View Full Version : Growling Cavalier

16th December 2009, 10:16 PM
We are new Cavalier owners and we have a 10 mo. old Tri-color that we just adore. He is wonderful except for one thing. He has started growling at us when we approach him when he has one of his toys or one of our shoes or whatever is in his mouth. What can we do to stop this. I don't know if he would bite because you usually try to distract him. We try the "leave it" and give him a treat but that does not always work.

16th December 2009, 10:32 PM
Just sent you a PM with some info -- and recommended downloading Ian Dunbar's free training book.


Very common behaviour that you want to address right away. Also: I would not advise giving your dog access to your shoes!! If he sees these as toys they will likely be chewed to bits -- he is in prime teething age. The best approach is to only leave toys around or items you are fine with being chewed. keep shoes safely in closets (and handbags, glasses, glass cases etc...).

Basically you want to be able to swap for the treat, not expecting him to leave it (which generally means ''don't pick that up'. A good command to teach is' drop it' for AFTER he already has something -- and this involves swapping the item he has for something really really nice. Also, it involves giving back the toy after swapping many of the times, so that he loses the fear that you are going to always take it away. :)

16th December 2009, 11:04 PM
The advice Karlin has given should be followed. Are you sure the growling is aggression and not play? Dougall Growls when he plays with us, when we first got him it worried us but eventually we figured it out. We spent hours reading about aggressive dogs! Dougall Growly sound is his way of laughing at us! Strange but true :winkct: It just might be worth considering!

17th December 2009, 02:38 PM
Could be just the play growling. I would also suggests that you regularly practice picking up his food bowl, while he is eating. That also helps with any agression that might be starting. To this day, I do this with our lab. This way they all know that anyone can pick that back up.

17th December 2009, 04:32 PM
He loves to grab things and thinks it is fun to have us chase him, so I do wonder if it is "play growling". However, last night my daughter tried to get her shoe from him and he did give her a little bite, not enough to hurt. I have also read about aggressive dog behavior, but Cavaliers are not supposed to be aggressive. I can keep doing the "drop it" and hope it works. Any other suggestions?

17th December 2009, 05:35 PM
Growling is good!! It is an early warning sign and if you scold a dog for growling it will go straight to biting -- not what you want. Consider why he is growling -- some dogs do so in play (one of mine does!) but if he is *warning* it needs to be recognised as such and you need to address that issue. What is he growling for? Why? Yu suggest he is guarding resources -- eg toys. The growl is a warning not to take the item away. You need to take the time -- and it will take time -- to make taking a toy away an unthreatening behaviour. As I noted above, just grabbing an item away only reinforces all his current concern that he needs to guard the item (all this is explained in the DUnbar book -- did you get a chance to download it and read it?). It also unfortunately isn't a matter of giving a command and hoping it works --- these are all matters of adequately teaching and then reinforcing the training every day, not only at the occasional time you want the dog to respond, when he is likely to just go 'huh?'. It is very much the same with teaching kids -- :).

Please have a careful read through Ian Dunbar's book as I know it will answer your questions and give you the right training guidance -- you will see he advises several daily sessions where you have fun training and reinforcing the behavour you want. Teaching a dog to 'leave it' and 'drop it', neither of which are things a dog naturally wishes to do, takes focus, encouragement, reward, daily practice, and never ever punishing or scolding the dog for not doing what you are trying to encourage as a positive response. A 10 month old dog is still just a puppy, and if he didn't learn to trade desirable objects for something else from early puppyhood onwards, then it is a far bigger challenge to do now. A willingness to trade and surrender something is a different though a related part of teaching a dog to drop it or leave it. He needs first to be happy to ALWAYS hand over an item -- and THEN you can also ground him in leave it and drop it.

So have a read of Dunbar and follow closely his advice and I am sure you will see an improvement over time. But 'time' is the key word -- this won;t happen in a day or two. It will take a few weeks, maybe even a couple of months, to get real results.

And also get the shoes off the floor and get kids to put them away!! :thmbsup: It is quite risky to have a child try to take something away from a dog -- to get defensive is normal behaviour *if he has not learned otherwise through positive reinforcement*. This is not aggression, it is absolutely normal dog behaviour (think of a toddler with a toy -- it is the same mindset). Please be very careful with children round a dog of any age, and definitely don;t allow the child to try and take something like this off a dog.

The right approach would be to have something the dog loves -- a piece of cheese or meat -- and for an adult to offer that as a swap for the item. :)

But again: management is 90% of great dog behaviour. If shoes are accessible to the dog, then the dog is going to grab them. Close doors, limit the dog's access to rooms, keep shoes in closets. Consider anything left lying around as fair game as a chew toy. Good management will avoid a lot of frustration. :) (there are a couple of essential reading articles on this pinned at the top of the Training forum).

18th December 2009, 10:08 AM
i totally agree with karlin's explanations.

if somebody were to take away from me one of my treasured possessions without warning or explanations, i would also protest. i am sure, anybody would...

i can't for the life of me understand why a dog's growling is being associated with agression....:confused: i simply do not get it.

growling is just part of the dog's vocabulary. nothing more, nothing less.
he is most probably saying: 'please leave me and my treasure alone, i do not want to give it up.' and why on earth is that seen as agression?

bella is very much attached to possessions and growl fiercely when i approach with an intent to take it from her. and she has a right to do so. she has a right to tell me, that this is hers and she wants to keep it! 'go away', she says, 'leave me alone'. so would i. probably...:smile:

it is my job then to convince her that is is worth her while to let me have the thing. not that she must give it up because i want it....

i train all my puppies to 'trade for better'. and it works just fine.:)