The Griffaroo turned 14 weeks this Saturday and we’ve been living with him for the last four of those. When we brought him home, he was certainly very puppy-like and he continues to be: ankle-biting, mouthing and all that good puppy stuff.
Compared to Ollie, he certainly was (and is) much more assertive. The first two weeks on putting him on his back was always a struggle–he would squirm and bite as though he didn’t want to be there and couldn’t understand why I was doing this to him. Hallmarks of a dominant dog.
During those first weeks in new situations, such as meeting another dog or person, his reaction was to bark. And not a friendly “let’s play” bark but a puppy version of “eff-off…if you come any closer I’ll kill you”. It was worrisome. He would also growl at us in particular situations: once when I took a bull penis away (don’t worry, they’re dog treats) and also once when picking him up. Our reaction to this was to continue to do the actions and not accept a growl as an appropriate behaviour. Letting him know that we’re in charge and he does what we want him to do, we started to hand feed him and interrupt other acts of daily life to see what reaction we would get. 99.9% of the time, he’s fine with everything that’s going on.
We’ve worked hard on this growling and barking through socialization; with other dogs and people. He’s improving on both fronts, and we’re both feeling like he’s making progress toward a less fearful reaction when in threatening situations.
It doesn’t mean it’s all sunshine and lollipops at this point. Dad came to visit today and, with Griff in his lap, bent down to say hello. When he got close to Griff’s face, Griff growled and moved away. An improvement, but still growling in a situation like that is unacceptable. We got the treats out, and had Dad continue to be close to his face and feed him the treats. No more growling and even a few licks. Now, hopefully he’ll be less fearful when a stranger picks him up and gets close: good things happened the last time this happened to me.
All of this is challenging. We need Griff to be a well-balanced, predictable dog. Acting out of fear is not a reaction we can live with. And while it’s scary not to know what the future holds (will he get worse? Become that monster of a Terrier that you can’t trust with anyone?) he’s such a smart, sweet boy the majority of the time that we’re committed to making this work.