Help! My Dog is GROWLING AT ME!

help for people who's dogs growl at them

I received an email from a dog owner by the name of Freddy who’s asking for help for his dog Brody’s new-found growling behavior. It sounds to me like Brody has some pretty serious issues going on and Freddy sounds pretty desperate . Having had my share (and more!) of worrisome dog shenanigans to deal with, I definitely know how this kind of desperation feels!

I’d like to share Freddy’s letter with you all in the hopes that between what I say and what our readers say, that Freddy and his dog Brody will find some help here that will give them what they need to to overcome Brody’s growling issues.

Except for some typo corrections I made, the letter below is directly from the email Freddy sent and is complete as he wrote it. Nothing else has been altered. I felt it’s important for our readers to hear the problem as it is, in Freddy’s words.

Freddy’s Letter

I bought Brody about a year ago, and in the last few weeks I will give him a command or pet him while he is eating his food. Now I hand fed him ’till he was 12 weeks old and have never had a problem out of him EVER. Here lately he has become a little aggressive to friends and some family and when I tell him no, he will growl all the way to his cage even though I haven’t used his cage for him in months. When he is in his cage it’s twice as worse. I don’t understand it …. it just started happening. He has NEVER GROWLED AT ME.

Could someone please tell me if I am doing wrong or what he is going through. I paid quite a bit of money for him and do not want him to keep getting so aggressive I have to get rid of him. Help me please!!!!


Sounds pretty bad to me! Freddy, before I get into this more I’d like to say “Thank you for looking for help with this rather than just opting to “get rid of” your dog.” There are way to many people who go the route of re-homing their dogs … or worse … they go straight to euthanasia without taking the time and making the effort to correct the problem.

One of the biggest problems I find in the pet owner world is that people just don’t get it. Humans simply expect a dog to instinctively behave according to human rules — period. It doesn’t always work that way and when a dog fails to just automatically follow our human “good dog” standards — the dog can be doomed. Unless you find a dog behavior savvy new owner, re-homing can have the affect of simply making a dog someone else’s problem — especially if the dog’s issues aren’t disclosed to the new owner(s)!

Dogs are NOT PRE-PROGRAMMED in Good Behavior

Babies aren’t born pre-programmed in how to behave in this world. Why some people think dogs are is way beyond my level of comprehension. Why anyone would understand that a child needs to learn rules, boundaries and other good behavior lessons but on the other hand believe that a dog knows all this without being taught is just absolutely ludicrous! Honest to goodness folks, there really are people out there that believe this! I’m in no way saying that Freddy is a member of the “dogs should just know how to behave” crowd.

What’s This HAND FEEDING Thing All About?

One of the things recommended to help dogs learn good behavior is the hand feeding method that Freddy mentioned. It’s believed by many that hand feeding promotes the dog’s understanding that the person holding the dog’s meal in their hand is the boss. Why? Because a dog has basic built-in survival instincts and their person holds in their hand one of the major keys to a dog’s survival … food. Think of it this way, when the dog was a puppy he got all his food from his mother and we all know that Mom’s the boss! Hand feeding is thought to be a way to extend this dog’s initial survival lesson to their person being the boss.

Freddy’s letter pretty much proves that hand feeding alone isn’t a magic wand and I doubt that Freddy thinks it should be. It’s probably just one of the (many?) good things he’s tried to do with Brody. I’ve occasionally hand-fed our furkids, but because it’s not an everyday practice in our house, I can’t guarantee 100% this method works. It sure can’t hurt to try it and you may have good results if you practice this. Hand feeding also gives you an opportunity to teach your dog to take food (and other things) gently from your hand which will help make your dog safer around people, especially children.

Now, let’s give our attention directly to Freddy and Brody …


One of the ways dogs talk to us is by growling. They’re trying to tell us something and it’s our job to figure out what this something is. Should we take it as a warning? Definitely! If you don’t heed the dog’s warning and instead continue to push the dog’s buttons you could literally be asking the dog to bite you.

If you have the word Stupid stamped on your forehead you will then blame the dog for biting you. If Really Stupid is stamped on your forehead you will then (a) drive the dog a long way from home and dump it in a field somewhere, (b) beat the dog for biting you, (c) take the dog out behind the barn and shoot it or (d) have the dog euthanized. Remember, when a dog bites — the victim is 99.99% of the time asking for it so don’t blame the dog when it bites!

DO NOT IGNORE Growling Behavior!

So, we’ve determined the dog is trying to communicate with us when they growl. When a dog growls at you, a smart person backs away in order to avoid a bite. The flip side to this is that although backing off from a growling dog is the safe thing to do — our behavior at that moment then tells the dog “I win! I made them go away!” which in turn reinforces the growling behavior because the dog gets what he wants (to keep someone away) and he’s then likely to repeat the behavior. What you’ve got then is a no-win situation that will recycle itself any time the dog feels it’s necessary to keep someone away — and that someone may not always be the burglar breaking into your house.

