Dog Growls and Barks at Strangers When At Home

by Christopher
(Lafayette, LA)

From Christopher... My dog, Scout, is a Lab and Wirehaired Griffon mix and until recently is a very friendly and sweet dog.

Recently I moved from a house with 4 roommates. 2 dogs and their owners (boyfriend and girlfriend). Over the past few years I have moved about 5 times with my most recent house and one a few years back containing dogs.

She is usually a social dog, she tends to play-fight sometimes but it never gets rough. The only time i have seen her really aggressive is over issues on food.

One of the last dogs she spent time with got a lot more attention than the other ones and this is the only one that would ever try to eat her food or vice versa.. leading to 2 fights that were broken up instantly.

When at the house she was always with the other dogs or one of the roommates so she was never alone. She sleeps inside and spends most of her day inside unless she is exercising.

The main issue now is that any time someone new comes she stands by me or my mom and will growl at almost anyone. It seems to be men more than women but not always men.

I have noticed that when my mom's husband is around she seems scared of him. She growls at first but if she can she will move away from his as soon as he approaches.

My mom also tells me whenever I leave the house for a run or am gone for a while she will sit by the window waiting or will whine and pant like she is sad.

She barks whenever someone knocks, including me, but I think that may be due to a previous roommates dog doing the exact same thing. She has never snapped or bitten anyone but her growling has increased as of lately.

I take her backpacking with me on occasion and she will growl at just about any animal that approaches the campsite. When she is not at the campsite or the house she has never growled at anyone as far as I know, so I guess you can say she is territorial.

She also is always underfoot and seems to try to lead me everywhere even as much as I try the opposite. She also gets very jealous if I'm petting another dog and will force her way in between.

She also sometimes places her mouth near your hand in order to get attention.

I never thought these things were an issue as she has always been a cuddly dog, but now that she is growling more frequently and having issues warming up to people who obviously show no threat.

I am worried. I am more than willing to do whatever it takes to alleviate these issues - I just need some type of guidance. I realize I will probably need professional help if this persists but I would like to know a few things to watch out for that I can try and do on my own.

Thank you

Shannon Says...

Thanks for your questions, and I'm sorry for taking so long to get back to you. You're right, I would get a balanced trainer in your area to work with you on these concerns.

It sounds to me like over-protectiveness of you, as well as some separation anxiety (panting and whining when you leave, always being under foot).

One thing you can do is to start implementing some balanced training methods. One side of the coin is praise (for responding appropriately to a command given, or ignoring a distraction, ect.), and the other side is correction (for ignoring your command, for growling or barking at another dog or person).

Try to keep a leash and collar on your dog as much as possible in the house (when you are home) if many of the problems occur there. When you need to correct, loosen the leash for a split second, pop up fast, firm, and on time, and then loosen the leash again. Praise immediately when she stops growling, etc.

Keep in mind, for any correction or praise to be effective, it needs to happen within 1.5 seconds of the bad or good behavior.

Start with this, and also do begin working with a balanced trainer (not an all-positive trainer) if you have not done so already. Hope this helps!

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