Growling and barking at strangers

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Andee Jay
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Growling and barking at strangers

Post by Andee Jay »

Three months ago we took over the care of a 12 year old female standard Schnauzer. Unfortunately, she has a malignant melanoma in her mouth and therefore a very limited lifespan. Saying that, she seems happy and healthy, liking nothing more than chasing squirrels. We are lucky to have such a lovely old girl: she's placid, affectionate, doesn't bark, has excellent recall, fine with other dogs etc. She doesn't like being left on her own though - we have tried leaving the tv on, playing accoustic music and leaving her for a few seconds at a time but she gets stressed as soon as the door bangs shut (we recorded her). Since she has probably only a few months left we have decided to take her everywhere with us and put our lives on hold for a bit. So we know she's needy. I've provided this background as I think this may be behind something we've noticed in the last couple of weeks. She's started growling at certain strangers (started with waiters) coming near us. It then moved to random people in the street, particularly if the street is empty. In the last few days, barking has become added to the growling. We live in a built up area and can't avoid strangers. Plus the garden is too small for her to exercise in. I'm just back from her last walk of the day where she growled, barked and made to lunge at a teenage boy who did nothing but pass us. I said No in a loud voice and she instantly stopped and cowered. I don't like doing that but am worried where it will end. Any advice much appreciated! Many thanks.

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Dawnspell
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Re: Growling and barking at strangers

Post by Dawnspell »

Hi and welcome

There could be a couple of reasons for this or a combination of both. As dogs get older they can become more reactive and lose confidence due to their hearing eyesight, mobility etc declining which can leave them feeling a bit more vulnerable so more likely to react to thing they didnt used to.

She could also be in some mild discomfort or even pain from her condition. Dogs are very good at hiding pain so you may not be aware of it. Think if you have a nagging ache or pain yourself it doesnt have to be major but it can make you feel irritable at things that normally wouldnt bother you and day after day it wears you down.

Whats she like at being left in the car ? Jasper is better being left in his crate in the car than being left at home.

I would avoid raising your voice that not going to help. She could actually connect strangers and you giving her a negative experience which would make things worse. If a stranger is coming head on and you cant make an escape by crossing the road or going into a driveway, just keep up your pace and keep her moving. If you have problems controlling her use a double clip lead on the back and front of a harness.
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zeta1454
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Re: Growling and barking at strangers

Post by zeta1454 »

All good advice in the post above :)

I do also wondered - if you are in the U.K. and have a car whether you could easily access a dog park where your schnauzer could have some time exercising without worry of other people. If you have some friends with dogs that your schnauzer is comfortable playing with you may be able to hire a field or barn for all to play together.

https://www.dogparksnearme.co.uk

We also take our dogs to walk in the grounds of places such as National Trust properties; local council owned gardens; English Heritage sites; arboretums etc. and often if you go early there are few visitors and, as the space is vast, you can usually keep far enough from other people that they are unlikely to bother a dog that doesn’t like strangers.

If you don’t have a car or any access to dog parks or other gardens, you could try changing the times you walk if that is possible so that there a fewer people around - early morning or evening. You may also find that providing mentally challenging games for your schnauzer at home and in the garden are a good substitute for one of the walks - such as setting up a treat hunt in your garden by hiding small tasty treats in and behind objects such as flower pots; empty yogurt cartons; cardboard tube rolls etc. or using one or more of the Nina Ottosson type puzzle challenges in the house:

https://www.nina-ottosson.com/

As mentioned above, it could be that the melanoma is having an effect beyond the mouth and either causing pain or actually affecting her vision or her ability to interpret her sense of strangers and feeling vulnerable as a result. Random barking in an older dog which didn’t do so before can be a sign of the onset of canine cognitive dysfunction (sometimes referred to as doggy dementia). As with humans not all dogs display the same symptoms and often it can be missed in the early days and not picked up until there are noticeable changes but it is something which may explain her changed behaviour. I would not necessarily investigate further with your schnauzer unless you are really concerned though, given the circumstances you describe as regards her life expectancy. Really as you are doing, it is just a question of trying to support her as much as possible through the coming months.

https://firstvet.com/us/articles/canine ... JMQAvD_BwE
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Andee Jay
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is a: P/S Std Bitch
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Re: Growling and barking at strangers

Post by Andee Jay »

Thank you very much, both. I hadn't thought about the melanoma affecting her, though it must as it is in the front of her mouth. Thankfully, it hasn't affected her eating though we avoid hard food. Also, I hadn't considered cognitive decline. Just to say I didn't shout at her, just said "no" loudly and firmly. I've never had to use my voice like that with her before. I checked out several online resources which suggested comforting her if she growled near strangers, which is what I had been doing. She's great on the lead normally and off it too. The bad behaviour towards strangers occurs only when she's on the lead. My worry is the stranger's reaction, a lot of people are afraid/ don't like dogs and would think nothing of reporting you. I've already been shouted at (on this occasion she didn't do much IMO, she stopped and growled, didn't lunge or try to bite). We live in a built up area and whatever time we go out, wherever we go, on foot or in the car, will always encounter people.

If she does pull (when she sees something interesting like a squirrel), it's not too bad and is resolved by a quick, sharp tug of the lead. Off the lead, she normally trots beside me, stops or sniffs and plays with the occasional dog (she's fussy who she plays with) and ignores strangers. So no problem when in the park, it's just getting there. Funnily enough, we can leave her in the car but don't often or for long as it's so cold at the moment - she also has arthritis. I'll check out those links. Thank you again for responding.

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