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"Don't punish for growling"

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  • "Don't punish for growling"

    I have heard this a number of times. Thankfully, I don't have this issue currently, but it does make me wonder how people do manage/train. Are you talking about punishment only or also correction?

    To be clear, I am talking about the dog that is growling more out of aggression/territory and less out of fear.

    So if Poopsy growls at a house guest who has done nothing you can see to cause it, what kind of owner reaction is appropriate? It seems like just ignoring it so the dog doesnt escalate to biting without warning might lead to the dog thinking the behavior is accepted and it may move on to more aggressive behaviors anyway. Some reaction/correction seems necessary.

    I will save sharing my reaction with previous dogs. Just wanted to understand how this theory is supposed to work.

  • #2
    The concern is that if you punish for growling without addressing the underlying issue you don't fix the issue, you just stop the early warning. The problem is perspective; you punish growling thinking you're teaching a lesson in manners (for example) or civility, but from the dog's immediate perspective you're just punishing the action of growling.

    It's like punishing soiling in the house. In your human/primate brain you're very clearly showing that it is inappropriate to soil indoors. From the dog's point of view you're punishing crapping/peeing. Often the result is the animal hides his toilet from you as an unintended consequence.

    Paula
    He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

    Comment


    • #3
      I think that this is more of an issue for people who haven't taken the time to train their dogs properly from Day 1. Whether puppies or adults.

      Since all of my dogs have been adopted, & thus have mostly had less than stellar backgrounds, a couple have been growlers. Who the heck knows exactly how they were treated in their former lives, but by the health conditions they were in when we adopted them, it's scary to even think about that.

      Basic obedience training is a GODSEND. And it doesn't have to be in a class - although many of those are great. Even just the basics using a reputable book (look for kindness/reward-oriented, not punishment/bludgeoning) is workable for anyone with desire & diligence. I'm by absolutely NO MEANS a dog trainer, but the growlers I had were eventually obedient to a sit or down/stay & a "no". And they obeyed. Even when tempted. (Althouth my Plott/Lab cross (who passed away a few years ago & is sorely missed) NEVER got over his fear of vets (thanks to an idiotic & abusive vet experience), but that was the only situation where his fear ever rose above his training. And my vet was more than willing to work with him re: this (gotta love vets like that).)

      And no "punishment" of any kind was ever needed (I really HATE that word "punishment" when it concerns working with animals!!!). Once they get into & used to Basic Obedience - you are the master, & what you say goes. There really is very little difference between you being the master for a basic "Sit" command, & you being the master for a command for anything else.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by MsM View Post
        I have heard this a number of times. Thankfully, I don't have this issue currently, but it does make me wonder how people do manage/train. Are you talking about punishment only or also correction?
        the definition of punishment is that it reduces behavior, so any correction that reduces the growling IS punishment. The dog does not know the difference between punishment and correction....they are the same to the dog.

        So if Poopsy growls at a house guest who has done nothing you can see to cause it, what kind of owner reaction is appropriate? It seems like just ignoring it so the dog doesnt escalate to biting without warning might lead to the dog thinking the behavior is accepted and it may move on to more aggressive behaviors anyway. Some reaction/correction seems necessary.
        So if you are at the bus stop, and you don't really like the creepy guy next to you but he hasn't done anything except maybe come a little close, should you be punished for feeling that way? The appropriate way to deal with it is to move away. Same with dogs. Growling is information, it might be a precursor to something more proactive but it might not as well and if you listen and believe your dog, and move the dog to somewhere s/he doesn't feel the need to vocalize.....the dog is more likely to begin to relax. Many animals have a very large comfort bubble. One of my dogs students right now doesn't even want strangers in her house. It's frightening for her which leads to lunging/barking and threatening. If I were to have her owners punish that she would not feel better about me, AND she would not trust her owners to handle it. If she can't trust her owners and she can't trust strangers, and she can't stand the social pressure, she is far more likely to take care of it herself by escalating to biting.

        That's why I don't punish.

        Now, that said, you cannot control other people or their dogs and if they don't manage their dogs well, then you have do to what you have to in order to protect yourself (thinking of the "I was bitten thread")

        Comment


        • #5
          So what do you do when your dog growls at someone?
          McDowell Racing Stables

          Home Away From Home

          Comment


          • #6
            It would depend on why he growled at the someone. If it's a bad guy I'd tell him to cease because he would have done his job and now he has to subside (I've had Rhodesian Ridgebacks and they take protection quite seriously so you have to teach them to subside). Or if I can't control the situation I let him eat the bad guy. If it's anxiety I have to work on the stimulus. If he's a stranger whom I've otherwise invited into my space I'll introduce him to my dog and my dog will subside and offer the guy a beer.

