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Canine Behavior/Dog growls at other dogs when sleeping


My dog is a 2 year old poodle mix. She is an extremely smart dog and generally behaves well. However, she has one major issue that she developed about a year ago, out of the blue. Whenever she is sleeping on someone's lap (or sometimes on the carpet beside someone), she will sometimes growl if my parents' dog (or pretty much any dog) walks by. Sometimes she even jumps off our laps--a few times she has started fighting my parents' dog but usually it seems like she "snaps out of it" and just sniffs her like nothing was wrong. Is there any way to correct this behavior? We have tried what seems like everything. She doesn't have problems obeying with other behaviors, but this is one she just can't seem to stop.
Thank you!!

Unfortunately, not addressing this problem for one long year (which is half the lifetime of this 2 yo Poodle X) has made of it far more serious than it needs to be.

We will try this for the next month:

1.  Do not allow your Poodle x to sleep on your lap for any reason.
2.  Make your lap a "come up" place by invitation only and enforce this by removing the dog with a calm "off", then inviting her with a calm "come up".  If she jumps up without cue, remove her with "off", then invite her with "come up".  She remains on your lap for SHORT INTERVALS ONLY.
3.  Do not allow her to sleep near your feet; this is a statement of control: if you were to get up, she'd know it, wouldn't she?  Every time she settles at your feet, GET UP AND MOVE.
4.  Advise your veterinarian that your Poodle X appears to be offering a rank related aggressive behavior toward other dogs but not fully COGNITIVE of it (from your description).  Although I believe your dog is experiencing a "rank" related behavior (social hierarchy) this could also be food related.  Incorrect nutrition can, and does, create aggression upon awakening (although her aggression would also be shown toward Humans).  It's worth letting the vet know about this.
5. If she is not spayed, do a titer for estrogen and spay her if veterinarian considers it hormonally appropriate.

At the end of the month, use FOLLOWUP feature please to tell me how you are doing.

Canine Behavior

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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

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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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