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From calm and happy to growling and snapping in 2 seconds flat

Discussion in 'Training & Behavior' started by KAustin, Jan 13, 2011.

  1. KAustin

    KAustin New Member

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    Our 18-month-old Doberman Torch is a completely loving, happy, and well behaved dog, loves everyone and loves to be pet and get attention. But we have a problem with him in that when someone can be petting him and he is happy as can be and then suddenly in a blink of an eye he will growl and snap at the person. He also will do it when we are in the livingroom watching TV and someone who is not part of our immediate family comes down the hallway and into the livingroom. We have purchased a muzzle and he wears it whenever we have people over for liability and safety sake. When he has the muzzle on he is a completely docile and quiet boy. He pretty much has sit, down, and stay mastered, although we still work on it daily, and has learned that he must sit and shake before he is allowed to eat (he'll sit there and wait for you if you forget). Any and all advice on how to work him through this so that he is a completely well rounded dog that we can have complete confidence in would be much appreciated. I must say that he never does this with his immediate family, but has done it with a few of my children's friends and my father. :( I am assuming that this is some sort of a protective mechanism with his family, but I would really like to know how to hone this so that we don't have this problem with him. Thanks in advance!

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  2. d0ds0t

    d0ds0t Addicted Member Hot Topics Subscriber

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    Have you had a vet check him over? He might be having some sensory problems, aching skin etc. (he gets in pain if touched a certain way). Where do you train him? If he has not been trained in different and various environments the training will "wear off" because the commands and situations is only practiced in one place. He needs to learn that the commands and expectations to his performance is the same EVERYWHERE. Also it would be a good thing to train him around different people and dogs too. Commands like "ignore"(that) or "focus"(on me) are quite usefull as long as you sont use it to block out everything he finds exiting or is curious about. You should still always let him wait to do stuff he wants, he should consult or ask you for it. Things should be on your terms.
  3. KAustin

    KAustin New Member

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    We try to make every opportunity and place we go a training situation. Park, walks, car rides, home, etc. He does get very whiny and excited, barking, pulling on leash, and running in circles when he walks past other dogs, but is fine off leash with our other dog and a friend's dog who comes to play in the summer. He has a few issues with barking and such that we are continously working on, but for the majority of the time he is a wonderfully well behaved and obedient dog. I just want it to be all the time and be able to have the confidence that he will not hurt anyone unless it is a necessary thing. KWIM?
  4. BreesMom

    BreesMom Novitiate

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    When you say Torch loves everyone...do you mean everyone he meets or everyone in the family?? It sounds as though when you said if someone who is not a family member walks down the hall he growls. That sounds like he is uncomfortable with outsiders in his house and he needs a LOT of socializing. When you said someone could be petting him and he could suddenly start to growl and snap....I am hoping this is not with family members??
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  5. d0ds0t

    d0ds0t Addicted Member Hot Topics Subscriber

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    Hmm.. its always tricky with those kinds of dogs.. You cant ask them whats going on in their heads either. You just have to get into his bodylanguage and try your best to read from it what he is up to. Have you tried klicker-trainig? It might shape up his interest in you and help you reinforce you "power" to keep his attention when you are having dogs around you. But it still might take a while considering that it would maybe take a while before he fully figure out the concept of it. Still, it's fun and its worth a shot.
  6. KAustin

    KAustin New Member

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    He loves everyone he meets and especially loves his family, he even loves the animal control lady who stops by and plays with him when we have him in the front yard. He never snaps at his immediate family and I am starting to notice that he only snaps at others when they come up behind one of his family members down the dark hall or when they are near a family member, mainly my husband and my daughter. I could very well be a protective thing that we have to train him is not appropriate with people we know. I have considered the clicker training and am going to study up on that more and see how it works for us. He has always had a very protective instinct with us from the day we brought him home and it may be that we need to work on training this instinct in him properly. I do know that he is always vigilant and we know if a squirrel moves up the stress. LOL! Any suggestions on good books or videos in dealing with this?
    Added: Jan 13, 2011 at 3:00 PM
    I also note that he is more growly and snappy with people who show an unsuredness around him. People who are very confident in him he is very good with and never is aggressive with.
  7. BreesMom

    BreesMom Novitiate

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    Sure hope you get some outside help from someone who knows dogs and their behavior well. Dogs like Torch, who normally are friendly but can change in the blink of an eye are the kind of dogs that end up getting themselves in trouble the most. A vicious dog isn't approachable like Torch so people tend to stay away and owners know there could be a problem so are prepared for anything. But with dogs like Torch everything could seem fine and in the blink of an eye someone could get bit and a dobe has some big teeth. Glad you are working on his problem but think you need the help of an expert. Would hate to see Torch deemed a dangerous dog cause of an unexpected bite. JMO
  8. Pitts