            Paula
            He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

            Comment


            • #7
              That is a correction in my book but is what I do as well so I guess we are in agreement. We have actually turned it into a joke because I have a pom who thinks she is a rottie so our cue to stop growling is "no kill Macy" which makes everybody laugh and makes her stop growling.
              McDowell Racing Stables

              Home Away From Home

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Laurierace View Post
                So what do you do when your dog growls at someone?
                I either redirect the dog to me, or remove the dog.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Telling him to cease is a correction? To me that's a direction; "Good you've done your job and drawn my attention, well done, now it's my turn". To me a correction is -don't do that, do something else.

                  Paula
                  He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by paulaedwina View Post
                    Telling him to cease is a correction? To me that's a direction; "Good you've done your job and drawn my attention, well done, now it's my turn". To me a correction is -don't do that, do something else.

                    Paula
                    if the dog thinks it's a correction, it is. It is not what you meant it to be, but how it is received. So you have to gauge punishment/not punishment by the what happens after you apply whatever it is you are applying.

                    Real life example.

                    Have a good friend who had a Sheltie she ran in Agility. Sheltie got so excited doing the contact obstacles she repeatedly missed the contacts. As a punishment, Friend finally picked her up, snuggled her and kissed her while walking out of the ring. Because the dog was a touch-me-not dog, it was a punishment and Friend only had to do that 2x for the Sheltie to start hitting the contacts again. It does not matter what you think it might be, it matters how the training subject perceives it.

                    Hypothetical example.

                    I am learning to play the piano, you are my teacher. I make a mistake and get my knuckles rapped lightly. You might think that is a simple correction but to me, because it startled me and I have a high aversion to having my hands touched ....it's a punishment.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      So is there technically a difference between correction and punishment then? (For a dog, not a human, where explanation can be used?)

                      What is the "correction" to be used for being too excited in agility the dog is missing contacts? (v. the punishment example you gave).

                      I agreed that telling a dog to "cease" growling is a command, not a correction or a punishment....although it has to be learned to call it a command.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by S1969 View Post
                        So is there technically a difference between correction and punishment then? (For a dog, not a human, where explanation can be used?)

                        What is the "correction" to be used for being too excited in agility the dog is missing contacts? (v. the punishment example you gave).

                        I agreed that telling a dog to "cease" growling is a command, not a correction or a punishment....although it has to be learned to call it a command.
                        for me there is not a difference, or if there is, it is too slight to be of importance.

                        no matter if it is a command, a punishment or a correction.....it is either +P, +R, -P or -R, those are the quadrants of behavior. That is how it is defined. The kissing, was a punishment....it reduced the behavior. The label applied is a human thing, not a behavioral thing.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          For me it depends on WHY they are growling. If I've quit paying enough attention and my 2yo DD is trying to ride the dog like a pony again, I reprimand DD, and ignore the dog. I don't want the dog to think she cannot use her 'words' to tell DD to leave her alone, and DD needs to learn now that growls mean quit and back off! However, if pup shows teeth or shows she is going to escalate the behavior in any way there will be reprimand on both sides. You can say no, but you cannot hit.

                          If it is because she is fearful, I will usually tell her to go place, or some other obedience command. It gives her a chance to leave the situation, and refocuses her attention on me.

                          When we got her we spent a lot of time on growling/bitting as an escape for things she doesn't want to do. THAT is unacceptable in my book, and we did have a few CTJM over it, but she has learned bitting is not for avoidance of things like bathing, nails, any restraint.....
                          You can't fix stupid.... but you can breed it!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            for me the main thing is that when owners punish the growl (and like 3dog says that can mean a simple "Cut the Out" verbal command from the owner) then the dog learns growling is not an acceptable communication technique. Which leaves the dog with biting. In other words when you take away the growl you leave only the bite as a means for the dog to communicate it's discomfort.

                            And that is never a good thing.

                            So when the dog growls ie; toddler joe got too close to the food bowl at dinner time... then I know I have a resource guarder and I can go about working with that, training the dog to not resource guard.... It would do me no good to verbally correct the dog "No Fido, never growl again" b/c then then toddler joe goes by the food bowl again I have created a situation where the toddler has a HIGHER chance of getting bitten by Fido. SInce I've done nothing to address the problem of resource guarding....

