Dear Dr. Sue
We just adopted an older dog from the animal shelter and couldn't be happier. He's a good dog but we've encountered one small behavioral problem that I think may actually be fairly common in rescue dogs. When my seven -year-old son hugs him, our new dog gets tense and growls. He's never actually tried to bite, but I'm worried this could be a sign of future aggressive dog behavior. Otherwise he is always such a loving and sweet dog. What can we do?
Dear Growly Guy,
Congratulations on your new addition! Thanks for giving this dog a second chance. Now, let's give him the best chance.
Dogs don’t like to be hugged. It's an anti-dog behavior. Sure, your human kid knows that hugging is an expression of love, but that's a human behavior, not a dog behavior. And here in lies our clash of cultures.
Explain to your son that hugging makes a dog feel trapped. To a dog, a hug feels a lot like a neck hold. When your new pup struggles to escape this uncomfortable embrace, as is a normal dog behavior, your son tightens his hold (a normal kid behavior) thus making your dog nervous and uncomfortable, which is why he growls. It's a classic miscommunication between species. Your son just needs new and better ways to express affection and connect to his new pal.
Kids like action and so do dogs. My JustForFun Agility will give your son a way to channel all that love, and energy, in a more productive way. Your new dog will learn to follow commands from your son and together they can form a bond through their new dog sports. And there's more than just Agility to choose from- Be sure to check my website at www.suemyles.com/dogsports for all the fun actives I offer for dogs and their humans.
I hope this helps you to understand your dog's behavior a big more clearly. More often than not, I find most of these "problems" tend to be less of a canine behavior problem and more of an inter-species miscommunication!
Dr. Auntie Sue