    Pitts Addicted Member Hot Topics Subscriber

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    well, first of all, you have to realize that your boy is 18 months old, this is adolescence and he is starting to become very hormonal. They really beging to become dominant and defiant at this age. I would guess that what your seeing is a combination of a couple of things, (understand that I cant properly assess the dog since I am not there but am giving you opinion based off of what you said.) First off I am guessing he is becoming a dominant male, therefore he will challenge others, particularly those not in the immediate pack, when it comes his territory and his pack. also, he seems to be a bit full of himself, I have a male that was that way when he hit around 20 months, he will challenge you, or when he feels as though HE might be being dominated, for example if someone looms over him or comes up behind him etc, he would growl and assert his dominance. This is what it sounds like is going on with your boy. You have to stop it now, you have to show him that your the pack leader and you say who does what, not him, and when he growls you correct him, If you dont feel comfortable with this, which is udnerstandable, I would find a competent trainer who knows how to deal with dominant protection breed dogs, and employ his services.

    hope it helps.
  9. KAustin

    KAustin New Member

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    Thanks Dale! I agree, that is exactly what it seems to be. He has been neutered, which really did calm him down considerably. He still will try to growl and lunge or snap at people with the muzzle on, but knowing that he cannot hurt them, I am able to concentrate more on correcting him and emphasizing the behavior I want from him. I have also started tossing him treats when he is lying quietly on the floor and obeying me, hoping that will cause him to realize that this is the behavior that gets him rewards, not the alternative. My next step is to work with him teaching him to sit or lie down when anyone other than us in the house, rather than allowing him to walk around, but always with the muzzle. I will check in our area and see if I can find a good trainer that can help us work this out. I can definitely tell we have reached the cranky teenage years though. :D
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  10. TrinityDobes

    TrinityDobes Novitiate

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    I absolutely agree with Dale and will take it jsut a bit further. But first you need to find a trainer, or behaviorist who knows the working breeds, and their drives to do an assessment of Torch to get the best recommendations after having an inperson evaluation. This is the time (adolecense), like no other, that training and your responses to his behavior triggers needs to be the Three C's = committed, correct and consistant.

    Is Torch neutered? if not then if you should consider the neutering - it will reduce one of the biggest drives in adolecense, Sex which fuels dominance in entire males.

    If you have non family (pack) members with house privaleges, then until you get with a Trainer/Behaviorist Torch either needs to be on leash at all times or in his crate, period. Until you get a handle on what is really driving this response, you need to enforce a new house rule - strangers or non family members are not allowed pet and touch Torch. This will keep him safe from making a bad decision.

    I suspect this is the emergence of his natural protective instincts, and is part and parcel of owning a doberman. It is a behavior I expect, and that I praise. But I consider myself a pretty experienced dobie owner and the first thing that attracted me to the breed was their natural protection instincts. A trainer will help guide you and Torch on what the proper protection response is to strangers in your house and in his or your personal space. Until you get this figured out and a training plan in place its YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to ensure his safety and that he is not allowed to be put in a situation where he can decide what the proper response is. This is where people get their dogs in trouble. Torch is not a labrador, nor a lap dog. Depending on his bloodlines these behaviors could just be the tip of the iceburg and could escalate in a heart beat, if there is no human leader who is control of the his world. You cannot let him make his own decisions about what his response should be - that is your job, you need to decide what the correct response is supposed to be for your family and then let Torch know what your expectation is.

    I only have 1 or 2 friends that could walk in my house when my dogs are loose and I am home, I have NO ONE who can walk in my house when I am not home - and that is what I expect of my dobermans. Its very black or white at my house, you are either invited and welcome or you are not, its my decision.

    I don't think this is too serious yet, but you need to IMMEDIATELY find a trainer/behaviorist to work with you and Torch!
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  11. KAustin

    KAustin New Member

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    Yes he is neutered and I could only imagine how difficult this would be if he were not. :( He is always on a leash when there is someone other than family in the house and now the muzzle is on as well. It really seems to pull him back and make him much calmer and more docile when he has it on. I will start looking for someone to help with this though. I don't want to remove him from the situation by kenneling him, unless he becomes out of control as I want him to learn by being on the leash and having the muzzle that he is expected to stay and not growl, bark, or snap at people we allow in our house. He actually just had an instance just now, where he was on his leash in my room, muzzle on, and a friend of my son's walked in and Torch immediately jumped up, growled, and nosed him back. It was the perfect opportunity to make him lie down and stay, which he did and the instance passed. But it was definitely him thinking I needed to be protected as he never does this at all when one of our kids does the same thing. Really need to help him learn his place in the family and when this behavior is appropriate. Thanks for the insights everyone.
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  12. Pitts

