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Dog snapping -- Am I doing the right thing?

August 15th, 2005, 05:40 PM
My adorable golden retriever pup, Abby (she's almost 5 months old) has been getting very sassy with me. Most of the time if I give her a command, she does it, but sometimes, especially if I give her a stern "No" or try to correct her for bad behavior, she'll snap, growl, bark, or even try to jump up on me. The snapping really freaks me out -- she hasn't bitten me (yet), but she'll snap her jaws shut in this menacing way and run away. How can I be kind but still let her know in no uncertain terms that this behavior is unacceptable? How can I get her to realize that she has to behave, and trying to intimidate me isn't going to work?

She's very smart and knows a variety of commands very well. She just graduated from puppy school (she did very well, was one of the best dogs in the class) and I approached the trainer about it several times. She didn't appear too concerned, said she's just challenging me and I need to be firm with her, but I'm freaked out. I grew up in a home with a very aggressive dog, and I am not willing to let this behavior go until it gets out of control. I love my pup and I want her to grow up to be a good companion -- I can't have a biting dog. The trainer just said to put her in a down and, if necessary, use my body to hold the dog down (an alpha roll, I guess). Sometimes I'll go to put her in a down, and she does it, and that's that. Other times, she'll sit there and growl menacingly but eventually will lie down. Holding her down calms her right down, but it doesn't seem to act as a deterrent to the behavior. She'll just do it again later. Plus, I'm worried this will make the dog fearful or hand-shy and want to run away (or worse, bite) if I approach her.

Some more details: she'll get snappy if I tell her no (as in, "No, no chewing the rug"), or if I give her a command and she's not on leash (if she's on the leash, she usually behaves). For example, last night she was getting into mischief while my boyfriend and I were eating dinner, so I told her "No, sit." Her response: "Bark, bark, growl." The past couple days, I've been trying to keep her on leash most of the time so I have better control over her, but she HATES the leash/training collar. She chews and bites at the leash and the only way to get her to stop is to hold her down until she calms down. I've been trying to do fun activities with her while she's on the leash so she has positive associations with it, but so far, no luck. She still bites/growls at the leash, and sometimes I have a hard time getting her to let me put her collar on her (she'll keep opening her mouth, not actually biting me, but just keeping her mouth really wide so I can't fit the collar over it -- the crafty mutt!).

Also, lately she's been resisting me when I tell her to go into her cage (I only crate her if I'm at work or can't watch her). She'll lie down and stare at me when I say, "cage," even though she knows what it means. I refuse to reward her (she gets a treat for going in) for disobeying, so a couple times I just picked her up, set her in the cage and withheld the treat. So the next few times she went into the cage very nicely (and got her treat after going in and lying down), but later she refused again. I turned my back on her as if to say, "If you don't behave, I won't treat/pay attention to you," and in she went. How do I make her realize the cage is not a bad thing, and that it's her safe little "nest"? I'm afraid she might choke if I give her toys while I'm not supervising her. Are there any other ways I can make the cage appealing to her?

In other ways, she's very good. No food guarding (I put my hand in the bowl and pet her while she eats), lets me touch her anywhere, take away her toys, take things out of her mouth, very good on the leash (heels, sits as soon as I stop walking, etc), friendly to kids (she LOVES kids and prefers them to adults), affectionate (when she's not acting like the devil). She's even good when I brush her, brush her teeth and clean her ears. Lately, I've had to give her hot compresses b/c she got a "boo boo" on her tummy, and she actually rolls over to let me put it on her belly and waits patiently while I hold it on her for five minutes at a stretch. She lets me wipe her paws when she comes in from the rain, and I think she has the potential to be a very good dog.

I love this dogs to pieces, but I'm not willing to let her behave this way. Am I correcting the behavior in the right way, or am I making the problem worse? How can I get this to stop without bullying the dog?

Sorry this is so long, I just wanted to give everyone a clear understanding of what's going on.

August 15th, 2005, 05:45 PM
Great detailed post! Welcome to the Board. I think you are doing just great with her. She's now at the "terrible two's" stage for lack of a better term. Persevere with her. She is testing everything and trying to figure out how to get the upperhand. As long as you win the battle so to speak, she will adjust into a lovely adult dog.

