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Pushing Sophie's limits...weird growling thing


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Sophie has always had issues with people coming in the house. It's been the situation where extreme undersocialization during most of her life hinders her the most.

Recently, we had a house guest stay for a month and the teenager has had a zillion friends over.

Sophie has struggled to cope with new comings and goings. She has become less fearful but more vocal. She is no longer cowering away whining, but standing her ground growling. Not real sure this is an improvement. :confused:

Nothing seems to quiet this low, almost under the breath growling. If Sophie decides that this 'outsider' is spooky, she will growl everytime they stand up or move. Our house guest spooked her, Sophie started growling at her movements, stopped to climb on her lap for a cuddle and then began again as soon as the girl got off the couch to go to the kitchen. She continued to growl at her until she sat back down on the couch and Sophie climbed back in her lap. It's a bit weird.

My son's friend is usually a favorite of Sophie's. He stopped over wearing a ballcap. That spooked Sophie, and the growling began. She would stop growling to sit next to him on the couch, she let him pet her, but would begin to growl everytime he got to his feet to move about the house. They finally sent her to my room to nap with me. A couple hours later, they came in after running errands and she was fine, pleased to see him and allowing him free movement.

It's almost like if she becomes spooked, regardless of her history with the person, she can't shake it.

Any ideas on how to build her confidence or reduce her spookablity? How do we get her to stop the growling?

Puzzled again,




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what I am thinking about what you are saying is happening with Sophie is that it seems like she is growling when she is being disturbed or uncomfortable..if she continues to get away with it...guests going away or not disturbing her because she is growling, the behaviour is going to continue because she is getting what she wants...

For me, if this were happening, I would first not allow her to be on the couch or in your lap..for now...until she can get more confidence with different goings on in the household.

I would arm myself with treats(I use a treat bag that clips to my pants pocket) and reward Sophie when she isn't growling at guests and have guests give her treats and praise too. I would interrupt any growling with a "ahh" of "shh" and as soon as she stops, I would praise and treat.

I would do this relgiously for a couple of weeks until you see the behaviour start to fade.

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Savannah does this not with people but with unfamiliar objects. When she does it, I pick her up and take her over to the object that she is afraid of and let her smell it and touch it. After that, she is fine with it. Maybe if she starts growling at someone, pick her up and have the person pet her and let her get comfortable with the person. Then put her down and see how she acts. If she continues to growl, I would seperate her from the rest of the group for awhile. Good luck!

We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It's the best deal man has ever made.

-M. Acklam

Savannah's Dogster Page

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I unfortuantely am probably zero help on this topic. I've seen that in other dogs and even been around dogs who have done that... and you quite never know how to react to them - do you pet them or do you run from them... when I try to approach a dog that's growling at me for no good reason I always do it on the floor (like I'm one of them) and with a treat. So they can see I'm making a peace offering. But with a lot of rescue dogs their past kind of follows them - my Westie was a rescue - and she had a fear of paper - especially newspaper and she was terrified of human feet her whole life. We tried everything and it never got her over it. But when you explain it to guests not to take this behavior personally as the dog has just had a rough past, they're usually really understanding that you're doing the best you can. I'm sorry I couldn't be more help :) And look on the bright side - at least she makes an excellent guard doggie :)

Hollie Edelbrock & Brystal Sonoma
Chris, Stacy and Little Noah
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You could treat the same way you might treat a dog that is exessively focused on other dogs while on walks etc. - active distraction. Before she gets a chance to notice the new person (or when you notice she's noticed) exit the social situation yourself and start Sophie on an immediate program of obedience exercises. Sit! Down! Stand! Sit! Heel into the next room! In other words, give her a job to do that is incompatible with simply sitting there expressing her low opinion.

Another method is simply become a treat dispenser BEFORE she starts up, so that the arrival of another person simply heralds the raining down of treats - thus a good thing. (Of course you can't reward her for the growling. All bets are off if/when she starts.) Our friend trained her dogs this way so that whenever the UPS driver appears at her gate, instead of the dogs rushing the gate, they race into the house to get the treat they know will be waiting for them.

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Brad, who's smarter? Your friend for training her dogs to go for treats instead of the UPS man or the dogs for knowing to go for the treats? I'd say it's pretty even. Thanks for the laugh.

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An off hand thought, how is here eyesight? While chances are good the behavior is a result of her former treatment; I thought I would mention this. I have worked with someone who brought a dog to me to train because of sudden changes in it's behavior (getting spooked by things that moved). While working with the dog I noticed there were certain angles that triggered the behavior. I suggested a trip to the vet. It turned out the dog was developing cateracts. Just a bit of food for thought.

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