Year old Black Lab acting aggressively
I have a year old Black Lab that I got from a local breeder. I met both the parents and all the rest of his siblings when i got him. They were all wonderful dogs. Unfortunately we had to go thru Parvo together but thankfully got thru it.
As far as energy goes he is right on par for being a lab. But since getting over the sickness he seems to have gotten some aggression tendencies. It can be something as simple as my girlfriend taking him out for a walk, bringing him back in the house, and he will start growling when she takes off the leash. As a reprimand she will place him in his kennel and he will growl the entire way there and till she closes the gate on him. He did this more often when he was sick but I took it as he was in a lot of pain from going thru parvo and didn't want to be bothered if he didn't have to.
It is not as often as it was when he was sick but it has come to a point that my girlfriend is timid to deal with him. It seems that if she wants him to move from one place to another or takes a toy away from him and he doesn't want it to happen he will growl. We are concerned that he will attack eventually. Although when I am home these tendencies almost stop completely. The few times that he has done it to me he quickly realizes who I am and starts to slowly walk back to me as if looking for forgiveness. But I still make him sit in his kennel because of it.
Is this something that will escalate in my lab when others are around? He lives with just my girlfriend and me during the week but is always around other dogs during the weekends and behaves perfectly. It's my idea that he got the surly attitude from being sick during parvo. Any help would be greatly appreciated!!!
I think you're half right when you attribute this behavior to your pups' illness. It likely started because he didn't feel good and he just wanted to be left alone, chances are that because you knew how bad he felt you spoiled him a little (not surprising and with the best of intentions!), and maybe even backed off a bit trying not to upset him.
That taught him growling will get him what he wants, and even sick little dogs learn very fast :) Now, he's a year old and going through the adolescence-to-maturity phase, and at this time dogs will usually start to act out, test limits, and may even challenge their owners. Especially males (and un-neutered males even more so), and dogs who have a tendency to being a bit 'alpha' or strong willed.
It would seem that your pup has decided that your girlfriend is the 'weakest link' and he's simply trying to assert himself over her and show her who's boss. This is something that needs to be dealt with right away, and consistently, as it won't get better by itself. I don't think he'll 'attack' as you put it, because he's giving plenty of warning by growling and hasn't even snapped or nipped, but the longer he is let believe he's got power over her the more difficult the habit will be to break.
As you all live together, this shouldn't be too hard to deal with as what you need to do is have your girlfriend totally take over the care of this pup, and you will only get involved or intervene if it's absolutely necessary in the beginning. Dogs respect those who control the resources of life (ie food, shelter, treats, games etc. in a dogs eyes) and food is the number one resource.
She will need to feed him, walk him and train him, eventually groom him too, but I'd leave that until he's started to accept the change in status. Also, he needs to earn everything, so she will need to tell him to 'sit' and make sure he obeys before putting down his food bowl, giving him a treat, putting on his leash etc. etc. I'd advise her to hand feed him one meal a day for at least two weeks - this is feeding him out of the palm of her hand, or a piece of kibble at a time - as this will demonstrate to him that she is closely associated with his food, and that her hand and his food can be together with good results!
Don't allow this pup to sleep on the bed or to jump up on it, or onto the furniture - that is a position of dominance to a dog. Also, don't allow him to block doorways or passages by lying in the way, or to lie on her feet or wind around her legs and get in her way when she's walking - these are all expressions of dominance.
Labs are very smart, and want to please their owners, and once this pup truly believes that your girlfriend is 'in charge' too, this growling behavior will melt away. It's very important that she not be timid or fearful around him though, dogs are extremely intuitive and can read the emotions of humans with no trouble at all. She needs to be confident and upright in her stance, use a low, firm voice and make eye contact when necessary (not a 'stare-down' though!). If you can follow these suggestions consistently, you should start to see an improvement within a month.
I'd also recommend enrolling this pup in a basic obedience class and having your girlfriend take him so that she can get some 'hands on' help to communicate with him better. It will good for both of them.
If he is a 'resource guarder', and protects his toys/bones etc. from people, then you need to teach him the 'leave it' command (YOU may want to do this first as he obviously respects you as an alpha) - you can read about this here.. Free Puppy Training Tips.
I hope this helps, and I wish you all the very best of luck. I'm sure that with a bit of extra effort and practice you'll be able to have a peaceful and happy relationship given a little time.