There are some trainers on the board who are very good at what they do. I'm sure they will have a gander at your thread and have some feedback for you as well.

Lucky Rescue
August 15th, 2005, 05:58 PM
She's now at the "terrible two's" stage for lack of a better term.

Right.:p You know 2 yr olds - no matter what you ask or say to them, the answer is "NO!!!!"

Just keep being firm, but still kind and fair. Eventually your puppy will learn that she may as well do what is asked of her the first time, since she'll have to it anyway.

Never give a command more than once (unless it's "heel") Say it once, "Sit", give her 3 seconds to comply, then help her sit.

How many hours a day does she spend in a crate?

August 15th, 2005, 06:06 PM
Hi Shannon

I totally know where you're coming from. A few people suggested the down-stay for my problem (also posted in this section) and I'm going to give it a whirl. Aside from the difference in size, sounds like our two have the same 'terrible twos' problem but are otherwise happy and sociable creatures (Charley even prefers kids to adults too).

Consistency and patience will see us through... God willing ;)

August 15th, 2005, 06:10 PM
How many hours a day does she spend in a crate?
It depends. I can come home for lunch, so she's caged from about 9 a.m. to noon, out for an hour/hour and a half, then caged until 5ish. On Mondays I sometimes work late, but I come home for a few hours in the afternoon. I try not to leave her in there for more than 4 hours at a stretch. She goes to bed around 10:30 every night, and she wakes up at about 7:30 (I don't see any point in waking her up if she's sleeping peacefully, although she used to get up at 5:30 -- this 7:30 business is new -- is it normal for her to sleep that long?). I take her out in the morning to potty, eat breakfast, feed her, then stay with her until it's time for her to potty again, then I go get ready for work. So I try not to make her cage time too excessive.

I also recently quit my second job (I worked Friday nights and Sundays) so I can spend more time with her.

Thanks for the input, guys. I was really worried. I'm not willing to give up on her, and my boyfriend is really good about reinforcing good behavior, too, so at least I have someone helping me. I was getting discouraged b/c my sister, who has a golden as well, was telling me that HER precious angel NEVER acted like this, and something's wrong with my dog, i.e., she's mean. So this makes me feel a lot better.

August 15th, 2005, 07:36 PM
Don't just accept this aggression as a normal part of growth, He may be a bad apple. Or he may just be a lot of dog. You need to pick your battles you know you can win. Don't give him a command unless you know he will respond. If he is good on the leash keep him on it until he is perfect.

Some things to keep in mind.

First, don't hold the dog down/restrain him with your hands. (alfa roll). You'll make him obey you and nobody else. He'll likely be hand shy, a fear-biter and he'll just re-direct the aggression onto someone else.

IF you need to discipline him, use this negative punishment (taking something away- social interaction) As soon as he disobeys grab the leash and haul him off to the bathroom or some other uninteresting place. Put him in and jam the door on the leash so he is isolated and can only stand or lie down. Leave him for 30 seconds then let him out with no fanfare.. If he complains(whines,barks) don't let him out until you get 10-15 seconds of quiet. Anything more than half a minute will not increase the effectiveness of the isolation punishment, but you can't let him out if he is complaining, then he wins.

Don't use the crate for this, the crate must only be a happy place.

Do not escalate any positive punishment (a correction) due to non-compliance, it will de-sensitize to your commands and punishments the dog and ruin him. If your going to punish the dog you must be harsh enough that he will never do it again.

You may have a dog with potential life long aggression issues or you might have a great dog that takes a very experienced handler to harness the greatness.

August 15th, 2005, 07:39 PM
LOL, don't listen to your sister. We tend to only remember the good stuff. Your pup is going through the normal puppy behavior. A few months ago I had a 6 month old foster (golden). I was told she had issues with nipping and jumping so I was prepared. The first time she tried to nip me I put her in the down position and told her no. I would also yelp. I would sometimes take her mouth in my hand and say "no bite" if she was stilll within reach. Within a day the nipping stopped. You must be consistent and if one thing doesn't work try another.

