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NaturallyMe's avatar

How would you know if your puppy's barking and growling at you is friendly or not?

Asked by NaturallyMe (4922points) September 13th, 2010

It’s my first dog, so i don’t really know about these things. Sometimes she’d growl and bark at us (almost like a dog would bark at someone passing by the house in the street). Sometimes while barking at us, she’d turn her head sideways and look at me from that angle and then turn back and bark some more.

She’s about 13 weeks old, and a daschund.

So….how does one tell if she’s being friendly or not? I’ve never experienced her biting in a mean manner, just ordinary playful biting i suppose.

I also have a cat, and don’t want her to be aggressive towards my cats in any way, this is priority, and if i can’t ensure this, she’s going to have to find a new home.

I know there is training that needs to be done so that she understands that she’s not the leader around here, and i’m working on that slowly.

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33 Answers

partyparty's avatar

As you get to know your dog, you become good at interpreting the meaning of his barking. For instance, the bark that signals the approach of a stranger differs from the bark that requests playtime.
You can usually trust that your dog’s bark is a signal that he’s trying to alert you to potential danger. For instance, if there’s a knock at the door and your dog is outside barking in an array of snarls and growls, you can be sure that it’s not your mother-in-law popping round for an impromptu visit . . . unless you’ve trained him that way, of course.
Some dogs bark continuously simply because they’re bored. If you can’t find a solution to this problem, you should plan to keep him indoors and out of trouble.

Most people assume that growling is a sign of aggression in a dog. This isn’t always the case, but should always get your attention.
Most dogs have an entire repertoire of throaty vocalizations that cover their many moods: happiness, sadness, anxiety, fear, pain or protest. The idea is to understand the message your dog is trying to convey and respond accordingly. For example, if the two of you are involved in a tug-of-war game over a desired toy and your dog growls in mock ferocity, as long as it is just a game, he’s unlikely to suddenly start gnashing through your right arm.
On the other hand, if your dog growls at the presence of another dog, give him a quick tap on the snout and a sharp word that confirms your authority. Of course, if he growls before lunging forward and devouring the approaching dog, you may have to adjust your processing of the signs he’s giving you.
Sometimes submissive pets growl when approached. This requires some confidence training from you to show them what does and does not deserve this behavior.

NaturallyMe's avatar

Tnx. :)

She is actually an inside dog, and has never growled at other people before, not even people walking past in the street. She’s probably still to young to behave that way or protective of her home or us.

Also, she doesn’t bark at me the whole time, only when she’s playing or in a playful mood, so i assume it’s friendly, but am not entirely sure because of the way loudness of her barks and the way she was turning her head sideways.

I know about the growling while playing tug-of-war, so i’m not concerned about that one.

Anyway, i just wanted to check and see if the way she was behaving means something important to take note of.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I speak very fluent dog. You have to look at body language, tail position, and the eyes.

NaturallyMe's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe hehe, well then i’ll have to take note next time! When she’s barking and turns her head sideways, i think she may actually not be looking at me, but in my direction, i’m not sure if her turning her head that way means something or not. I didn’t take note of her tail. Her body was in a usual standing position, where she’d lunge forward a little when she barks?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@NaturallyMe The tail gives you a lot of clues. Tucked in tightly, is usually scared or uncertain. Wagging is playful, rigid is angry or defensive. Watch for the hair on the back of the neck, if it’s up be a little careful. Body posture is another good one. If he or she is making themselves as large as possible be careful, rolling on the ground or head down is usually submissive or fear. Watch the ears too. Back is usually not good, forward is usually good. The eyes give me a lot. I can just read them. Also, a scared dog can bite out of fear, so watch everything.

NaturallyMe's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe i’ll take note next time, tnx. And report back, hehe. :)

marinelife's avatar

She should not be growling and barking at you. Pick her up and hold her tight against your body until she stops. Praise her for stopping, and then start to put her down. If she starts to struggle or growl, pull her back against your body and say “No.” fiormly and sharply. Hold until she is still.

Serevaetse's avatar

@marinelife no offense, but I don’t think that is a good idea just because I don’t think you should squeeze your dog.
The puppy sounds like it is playing. If it is wagging its tail and barking, it probably wants attention or to be played with. I have had many dogs, and have three right now.
So buying it toys and letting it chew on them while you play with the dog is the best way to help it get the attention it craves.
If it continues to growl or bark and it gets in a more aggressive way (tail down, ears down, bearing its teeth), then maybe it will become more of a concern. Just try to watch body language and it will be easy to tell.

marinelife's avatar

@Serevaetse I did not say squeeze the dog. I said hold the dog firmly against your body.

rainbowspirit's avatar

I was going to give you a detailed response to your question but it has already been totally covered by PartyParty and Adirondackwannabe. The only thing I can add is that Daschunds can be particularly willful and the sooner you get them trained the better. I can recommend a book called Doglopaedia. It covers practically anything you will ever need to know on any aspect of dogs – anatomy, health, behaviour etc etc. There is one for cats too. (no I’m not on comission! lol)
Enjoy the new addition to your family.


Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I was going to throw one other thing out there, but I was a little hesitant because it’s a little rougher, but if Daschounds are willful, it might help. Also, I haven’t worked with puppies, so if anyone thinks this is too extreme please call me on it. Just be gentle when you do this. My last two dogs were abandoned as adults and they adopted me. The female was very timid, I think she had been abused or beaten. The male was very headstrong. I would hold him by the side of the neck and push him gently to the ground while I was over him, kind of showing him who was boss. I did this consistently when he was trying to be the boss and over time it worked. We came to an understanding and after awhile I never had a problem with him. Stay off his throat if you try this, and be very gentle with a puppy. And again, if anyone thinks this is too rough please say so.

snowberry's avatar

Sounds about right to me. To avoid injury, you can LAY them down rather than push them down on their side. It’s been effective on my dog. Just HOLD him down (keep the head on the ground too) until they relax. Only then let the dog up. If you do this consistently, it will help. Also, don’t let dog run past you up the stairs, push around you to get through a doorway, etc. Insist that you go first. Also, make doggie sit to do anything it wants to do, such as heading outside for a walk. Dogs love rituals, and this will help

NaturallyMe's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe i’ve heard of that as well, in fact i saw it on a show of the Dog Whisperer.
@rainbowspirit thanx. :)
@marinelife i’m pretty sure she’s only barking/growling in playfulness, but i just wanted to make sure that’s what it was since i’m not that familiar with living closely with dogs.

NaturallyMe's avatar

@snowberry i’ve read about the dominance thing as well, and there it talks about not letting your dog walk up stairs or out of doors ahead of you, and numerous other things your dog does that tells you it thinks it’s the dominant one, so i’m watching out for those signs and will stop them. I’ve trained her to sit, and am working on the stay, and i’m pretty sure she’s mostly familiar with the word NO by now, hehe. I think once the sit and stay is firmly in place, it should be time to move onto some of the other training.

marinelife's avatar

@NaturallyMe Your dog should not bark or growl at you, the pack leader. Ever.

NaturallyMe's avatar

@marinelife well fortunatey there’s still time to sort this out, she’s only 13 weeks. At what age should you start teaching them that they way they’re playing is wrong? Anyway, i’ve never heard of holding a dog tightly against you in order to teach them something – what does this teach them? I ask because apparently you have to learn to talk dog language to effectively communicate with them, and dogs don’t hold each other in this way in communicating with each other.

BoBo1946's avatar

Lots of love can solve the problem.

NaturallyMe's avatar

@BoBo1946 Well, she does get lots of love…i didn’t know there was a problem though….you think there IS one??

BoBo1946's avatar

@NaturallyMe No…she is a puppy! I had a Daschund for 11 years. They are a wonderful dog. VERY smart. Could tell a ton stories about my Putter. They have SO much personality. Just have fun with her.

NaturallyMe's avatar

@BoBo1946 O…that’s what i thought. :) Maybe it’s too early to be too concerned about dominance issues.

Pandora's avatar

Barking and growling is just a play thing. If you ever watch a group of puppies play together they do that with their siblings. However most mother dogs will not tolerate it getting out of hand and put them in their place. For now she doesn’t probably mean much by it but if you continue to ignore it, it may become and issue of dominance. I suggest that when she begins to growl, you roll her on her back and pin her down with your hand over her chest and neck, gently. She will begin to struggle but don’t let her go till she gives up and she moves her eyes away from your eyes and relaxes. Do this a few times and she will understand that you are stating your dominance over her. Don’t forget to show her plenty of love as well later.
By doing this you are putting her in a submissive position. She will get the idea that she is to submit to you and not challenge you because she will lose and she will give up challenging you.
Growling is a challenge to your dominance, whether in play or otherwise.
I had a neighbor who ignored the behavior and ended up with a terrorizing, challenging dog that he just hates. Don’t let it go that far. She will feel more secure knowing that you are in control of her well being.

NaturallyMe's avatar

@Pandora Thanx, that makes sense. :) I’ve read that when you do hold them down (or even play tug of war with them), you should never let go until they quit struggling, because then they think they’ve “won” (and don’t be the first to let go of the tug of war rope).

marinelife's avatar

@NaturallyMe You are wrong. Alpha dogs do hold submissive dogs still.

Here is an example of what I was talking about:

“You can also hold your puppy in submissive postures, and give it rewards for compliance. Do this when the puppy is calm, such as after a nap. Avoid fear and struggling. Be gentle, and only make the puppy be still for a few seconds in the beginning.”

