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Looking for advice on our 8 month old SBT

Hi everyone! I’ve been spending lots of time reading these discussions ever since we got our bull terrier. This forum is so helpful. I’ve had dogs before, but this is my first bull terrier and as we know they are very unique!

Ours is almost 8 months old now (her name is Zoey) and we’re running into situations where she growls at us. I’ve seen this mentioned in other discussions, but wasn’t able to find any advice specifically for this issue, so I apologize if this is repetitive.

We have situations where she’ll growl at us if we approach her in our house. Sometimes she’ll approach us with her tail wagging and then after petting her or sitting beside her for a couple minutes she’ll start acting sketchy and then growl at us. The growls are getting more intense over time and now she’s starting to show teeth. I’ve spoken to a couple dog trainers about this and one actually told me that his advice is to put her down. He said he’s seen this a thousand times... it’s pretty common in bull terrier and that this is especially bad since she’s doing this as a puppy.

However, I do know that bull terriers go through their adolescent phase so I’m wondering if this is something we can work out of her? Do they ever fully grow out of this? It’s at the point where we can’t really stay close to her for long durations of time because we know that switch is going to/could flick and have a moment.

Any advice on how to handle this (or success stories with this situation) would be greatly appreciated.... there’s no way we want to give up on her and we love her very much!
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  • jur45jur45 australia
    She’s beautiful
    I don’t have much advice sorry but just wondering if her eyesight is ok?
    Just a thought :| I’m not an expert and working through my two bullies but luckily I have experienced such a behaviour to both of you....is it with all household members? Was she warm affectionate prior to this?
    Is she unwell at all? Perhaps a vet check to rule out health issues first would be my opinion. I do hope you find a solution or get better advice from others.
    Thankyou Sarah
  • hutzyhutzy Canada
    Hi Sarah! Thanks for your feedback. We were actually wondering whether this is health related.. she was completely fine for most of her life, a complete lap dog and we had no issues with her. It was after she got spayed that we started having these issues. We’ve been trying to find a potential medical issue that’s been having an impact on this behaviour, but no luck so far!
  • BrooklynBrooklyn New York
    First I would check with a vet to rule out possible health issues. Also she's entering the teenage phase so she might be testing the limits. It will get worse if you don't learn to nip it on the bud. We had a similar issue that started around your dogs age and thought it will go away when he exits a teenage age. The growling became a teeth showing, a teeth showing eventually turned into lunging. He learned by growling/lunging he could avoid things he dies not like. It took us years to fix it. Still we accept that he does not like to be touched excessively (like some people don't like to be hugged) but he learned to walk away when enough instead of growling. She needs to learn that you are the boss, then other family members, and she is on the lowest step of the ladder. With this breed you always need to be one step higher otherwise they will take a charge. They are smart dogs with a very strong will. They want to be your equal, not your pet.
  • jur45jur45 australia
    Hello again :)
    I’m glad that this is something new and I do feel you can overcome/fix this with her. If you haven’t gone back to the vet, I would first to rule out anything. How long ago was her op, has she healed properly? If she was anxious/scared with the last DR maybe see a different one in the same clinic perhaps. You know how she felt so you make the decision. Our pups are sensitive emotional souls that need reassuring. She probably remembers the ordeal and being so young :( poor thing and if it was a negative one she’ll remember you took her there yikes :s Does the vet give treats to build the ‘happy experience’ for their dogs? Just a thought or you carry something special.
    I do hope you find some answers and am hopeful you will. Keep us updated :)

    My boys I love dearly
    Moose n Memphis.
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  • hutzyhutzy Canada
    @Brooklyn yeah it sounds like we’re dealing with the exact same thing right now. At what age did you start properly addressing it? Did you ever get to a point where you fully trust your dog not to have an outburst, or are you still always on your toes? Any tips on how you dealt with these situations and taught him that you are the boss?
  • hutzyhutzy Canada
    @jur45 awe Moose and Memphis are looking really content being couch potatoes!! