My Dog Just Snarled at Me; Another Lesson On Dog Behavior
My puppy (a little over a year) is not the bravest little soldier on earth. I work to build his confidence in all that I do with him and he gets better and better as he matures. I work at his pace and I let him be a puppy and he is very well loved, and he certainly loves every move I make… well almost every move.
But today, we had a weird moment.
I hurt my back.
It sucks to get old and I am feeling the pain these past few days.
For a girl I am pretty strong, I was always able to lift weights and play hard with the boys. I think it is just part of my German heritage and body type, short, stocky and strong.
So earlier in the week I was with a friend of mine when he decided it would be a good idea to roll a 300# log that had partially caught fire on top of a roaring fire (no we had not been drinking and in hindsight I realize how silly this sounds) the idea was that the large log would help the burning fire underneath last longer.
The trouble was, it was already singed in one area and it was awkward to move without catching ourselves on fire.
It wobbled, so did my back and I ended up losing my footing. My friend, who describes himself as “Baby Huey” who has stupid strength was able to finish the job by himself. I didn’t fare so well, and the next day when I went to unload my little guy’s steel crate I did the final damage.
I have spent 3 days on a heating pad and in some serious pain.
Unfortunately I am used to stupidity and pain, because I was born with no grace so I do dumb stuff and fall fairly frequently.
I had some work to catch up on; got to keep up with you frequent readers 😉 and I needed a little computer/heating pad break to grab some water.
Half bent over I rounded the corner into the next room to find my baby “Pharaoh” curled up on his bed with his toy.
I think I did a totally “stupid grin”… I assume I looked like a hunched over “Joker” to my puppy.
At first I think he didn’t recognize me; after all I was hunched over so I wasn’t the same shape and I was showing my teeth in what must have looked like a horribly aggressive way.
He hackled, snarled and growled at my hideousness.
Now remember he isn’t brave. He hackled to show me he was bigger and he snarled… well because I was snarling; at least in his tiny pea brain I was.
As soon as I laughed and spoke to him he wagged VERY VERY submissively and approached me to be petted, curled into my face and body and kissed me on the face as if to say “OMG I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize it was you”.
As I petted him, I grinned like the Joker again. I was able to get a little more upright by this point but I made a point to show him all my teeth (I know him well enough to know he was not going to bite or attack me but caution should be used with any dog growling or snarling).
He snarled again, back at me. This time not in an act of aggression, but in a confused act of submission.
It is clear that I don’t leer at him very often; and now I am going to have to.
He has a hard time using what he knows as an act of aggression between dogs (showing teeth) and applying that to human interaction.
I wonder how many other dogs are totally shocked into aggression just because we as humans are muddling through life just being stupid humans.
Heck, I am a dog trainer and still I shuffled in and leered at a puppy I know has confidence issues.
A Little History
I haven’t had this guy since he was born or even when he was 8 weeks old.
I got him when he was older and I have no idea how he was kept or what specifically was done to or with him.
I doubt someone smiled at him as they beat him, but I don’t know all of his experiences.
I do know that he is just a scared puppy in a big body.
So What Do I do?
Well, if someone else was emailing me with this problem, I would recommend a veterinary behaviorist. Growling and snarling is a scary problem and dogs can bite very quickly.
I however know and trust myself (my instincts) and my dog not to maul me.
We have a good relationship. I don’t beat him. I don’t yell at him. I don’t corner him. I don’t make him do things he doesn’t want to do. We have a trusting relationship based on positive reinforcement and fun.
In all honesty, I think that visually he didn’t recognize me. As a herding dog his vision is more acute at distances with fast moving objects, not close up.
So my plan is to spend months leering, leaning over, hunching around, shuffling and looking like the joker while I coo to him, pet him, and treat him for good behavior.
What happens when I am at a dog sporting event, or out and about when someone thinks he is as cute as I think he is and they bend over and grin at him from ear to ear?
If I don’t desensitize him to this behavior as someone he loves and trusts, his retaliation could be swift and aggressive.
So it is up to me to teach him that people have horrible dog skills but that doesn’t mean anyone wants to eat him.
If he learns that this kind of smile means good things, he won’t be taken aback when someone else does it to him.
Do All Dog Have This Problem
NO, or at least it doesn’t present as aggressively as my experience today.
I think often times we smile at dogs, or try to hug them or restrain them and at first they think we are crazy, but most of them react better. Mostly because they are OUR DOGS.
My dog just happens to be a scardy cat.
Remember to NEVER do these things to dogs you don’t know, or you will likely be bit in the face. And, teach your children to keep their faces away from dogs. Hands are meant for petting, no hugging or getting into dog’s faces!
But, as always it reminds me how to interact with other dogs. Thankfully, I don’t leer at many dogs… but this has taught me to keep my teeth to myself!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.