HELP! Growls at family!

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Joined: 2012-05-02

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Hi everyone!

I know that dobermans are personal protection dogs, but the few I've had in the past took up with the entire household fairly well.  My new dobe, six month old Kaiser, growls and barks at my parents everytime he sees them though, no matter how often I take him up to their part of the house to socialize with them.  

What am I doing wrong, or what can I do to improve the situation?

It is really upsetting my family, and it is starting to worry me.  When I take him for walks around the neighborhood, or in pet stores he doesn't mind people, but he does my parents... I'm confused.

talisin's picture
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Joined: 2011-02-25

This is one that those with years of experience will have to help with; I certainly hope this works out and is just a phase he's going through.......

sweetpea's picture
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Joined: 2010-10-25

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The first thing I would do is figure out why he's barking and growling at them.  Once you know that it's easier to find an effective solution.  Does he do the same thing when other visitors come to the door?  When your parents come over do your greetings with each other get really excited and animated(more so than with other visitors)?  Do they feel comfortable around Kaiser or are they a little nervous or afraid around him?    Does he do the same things when you bring him to their house, or is it just when they come over to your place?

DJ's Dad's picture
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Joined: 2010-10-04

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I have found that when visitors come to my house, if I let my dobies outside first, then let the visitors in, it helps with the acceptance ritual.  Seems like if the dogs enter the room where someone has already been approved by us to be there, they just do a very quick bark, sniff, then settle down and go lie down somewhere and never give the person a second thought.  Might not work this way with every dog, or in every situation, but it works for us.

Joined: 2012-05-02

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I live in the same building with my parents. It's kind of like a duplex, so it is vital that he understands they are fine.  When they come down the stairs he gets highly upset, though I should mention hje is scared of the stairs.  He is better with my father than he is with my mom, and I think it has something to do with her nervousness.  It is still confusing though because he is completely fine around most strangers. I'm not sure what to make of it.  He will definitely be seeing a professional trainer, but I was hoping I could work with him on it in the mean time. 

sweetpea's picture
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Joined: 2010-10-25

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If your mom is nervous around him he's definitely picking up on it and could be feeding off it.  I had a similar issue with Dakota.  She was fine walking down the street past people who were relaxed and calm but if anyone seemed scared or nervous around her she would start to bark and get worked up. 

What I did was start to put her in a down in the grass beside the sidewalk whenever we see someone coming.  *It's important to do this BEFORE she starts to fixate on them, whenever possible.  It makes the whole process much easier.*  I step on her leash, giving her just enough slack to move her head but keeping my foot close enough to her that she can't get up if she tries.  I stand on the inside, between her and the oncoming person.  Then as the person approaches, praise her saying "good down," feed her treats, poke her butt, or squeak a toy near her to keep her from focusing on the approaching person. 

This does several things.  If the person approaching is afraid of dogs but sees her down and under control, they relax.  She no longer gets that anxious vibe from them.  It gives Dakota a new default behaviour to go to when she's unsure.  Instead of barking and lunging and fixating on what's making her anxious, I'm teaching her to lay down and focus on me.  Basically, the most effective way to stop one behaviour is to replace it with another.  If you don't want Kaiser to bark and growl when he's anxious, what DO you want him to do?

I would also allow him and your parents, especially your mother, spend time together getting used to each other.  Get them to stand facing away from him, with their hands down and back for him to sniff.  Let him check them out at his pace and don't force any interaction.  Have them give him treats and talk to him in a calm, soothing voice. 

sweetpea, I agree with what you said and I do something similar with Romeo but I have him sit. The lay down position is a very submissive position for a dog and some could really feel insecure if made to lay down when uneasy. This has worked so well for us when out walking with Romeo he will sit himself when he sees another dog or something he gets really excited about kind of cute lol.

sweetpea's picture
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Joined: 2010-10-25

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Des that is cute!  I agree with you about the submission thing.  The reason I prefer down is because I can then step on the leash and I have much more control if she were to ever decide to lunge as the person is passing.  I usually have her turn her body slightly so she's not facing them head on(more so with dogs) and put my body between her and whoever is coming.  Now she's much less nervous than she was when she was younger so I don't do it very often, but I still do it if there's someone walking with small children or if there's a group of people.