    Pitts Addicted Member Hot Topics Subscriber

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    Trinity is absolutely correct on so many of her points, This is as we both said, a behavior YOU have to get under control NOW, not a little bit at a time, but NOW. You need to realize he is still young and in the adolescent stage of his life, he is easily trainable and wants to learn and is eager to please you, soon, that wont be as prevelent, and he will then begin to challenge YOU, when you correct him if you do not have a firm grip on teaching him what he can and can not do and what is and isnt acceptable in your house. We both advise to find a good trainer/behaviorist who has experience with working protection breed dogs such as dobermans, because they really are much different from other breeds of dogs, I personally work almost exclusively with working and protection breed dogs, (my avatar is actually me working a dobermann at a seminar I gave), and I can tell you that it takes someone with that kinda of experience and knowledge to be able to properly judge and evaluate your dog, Trinity is one of those who is a very experienced dobermann owner and knows far more than I do when it comes to the daily ins and outs of the breed, I have owned several in my lifetime, and worked with many, but have just in the last three years brought two into my home, and they are working dogs. So as she said, you need to establish a true pack heiarchy and structure with YOU as the center of the dogs world, he must understand that he is not allowed to do ANYTHING without your permission, your the alpha, you decide when he is to be allowed to do things, not the other way around, this extends to everything, from being fed, to walked, to playtime, to not having toys out for him to play with whenever he wants to. You must be the center of his world, and his end all be all. Only then will you begin to have the control over your dog that you so desperately need.

    Hope this makes sense, and helps.
  13. Dobieone

    Dobieone Veteran Member

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    I have a big red boy, he is a rescue which I had to get from a family who had him about two weeks. He became gradually aggressive with them and too much of a risk. I was going to foster him and work with him, but ended up keeping him. I noticed from day one that in his mind he was King Tut. He knows that he is big and intimidating. I started breaking him of some issues such as barging out the door ahead of me. That was a biggie for him and he still hates it. Strange as it may sound, there is not an ounce of aggression when we are outside. Nothing! No low growls, barking or snapping. Inside is a different story. He has tested my whole family. He doesn't like to be told to get off the couch. Worked him out of that one. But he has so many other issues and I have no background or history on him. His thyroid was very low and has been an ongoing issue for a few years now. This has probably contributed greatly to his aggression issues. I have given him six good years, but the liability is enormous. I had him with a good behaviorist who said, I don't what to tell you. But you have a good history with Torch and I think watching his behavior: Inside the home or outside-how he reacts and with who-maybe a thyroid check and keep a log of his behavior. Excellent advice above. Keep him on a "short leash" and make him work for everything.

    Bill
  14. missj

    missj New Member

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    Also keep in mind it may not be an issue that he is trying to be the dominant one or protective of you. A doberman may just give a growl because something is making him uncomfortable. It may be a confidence or shyness issue. Do not let people just walk up to him and touch him, they should ignore him and always get your permission to approach. Alot of people rush dogs into "liking" them. Also I am hesitant about correcting a dog for growling since this is a warning signal, you may end up teaching him to stop giving his warning and just snap out. Instead distract him with a command and make sure he follows through. The body language should tell you if it's a shyness issue or dominance issue, again here a professional trainer may help if this is new to you. Finding a good trainer may be a challenge although, like mentioned above you want someone with experience in working dogs not someone who just trains friendly golden retrievers. Also how about contacting the breeder? They should be familiar with the parents and whether other siblings have displayed similar temperament. A good breeder would be willing to help you out with your guy.
  15. MyBuddy

    MyBuddy Moderator Staff Member Hot Topics Subscriber

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    Lots of great advice here. I am a firm believer in being the Pack Leader and what a lot of people are telling you here is so right on....this needs to be nipped (sorry! lol) in the bud now and probably from you since it sounds to me that he thinks he is protecting you. As cool as that may seem, it's not his place to do anything that you didn't tell him to do. Correction should be immediate and you will have to learn to recognize the signs before the growl, nose butt or nip. There are many signs that go unnoticed to a lot of people until they learn them. Check out Cesar Milan in Dog Whisperer. I've learned so much from that man! You can even do what I saw on one of his shows....someone put a sign at the front door that read something like, "Torch is in training...No Touch, No Talk, No Eye Contact. " People should just ignore him completely and you make sure that Torch knows this is a welcome guest. You might think of it this way...if a guest came to your door and your 5 year old ran up to the person and kicked him in the shins, wouldn't you correct? I think of it as the same thing. It's manners and it's Pack Leader. Sometimes a simple, "HEY!" (with the energy of Cesar!) will suffice.

