First off, I realize everyone has their own opinion for how to raise and train their dog. I also realize I am not an expert and my advice is simply opinion…
For dogs, growling is a form of communication. It’s actually one of the only forms of communication a dog has in his/her “social toolbox” that we humans naturally understand (without being educated on dog behavior). If you punish your dog for growling, whether by hitting the dog or simply by simply saying the word “no”, you are “turning off” that communication channel. If you punish him/her for that behavior enough, they’ll stop growling, but that doesn’t mean the underlying reason for the growl has been corrected (ie the behavior – growling – has been extinguished).
The result of the removal of the growling behavior from your dogs “social toolbox” creates a situation where your dog cannot communicating his/her intentions effectively. In a situation where a growl would give a clear warning to you or a stranger, your dog will not use that communication tool, and will instead move up the “ladder of aggression” and on to a bite. Thus, appearing to bite/snap without a clear warning (a growl). That type of situation is far more dangerous than a dog who growls and shows clear intent before he/she bites.
Unfortunately, punishing a dog for growling doesn’t “teach” the dog not to growl during a specific behavior, or not to do a specific underlying behavior (guard food, for example), it only “teaches” the dog not to growl – ever. This is why I’ve gotten into the habit of thanking my dog when they growl. I tell them “thank you”, and then stop doing what they are asking me not to do. This shows them that I’m listening to them, and understand them. I then approach the issues from a different angle (sometimes literally). I don’t let them “win” by allowing them to growl, I simply show them that I’m listening to them, and I work with them in a way that they are comfortable with. Often the growl is for a very specific reason and I can accomplish my intended goal by changing my approach.
That’s Nio, Akashi, and Kona playing with Ahi, and Ritsu grazing in the foreground. 🙂
Some updated pictures of Kaiju, our male Shikoku Ken (Japanese import)…
I see the terms “watchdog” and “guard dog” used on the web as if they are interchangeable, but they aren’t. There is a difference between a guard dog and a watchdog – a big one.
Watchdog: A Watchdog, also called an “Alarm Dog”, is a dog that is used to warn their owner that something is not right, typically by barking. A common example of the use of a watchdog is to warn their owner of an intruder or trespasser. Watchdogs tend to bark a lot. A watchdog should not be expected to engage (bite) a threat, or even to hold their ground, their job is simply to “sound the alarm”. A good watchdog can sound the alarm and stay out of danger until “backup” arrives to take action. Watchdogs come in many different sizes and shapes. A large size, courage, and amazing strength are not necessarily requirements for a watchdog.
Guard Dog: A Guard Dog is a dog that is used to guard property or livestock (which includes their family – human, canine, feline, fish, bird…). While guard dogs may “alert” like a watchdog, they are also expected to engage (bite) a threat if needed. Typically a guard dog uses a forceful “display” to drive (scare) a threat away while holding their ground and engaging the threat if the initial display is not enough of a deterrent. A good guard dog should always give a clear warning before moving in for a bite – the display is their first line of defense. Guard dogs typically come in 2 packages: large and thick-coated livestock guardians, and large short-coated bully/mastiff type dogs. With the exception being some of the pinscher (terrier) breeds and some shepherd breeds (like the GSD). Size, strength, tenacity, courage, and a level-headed outlook are import traits of a guard dog.
Throughout history the watchdog has been deployed alongside the larger guard dog. The watchdog would act as the alarm while the guardian would come in to take action. Examples of this type of arrangement can be found from Italy, where the Volpino Italiano worked alongside the Cane Corso and Neapolitan Mastiff, from Tibet where the Lhasa Apso and Tibetan Spaniel worked alongside their large guardian counterparts, the Tibetan Mastiff.
Unlike some Protection and Service Dogs, who sometimes require 100s of hours of training (think “Police Dog” or “Military Dog”), watchdogs and guard dogs do not typically need any training for their job, they perform these roles instinctively and autonomously. Actually, it’s my experience that you spend more time training guardians when NOT to guard than when to guard. Like a guard dog, the best Personal Protection Dogs (PPDs) will have a natural protective instinct too, but with the drive to follow-through. Since PPDs are often deployed in public situation (not private property, like a guard dog) the PPD requires a lot of specialized training to ensure the public’s safety.
There is also another type of security dog they use in any armed guard company: the Personal Protection Dog (PPD). These dogs also work on instinct, but are typically always with their human. They’re rarely expected to sit back at home and guard the property while their owner is gone – instead they would be with their owner as their primary job is to protect their owner from “bad guys”. These dogs require a lot of training in the area of obedience and control, and probably pose the highest liability to the owner. A typical should be expected to engage and eliminate threats – without guidance from their handler. These dogs “read” the situation, and act on instinct to protect their human. These dogs require a lot of socialization so they can best “read” their environment and different scenarios.
I’m a little late sharing this story, but it’s a good one. Back in May on a Saturday I took Parka out on his first hike. We live at the base of the Southern Rockies and I spend a good amount of my time hiking the mountains. I had wanted to get Parka out on the trails for a few weeks, to get him used to hiking with me, and finally I got some time to do it. We hiked a trail called the North Boundary Trail, it’s a trail that starts close to town but snakes up into the mountains to a big meadow at about 11,000 feet.
So Parka and I were on the North Boundary trail, we had been hiking for about 2 hours. We stopped and took some pictures, then I decided we should turn around before it started to get dark. This whole hike Parka had been very alert and watchful, but I thought nothing of it (he’s a guardian, after all)…
Well, about 30 minutes after we turned to head back, as we were going around a blind ridge, Parka stopped dead. His eyes got very large, his nostrils got very large, and his lips started to wrinkle – then he let out a very deep growl. I figured it was due to a person coming toward us on the trail or something, so I reached for my treats to redirect Parka and move off the trail. While I was looking down in the treat bag Parka does this massive display – growling, barking, and dragging me forward (I almost lost my balance)…
Then out shot a Mountain Lion!!! It ran up the mountain away from us, it was apparently hanging out behind a rock on the ridge to the left (about 4 feet above the trail)… If we had walked by we would have walked right under him!!!
At first I thought it was a deer or something, but then I could see his long tail, and he clearly didn’t move like a deer or a Coyote. Crazy. I mean, he could have jumped right out and got both of us! I had NO IDEA he was there.
Maybe the lion was just napping, or chilling out in the sun. I dunno. But it was a kinda close-call even if he didn’t want to eat us. This thing was BIG too… scary big.
Every year there is at least one person who is attacked by a cougar in this area (laster year the attack was only 15 minutes from our house)… I gotta wonder, if it wasn’t for Parka, would we have been one of those victims this year?
I take dogs with me on hikes a lot, and always thought they might be useful in a situation like this, but I never thought it’d actually happen. I’m so proud of Mr. Parka, he did his job!
I don’t typically buy into much of the text written about a breed’s history, especially with these recreated breeds, but I’ll admit it: there is something rather romantic about my Boerboel protecting me from a lion!
Sorry for the inactivity. I’ve been bad about posting here. Truth is, I’m just very busy lately (new baby, new job, lots of dogs), and with all the wildfires this summer, I’ve been pretty inactive. I’ll try to do better, I promise! 🙂