August 15th, 2005, 08:27 PM
You need to pick your battles you know you can win. Don't give him a command unless you know he will respond. If he is good on the leash keep him on it until he is perfect.

:grouphug: That is some good advice :thumbs up

August 15th, 2005, 08:31 PM
You have been doing lots of things in the right direction, but you need to do more. This youngster needs to gain more respect for you. She is great when she is in the mood to be great, but cranky when she isn't. Sounds a lot like a certain teenager I live with!
You need to be consistent with your boundaries of good and bad behavior. You don't have to be cruel to be effective. Trust me when she respects you more, her love for you will triple. Too often we work on the love part of the relationship and not enough on the respect and trust.
Goldens vary dramatically in their temperaments, and by the stages of their development. This is her sassy stage and you need to address it with clear leadership and boundaries. Once she respects you more she will stop challenging because she will learn it doesn't work and she will calm down. The more you ask of her (and make sure she complies) the more she becomes a follower and you a leader.

August 15th, 2005, 08:54 PM
Do you point and shake your finger at her when telling her no? I would suggest enrolling her back into training especially through adolescence. When did she finish puppy class? It is important to keep up your routines.

The best way to describe adolescence is the time when your puppy appears to know nothing and gets into everything stage.

August 15th, 2005, 09:19 PM
Ugh. I'm confused. I'm getting some people say yes, do the alpha roll, some say don't. Some say it's normal, some say it's not. I'm worried that I'll choose to start using one method of correction, it'll be wrong, and it'll mess her up more. Argh.

Do not escalate any positive punishment (a correction) due to non-compliance
Not sure what you mean by that. Can you explain? And how do I know if she's going throught adolescence or really is a "bad apple"?

Do you point and shake your finger at her when telling her no?
No ... I just say, "No," in a gruff, stern voice. Is that not right?

I apologize for the frustration, I just keep getting different messages from everyone I talk to. What's the best thing to do when she growls? Do I isolate her? Put her in a down? I just really want to do everything I can to make sure she's well adjusted and obedient. It's not just that I've put a lot of time and money into her (thought those things are factors); I love her to death and I want her around for a long time. Some people also say to withold affection until she improves. Is this really a good idea?

August 15th, 2005, 09:45 PM
No let her know you love her. People, especially trainers are quite passionate on the subject. I would not offer any type of physical punishment, including the alpha roll. It would be a better choice give her a firm verbal correction and then set her up to do an acceptable behaviour such as a sit or down and hold for several seconds. Praise this behaviour. If she is doing something that is an attention getting behaviour, such as barking at you, ignore. Turn your back, don't look at her, don't say anything. If she is doing something such as mouthing you for play, leave the room and go out of sight. Any kind of timed correction doesn't need to be any longer than 30 sec. After that they forget what they are in trouble for.
A puppy usually starts adolescence at aprox 5 mon. Any bad habits that show up during this time need to be dealt with as they will become formed behaviours if you do nothing. Just as a teen your puppy is seeing what decisions they are able to make. Everytime your puppy succeeds in getting their way, they are one up on you. It is very important to continue your training and socializing during this time.
Adolescence-behavioural/sexual maturity

Any attention getting behaviour, ignore.
Anything else correct with verbal correction

August 16th, 2005, 06:28 AM
There is more than one way to get where you want to go and you'll have to use your judgement as to which way is best at the moment.

The idea behind putting the dog in a down is to instruct the dog to do something else, when it is doing a down it can't continue to do the negative behaviour it happens to be engaging. This re-direction is a good training tool. But if the dog is resisting you and not obeying you need another tool to get compliance. The isolation works.

Don't escalate......(First, I'm not implying that you do this so don't take this the wrong way. I just wrote it because other people that may also read on the net).

The easiest way to explain this is that if you hit a dog and it growls, hitting it harder won't get compliance. It will make the dog learn to accept the softer hit and make it more aggresive. Or if you give a command and you don't get the response, saying it loudly again and again won't do a damn thing. The dog heard you the first time.

Similar concept with training with a choke chain. When you use it to solve a problem you have to correct once with conviction so the dog gets the message. Not drag and nag the dog around with it using small corrections, the dog will just learn to live with that and will resist.