Not all dogs give an audible warning growl before they bite but all dogs do give a pre-bite-warning. The problem with this is that unless you’re educated in the silent alternative warning signals a dog displays with their body language it’s real easy to miss these signs. You can learn more about a dog’s silent communication signals from books such as On Talking Terms With Dogs by Turid Rugaas (links to her website) and other good books on dog behavior.

If you don’t want to buy book(s) — you can Google for this information. I just got a Kindle Fire and am finding it to be a super-handy tool for reading and storing books so they don’t collect dust and take up room in my house. I can also highlight and make Kindle notes for any passages in books that I want to quickly refer to later. Kindle books are a few dollars cheaper than book-books and I don’t need to be at a computer to buy or read Kindle books! It may not be Google but the Kindle also has a great  web browser that you can use for your research. A Kindle is a convenient inexpensive tool for educating yourself on just about anything.

Make a Visit to Your VET

The first thing I would do with a dog who’s growling on more than infrequent but visually understandable occasions (stranger in the yard for example) … in other words excessively growling without any apparent reason … is to take them to a vet for a complete check-up including a blood test for hypothyroidism. Our country’s expert in the field of hypothyroidism is Dr. Jean Dodds who heads Hemopet.

If you have a dog breed that’s prone to certain illnesses or physical issues such as hip dysplasia I would put emphasis and if necessary pressure on my vet to test for whatever ailments my dog breed is prone to.

Some dogs will growl at any given moment if they’re in pain. If your vet finds a physical reason the dog may be growling, your vet may be able to alleviate the pain and if it’s pain-growling removing the pain will make the growling will go away.

In a recent issue of Dog Fancy magazine there is an article on Vitamin B deficiencies and the problems this may cause — which could contribute to some of the behaviors you’ve mentioned. After reading the article I put my two furkids on a good vitamin supplement and I’d say about 6 weeks later there was a slight improvement in Riley’s reactivity level. Unless it’s the mailman (translation alien from Mars who must be eaten before he can destroy us) — he also comes down off his reactivity bursts just a little easier and quicker than before. I think it would be a good idea for you to read this article, too, Freddy.


If Brody is found to be completely healthy, an essential next step to curing his problems would be to monitor his behaviors very closely. It’s imperative for you to determine what Brody’s triggers are. This won’t be easy but you absolutely need to find his triggers so you can pursue the correct counter-conditioning method for each of the things that send him into growl-mode. If you don’t know what sets him off you can’t possibly do anything constructive to help modify his behavior.


Again, if he’s diagnosed as totally healthy then my suspicions are that he’s displaying resource guarding behavior. Resource guarding has been around forever, but it’s still rather new to me because I’ve not had a reason to look into it until recently. The probability of Riley being a resource guarder has been mentioned to me by more than one person (including a professional animal behaviorist) over the past few months and so I’ve just recently started to research it for myself.

In a way it’s kind of ironic that Freddy would write to me at this point in time because this is currently an important issue in our home as well. Maybe a little bit of ESP going on here, hey?

Very simply put, resource guarding is when a dog believes something belongs to them. This can be their toys, their food bowls, a favorite couch or bed, just about anything  … including their person or people. The last one is the scariest one. Resource guarding can be mild or severe enough to be dangerous. You can of course, Google for more information and The Dog Trainer: Resource Guarding — What It Is, How to Prevent It is one link to get you started.

It was more than a bit depressing to learn that what we all thought was Riley being overly-protective of me is probably not protectiveness but possessiveness. I’m his resource and he’s guarding me. Ugh.  I don’t like overly-protective one single bit. I would be ecstatic with a healthy protective attitude but he takes this behavior way to seriously. My dog should not own me and I should not be so valuable to him as to have him think he needs to keep everyone away from me. When my kids or grandkids come over I have to either crate him, shag him out to the yard or put him on the other side of the gate in order to hug them. Don’t get me wrong, he loves them all and he would give his life for any of them but sadly there is no such thing as spontaneous hugging or tickle sessions in this house, we have to plan our hug-sessions which is not nearly as fun as having your grandkid grab you and plant one on ya out of the blue!  I would much prefer it if Riley felt it was only necessary to be pro-active if some bad guy wanted to do me harm.

Since I’m still new to it myself, I really don’t feel educated enough (yet) in the topic of resource guarding, I won’t say to much about it other than from what I’ve learned so far, Brody is (in my opinion) definitely showing signs of it. I hope Freddy will take a serious look at this as a potential source of Brody’s unwanted and potentially dangerous behavior. It is a behavior that can be modified through counter-conditioning. If your dog is a resource guarder it doesn’t mean his life with you or his life (period) has to come to an end.

