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Canine Behavior/Small dog growling


We moved in a apartment complex a few months ago and since then my dog is showing people aggression. The little boy that always pets my dog just came out to pet him and my dog started to growl and then tried to go after him. What's going on with my dog? He will be two next month. I don't want people to be scared and this to cause a problem for us.

In order for me to understand the situation, please answer these questions (cut and paste) in followup feature:

1.  Is your dog neutered
2.  What breed or dog hybrid (to the best of your ability) is this dog
3.  What kind of socialization did you do with this dog, if you got him as a puppy
4.  If you got him as an adult (rescue), what information was given you?
5.  What sort of environment were you in before moving into this apartment complex?
6.  Has your dog ever SEEN or been involved with children before: especially, unsupervised
7.  What do YOU DO when your dog exhibits this behavior
8.  What sort of training have you done with this dog and how bidable is he?

Until then, do not allow anyone to bend over and touch this dog.  You are seeing a defense reaction based upon fight/flight.  The breed or hybrid suggests the dog is of strong will and more likely to go forward in defense (out of fear) than back away or simply freeze and shake.

For the short term: purchase a basket muzzle (NOT a velcro muzzle which forces the dog to remain closed, very bad).  The dog will not be able to harm anyone although he may still respond, this will alleviate your anxiety; his wearing the muzzle will comfort anyone who is concerned by his growling or lunging forward.  Advise ALL PEOPLE to totally IGNORE this dog if he growls or lunges forward: no eye contact, NO BACKING AWAY, simple and short "conversation" with you (if possible, until the dog visibly calms, whereupon person can walk away).  When a dog growls, it is a warning.  When that warning is not heeded, the dog learns to come forward (in some cases, dependent upon temperament and type) to "snap"; each time a person backs away from him, he learns more about how to control "strangers" and unwanted approach.  We must avoid that at all cost.

Remember: this dog is the product of your training, your socialization of him, or those of whomever owned him before you (if you acquired him after 14 weeks of age).  None of this is his fault nor does it indicate a flaw in temperament.  Can it be fixed?  To some extent, at least in a text box.  Should the dog "connect", you will be sued, the dog will be seized and put to death.  Not acceptable, as I'm sure you would agree.  My motto:  PROTECT THE DOG.  My dog(s) is not an entertainment for the neighborhood.  Presently, I have only one (living circumstances force that but I've had as many as eight at a time).  I rarely encourage or allow young children to interact with my dog although she is heavily socialized, well trained, and has never exhibited one scintilla of fear or aggression.  It is for HER protection.  If a child appears to be calm, and is of an age that is able to understand the need for restraint and affection, I may allow it, but rarely.  This is my dog, my companion.  For the past 30 years my motto has always been (even when raising my child) these/this is my companion dog, not yours.  If you'd like to pet a dog, volunteer at the SPCA.  :o/

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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