- Stop. Whatever you’re doing, stop! Wait until your dog relaxes, then move away, so you’re rewarding the relaxed behavior rather than the growl.
- Analyze the situation. What elicited the growl? Were you touching or grooming her? Restraining her? Taking something away from her? Making her do something?
- Figure out a different way to accomplish your goal. Lure him rather than use physical force. Offer yummy treats for his co-operation. Treats used in a reward based system can be very effective – never condition your dog to become a free-for-all beggar!
- Keep in mind that stress causes aggression, and stressors are cumulative. It may not be just the immediate stimulus that caused the growl, but a combination of all the stressors she’s experienced in the past few days. For example, if your dog is unaccustomed to strangers, then having your sister and her husband and three kids as houseguests for the past week would undoubtedly stress your dog. So, don’t plan a dinner party next week. Noise-phobic dogs might be under a strain if city crews have been digging up a nearby street with heavy equipment and there was a thunderstorm last night – not the best time to vacuum the carpets or play loud music. This explains why she may growl at you today, but she didn’t growl last week when you did the exact same thing. The more stressors you can remove, the less likely she is to growl the next time when faced with a similar situation.
- If you need help to create and implement a behavior modification protocol, contact a qualified behavior professional who is experienced in modifying behavior with positive, dog-friendly techniques. Good places to start your search are ccpdt.org and TrulyDogFriendly.com.
For bookworms like me, subscribe to The Whole Dog Journal – great articles on dog behavior and ebooks that address specific problems: WholeDogJournal.com.