    You might also input the NILIF system! (Nothing In Life Is Free) It's a good way to put him down a notch. :)
  16. BreesMom

    BreesMom Novitiate

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    VERY GOOD reasons to find someone to assess Torch. You really need to know if he has dominance issues or maybe he needs a little confidence building. We all like to think our dobes are protecting us but sometimes at certain stages in their development they need a little protecting too!
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  17. TrinityDobes

    TrinityDobes Novitiate

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    I wanted to share another thought that was touched on by missj - and that is how to react when your doberman "Alerts" each dog is different some the hair rises on their back no bark, no growl, and sometimes they display all three. Now keep in mind that I love my dobes, and love their naturally protective instinct. I NEVER correct nor "shhhhhhh" my dogs for alertin - NEVER, For me, that is their job to let me know when something in our world is not quite right. I always praise them "good dog to Alert"!!!! but then I take over, because as the leader of the house hold its my job to decide if what the dog is alerting to is real, or imagined. I never want my dog to try and decide when or if its "ok" to bark or growl - it is their early warning system that they have gone into defense or protection mode.

    I let them tell me "look mom I don't like this person or this situation", but I then TAKE OVER - praise and reward the alert and then give the command "leave it". You can use whatever command you want, my guys know that leave it means STOP what you are doing and look at mom for further directions. That direction in the house with visitors is "I'm in control and I will tell you how you are to treat this person this time in our house. He needs to know that you are in charge, and you are making the decisions. I trust my dogs assessment of people in my home 100%. If my dogs do not like someone, even someone I've known for years, I trust my dog. I let him lay between me and that person on the floor, but I also honestly say - sorry you can't pet him or enter his personal space - he sees you as a threat. And I am ok with that, I tell people all the time - I did nt get doberamans to be everyone else's best friend, I got them to be my best friend and my protector, he does not have to like nor accept people he does not like in our world. I was assaulted by a long time friend of the family - many child molestors and pedifiles have been known to family members. You can take it to the bank, that good old Charley thats lived next door for the last 5 years, can also be having some very inappropriate thoughts that you miss, but your dog can perceive.

    The only exception to Alert briefly then I will take over is if, I truly feel threatened in the car or by whom ever is on the other side of the door, or even out for a walk- THEN I give permission to loose the Hounds of the Baskervilles! and any one who has been stupid enough to ask - does he bite? or will he bite? My anwer is always "he has the tools and the desire to do the job when ever necessary!"

    I am sure Torch can be managed - you just need to have an experienced trainer help devise a training plan. Please keep us updated, I see you are a new member - this forum has a wealth of knowledge to help you.
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  18. KAustin

    KAustin New Member

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    Thank you everyone for the advice and suggestions. I have contacted a trainer and we will be getting started on that right away. I have also noticed a few things since tuning in more to his behavior. One is that although I thought he was being a very obedient dog, it seems it is only when he wants to do what I say. Hmmm imagine that. :D I have started enforcing the NILIF consistently today and right now he is on the treadmill running because I could tell that he had too much energy to focus on what I wanted him to do. He would obey the command but then drop it, fidgit, or try to go off to do something else. I'll work with him more when he is a little more tuckered out. I am starting to see where I and my husband have failed in enforcing rules and boundaries with him and I assure you that will not be occurring anymore. Hopefully being more in tuned with him and what is expected of him and the trainer we can get him where he needs to be. I appreciate the advice on allowing him to growl, but then taking over and letting him know that I have it under control now. You all are such a wealth of information and I am so lucky to have found this site. I know that eventually Torch will be the best dog we can make him be and a complete asset to our home. :D
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  19. MyBuddy

    MyBuddy Moderator Staff Member Hot Topics Subscriber

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    What I cut from your post above is so good to hear! IMO it's like the light bulb going off and you being in such a good place that you could recognize it, admit it and deal with it. Good for you! Torch will be that dog you want! :)
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  20. TrinityDobes

    TrinityDobes Novitiate

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    awareness is key - and I am very glad you are getting with the trainer, I an tell you are becoming very tuned into Torch, and you are committed to doing what needs to be done to help him be an excellent well behaved doberman. Please check back in from time to time to keep us updated and share how yo are doing - this type of "blogging' is an excellent resource for other new dobe owners to realize its a phase of development, its not all the dogs fault, and that you were, with help able to have a great, well trained, well behaved dog at the end!

    I for one am looking forward to the next chapter in Torch's journey!
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