All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dog Growls at Daughter

Dear Marie, 
I have 2 dogs - a husky mix (female) and a yellow lab (male, unfixed). The female is 10 years old and the male 2 years old. The female has been with us since she was a puppy. The male lab came to us when he was about a year old when my son had to move to an apartment. My family also consists of my husband, our 21-year-old son and 22-year-old daughter. My problem is with the lab and my daughter. She loves both dogs and is constantly giving them attention. But sometimes when she approaches the lab he will give her a low grown and the hair on his back will go up. It is not all the time. My daughter does have another dog with her boyfriend at his house but this doesn't necessarily happen when she comes home from there. It could be when she first gets up in the morning. I don't think he would hurt her, but I would like to know why he does that. Do you have a clue? 

Dear Susan, 
You have described a behavioral situation that you may be surprised to learn is actually quite common and fairly simple to address. 

First and foremost, you must contact your veterinarian and schedule an appointment for your dog to be neutered. At two years old, he has reached his sexual maturity and a number of aggressive and inappropriate behaviors may begin to surface. Most of his poor conduct will be reduced or eliminated by having this simple procedure performed. Please don’t wait. 

In addition to putting an end to his bad attitude towards your daughter, you will also be doing your part as a responsible pet owner to ensure that he will not father any unwanted puppies. Furthermore, dogs that are neutered live longer, healthier lives than dogs that are not. There is no good reason to delay taking care of this very important matter. 

There may be other issues that are causing your Lab to growl at your daughter. If she is frequently away from your home, she may be considered a “visitor” in the mind of your younger dog. Canines sometimes look at visitors with a certain amount of apprehension. Your dog most likely believes that he has a higher standing in his “pack” than your daughter if she is away more often than present. If this is the case, he is trying to communicate his point through growling. 

I strongly suggest that your daughter enroll in a basic dog obedience class with your Lab. Even if your dog is already trained, the class will give your daughter the chance to demonstrate to him that she is in fact the boss, which is very important. Many cities offer inexpensive dog training through their departments of parks and recreation or community services. 

Between each class session, your daughter and your Lab must practice together everything that they have learned. She should also take your dog out for walks on a leash and give him a number of commands during the stroll. 

The reason for taking these steps is to instill in your dog the fact that he needs to respect your daughter as much as anyone else in the household. The best way to make this clear to him is through obedience training and practice. Within six to eight weeks, the problem behavior should completely disappear.  

If your dog continues to growl after being neutered and going through additional obedience training, then you may need to talk to your veterinarian and seek additional help from a private behavioral trainer. However, based on what you have described, I doubt that will be necessary. 
Good luck. 

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