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I completely disagree with the trainers who feel it's necessary to fool about with the dog's dinner. For God's sake - let the dog have at least one thing in its life that's it's own. These trainers who want you to feed the dog, yank the food away, give the food back, yank it away - all in the name of Alpha-dog-ship. Sorry - dont go for it.

                              Instead, teach your kids - who probably need more teaching than the poor dog - to simply LEAVE THE DOG ALONE WHEN IT'S EATING ITS DINNER.

                              If you can't keep "Toddler Joe" away from the dog for the few minutes it takes for it to wolf down it's dinner, perhaps you should be paying more attention to "Toddler Joe" than the the dog.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Bacardi- Your post made me laugh, because my two ACD's are VERY quick eaters, and both have slow down bowls. They both are also trained to sit and wait for an OK command before they begin eating so I can make sure they are both in their respective eating spots(then I do firmly believe in leaving them alone!) Anytime DD goes to my parents house, who's dog lets his food sit in his bowl and grazes most of the day DD keeps carrying the bowl over to him and telling him OK Tucker OK...... He gets very confused and ignores her, and she gets pissed he won't listen. So now we just hide the food bowl whenever she goes over to visit.
                                You can't fix stupid.... but you can breed it!

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Bacardi I agree with you to an extent. I think those alpha games are just BS. You don't have to prove to anyone you're an alpha if you're an alpha. If you look at a pack of dogs interacting the alpha isn't running around messing with dogs, rolling them, taking their food and whatnot. The alpha is calm, has nothing to prove and the other dogs defer to it. If the alpha has to put anyone in his place he does it quickly and decisively. It's the belligerent beta dogs that run around yapping and snapping. Similarly with humans; you are the leader in your quiet ways. You are the bringer of food. You say what you mean and mean what you say, et voila. None of these silly games where your alpha is weighed by who comes through the door first, taking the dogs food in mid eat, etc.

                                  Look at this guy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFP28ANXLLA especially at 36 seconds. All his dogs pay obeisance to him. No alpha rolls to be seen, but clearly he's the leader. And they have hierarchy among themselves too. And these are European dogs so likely not spayed/neutered right?

                                  Look at 1 minute 42 when they encounter another dog. Who is alpha? Certainly not that dog.

                                  Where I disagree slightly is while I think you should leave a dog to have his meal, he has to be able to tolerate being interrupted if you have children, people who are not pet savvy or other dogs in the household. I can move past my dog while eats. I can shift his butt over so I can get by. If I forget a pill I've got to be able to drop it in his bowl before he finishes. If he picks up something inappropriate I've got to be able to get it back from him. So some kind of expectations are necessary I think.

                                  Paula
                                  He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by NRB View Post
                                    for me the main thing is that when owners punish the growl (and like 3dog says that can mean a simple "Cut the Out" verbal command from the owner) then the dog learns growling is not an acceptable communication technique. Which leaves the dog with biting. In other words when you take away the growl you leave only the bite as a means for the dog to communicate it's discomfort.

                                    ...
                                    Just saying cut it out wouldn't mean much to the dog, since at bottom aggression growling typically means some lack of respect for the target.

                                    A dog doesn't have to communicate his discomfort; ideally he'd be taught to deal with the situation in a non-aggressive way.

                                    I'm speaking of adults and dogs; kids are trickier because before they know better they can cause an animal pain. Still, you don't want the dog reacting in an aggressive way.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by grayarabpony View Post
                                      Just saying cut it out wouldn't mean much to the dog, since at bottom aggression growling typically means some lack of respect for the target.
                                      no, that's a human assumption. It could be that he's simply warning you which probably has nothing to do with respect.

                                      A dog doesn't have to communicate his discomfort; ideally he'd be taught to deal with the situation in a non-aggressive way.
                                      really? you can anticipate ALL situations a dog will find himself in? I can't control my OWN environment that much.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by MsM View Post
                                        I have heard this a number of times. Thankfully, I don't have this issue currently, but it does make me wonder how people do manage/train. Are you talking about punishment only or also correction?
                                        I've heard this, and never been able to follow it. I'm not sure how it shakes out for professional trainers, or for people with aggressive dogs who have to deal with repeated growls and escalations. With dogs whose greatest shows of aggression have been rare growls, I instinctively punish for growling. I say "No!" in a shocked voice, and instantly remove dog from area. I don't think a reprimand for growling is going to cause future direct-to-bite behavior in normal dogs; the danger is probably that an inherently aggressive sort is going to learn that lesson.

                                        Comment

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