Just last week our 4 year old yellow lab. has started to growl and snarl when we touch his face mostly when he lays on our bed. He has slept in bed with us since we had him. But he also will growl and snarl at my wife mostly, more so than with me and not only on the bed. It seems to happen at night mostly too. When he growls at me while on the bed I tell him to get off the bed and let him sleep on the floor next to me. But I am very concerned about his growling and snarling at my wife. We used to be able to rub our face in his face in a playful manner and now when my wife's face gets close to him he growls. However, we tried putting her face near his face with treats for reassurance and he is OK with that!
One major change in the house, was our first baby born in October 2007. My wife has been home since then with the dog and baby. The dog is fine with the baby, lays down next to him, never growled or snarled at the baby. The dog doesn't growl or snarl at us when we are with the baby. Also, the dog gets activity 3 times a day playing catch in the backyard. We have not neglected giving attention to the dog at all since the babies arrival, in fact we might be over compensating the dog with attention since the babies arrival.
Any help will be appreciated b/c we are fondly attached to our first dog ever, yet I need to be realistic to protect my wife and child.
Why would sleeping on the bed have anything to do with it if he has done this for his whole life. Is he just getting older and trying to be dominant?
One thing I didn't mention in my post was that his body is hard as a rock, he won't look at you and his hackles are up, when he growls and snarls. Then he seems to be very remorseful and walks away from us in a timid and scared manner. Then he will gradually try to come back around us.
What I do when he growls at me is I say a firm harsh "No". Then when he comes back to me after snapping out of his mean streak, I give him commands like:---- sit----give me your paw----other paw---and I pet him.
he's treating the bed as 'his' space, and its not - so bed privileges are OVER. Personally, I wouldn't allow this dog back on the bed at any point, but if you must, then it has to be at your invitation, and the dog must listen immediately if you tell him to get off.
I would have the vet check his vision. If he's having trouble seeing it may explain why it's mostly at night (lower light levels) and why it's when you get close to his face maybe he can't see you as well or he's getting startled. For your wifes safety I would get him off the bed and try to keep from getting close to his face. Try to figure out the triggers and avoid them. Also does she do the same thing when he does it to her? Is she in control and he listens to her? He may do it more to her as a dominance thing and getting him off the bed would help with that.
Good luck figureing it out.
I would have the vet do a complete physical. Second in no way would he be on the bed. That is a place of privillege for pack leaders and it does sound like he is trying to get it as his own. No more bed privilleges. No, he's not remorseful and with his body as hard when he's growling he is very serious. I would not allow the dog to be next to the baby until all things are ruled out. His life has been turned upside down and with this different behavior, I would always advise to error on the side of caution. Remember as I said with bringing a new baby in his world has been turned upside down. Plus if there is a problem with his vision............. Remember, too, for as much as all of us love our Labs they are still dogs and still related to the wolf and always capable of biting.
Susan UCDX GRCH Dunn's Marsh Caleb of Waltona UDX3, OM3, RAE Canadian UD, RE FallRiver's Micah of Waltona GN RAE, Canadian CD, RN
I'd ask around about a professional trainer or behavior consultant qualified to deal with these types of issues. Punishment or corrections can sometimes make the problem much, much worse (depends on the dog).