Puppy Training

NaturallyMe's avatar

@marinelife Tnx for the link. Also, it’s not me that is wrong, i’m merely conveying info that i’ve read. Holding a dog down in a submissive position is different from picking up a dog and holding it tightly to you, dogs don’t do the latter, that’s what i meant.

downtide's avatar

from all that you’ve said (although without actually seeing the dog’s behaviour I can’t be 100% sure) I think she’s playing. My dog does the “looking away” thing if she has a toy or ball she wants me to play with – her looking away is pretending she’s paying no attention to the toy to encourage me to try to pick it up.

Holding her in a submissive position is definitely a good way to teach discipline and asset your authority.

If you don’t want your dog to bark for your attention, turn your back on her when she does it. Just turn around, fold your arms (so she can’t see your hands) and totally ignore her until she stops. If she jumps up at you, take one step away. When she stops (and she will, if you pay her no attention) then turn around and give her some fuss.

eden2eve's avatar

I have a friend whose (female and neutered) Jack Russel humps her leg… all the time. She allows it. Is this a gesture of dominance too?

NaturallyMe's avatar

@downtide Tnx, i’ll try that as well! :)
@eden2eve I think it has something to do with that! It may also show a lack of respect to the leader (assuming the owner is one). I’d also be interested to know exactly what it means.

snowberry's avatar

I don’t know…But if it’s happening all the time, AND she allows it, I can see how it might turn into dominance, even if it didn’t start out that way. The dog may have a hormonal imbalance, or simply be obsessive. Have her talk to a vet. If the dog checks out at the vet, a trainer is in order. That can’t be pleasant.

eden2eve's avatar

Thanks, @snowberry I’ll suggest that to her. It doesn’t seem to annoy her as much as it annoys me, though.

snowberry's avatar

Well, it will have to matter to HER. She would have to respond immediately and consistently with training, or it will be a bust.

Fluffy23's avatar

Aww, I have a dachshund too! (= Mine is 6 years old. Anyways, usually when mine is barking in a friendly way, her tail is wagging and she sort of bounces around as she barks, but if she’s being serious, her tail sticks straight out and she stares intently at whatever she’s barking at. The same thing applies to growling, but when she’s growling in a friendly playful way she doesn’t bounce around, but her tail still wags. You can just sort of tell by looking in their face sort of how they are feeling. An angered dog will definitely look different than a happy dog, you know? Hope this helps! (= And trust me, dachshunds are great dogs to have!!

Moegitto's avatar

I learned how to talk dog really young. I had a German Shepherd mixed with a Flat Black Retriever (or was it the other way around?). He got huge. My mom was verbally aggressive with me, so my dog took that as a sign of her “attacking” me. He would growl and bark with his head lowered and hind up with a stiff tail at her. He was also food aggressive towards her. He never showed any of these signs to me, he did everything I said, never walked in front of me, never even mouthed me when we played in the yard. When ever he barked at me he would kinda do the same thing, bark, wave tail really fast, turn head towards the door. I always thought this meant he wanted me to go somewhere with him. Most times when he did this and we go outside, he would almost “go” like he was holding it all day waiting for me to get home from school. All dogs have their own personalities in addition to breed standards. I have an old Army friend with one of the most muscular pitbulls I’ve ever seen, and that dog is the goofiest thing I’ve seen outside of MAD TV.

From what I’ve read and seen (only once) Dashund’s are kinda like chihuahua dogs, small dogs with big personalities. When he barks, does it look like he’s straining (Like he’s barking so hard he has slight jerk movement)? If he’s barking that hard he’s “yelling” at you. If he’s barking and looking around with a stiff posture he thinks he’s the boss. When a dog “thinks” it’s the alpha it thinks it can tell you what to do and when. You stop dog dominance by continually practicing alpha tactics. There’s a ton of tips out there, but most dogs don’t need more than a couple, they learn incredibly fast. Like people already said, start doing things like food training and making sure your not following him. I know it’s hard, but until your done enforcing your status, don’t pick him up unless it’s an emergency. Picking up, petting, giving snacks for no reason, playing with him when HE brings a toy, and allowing him to walk in between your legs all enforce bad behavior. Also, even the dumbest dog wants to be mentally challenged, so start training him tricks, make him earn his stay, lol.

Pandora's avatar

Oh, careful with that tug of war thing with a rope. My puppy got into that wih my husband and my husband yanked the rope and threw it, thinking the dog would let go. The dog went flying across the room. He yelped and got up and when he got his bearings he looked at him with a nasty look and barked and ran off. You could tell he was pissed. He didn’t play with him after that for a long time.
What my husband didn’t know was one of his baby teeth got caught and when he threw the dog and rope the tooth got yanked out. That is why he didn’t let go. We found the tooth in the rope. Luckily it was a baby tooth. It was funny watching my husband trying to play with him in the future. The dog would walk past him with the rope and if my husband grabbed it, the dog would just give a low growl and walk away. It took him months to get over it. LOL

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