Until you get a handle on Brody’s issues, for safety reasons I hope you will consider crating him, locking him in a bedroom or even muzzling him when people come over. Putting him in situations that you know make him reactive is not fair to him and not safe for your family or friends. Help him keep his emotional/anxiety levels low-key — don’t give him a chance to escalate but instead try to keep him calm. Any kind of excitement could lead to or already be a trigger to his reactive behavior.

Two places to start learning more about resource guarding would be to read Mine! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs written by Jean Donaldson. Additionally, it’s a good idea to consult with and hire a good dog behaviorist in your area — one that is skilled in counter-conditioning methods. Remember dog training and a dog behavior are two very different things. Make sure you consult and/or hire someone with dog behavior experience and qualifications.

Would anyone else like to share your thoughts or experiences on Brody’s issues? Do you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said? Do you have any suggestions for Freddy?

15 responses on “Help! My Dog is GROWLING AT ME!

  1. Marla Burton says:

    My dog will growl at us for no reason. and it’s getting worse. i don’t know what to do!

    I can’t make him go to a crate because he will growl more and i surely cant put him in there because im afraid he will bite me.

    it’s so bad that i’m about to the point of popping him in face but we know that’s not right, but it’s that bad!! Please Help!!

    • Mom says:

      Hi Marla,

      I won’t argue that this is a scary behavior. I was alarmed by your comment about popping him in the face. Although you know it’s not right and hopefully would never follow through, you may not know that it could also be the trigger that results in a bite. Startling a dog or inflicting pain on them, especially one that is already growly, might be what pushes your dog over the edge. If you get bitten because you’ve smacked your dog, you would have no one to blame but yourself because at that moment, your dog is protecting himself. You would not blame a person for protecting themselves, you can’t blame your dog for this either.

      Dogs don’t normally growl without a reason. It may not be a reason that a human sees or makes human-sense of, but somewhere behind his growl is a reason. To top it off, it sounds like your dog has learned that growling gets him what he wants. Example of a possible “dog thought process”: “Mom wants me to go in my crate. I don’t want to go in my crate. If I growl at Mom she’s not going to make me go in my crate.” The dog wins by growling.

      Dogs cannot speak, they can’t tell us what’s bothering them, it’s up to us to figure it out which is not always a quick’n’easy task.

      I would venture to say that this behavior didn’t start recently, it’s something that’s been building for awhile — perhaps even years. You didn’t mention your dog’s age or breed and didn’t elaborate on times when your dog growls other than the crate issue. Because so many things can be involved there is no one answer. For all I know this behavior started when your dog was a puppy and your family thought a growling puppy was cute, ie: “Oh look! He thinks he’s a tough guy! Isn’t that the cutest thing you ever saw?” and so in some way your family inadvertently rewarded your dog’s growling (or didn’t properly correct it using a positive method) and so your dog learned (from your family) that this is acceptable behavior.

      I’m not saying this is what’s going on, I’m just mentioning how far back the possibilities go. I would go back in time, making notes in a journal to help me figure out when this behavior started and also note what your family did about it each time and also make notes of what currently seems to trigger the growly behavior. Somewhere in there, you should find a pattern and from that you can begin working forward to correct things in a positive fashion. I seriously do not believe there is a quick fix for this so be prepared to spend some considerable and consistent time on it. You need to be diligent! Do not let one episode go or your dog will take that and run with it which then puts you at “two steps backwards for every one step forward” which will likely frustrate you no end.

      I see part of the problem as your dog is sensing your fear and this is making things worse as well. Dogs will growl and even bite when they sense fear. Somewhere inside of you, you (and all family members!) need to muster courage and authority and treat your dog in a consistent fashion for everything, growly behavior or otherwise.

      I would take my dog to the vet for a thorough health check-up including checking for thyroid issues. Ensuring a dog isn’t suffering from a health issue is always the first step in dealing with behavior issues because so often a health problem is or at least is part of the trigger.

      I suggest you read my article above which deals with some growling issues and also read my article on understanding dog bites including all the comments that follow. Even though up to now there hasn’t been a bite, growling is often a pre-bite warning and could escalate to a bite.

      I would also enlist the help of a reputable dog behaviorist to help you zone in on what is triggering your dog’s growly behavior. Before you can change it, you need to know what causes it so that you can correct it in proper positive ways.

      Thank you for taking the time to try to find answers for your dog’s unacceptable behavior! I hope this helps and we look forward to you posting updates!

  2. Anna says:

    This is my dads german shepard, at one point he was going to be mine but he only listens to my dad. The dog thinks he can growl at me when I tell him he has done something wrong. Let’s say he gets into the garbage. I tell him NO and he will growl. I put him in his cage and he chewed a shoe, I said NO to that and he was growling and barking at me. What do I do about this? I’m scared of this behavior! P.S. He is a sweet dog so I don’t know why he would do this? I need help!

