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Canine Behavior/Dog on heat


Hi I have a 2year old husky x collie she is a very loving dog and is great with my 2 kids age 3 and 6. Over the las 2week she has been snapping at the kids and growling. I think she is coming in to heat but I have not had this problem before when she has been in heat but could this be why the sudden  change ao behave and what is the best action

If she is coming into (or in) heat, that can definitely cause her to be short tempered (much like we humans at our time of the month).

Are you absolutely certain that she is not reacting to your children's behavior toward her (pulling, grabbing, lunging, jumping on, laying on, climbing on, invading her space when she's trying to rest, taking toys from her, generally just disrespecting her personal space, etc). Children have a lousy sense of personal space and must be told repeatedly (daily, and sometimes more than once per day) how to behave so that they are respecting the dog's body and space. Children move sporadically, are prone to sudden high pitched, loud voices, running, falling, clambering, etc., all of which can be quite distressing to dogs. Having just gone through the holidays, when there may have been a lot of people over visiting which means more chaos, and possibly excluding her from the family life while a slew of people sit down to enjoy an especially yummy smelling meal (or two), this can increase the dog's stress. Stress is exponential. While the dog may be able to tolerate the stress of the children's activities under normal circumstances, the added stress of the holiday ruckus can lower her threshold and make her quicker to tell the kids to back off.

If she's ALSO coming into heat, then we've added another layer of stress and so it's even more likely that she is short-fused right now.

The most important thing to remember in this is DO NOT SCOLD YOUR DOG FOR GROWLING OR AIR SNAPPING (NO SKIN CONTACT)! Her vocalizations and snapping at the air in the direction of the annoyance is excellent communication. If we punish her for communicating, she will learn that communicating isn't effective and so she'll stop telling you that she's uncomfortable, but that doesn't mean that she IS comfortable. Punishing the growl out of a dog pretty much guarantees that at some point there will be an "out of the blue" bite incident because she learned to not bother warning you ahead of time.

Instead, I would suggest that for the next 2 weeks, you supervise heavily and give the dog some breathing room. If she has a bed, crate or room where she likes to rest or chew on her toys, then this must be her safe place. The children are not allowed withing 4 feet of that safe place. If it's a whole room, then the children are not allowed in that room when she's in there. Period. This gives the dog the ability to take a time out and go rest (get away from the kids) if she's feeling bothered by them. When the kids are in the same room with her, they should play gently and respect her space, no lounging on her or taking toys out of her mouth or away from her if they're at her feet. No running past her or shouting (even with glee) in her direction, etc. If she does growl, move the kids away and REASSURE THE DOG that everything is OK and that you won't let anything happen to her.

Signs that your dog is feeling stressed usually present long before the growl... They include:

* Licking her lips (often repeatedly)

* Yawning when she shouldn't be tired (often repeatedly)

* Blinking her eyes excessively

* Ears pulled back to her head

* Averting her gaze (just her eyes)

* Turning her head to profile

* Turning her head so she's looking the other direction

* Uro-genital checks (whipping her head around to sniff her hind quarter, or specifically her genitals

* Turning her back

* Sitting down and looking away (this may be with head parallel to the ground or she may lift her head toward the ceiling, exposing her neck as she looks away)

* Sitting or laying with her back toward you.

* Stretching (downward dog) when she hasn't just woken from a nap or getting up after laying down for a lengthy period

* Body tense/stiff

* Tail low - it may be still or it may be wagging nervously. If wagging, it's probably just the half of the tail furthest from her body and the base of the tail (where it connects to her body) is still, or it may be tucked between her legs

* Worry lines on her forehead

* Worry lines over her eyebrows

* Worry lines at the corners of her mouth - her facial muscles will look tense/flexed

* Paw Raise - she may raise one of her front paws off the ground slightly and stand/sit like that for a moment (I generally translate paw raise as a "please" It could be "please may I", "please let's", or "please don't".

These behaviors may not all happen, but they don't happen alone, so if you see one of these behaviors, you'll likely find several others if you look for them. These are all appeasement signals designed to defuse tension and avoid conflict. If you see your dog doing any of these things, it's time to move the kids away for a break. She's telling you she's uncomfortable and if the environment doesn't change soon, she will need to give a distance-increasing signal (growling, or air snapping if the growl is unsuccessful). So, watch her for the early signs and then you can avoid the escalation of communication by helping her feel you've "got her back" and will help her feel safe and secure - that she doesn't need to escalate because you'll intervene early on.

I strongly encourage you to read the book On Talking Terms With Dogs - Calming Signals (available on Kindle if that's easier). It will walk you through all the signals I mentioned as well as several others that you can watch for. When we learn how to read our dog's communication it opens up a whole new level to that relationship. Our dogs feel understood because we finally understand. We can adjust their environment when they tell us with early signs that they're not comfortable and it can help us communicate better with our dogs.

I hope this proves helpful. Please feel free to followup if I can be of further assistance.

Jody, APDT
Los Angeles Behaviorist

Canine Behavior

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Jody Epstein, MS, CPDT-KA


IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 8 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members and many other issues. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.


I have been a professional obedience trainer for 9 years, and specializing in behavior modification for 8 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I own my own dog training and behavior modification business called Nutz About Mutz.

I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications ; ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

I have a masters degree (MS) in Animals and Public Policy, with a minor in Animal Behavior, from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. I also have 3 years of graduate education in Animal Behavior and Learning from UM-Missoula and UL-Lafayette. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences, workshops and seminars. Beginning in March, 2017, I will be the Behavior & Training Manager at Second Chance Center for Animals in Flagstaff, AZ.

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