Growling Warning Ignored. Springer Spaniel Bit Man’s Face
Jonny is a gorgeous, friendly dog – looking and behaving a lot younger than his supposed ten years. The elderly couple who had him previously could no longer keep him.
He has a lovely home now with activity and enrichment.
His two problems are around guarding, growling warning and chasing shadows – or just charging about chasing nothing.
Excitement and arousal
Excitement or stress cause Jonny’s obsessive chasing behaviours. When he’s too excited he has to find ways to release. In addition to chasing shadows, real or imaginary, he has recently developed a compulsive licking of his feet.
When I was there, I channelled his need of shadow chasing and foot licking onto a Yak chew. He chewed away on this in a determined manner.
They have had him thoroughly checked by the vet and he is a very healthy dog.
I strongly suspect the shadow chasing is the result of hours of boredom as a younger dog. It’s something he now defaults to when aroused in some way and it gets worse as the day wears on. This bears out my theory that it’s caused by arousal. After a peaceful night, as the day progresses things stack up. The excitement of my arrival will have sent him over. He began a bout of almost frantic shadow-chasing. He charged about the house chasing something that didn’t exist therefor could never catch. Frustrating.
They will now find alternative things to deflect him onto, things that engage his brain, his mouth or his nose.
In an aroused state, Jonny will also be much more likely display guarding behaviour including growling warning. He guards resources like chews. He guards his own personal space when he’s in bed or lying down. This also increases as the day wears on.
In the evening, after the lady takes him for his last trip outside, they had a routine. Jonny goes to his bed which is just inside the back door. She has to walk past him. Jonny would be growling warning.
She then sat on the floor a short distance from him and talked quietly to the growling dog. She continued until eventually he rolled onto his back. Then she tickled his tummy.
This is very risky. A dog lying on his back is not necessarily asking for a belly rub, it depends upon context. It is very likely the complete opposite – that he’s asking to be left alone.
A bite in the face
A couple of weeks ago, Jonny bit the gentleman in the face and ear. Stitches were needed.
The man was just doing something he had often done with their previous dog. Jonny was lying at the top of the stairs. The gentleman knelt on the stairs, face to face with the dog.
Jonny continued growling warning.
Instead of heading the warning, the gentleman carried on.
Jonny doesn’t like his space invaded when he’s resting. As the day wears on becomes increasingly less tolerant.
It is what it is.
Changing their own behaviour
They will now change their own behaviour accordingly and simply leave him strictly alone when he’s in bed. They will move his bed away from any thoroughfare. If they have to walk past, they should keep moving.
When he’s lying down they will no longer go over to him. If they want him, they will call him to them instead and then make it worth his while.
It is important to welcome growling warning and to heed it. Undoubtedly, as I saw for myself and you can see from the photo where he froze, he gives other warnings first. They ignore these or don’t recognise them. Next it’s growling. In dog language he is making himself very clear.
If growling warning doesn’t work – what next?
Pennies from heaven!
Paddy now will start to see them as ‘givers’ and not potential ‘takers’. He will learn to welcome their approach when he’s lying in bed, confident that he won’t be touched and only good things will happen.
The couple will have tubs of food around the place or in their pockets. Whenever they do need to walk past him, either when he’s in his bed or when he is chewing or ‘possessing’ something, they will drop food to him. Over time, instead of stiffening, going still and preparing to guard the possession or his bed, he will relax knowing he will be left alone.
It’s pointless guarding something nobody wants.
He will learn that he’s likely to receive ‘pennies from heaven’ when they come near!
The Yak chew I gave Jonny kept him busy and from shadow chasing all the rest of the time I was there. From time to time I dropped or rolled him tiny treats. Initially he froze when he thought I might go too close but soon he became trusting.
We could see by his body language that he was relaxing despite the Yak bar being of great value to him. Eventually he came to chew it in front of me, lying by my feet.
This is what being seen as a ‘giver’ by the dog looks like.
Jonny is Jonny
At all other times Jonny is extremely affectionate. Now that they can read his signals, the couple will accept Jonny as Jonny. Left alone when resting and only seeing them as ‘givers’, he will no longer need to go into growling guarding mode with them
Their work on guarding which is stressful for Jonny, along with redirecting excitement, should also help with the shadow chasing behaviour too.