Growling at my wife

I have a 3 1/2 year old male (Moko) who has started to growl at my wife, he does this when me and him are in my game room and she comes in, doesn't matter if he's asleep or awake but she will tell him to stop and pets him and no issues. Since he was a puppy he would always want to get between us when we hugged/kissed (weird), but I didn't think much of it. Well, last night he was asleep on the couch and she came to tell me GN and he again gave a low growl and she sternly told him to stop and this time his growling got louder. I immediately got up and in let him know this was a no, no and he seemed to calm down and went to my wife and put his paw on her and love on her. She sat down and he got in her lap to be pet. Has anyone of y'all had a similar experience? He doesn't do this all the time just every now and then.

You are right to correct the behavior immediately and be consistent every time. Basenjis are very smart and will take over / run the whole household if they are allowed.

Sounds to me like typical jealous basenji behavior. If you walk him in his own, try having your wife come with you and have her walk him.

Who feeds this dog? Where does he sleep? It may be he is hoarding his resource (you) or it could be as simple as he is comfortable and doesn't want to be disturbed. Try changing it up, i.e. your wife sits in the game room with your dog while you are absent doing something else (outside if necessary) and see what reaction you get if he is comfortable with her and you are the intruder. If that won't work because he prefers to be with you, then let him have to depend on your wife for everything, his food, his walks, his cuddles, and you ignore him for awhile. Might be interesting!

This is a serious issue, because your dog is resource guarding you. Most people think that it’s because their dog is protecting them, it is not. That growl, it’s a warning, that if not corrected, will progress to teeth barring, and eventually a bite. I suggest you research resource guarding. I have a dog, that resource guards, we are his 4th home. We have had him for 7 1/2 years. My experience, when he first came to live with us, he and I bonded. I fed him, and was his principle care taker, the supplier of his resources. This led to problems. My husband could not come to bed without begging charged at by the dog. On 1 occasion, he got bitten. Your wife will need to work obedience with him, without you in the room. I suggest that she feed him. She should be the one that walks him. This will send the message that he needs to depend on her for his resources. Eventually you can share the duties, but for right now, she needs to be the one to do it. Also, I would suggest that your wife should come into the room, You make the dog get up OFF the couch. Have your wife sit down beside you, and have HER invite the dog back up onto the couch. Do this several times everyday. I have to keep treats in the bedroom so my husband can get into bed at night, he needs to pay a toll every night! I hope this helps.

Yes I have the same issue, it is not all the time, but my brother lives with me. She used to growl at him every day, and he would give her a treat, I told him to stop rewarding the bad behavior, and that did help. She only growls now when I am in bed, she sleeps beside my bed, and if he walks past my bedroom she will growl. It's always a soft growl. I immediately tell her no, and 99% of the time she will stop.
But I am the only person she will let pet her, and the only person she will go for a walk with. I thought maybe they were one of those 1 person dog types. If someone else tries to pet her, she just backs up, doesnt growl or anything... just gets out of their reach.

Totally agree with what everyone else has said, this is classic resource guarding - super common, super fixable, and there are tons of resources on the Internet that will help you guys overcome this.

I would even go one step further and ban him from the couch entirely, at least for now. Get a dog bed or mat and position it in the room where your couch is and teach him the ‘Place’ Command. If he already knows ‘down’ and ‘stay’, those come in handy too. He shouldn’t be on the couch at all while you or your wife or both are on it. Dogs that don’t have couch manners = don’t get to be on the couch (keep this consistent and don’t cave, no exceptions). It also gets him accustomed to seeing the two of you together without him - maybe even over-exaggerate a cuddle or kiss for his benefit. This isn’t a punishment so much as just teaching him where he fits in the dynamic between the three of you. He’s been getting the wrong message up until now (through no fault of your own or your wife’s!! No one can predict that a dog will respond this way to their primary caretaker), that your wife is a threat to his possession of you, rather than a high ranking member of the family with partner and couch privileges too.
(If he sleeps in your bed, same rules apply)

Eventually you might be able to transition him back onto the couch - I would wait until you don’t see any resource guarding behavior for at least several weeks. This is in conjunction with everything else people have said - your wife should be the one to feed him and walk him. You, as hard as it’s going to be, should not offer him any (or at least very, very minimal) physical affection during this time. You’re going to want to cave and that’s understandable. it’s really hard not to give your dog long pets and cuddles, but resource guarding only gets worse over time (growling becomes lunging, lunging becomes biting). Better to nip it in the bud now quickly and decisively.

Edit: oh, and number one thing not to do is ‘redirect’ him with treats. I.e., ‘Your wife comes over, he growls, you/your wife make him get off the couch, then give him a treat’. ‘Or your wife comes over, he growls and you/your wife give him treats’. That’s not redirecting anything, it’s rewarding his growling with food and he will very quickly make that connection and it will very quickly get worse. Food should not even be in the equation during this ‘correction’ period (except in the training and reinforcement of the ‘Place’ command, or ‘down’ and ‘stay’ commands designed to preemptively make him give you and your wife space before he even has an opportunity to resource guard). Basically, At no point should any resource guarding behavior be followed by treats.

last edited by theresab

@theresab said in Growling at my wife:

At no point should any resource guarding behavior be followed by treats.

Amen to that! The biggest mistake I see (and I see it often) with "positive" training is people rewarding the wrong behaviour, typically because they don't understand how the dog is interpreting the reason for the reward.

And your wife should be feeding him....not you.....

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