    • Mom says:

      Hi Anna,

      The first thing you need to REALLY accept and understand is that German Shepherds are TRULY one person dogs. That means that although the entire family may be accepted, loved and protected by the dog, the dog will still have his favorite person even in a multi-person home. At our house Riley and Nissa’s favorite is me, Gracie’s is my husband even though he only sees her a day or two all week long and I’m the one providing 90% of her care and time with her. I have no problem whatsoever with that and that’s how it needs to be. This dog has been your dad’s for how ever long he dog’s lived with him and to the dog, your dad is “his guy.” All that doesn’t mean he can’t become fond of you but know, understand and unconditionally accept that he will probably always favor dad. If there has been any transfer of one home to another, this dog is under tremendous stress and confusion!

      Moving a dog from one home that he’s lived in and loved to another that isn’t “his” is just a very difficult transition for a dog to go through. If someone plucked you out of your home and plunked you down in another without your permission … how would you feel? This dog had no choice in the matter, humans did this to him. He doesn’t know what to do, how to act and he’s missing dad terribly!

      You didn’t give a lot of info, I don’t know if you live with your dad or elsewhere, if the dog will remain in the same house or move to yours so I’m limited on what I can comment on but I’ll try to give you a few suggestions.

      First of all, being afraid of the dog isn’t going to work. I’m not saying I don’t understand your fear, you have reason to fear him considering how he behaves with you. But you do need to work on yourself and with the dog to eliminate the fear or you’re always going to have problems.

      In the situations you briefly described, simply telling a dog no or that he’s “done something wrong” is probably not going to solve the problems. On a side note, our Gracie growls a lot! But we’ve learned it’s her way of communicating. She’s not shown one instance of aggression no matter how much she growls. Determining if a dog’s growl is a pre-bite warning or their way of communicating would be important. Know that most dogs don’t growl before biting, they just simply bite. A dog that gives a warning growl is the exceptional dog.

      Perhaps Dad would be open to helping you transition the dog to being more fond of you by transferring things like the care and feeding of the dog to you for starters. You feed the dog, you let the dog out, you walk the dog etc. It sounds like he needs to spend time with you and that you need to be more assertive with your behaviors and attitude. Assertive does NOT equal physical violence, I refer only to attitudes and mannerisms. Instead of telling the dog no, learn to redirect the negative behaviors. For example, if the dog’s got something he’s not supposed to have (shoe?) tell the dog no while trading the shoe for a toy he can have.

      Go out in the yard and play ball with him or some other favorite activity of his, show him you’re a fun person! Take him on car rides even if it’s just to drive around for 15-20 minutes. Dogs usually love car rides and while you’re out there give it a purpose. Take him somewhere to get a treat (small plain hamburger without the bun and preferably not the slop from McDonald’s!) so that he learns to expect good things happen when you take him in the car. Put the garbage out of temptation’s way. Pretty much every dog is going to go dumpster diving if the dumpster is in plain view! There’s fooooooood in there! Why put something he shouldn’t have where he can readily get at it? Put the shoes in the closet, take away from view anything he’s not supposed to have. Replace these things with great toys, if he loves balls put some balls out. If he loves squeaky toys put squeaky toys out and play with him with his favorites.

      Give the dog a reason to love you and feel secure. It sounds like he doesn’t feel secure around you which means you need to literally morph yourself into a strong, assertive, secure person. NO faking it, find a way to make it really happen. That doesn’t mean yelling at him, hitting him or mistreating him in any way. If he’s going to have a new life, he needs time to adjust and reasons to want to adjust and get happy again.

      Even though his behavior strikes me as simply behavior issues, I would still visit the vet (YOU take him not dad) get him checked over real good and include a blood test for thyroid levels. He’s a German Shepherd prone to diseases like hypothyroidism which can cause aggressive behaviors.

      Good luck! Work at this positively and you have a good chance of succeeding. Just do not expect this dog to transfer his total loyalty to you because in his mind that belongs to your dad.

  3. Me says:

    This is sick it use to be people on;y thought about euthanizing a dog if he actually bit someone…it just shows how sick and backwards people are these days

  4. Becky says:

    Okay. Simon is a 2 year old GSD, good temperament, healthy, never a peep out of him, always submissive to me as I have a type A personality and have raised shepherds for years …I know how important it is to let them know who is the top dog, so to speak. He HAS, however growled at my 10 year old son, before, and often, whenever they are both around me, or when my son has come into or leaving my room. The dog is normally wherever I am. I correct the dog with a sharp noise and Ive told my son to do the same, let him know it’s not okay to growl. I’ve even resorted to getting my son to feed him at meals, make him sit before going out. He’s growled at my oldest son before, and once at my husband. We all assumed it was a possessive thing since I always seem to be around. NOW this dog growls at me, and let me tell you it was a weird feeling. I covered his nose with my hand and told him to “STOP IT” in a sharp tone. He did it again anyway, and was wagging his tail a little at the same time! He’s never growled at me and now I’m thinking I must be missing something. Since then he’s done it once again, this time because he was laying on the floor near my bed and I poked my head down there and asked him if he was awake. I do not hit my dog but I have slapped him on the nose when he’s growled at my son. I make him sit before eating or going out, and I am very affectionate with him. Please help!!!!

    • Mom says:

      Hi Becky,

      It sounds like you’ve had Simon for quite awhile and that the growling is new behavior which to me means something may have changed in his life to bring this on. The first thing I’d do is get him to the vet for a full checkup including blood work for hypothyroidism and his eyesight. If the vet tells you he’s too young to have hypothyroidism (mine did) you can correct him on the spot. I have three dogs with hypothyroidism, Gracie is 3 (diagnosed at age 2) and both Riley (8) and Nissa (7) were diagnosed with it several years ago so age really doesn’t have any bearing. I would take him to an eye specialist, from what I’m learning GP vets don’t always see eye problems unless they’re very obvious such as a disease like Pannus or Glaucoma which cause the eyes to be come cloudy looking so you can’t help but see it. I’d have his hearing checked as well. I’d have him checked for any condition/illness that may be causing him pain. Eye and ear problems can cause a dog to be startled by things and they may react to being startled/out of fear.

      If it turns out that he’s got health issues, deal with those accordingly which of course may or may not cause the growling to stop depending on other things.

      The other thing I’d do is look into resource guarding as far as his growling at family members in your presence. Sounds like Simon may believe you belong to him no different than one of his toys.

      The fact that he’s growling at you sends me back to the potential health issues mentioned above. Tail wagging doesn’t always mean a dog is happy so don’t fall into that old fable.

      Pay attention to what’s going on, learn to be VERY alert and observant. You need to learn what’s triggering the growing. For example you mentioned he growled at your son but gave no information as to the circumstances surrounding the incident. Keep a log of the incidents and see if there’s a pattern.

      I know it can be human reflex but please stop slapping him. You never want a dog to feel pain from or fear the hands that love him and that he loves. Some dogs have been known to retaliate so it can be dangerous as well. Our Gracie is a growler (I call it her little growly face) but we’ve learned over time that she’s not being aggressive, she’s talking and being bossy. There is a difference between how she growls and an aggressive growl. In her case there is no baring of teeth for example, it’s like she’s mumbling, grumbling and telling the other dogs who’s the boss because most often she’s in their face when she does this. This was quite unnerving at first and I was very concerned about aggression. It’s certainly not ideal behavior but at this point it’s more annoying than anything else now that we know she’s not being aggressive. When she does this I step in between her and whichever dog she’s growling at, standing tall I back her off by walking towards her, I crowd her so to speak. I don’t say anything, she gets the idea that *I* will take care of any problems and that she doesn’t need to — in other words *I’m* the boss and she is not.

      But remember, this is Gracie and is not the rule of thumb to follow when a dog growls. Growling should not be ignored under any circumstances. It took us about 6 months to figure out what was going on with Gracie and for me to relax about it and learn how to handle it effectively.

  5. Kristel says:

    Hey. Maybe you could help me with advice. I have a 2 year old male boxer. I recently noticed that when I am eating my food in the living room he comes near me and starts growling at me. And it only happens when I eat. After realizing it’s a problem and needs to be stopped and fast I gave my dog a command to stay in the hallway and not come through the doorway. So I figured the solution would be to whenever I would eat not let him be near me. Since he doesn’t growl at me from distance. Is that a wrong approach? I’m willing to do some time consuming training because I really love my dog and I want him to have the best life quality possible. Thank you so much in advance!

    • Mom says:

      Hi Kristel,

      Well, this certainly doesn’t sound good but at least it’s isolated to just one human activity. I don’t think keeping him away from you when you eat is a bad idea at all. He doesn’t need to be sitting next to you even if he doesn’t growl. It can be pretty annoying to have a dog sit next to you whining or drooling while you have your meal. It’s so hard to ignore those big brown eyes and soooo tempting to give in with a scribble tossed their way which of course only encourages their behavior whether it’s active begging or just patiently waiting. At our house active begging would be actively trying to get our attention to share with them. Ours don’t do that, they just gather around us and either sit or they lay down wait. That’s acceptable for us because they’re not being annoying, and patience is a virtue, right? LOL!

      Your idea is probably the easiest way to fix things. The other day Gracie got tired of waiting for me to share and decided to start licking my pizza on my plate when I had my head turned away. Ugh. But since you’re up for some additional behavior modification(s) (Yayyy you!!!) one thought that comes to mind is to first of all to *never* give him food from your meal/plate when he’s in that state. That will more than likely encourage the behavior when he doesn’t get what he wants. Pretty sure you got that in your head already.

      Secondly, I’m thinking this might work but it will matter how serious you think that growl is, as in “will he take the growling further?”. If you *don’t* feel threatened with his growly face hear you, ignore the growling, don’t show him any attention when he’s growling. Even saying “go away” or “no” or whatever is attention to a dog although negative attention it’s still attention. I would wait until he stops growling and calmly but firmly tell him to sit or lay down (your preference). Once he complies, then give him a scribble. That way he learns that growling will get him nowhere but sitting or laying down will get him a yummy.

      I do remind you that you must feel safe that he’s not going to take that growl further. Gracie is a growly dog but we’ve learned over time that she’s just talking, she’s not an aggressive girl at all (or we’d have had some major problems!) which may be the same yakky behavior your dog is displaying. Gracie wanders around grumbling and growly faced all around the house and never seems to mean anything by it unless she’s telling one of the other dogs that “Hey, I’m the boss here and you will bow to me!” Very annoying and I don’t let that behavior go either because I don’t want it to escalate. I step in and tell her to knock it off. If one of the other dogs has had enough of her chatter one day they may decide to take matters into their own hands which may not be pretty and definitely not something I want to happen.

  6. Xuanqi says:

    Thank you for this post! I’m currently trying to understand my 2 year-old male Chow Chow. My sister bought him as a pup, and ever since has lived in our home. His attitude and behavior are very cat-like as expected of a Chow, so his next movements are hard to determine. He used to be friendly when he was still a pup, especially to everyone in the home (my mom, dad and other sisters). But since we all always have to leave the home for school/office, the Chow rarely get the chance to socialize with other dogs and humans, so he’s grown ferocious toward anyone and some dogs, while he’s very very attached to my family.
    Last year when he turned 1 y.o., his foot got accidentally trapped in the screen door while playing on his own. As I was told, he was rushing fast to get his toy that was near the screen door. The heavy impact of his body against the door caused his left foot to slide under the door, and so he was trapped. Due to immense pain, our dog let out a loud cry that made me and my sister run to him in an effort to comfort him. But the Chow being a dog and not a human, obviously he wasn’t aware of the concept of ‘human comfort’ as he might have thought my sister and I plotted the trap, whatsoever, so he bit both of us. This was the first time my dog bit a living thing. Since we couldn’t release our dog’s foot without touching him, my dad had to destroy the locks of the door. Fortunately, our Chow got his foot out afterwards.
    After this incident, our dog started getting used to growling at and biting my family members (ESPECIALLY me. I already got bitten FOUR TIMES.) He also likes bossing us around by showing his teeth whenever he wants to get what he wants, although of course my parents wouldn’t like that. Our Chow’s particularly close with my mom and youngest sister. I think that’s due to my mom being the boss in our home so she’s earned respect from and authority over our dog… and that my youngest sister is usually at home so she’s got the plentiest time in the world to spend with our dog. My dad comes second in both time and authority, so our dog also likes him. My mom and dad threats our dog with a slipper whenever he does something bad, but of course they never really hit him. They also can command him. Whereas me… I’m usually at school, even during weekends, so I don’t get as much opportunity to play with our dog, and that I’m scared to touch him because he’s bitten me a number of times. I used to hand feed him when he a pup though. I also used to walk him whenever I got the chance. I used to cuddle him to sleep; we were friends. Now he might be seeing me as an enemy or whatever since he doesn’t treat me well. I don’t know how to condition him, since, as I’ve said, I’m scared.
    I read from other articles that it’s the human’s fault most of the time for being bitten. I know I am largely at fault too, BUT IS IT MY FAULT TO WANT TO BE WITH MY DOG? Whenever I go near my dog to play with him, I have to check first if he’s willing to respond. MOST TIMES, he IS NOT. Whereas whenever my youngest sister asks for playtime, our dog is ALWAYS willing. I’d sit beside him, he’d growl at me. My sister would WRESTLE with him, HE’D EVEN BE HAPPIER. Just what is with ME?

    • Mom says:

      Hello Xuanqi,

      I’m so sorry to hear about your problems with your dog. I do know that Chows are a lot like the German Shepherd breed in the respect that they’re both protective breed dogs with a very strong protective instinct. Both breeds are known for picking their favorite family member and although they will protect the whole household they have their special person where the bond is the tightest, which is why sheps are often called “one man dogs.” Out of the entire dog breed community, I do believe that Sheps and Chows are probably the most likely to bond in this way.

