Growling At New People

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NINKOjIN's picture
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Joined: 2012-05-20

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Not all new people! Sometimes Riley is very good, quiet, wants to sniff and wag his tail when someone approaches him, etc.. But for whatever reason, sometimes it's like he goes back to when I first got him, totally oposite, and he growls, lunges, and barks. I know it's a fear thing, and he wouldn't hurt anyone. He's never bitten anyone or another dog.

But because of his appearance, especially with his ears posted up and whatnot, I often get those "weird looks" like strangers think I'm training an attack dog or something when he is lunging like that. I always try to stay positive, but I was wondering what I should be doing when he gets like this?

I mean if he growls and barks and lunges at someone at Petco, the beach, down the street, etc., should I say no? Walk away with him? Stand still and let him calm down on his own? Pat him? Comfort him? He never seems to settle down until either the person leaves, or the person gets closer. And if I try to distract him/redirect that energy, he simply will not take his eyes off them.

If this is normal and just going to take more time/socialization, cool, but if I am supposed to be doing something specific to make him not so intimidating to strangers, I'd like to know. :)


Thanks! :)

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

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I'd say yes, he definitely needs more socialization.....positive socialization around people especially.  Next time you have him out around new people (at Petsmart or the beach, somewhere like that) sort of tell people that are about to approach you that you are training your dog to be more socialized, and ask if they would mind approaching him slowly, perhaps with a treat that you furnish. Most people are more than willing to help out if they know what's going on. Ask them to not make direct eye contact with him (some dogs see this as a challenge) and just walk up closer to him in a relaxed fashion, stopping a couple of feet from him and standing not facing him.  Let him get to the point that he STOPS barking, mark his good behavior with a happy "YES, good boy" and reward him.  Let him approach the person at his own speed, and when he actually makes contact by sniffing, have them offer him a treat. 

Petting him or trying to comfort him while he is barking is doing exactly the opposite of what you want...it is making him believe that you approve of his barking and lunging.

He just needs to know that approaching people is not a bad or scary thing.  Dont worry about him not being protective....that part naturally kicks into gear when it's necessary to really protect you, and they DO learn the difference.

NINKOjIN's picture
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That is what I figured about the comforting. Sometimes I get a little embarrassed when someone is walking up to him and he starts growling/barking, and I'll say things like "Geez, Riley, settle down." and laugh a bit and say he's all talk and no bite, to the stranger.

I do wonder why sometimes he's totally fine with strangers coming up to him, and other times he freaks out. I wonder if there's something specific to watch out for that the stranger is doing, or if it's just random puppy brain fart moments where he forgets he had good experiences before.

Either way, thanks, I'll just continue bringing him places and think positive! :)