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Canine Behavior/pomeranian growling


Hello Anne,

My family rescued a 3-4 year old pomeranian last June. He's very sweet and affectionate- constantly wants to be held and cuddled. For the past few months he sometimes growls in a very low- almost inaudible voice when certain people get too near his face while holding him (with his favorite person- my mom- he never growls). I'm assuming this is a warning to stop, which we do. But I can't help but wonder if he's starting the whole "small dog syndrome" where he thinks hes in charge of everybody or if it really is making him nervous when people get near his face. I mean, he loves putting his face near ours when its on his terms- so I just don't know if we should back off or maybe try to work with him on it and let him know who's boss. He also will growl sometimes when hes sleeping and we need to move him off the couch or change his position- maybe this is a seperate issue- I personally don't think it should be tolerated. Sometimes he just cant be on the couch, you know? So growling when you get near his face, and growling when you need to move him while hes sleeping- What do you think it means? Are they 2 different issues? And how should we approach them? Thanks for your help! :)

I doubt if he thinks he's in charge of anything except his own body.  And, I'm not altogether sure he loves being held and cuddled - many dogs don't.  To see, when you hug him, watch to see if he turns his head away, or closes his mouth.  If his mouth is open, with ears and eyes relaxed, that's a better sign.
He appears to have a body handling or approach issue.  That's easily fixed with classical counter-conditioning, and you should find a good positive or clicker trainer to help you do it.  Unfortunately, while it's good that you backed off and didn't force him to back up his growl with a bite, he DID learn that using his growling works to make you go away.  He's just telling you, the only way he knows how, that "I'd rather not (get up, be moved, have you in my face, etc.)"  You should NOT do anything to "let him know who's boss" - confrontational training may work in the short term, but creates a ticking time bomb.  Read the position statements on dominance and punishment at the AVSAB website for some insight on that.  Here's a video that shows counter-conditioning in action:

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Anne Springer, B.S., Dip., CAPCT


I am happy to answer questions about: dog behavior and training, therapy dogs, training disabled dogs, training recently rescued dogs, and managing off leash play groups.


Professionally involved in teaching private and group lessons, and doing behavior consultations. American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, Therapy Dogs, Inc. Tester/Observer. Special interest in pet/elder issues, and in therapy dogs.

Truly Dog Friendly Association of Pet Dog Trainers International Positive Dog Training Association Therapy Dogs, Inc.

Gloucester Times Cape Ann Beacon Ipswich Chronicle Beverly Citizen Salem News

Bachelor's Degree in Psychology, Cum Laude. Diploma in Dog Obedience Instruction, Graduate of NY School of Dog Grooming, Certified Advanced Pet Care Technician - American Boarding Kennels Assn., Certified Pet First Aid & CPR, American Red Cross

Awards and Honors
2002 Caregiver Award from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, for Pawsitive Connections Program (pet/elder issues)

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