This was the first online consultation I have done with a family from their car and it worked well! The three youngsters in the back, ages 10, 13 and 15, were able to take part.
The reason for the session was that they want Pedro to stop growling at the kids. He has on a couple of occasions snapped.
He growls at the kids when he’s lying down
Each time he growls at the kids is when they go over to where the three-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer happens to be lying. This may be anywhere – in his bed, somewhere on the floor or on the sofa.
They won’t have recognised the more subtle signs saying he wants to be left alone – the looking away, maybe lip-licking or yawning. If he could speak, he might have been politely saying, ‘I don’t feel comfortable, please back off’.
So very likely he will no longer be relying on these visible signs.
So he tries an audible warning – a growl. That usually works.
If growling doesn’t do the trick, what has he left? A snap. Then they will back off. The danger here is that Pedro will increasingly realise that snapping is what works.
Let sleeping dogs lie
They have all been told ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ and I hope that hearing it from me as well will have pushed the message home.
At all other times he is the perfect family pet.
At night he may jump up on the 15-year-old’s bed. I worry that one night the boy will kick him by mistake in his sleep causing the dog to react automatically, so suggest the door is kept shut.
I also suggest they put a gate in the kitchen doorway so when the kids bring friends home, Pedro can go into the kitchen with something to chew. At present they avoid having friends back, just in case. Their friends, too, need training.
Imposing touching on him
Basically what is happening when Pedro growls at the kids (and dad sometimes!) is they are imposing touching on him. If they get him to participate things would be different.
For instance, if he’s lying on the sofa and they feel like petting him. to sit away from him and invite him over. Even just a step in their direction would say he’s okay with it.
Then, when they are touching him, watch for his body language. They can ask him the question, ‘do you like me to do this just now?’ by stopping for a moment. He will tell them by either looking away, leaning towards them or staying still.
A different language
What the family are trying to say and what Pedro is thinking will be at odds.
Dad likes say goodbye to Pedro by going over to his bed and touching him. Dad thinks he’s displaying affection, Pedro probably thinks, ‘Oh not now, not again’! He growls.
The whole family will now leave Pedro alone when he’s lying down. If they do so, there will be no more growls at the kids.
In time he should then become less touchy and more tolerant when someone occasionally makes a mistake. He will no longer be expecting to be touched when one of the kids walks in his direction where he’s resting; he will be able to relax.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ and is always written with permission of the client. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help