      It’s imperative to socialize every dog but extra efforts should be made to socialize the heck out of a protective breed dog. You mentioned that since he was a pup the family members are off to school & work leaving him alone all day.

      It doesn’t surprise me that both you and your sister were bitten during the “rescue the foot” adventure. Dogs in pain are likely to bite and additionally when a dog is caught and can’t get away they usually panic. Even though you were trying to comfort your dog while dad tried to find a way to get him out, in your dog’s mind he was trapped.

      Trust me, your dog does not think you set a trap for him with the door incident. Whenever you approach an injured dog or one that is otherwise in some kind of pain or distress always always always muzzle the dog. Even as much as I trust my own dogs to not bite me, if they are in pain they could lash out. It’s just a protective measure that people should take when dealing with a dog in this kind of situation. If you don’t have a muzzle you can make an emergency muzzle like the one in this video or here’s a brief written tutorial.

      Your parents should not be allowing the growling behavior he’s displaying towards other family members but is sounds like instead when it started no one stepped in to curb that behavior and now your dog has learned this is how he gets what he wants. You said you’ve been bitten four times and your parents haven’t done anything about this other than to threaten him with a slipper that’s not going to be used to reprimand the dog. I’m not promoting hitting a dog with anything even a slipper. One should not hit their dog with anything, inflicting pain, attempting to or making the move to whether it’s real or not is never a good idea. Your parents need to come up with a humane method and follow through with it, empty threats do no good whatsoever.

      Unfortunately, your totally understandable fear is at least part of the reason you’re having difficulties making a good relationship with your boy. Being bitten is a tough one to get over, particularly because you’ve been bitten multiple times. It’s not your fault to want to be with your dog and it’s wonderful that you still want to try to have a good relationship with your dog. Unfortunately, your dog senses your fear.

      If your parents are not going to step in and take action to curb your dog’s unacceptable behaviors then my suggestion to you to keep yourself safe is to sadly accept that you just don’t happen to be your dog’s favorite person. Think of it this way, you don’t like everyone in your school classes, it’s just the way it is we like some we don’t like others. It works the same way with dogs.

      As always before proceeding with any behavior altering techniques of any kind, get mom and dad to take your dog to the vet for a thorough exam including they thyroid testing I have mentioned in probably a bazillion places on our website. I would also urge you to read my dog bite article and all the questions and answers. You may find some additional help there.

      Good luck to you!

  7. Miranda says:

    I have a 2 yr old intact female lab/rot mix. She has recently over the last month started showing her teeth and low growling when certain people pet her (one is my nine yr old son). I have a 8 month old that just recently started crawling. It started where she would hit you in your calf when you would walk in front of her. Then the growling started with my son and aunt now the circle has extended. At time after she growls and shows her teeth she jumps on or lays her head in their lap wanting to be petted. If they try to avoid them she will follow them around say for instanceif my son is in the floor playing video games she we display the behavior then walk around the house return to his side and lay down right beside him. She is well trained listens to only me but shows submissive behavior towards me like ears laid back and tail low. I don’t know what to do I love her and would hate to have to get rid of her but I cant allow the behavior to continue and her bite or worse attack anyone especially one of my 4 children… Any odea why this would start out of the blue???

    • Mom says:

      Hi Miranda,

      Behaviors that seem to start “out of the blue” many times really aren’t so blue. It’s just that people tend to not see earlier signs so when something happens that seems sudden they’re shocked and jump to get rid of the dog, which by the way is a phrase that I seriously hate. It’s very easy to miss the subtle signs a dog displays until the behavior seems so crazy that they can’t ignore it. Many times this shocking new behavior isn’t new … it’s just escalated.

      Have you taken your gal to the vet for a complete physical including thyroid levels? Hypothyroidism (among other medical issues) can cause aggression. Is there a valid reason your dog is still not spayed? Unless you’re a responsible professional breeder there is no reason for her to be intact and keeping her intact puts her at a huge risk for mammary cancer. I’m not sure I believe the old “fix a male dog to remove aggression” theory, fixing Riley made no difference but some people swear by it. I’ve not heard the same about female dogs but that doesn’t mean the possibility doesn’t exist.

      Have you researched what both the lab and the rottie breed’s behavioral characteristics and potential health issues might be? You have to research both breeds because she’s a mix so everything she’s made of comes from both breeds, you can’t choose one over the other for any reason. Some people make the mistake thinking that since their dog looks mostly one breed that’s what they concentrate on when researching. It doesn’t work that way. Once you learn more about what both breed’s issues can be you can move forward from there going in directions that follow what your own specific dog is doing nor not doing.

      You didn’t mention where you yourself are positioned when these incidents have happened. Is the dog getting between you and your child or other person acting like she’s protecting you from the other person? This could be resource guarding behavior. You didn’t mention what you do to correct the growling when it happens.