How do you know? You don't right now. But you deal with it the same way. Just keep in mind you need patience and control. One of you will give up the fight. Make sure it isn't you and you'll have a good dog. I know of an English Pointer pup that was dumped at a pound because the owners gave up on trying to channel the pup. When it was rescued it was a year old and like a wild bronco. This pound rescue went on to be the national pointing dog champion. Nothing wrong with the dog, it was just too much dog for the first owner. From death row to national champ, he's a big happy clown now.

Also, work that dog, make it tired content and sleepy. You'll have a much better relationship with it. The English Pointer was taken out to do field training only as a way to settle him down. Basically it was a type of therapy to make him easier to live with. There was never the thought to compete with him. He was a natural, and the owners basically follwed along as he kept wowing them with his talent.

But don't over do it with the pup,don't have too high expectations as it is still young and growing.

August 17th, 2005, 09:01 AM
Thanks for explaining that -- I wasn't offended, I was just confused (aside: I never hit her to correct her, and I try to make the corrections quick and immediate -- right after she disobeys -- and then move on by getting her to do something else so I can praise her).

I've been working with her, and she's been a lot better the last couple days. I've been keeping her on leash at all times, and after fighting it (she "attacked" the leash, biting it, tugging it, etc) she eventually realized I wasn't going to budge and just accepted it. Now, if she goes to bite the leash, I tell her, "No, drop it," and, to my shock, she does -- without a growl, bark, or snap. A couple of times, when I corrected her ("no, no chewing the chair!"), she even surprised me by coming to me and licking my hand, which is an odd response, but better than growling. She had been bad at mealtimes, so now for two days in a row, I've successfully gotten her to hold a down-stay the entire time we ate. The second dinner, I didn't even have to use the leash/collar for correction when she tried to get up, I just said, "No, down," and, with a little whine, she plopped back down. I haven't been isolating her per se by taking her into another room and shutting the door, but if she is doing attention-getting behavior (barking, etc) I have been saying "no" and either walking out of the room or turning my back on her, and it seems to be working. It also could help that I took her to the park and tired her out last night. I don't know if we'll get to the park again tonight, but she will get a long walk.

I've noticed in the past couple days she's also been calmer -- now, when she sees me go to get her food, instead of prancing around me and trying to jump up, she's been running to her "spot" (where I make her sit before she gets her bowl) and immediately sitting down and waiting for me. The jumping up issue overall has gotten a bit better, even around other people (I took her to my parents house last night and she calmed down really quickly and curled up next to my mom for "pets" and snuggles -- and my mom, who is usually afraid of dogs, thought she was an angel). I think my parents think I'm too militant with her, because yesterday, she didn't sit when I told her, so I gave her collar a tug and she sat, and I also wouldn't let them pet her unless she sat calmly. My dad was like, "Don't harrass the poor dog, she's a good dog," and I'm thinking, "You don't know what a little monster she can be if I don't make her behave!"

She also surprised me yesterday by showing me that she's not a pain/fear biter. Yesterday I was sitting on the couch and she was sitting under my legs (since she's got to sit as close to me as possible for some reason) chewing on a toy, and all of the sudden, she let out this hideous yelp. I moved away from her, unsure what had happened and whether she was hurt or would bite. From what I could tell afterwards, her chew toy had slid under the couch. She must have tried to put her paw underneath to get it, and ended up twisting her paw or getting it caught somehow. But as soon as I moved away from her, she continued yelping, but came running to me holding her paw out. Then she sat down and let me look at it to see if she was ok, milking our sympathy for all it was worth by giving me and my boyfriend big-time puppy dog eyes. After getting a quick inspection and many kisses and pats, she was fine, and within seconds was running around like a wild woman, but she seems as though she really trusts me to help her/not to hurt her, so I think that's good.

Hopefully she'll keep responding this way. I'm going to keep her on leash whenever she's not crated until I can be sure I can get her to obey commands without it. I'm thinking she'll be in "leash boot camp" for at least a couple weeks, but she's a smart pup and I think she's sensing that I'm fed up and she's not going to win if she fights me. I've been reminding my boyfriend not to give her a command more than once (he's one of those "Sit ... sit ... sit!" people) and not to give her a command unless he's sure she'll obey, and he's been doing well with her. Wish us luck!

