Balù worries me

Posted by GBIT
Sep 13, 2010
Dear Kingdom of Pets team,

My husband has purchased “Secrets to Dog education” and we have been good students, learning intensely the different ways, to position ourselves as alpha leaders. We were so happy to have found this gentle method of educating our dogs as we are also strictly against violence. We live in a rural area in Italy and have no access to any of these “hands-off” dog camps, so getting professional help is not a possibility.

Unfortunately, we have a problem with our male dog, Balu. To explain, we have two Czech wolf dogs, one male 20 months old who we had adopted as a puppy and one female 4 years old who we adopted from a dog pound about 6 months ago. They absolutely love each other and she is in rank below him.

Our male dog, Balu, accepts my husband as the pack leader without any doubt. Until about a month ago, he also accepted me as a leader and had never ever growled at me.

However, after having been away on a business trip, I came back and he greeted me happily but once I kneeled down and wanted to cuddle him, he started growling at me (quite seriously I might add). We tried to solve this our way, by telling him “no”, putting him down (I know now that this was only humiliating him), and me doing the head collar training. After walking him with the head collar and asking him to obey to sit and down commands, he then accepted me, was playful and back to my old pup as I new him. However, every following morning, the growling would start again.

We bought your book about 2 weeks ago and are now strictly following your rules (feeding them after we ate, stepping through a doorway first, no sleeping on the sofa or bed, making them sit before giving them anything etc.). We knew about most of these rules already before, but were not 100% consistent. Now we are: It is me who is always giving the food bowl, I also do the head collar training with Balu as soon as I come home from work (my husband spends all day with the dogs as he works form home). But Balu continues to growl at me, after we had been separated.

Then we did the two days of complete ignoring him. The first day he tried to get affection from my husband and at the second day he also came several times to me to kiss me.. but we would turn away and ignore him. We were so excited to finally call him to come greet us in the morning after the 48 hours had passed.. unfortunately, he growled at me again.

Kindest regards from Italy,

Posted by kjd
Sep 13, 2010
Dear Anke,

Did this whole growling bit start after you were pregnant? Is it possible he is upset with your new, hormone-induced smell?

Posted by GBIT
Sep 14, 2010
Dear kjd

I don't know, I never heard about that. If that was the cause what do you suggest?
Posted by kjd
Sep 15, 2010
Ah, Anke,

I wish I had an answer. However, if that is the reason Balu is acting up, it does make sense. At 20 months, he is into his adolescence. His own hormones are acting up. So he is acting inappropriately towards you.

Someone else may have some good suggestions, but I would say what you are doing -- reminding Balu that you are HIS leader, he is NOT yours, is a very good way to handle it.

If he doesn't like children, you may want to start exposing him to their sight, sound, and smell. See if you can obtain a lifelike baby doll. Especially one that makes crying sounds. Or get a CD or tape of baby sounds. Get him used to the smell of baby powder. Borrow a soiled diaper from a friend (not with solids on it; you just want him used to the smell). Now is the time to correct him if he acts inappropriately. Expect him to accept the baby. If you are afraid he will misbehave, he will pick up your fear as meaning the baby is dangerous. So train him so well with the baby doll, you are totally confident when the actual baby arrives. (Your husband can bring home one of the baby's blankets before you come home from the hospital, so Balu recognizes the baby's smell.)

My dogs have always been good with babies. Sunna is afraid of the neighbor kids (ages 3 and 6). Last Saturday, she met a 3 week old. He was on a carrier on the ground. During a long meeting, he quietly rocked himself and she slept. Afterwards, she cautiously approached and sniffed him. No problems. I think dogs see little babies as different from kids. By the time the baby becomes active enough to worry the dog, the dog knows he is a member of the family.

If you two can convince yourselves Balu is not a danger to the baby, I don't think he will be.

However, there are people on this forum who have had more experience with babies and dogs than I have. I hope they will chime in.

Posted by KOPCaroline
Sep 15, 2010
Hey there,

This is a bit tricky. Balu's bad behaviour is either due to:

- your sudden abscense (was it your first/longest trip away?) causing a fear of your permanent abscense, leading to his wariness of you on your return (what happens if you leave again?)

-the hormones and changes related to your being pregnant.

Either way, I strongly recommend carrying on with what you're doing. It sounds totally appropriate to me, and I couldn't really recommend more. Its about re-establishing yourself as alpha-dog (or one of them, along with your husband). Your husband can help you out by him only ignoring Balu and you being the one to interact with him; you feed him, only you pet him, you walk him, etc. Have a few 10 minute training sessions with him a day, and have your husband there too. When Balu responds appropriately, both of you can praise him. If he growls, your husband can try telling him "no", but shouldn't interact more than that. His help with your re-training could be super beneficial.

Otherwise, I can really only say "ditto" to kjd's suggestions. Getting Balu prepped for baby is very important if you know he has had problems with children before. And as kjd said, infants and children are very different, so it might not be the disaster you're imagining. That being said, it is always better to be prepared than to be shocked.

I hope these help, let us know how the progress goes. I've got my fingers crossed for you
Posted by GBIT
Sep 15, 2010
Thank you both for your tips! I probably just need to be patient and continue with my training and consistent affirmation of leadship.

It was not the first time that I had gone as I am frequently on business trips (unfortunately). I just came back again today and he did not come to greet me. He wagged the tail, but looked at me from the side, ears back and did not want to come when I called him. I did not go towards him, I greeted Nina and then walked both immediately. He did not growl when I asked him to sit and put the leash. We did a few sits and downs and Balu was very obedient with these comands. It is the come comand that he does not follow. After the walk he was happy, licked me and we played in the garden.

Regarding the baby, I will definitely follow all your tips.. they seem great!
Thank you