      Another something to consider is that from what you’ve described there seems to be a bit of “play with me” behavior being displayed. Think hard now, was your pup allowed to growl at anyone and then this person jumped into play with the dog? Could she have learned that by growling she gets someone to play with her? Were people allowed to have little growly sessions with your girl as in playing with one another by echoing growly sounds back and forth? Think hard about what your girl was allowed to do as she was growing up and could what she’s doing now be a learned behavior?

      Hope this helps!

  8. Casey says:

    You are teaching with people complete foolishness and weak dog rearing. If your dog growled at you when you need them, you take his food away. All dogs should’ve been taught from young that that is not acceptable. If he wasn’t, nows the time! I have a working dog. A mini Aussie. He’s in perfectly good health; just a spoiled brat. On occasion, he’ll get his moods where he’ll decide to legit growl at me if I ask him to do something, to work for treats, or he doesn’t get his way. I tell him ‘QUIET!’ With bass in my voice if there’s legitimately no reason for it, and guess what? He usually does. Because he knows I am the boss, and honestly his life is perfect but it could become a living hell.
    I’m not all for violence, but once I tell my dog quiet if he makes the informed decision to keep acting primitive, I do the same. Grabbing your dog by the scruff of the neck and maintaining eye contact will make him do what talking will not. You don’t have to be a savage or a bully, but in the wild they are physical. They snap, and nip in basic communication, muchless when they’re upset. He needs to know that you are the boss but that he is always safe and he will reconsider his silly actions. Dogs can sense what is fair and what is not. It’s been proven.
    Letting your dog walk all over you, and knowing that there are no repercussions will never solve the problem. You don’t walk on eggshells to avoid confrontation or they’ll sense it. They’re not stupid. You work with them to avoid confrontation, and not run from them.. It’s your job to teach them; not to enable them. It might not make it worse, but it won’t solve the problem. Maintaining a bad attitude is no better than letting it get worse.

    • Mom says:

      Hello Casey,

      I don’t agree with your methods. Most dogs don’t growl when you feed them. You may not know what it is but the dog has a reason for protecting their food and to the dog their reason is rock solid. I’m not saying the growling doesn’t need to be corrected because it does, but removing a bowl of food from a food aggressive dog is likely to get you chomped severely.

      How might you suggest that someone with a large dog pick them up by the scruff of the neck and maintain eye contact? Not only is this physically impossible with larger dogs but it can be very dangerous to look some dogs directly in the eye especially a dog that’s agitated or otherwise excited and particularly one who takes direct eye contact as a confrontation (bring it on baby!) especially while confining them which is what you’d be doing. By holding them you take away their power to protect themselves and that will scare even the biggest baddest dog. Remember, with dogs it’s flight or fight. Holding a dog captive is no different than cornering them. They can’t run because they’re being held. So fear sets in, flight or fight follows and the number one reason a dog bites is fear.

      Think of what might happen if one’s child learned your technique and then attempted to do the same thing with the dog (and they will!)? I sure don’t like the visual I’m getting from this picture. Should this backfire and the child gets bitten, everyone’s going to blame the (probably soon to be dead!) dog when in fact the blame belongs squarely on the person the child learned this technique from.

      Our visitors come here looking for ways to help them change negative behaviors to positive ones. There is no way I would consider correcting my dogs in such a way that make them afraid of me nor would I suggest this to anyone else. I don’t want my dogs to be afraid of me and I sure don’t want them to feel powerless because this beats up their self-confidence. A dog with low self-esteem is more likely to bite than a confident dog. I don’t believe you instill the feeling of safety in a dog by putting your hands on them to correct them.

      Nobody here is saying there should be no consequences for unacceptable behavior. Where you got the idea that we or anyone here was promoting letting dogs walk all over us I don’t know. People need consequences and so do dogs, it’s one of the ways we and they learn but physical correction is not what we believe in here. You don’t have to get physical in order to provide consequences, there isn’t much to be gained by this except to put fear into a dog. If I were constantly looking over my shoulder because I was afraid my husband was going to physically correct me for something, how does that make me feel safe? It doesn’t, it makes me afraid to do things and trashes my self-confidence all to pieces. In my opinion, the same holds true for a child or a dog.

      I think children learn more and better if you give them reasons why or why not they can or can’t do something. Dogs can’t comprehend quite that much humanization. However, both can understand alternatives and when given I think they learn better. Unless they’re in danger, rather than grab a dog and dangle them in the air to say “NO!” my option is to redirect them and to me that means to give them alternatives like “don’t do it that way, do it this way.”

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BLOG RESPONSE BACKLOG = 27 waiting for replies | 11 responses posted on 03/22/2015 | current response backlog date Feb 28 MORE INFORMATION