Dog Growling While Being Fed

Nikki writes to me about her dog’s growling:

“Dear Trainer, I have a 4 mth. old Rott. and Lab mix male, more Rott. then Lab. I am the main care giver and trainer. I am a small women. We do very well together except in one very important aspect. When I feed him and pet him at the same time he growls at me. I have fed him entire meals out of my hand for a few feedings that went ok. But this dog aggression behavior continues with the bowl. I spit in is bowl as instructed I have his pinch collar on I will correct him he does not like this. He does not growl at my husband who does care for him but not as much as me. Help he is gaining 4 lbs a week. soon he will out weigh me. HE sits and stays on command. Thank you, Nikki ”

Adam replies:

Hi, Nikki.

This is very, very common for Rottweilers. Although usually it happens closer to 8 months of age.

What you can do is: Take a baseball bat or a golf club (or anything else that makes you feel more comfortable) and use it to nudge him out of the way, in one swift motion. The club becomes an extension of your arm. But you can’t do it timidly.

Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not suggesting you hit the dog with the club. Just shoo him away from the food. You’re using the club as a prop to give you more confidence.

It’s really just an attitude thing. Regardless of your size, you need to get your point across. You’ve got to remember: He’s still a puppy. So, he’s really just testing you to see what he can get away with. You’ve got to let him know that, regardless of YOUR size… you’re tougher and meaner than him. In other words: If he’s going to growl and threaten you, then you’re going to rock his world, and he’s never EVER going to think about doing that to you again.

This is really where consistency and self-confidence comes in. Because even if you’re correcting him, if he can sense you’re not really confident in telling him what to do… he’s just going to shake it off.

I’m not the biggest of men, myself. And when I work with big, aggressive, powerful dogs– I have to approach it with the attitude that I am the dominant animal. This is the same way our little Jack Russell can make our much bigger dogs get up and move away– when he walks by and wants the toy they’re playing with. Even though the bigger dogs could (physically) kill him– psychologically, they don’t know it. Because the little dog is tough, tough, tough. And he’ll go after the bigger dogs, if they test him– with no abandon.

Make sense?

Keep me posted.

In addition– I suggest you start implementing the “Nothing In Life Is Free” approach, as described in the book. This is something that will psychologically start making the dog view you as his pack leader.