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Canine Behavior/dog moaning and groaning

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QUESTION: Our 8 year old male black lab mix ("Jack") often moans and groans when he's in the house laying on his bed.  He's in good health, and he seems happy and he is well-cared for.  He is neutered and has regular vet check ups, shots, etc.  He doesn't appear to be in any pain.  But lately he's been moaning and groaning more often.  It sounds like he's grumpy or complaining, or something. But I don't think he is.  What do you suspect this behavior might mean?

ANSWER: Thank you for your question. I need more information before I can venture a guess as to why Jack is moaning and groaning.

You said he's doing this when he lays on his bed. Is it as he's laying down? As he's getting up? While he's sleeping? Is he just laying there, watching you and groaning? Is he playing with a toy, or chewing on a chew toy? What's going on in the room when he's groaning? Are you (or someone else) engaging with him? Are the people in the room focused on each other or watching TV or eating or some other activity that excludes him? Is there another animal in the house, and if so, is that animal trying to engage him during these episodes?

How is his appetite? How is his potty - both pee and poop? How is his overall energy? Is he playing the same amount as he always has? Is he sleeping more? Does he ever seem confused or disoriented?

How often does this groaning occur? Is it many times per day, at a particular time of day, with a particular person (or other animal) either present or not present? Does it happen with a particular activity?

Has he always moaned/groaned and now it's just becoming more frequent? Or louder? Or lasting longer? When did you first notice the change in this groaning behavior?

If you could get it on video, you can upload it to YouTube and keep it private (not viewable to the public). Then you can followup to this response, keeping it private, and share the link to the video so I can see the behavior as that would be very helpful in assessing what's happening (along with answers to all my questions here).

I look forward to your prompt reply so that we can try to determine what's going on with Jack.

Jody, APDT
Los Angeles Behaviorist
http://GoodDog-DogTraining.com




---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Jack seems to be complety healthy. No issues pee or poop. Energy level is normal/high. He moans and groans when he is laying on his bed in the house relaxing, right before falling asleep. We are not engaging with him when this happens. Usually we are just watching TV or talking to each other, and Jack is just relaxing on his bed. We have trained him not to get off his bed when he's in the house. When he wants to go outside he'll stand up on his bed and face the door. So I know he's not trying to say that he wants to go out.  He does it maybe 4 or 5 times per hour. He seems to do it less when there's only one person in the room with him. So maybe he's trying to say that he wants to be included. I'm not sure, but he sound grouchy or annoyed when he does this. Almost like he's protesting. But it might just seem this way to me because I'm associating it with the human groaning action. He's never playing with his toys or doing anything we he does this. It only happens when he's awake, but calm and relaxed. Maybe he's saying "quiet down or turn the TV down so I can sleep!".  We're not really concerned. We're just curious because we've never had another dog do this.

Answer
Without seeing it, I can't be certain. But from your description it sounds similar to something both of my dogs do. I generally associate it with the heavy sighing that humans do when they're very relaxed and/or dozing off. If his body is relaxed, ears soft, head down on the bed in what we might call a "sleeping" position, and he's in perfect health otherwise, then I'd expect it's just a sign of uber relaxation. My older dog (5 years old) does it noticeably more now than he did as a puppy (not daily like your dog, but probably at least once or twice per month I hear him sighing as he's relaxing near me - this very morning as I sit here at the computer, in fact!)If he's laying there, but sitting up watching you and doing it, then it's more likely an active communication that you may wish to address.

I'm curious as to why he's not allowed off his bed when he's inside - no cuddle time, no relaxing on the floor at your feet, no deciding to go lay in another room, on a cool hard floor when it's hot out, etc. Obviously, it's your choice and I'm sure there was a specific reason for making that decision. I've just never come across such a restricted-movement training (never allowed off the bed when inside. Usually, owners have a "go lay down" or a "down/stay" when they need to the dog to be out of the way for, say, meal time. But outside of that, the dogs are free to move around at least a portion of the house. So I'm curious as to the thought process behind that decision. Maybe the sighing is from increased boredom being restricted to the bed. Does he have activities to engage with while laying there? Marrow bones, food stuffed Kongs, Bully Sticks, etc?

In the end, if his health is otherwise sound and his energy is good, and there's no evidence of arthritis or other joint/muscle/nerve injury or deterioration, and no evidence of respiratory or heart conditions, I'd chalk it up to just heavy sighing which does seem to increase with age (just as it does with humans).

But, I should point out that I AM NOT A VET . If this were my dog, even if I wasn't super concerned about it today, I'd mention it to the vet, just so they can make a note of it in his chart and maybe get a baseline for the behavior/symptom in case it changes in any way other than stopping. Sighing, wheezing, coughing, raspiness of breath can be signs of respiratory or heart conditions and as our dogs age, they can have sudden changes in their health. So better to be safe than sorry...

I hope this helps - it's probably just sighing, but I'd run it past the vet to be safe. If I can be of any further assistance, please feel free to followup (or just to explain your thought process behind his restricted movement while inside).

Jody, APDT
Los Angeles Behaviorist
http://GoodDog-DogTraining.com

Canine Behavior

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Jody Epstein, CPDT- KA, APDT

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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 5 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. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at http://CashewsCorner.wordpress.com/ 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.

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I have been professionally modifying behavior and training obedience for 7 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I have just changed the name of my business. It is no longer Good Dog! Dog Training. The new name is Nutz About Mutz!. If you see previous questions with the Good Dog! website information, that is my response.

Organizations
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

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http://NutzAboutMutz.com ; http://CashewsCorner.wordpress.com ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

Education/Credentials
I have a graduate education in animal behavior and learning. (While I completed my coursework and did the requisite research, I did not defend a dissertation. I am qualified, but not certified and so technically not a doctor. This is commonly referred to as Ph.D.-ABD which means All But Dissertation.) My educational focus was with non-human primates, but my personal interest is with domestic dogs and their relationships with humans and other animals. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences.

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