outburst of aroused barking at the mail carrier, fence fighting with another dog. The list could go on and on.
5.) Institute a behavior modification program to change his opinion about the thing that made him growl. One way to do this is to use counter-conditioning and desensitization to convince him the bad thing is a good thing.
- Whole Dog Journal
TIP #2: WHY IS MY DOG SO RUDE?
Right now your dog barks, lunges, or reacts problematically when she sees other dogs, but what if she had a different response? What if, when she saw another dog, she immediately turned her head and looked at you, wagging her tail in happy anticipation? We call this exercise "Watch" and for a seemingly simple exercise, it has a long list of advantages. First of all, your dog can't bark and lunge toward another dog when her attention is directed to your face. Teaching an incompatible behavior is a time-honored and elegant solution to a lot of behavioral problems, and it works wonderfully with fidos who are a bit too feisty on leash walks. Additionally, by teaching your dog to look at your face when she sees another dog, you're teaching her what you want her to do, rather than hoping she'll figure it out herself.
Start teaching Watch in a quiet place where you're the only show in town, and there's nothing else competing for your dog's attention. Don't underestimate how distracting one of your other dogs can be. Start training when you and your feisty fido are all by yourselves. Arm yourself with a generous pile of treats by your side or in a bait bag, and wait until your dog is looking away from you. Say "Watch" in a clear, animated voice and hope your dog turns his head and looks toward you. If he does, immediately "mark" that response by saying "good!" or clicking if you use clicker training. Instantly follow that up with a yummy treat OR a game of tug or fetch IF your dog adores playing with toys. Remember that every trainee gets to define what reinforcement is best, so we can't say which is more effective for your dog - toys or food. Toys have the advantage of overwhelming nervousness with positive emotions that are associated with relaxation and comfort, but chicken is the way to many a dog's heart.
- excerpted from Feisty Fido
Jeff Dentler, CPDT-KA, FFCP, CTDI