rehomed lab growling and barking at male owner

Discussion in 'Labrador behaviour' started by Bellebelle, Feb 23, 2021.

  1. Bellebelle

    Bellebelle Registered Users

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    Hi Guys,

    My first post
    We rehomed a beautiful black Lab. She is a beautiful wee dog and loves her walks and then cuddling up on sofa and chilling. She has a slightly nervous nature but I am doing a lot of work with her on it and she is getting so much better. The only issue we have with her is that she is growling and barking at my husband. I had her at the vet yesterday and he said for him to take over all the feeding and she will come around. He hand feeds her high value treats and she will now gladly take them from his hands but is still growling. We are in Ireland and it looks like we are heading for another 6 weeks of lock down so a behaviorist will only be able to work with us online and not in person. I spoke to a dogs charity about her behaviors and they have said it is odd and to just ignore it and to give her treats. Anyone any tips here for me please. My children get quite upset if she is having a bad evening with my husband. She is ok if I am on the sofa and reassuring her it is ok. He has never walked her as she is very reactive when he has tried. Thanks guys in advance.
     
  2. sarah@forumHQ

    sarah@forumHQ Moderator

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    Hi Bellebelle,

    Welcome to the forum :)

    Congratulations on rehoming your beautiful dog! How long have you had her now? Bear in mind it can take several months for a rescued dog to really settle into their new home. And it might take many months more for her to relax around your husband too. Sadly, if she's had a bad experience in the past, it can be a long journey to "unlearn" the lessons she took away from it.

    Your vet's suggestion to have your husband hand feed her as much of her food as possible is really good advice. It might also be worth taking up online support from a behaviorist as well. I read an interesting study a little while back comparing the outcomes of dogs who met a behaviorist in person, and and dogs whose owners only had consultations with a behaviorist online - the outcomes for the online dogs were still really good, and not far short of the dogs who met a behaviorist in person at all. Try to capture lots of video footage to share, and take your time to find a force free behaviorist you feel really confident about.

    Good luck, and let us know how you get on!
     
  3. Michael A Brooks

    Michael A Brooks Registered Users

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    Hi Bellebelle

    could you expand on this statement please? Is she growling when she takes the treats or shortly after receiving a treat?

    Can you describe her body language when she actually takes the treats? Or film it and post on youtube and provide us with the link.

    Does she growl at all men or just your husband? Where are you when she growls? What happens if your husband is in the room with the dog without you being there?

    What happened when your husband tried to take her for a walk. Please describe exactly what took place.

    You say she has a slightly nervous nature. And that you are making that better. Can you describe why you think she is nervous. And tell us what you've been doing about it?

    Sorry for all the questions but I think we need more information.
     
  4. Bellebelle

    Bellebelle Registered Users

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    Thanks so much for taking the time to reply.

    Sarah
    We have her just less than 2 months so she really is still very new. We were told she wasn't mistreated but obviously we are not sure.

    my hubby got advice and they did press that its just time and patience.


    Michael..... she's is growling before the treats and then happily takes them from my husband.

    She doesn't growl at other males out walking and obviously with lockdown nobody else has been in the house in the 2 months so it's hard to judge on that one.
    She walked with him today. The odd wary look but not reactive towards him. She barked once at him when we got home.
     
  5. Michael A Brooks

    Michael A Brooks Registered Users

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    Allthough I would still like to see it, I suspect you have reinforced your dog to growl at your husband. In simple terms, you have taught the behaviour. Dog growls and then gets a treat. Positive reinforcement means you get more of the behaviour.

    Although it will take some time, and you may observe an extinction burst (think of a child who is told no more chocolate in a shopping centre--the growling may get worse) stop giving treats after the dog growls, and the growling behaviour should stop.

    Give her treats when she has been calm for at least 10 seconds. Reinforce calmness.
     
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  6. Bellebelle

    Bellebelle Registered Users

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    Hi
    No she doesn't get a treat if she growls.
     
  7. Bellebelle

    Bellebelle Registered Users

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    Hi Sorry I didn't mean to send that message yesterday I didn't have time to answer fully.

    As I mentioned we don't give treats when she is growling. He will continue walking out the door if she growls at him, if she doesn't growl she gets a treat.
    The growling can also be after the treat. We were in dog park recently and my husband was standing outside and she was going over to him for a treat taking it then growling.

    re her body language,
    She is ok with him once he is in the house a while or if I am on sofa with her when he comes in. She will fall asleep beside him on the sofa at night so she is relaxing more around him and I suspect it is just time (he is out at work 60 hours a week).
     
  8. Michael A Brooks

    Michael A Brooks Registered Users

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    Thanks Bellebelle for the clarification.

    Let me preface my remarks with the proviso that I'd really like to see film of the interaction. But in that absence here is what I think is happening.

    Your dog takes the treat but that is resulting in a good deal of anxiety. Your husband giving the treat results in an approach avoidance conflict. She wants to approach the treat. But to do so she has to approach the relative stranger she would rather avoid. The outcome is increased anxiety even when she takes the treat.

    One way to deal with this issue is for you to give the treats, not your husband, whenever she notices your husband. The sight of your husband should be a predictor of good things. I think the easiest way to do this counterconditioning is to use the LAT exercise. There is a very good video of how to do it on YouTube by Donna Hill.

    Let us know whether you have any questions about the content of the video.

    And ultimately, whether that protocol changes her attitude towards your husband.
     
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  9. Bellebelle

    Bellebelle Registered Users

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    Hi Michael..
    Thanks for taking the time to reply.
    Funny we had decided the other night we would follow the advice of him ignoring her completely and that I would give the treats. We will see how it goes over the weekend. She is growling less so fingers crossed its the breakthrough we need.

    I've started a bit of training with her as she has really started to value treats (ex farm dog so wasn't motivated by treats). She is very clever and picking up everything very quickly. Lots of walks and socialising too.

    Thanks again for your advice. I'll look up the YouTube video.
     
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