Sorry this was so long -- again!

August 17th, 2005, 11:49 AM
It's amazing what a show of authority can do! Dogs are very comfortable with clear consistent rules.

Here is an article for you on agression.

August 17th, 2005, 01:59 PM
Thanks -- really interesting!

August 17th, 2005, 02:45 PM
Sounds like you are doing great and on a very clear track for her. Keep it up and you will forget she ever had a bad moment.

August 17th, 2005, 03:24 PM
Is it possible that the 'perceived control' that the leash gives is in itself calming for the dog? I've noticed that mine is much calmer when leashed?

August 17th, 2005, 03:59 PM
For some dogs yes, for others it could be perceived as a challenge for control and just set them off.

August 17th, 2005, 04:30 PM
That would explain alot then. I'm starting to think that mine doesn't want to be top dog but feels he has to in some cases (not that I'm not trying, but my comunication skills with humans have been known to be less than stellar, so I can just imagine what the poor dog thinks I'm up to... Oh my, this is getting more and more complicated.

August 17th, 2005, 04:58 PM
Hey maybe what you lack in communication with people will payoff with dogs. Dogs are very simple creatures in reality. It's all black and white to them. Whose in charge?

August 17th, 2005, 05:52 PM
Is it possible that the 'perceived control' that the leash gives is in itself calming for the dog?
I think it could be, for Abby at least, because just the fact that I put her on the leash seems to let her know, "I mean business and you'd better listen to me." In the past day or so, I haven't had to use the leash much to make a correction -- it's enough if I just hold it in my hand and give her a command most of the time. I think it's partly the leash and partly a change in attitude -- I'm more confident and know I have a means of controlling her, so she sees me as more of a leader and behaves better.

Keep it up and you will forget she ever had a bad moment.
I really hope so. She's been better by leaps and bounds, but I'm going to be very vigilant until I trust her completely and feel like she sees me as "the boss of her" (in a nice, loving way). I'm trying not to expect too much from her, but today she kind of surprised me: either my boyfriend's been teaching her tricks or she can understand English, because earlier today she was lying down, and half as a joke, I said, "roll over" (a command I never taught her) ... and she did. Later, I said it again ... and she did. So I hope he's been teaching her that and forgot to mention it to me, or else my dog is really creepy. :) Funny puppy.

August 20th, 2005, 10:12 AM
It's been almost a week, and Abby has yet to sass, bark, or growl at me. She's responding much better to commands and seems recognize my authority more. I still think I need to work with her, but already I can't believe the change in her. I haven't been giving an inch or letting her get away with anything. She's been such a good puppy this week! Her biggest issue lately is jumping up (on guests, on my boyfriend when he comes home, etc), but we're really working on that. I'm going to invite a friend over later to help me set up jumping situations and correct her. But I am so happy that she seems to have checked her attitude. Only time will tell if she stays on the right track, but I'm optimistic. She's been more affectionate the last couple days too, so I'm a happy puppy mommy.

August 20th, 2005, 05:46 PM
Excellent. Now you have to remember that there is a level of leadership that you are going to have to be clear on for the rest of her life. Many times a dog gets good and the people slack off and then the dog goes down hill again. Relationship is on going for life. You will be able to slack off some after she is great for a longer time, but when she hits her teenage stride she might even forget her own name let alone remember that you are in charge. Typical teens. :p So stay the course and she will go back to a great dog as she matures.

August 21st, 2005, 08:48 AM
I think we're on the right track. We've been really consistent with laying down the law lately (my boyfriend has been a huge help) and I'm going to see to it that she doesn't forget who's boss. She's been such a sweet girl lately -- before she seemed completely food motivated, always looking to see when I was going to give her a treat or a bowl of food. Today, she left her Greenie on the floor to come sit next to me and snuggle. But now she knows that she's not going to get petted or cuddled until she sits nicely -- no jumping!

Last night, we were going out for my birthday, so we asked my boyfriend's brother to come over and take her out and hang out with her for a while. I was nervous that she would backslide and be disobedient with him, but he said she was very good.