How to teach my puppy to stop barking and growling at my family and men
(Didsbury, Alberta, Canada)
Age: 1 1/2
Gender: Male/ neutered
Things we have tried: citronella spray collar, squirt bottle, and yelling, and putting him out side.
Other Info: we have had him since he was 16 weeks old. he always bark,growls and snarls at my dad, car doors slamming, and the door knocking, door bells, and other things.He has never been abused that we know of. And if i can't train him to stop barking we will have to sell him. I can't sell him we are too close. And he only trusts me and my mom. I have two little brothers, 10 and 8.
It sounds as though your dog is fairly anxious and it's showing up as fear-based aggression. It's not very unusual for a pup to react in this way more to men than to women or children, and they don't necessarily have to have been mistreated to show this behavior. Men are bigger and have louder, deeper voices, plus the dog often senses that this is the person who is 'in charge' or is the decision-maker in the home. All of these things seem to cause a fearful or aggressive reaction in some dogs.
Shouting, physical corrections or banishing your dog when he behaves this way will likely only make the situation worse, as it raises the 'emotional level' of the interaction and increases the likelihood of him misbehaving. The Citronella collar was a good idea, but if it doesn't work then a training collar with a 'tone' or a very mild electrical impulse may work better and I'd suggest giving it a try. But if it scares your dog don't use it as again that will only make the situation worse. You can learn more about dog training collars on my Training Dog Collars and Petsafe Dog Training Collars pages. Although this may help reduce his barking though, it won't reduce the anxiety/fear or aggression that is causing it.
For that I would strongly recommend that you get some hands-on professional help. You could try calling some of the dog obedience schools in your area and explaining the problem, they may have classes or one-on-one instruction that can help you learn to overcome this behavior in Tiego. Your vet may also have information or advice to give, and could maybe recommend a dog behavioral specialist that can help you work with your dog so that he can learn to be less scared and defensive and relax enough to overcome his issues.
This sort of behavioral therapy will take time and patience, and once he's over the initial hurdles and is starting to improve, lots of positive socialization experiences will help reinforce that.
It would be very sad for you and Tiego if he had to be rehomed, and you'd need to find someone who would be understanding of his issues and experienced enough to help him get better or it could end up badly. This little guy just needs help to learn to trust men and other strangers, and to feel less anxious.
There are also some natural products that can help to relieve anxiety and stress and may be able to make Tiego feel better. Used in conjunction with socialization and behavioral therapy and training they could be very useful. You can find some of the best ones on my Natural Health Products For Dogs page, Dog Separation Anxiety Medication page or my Natural Remedies for Dogs page.
Hope this helps, I wish you the very best of luck with Tiego and hope that you can help him overcome his problems so that he can stay with the family that he loves.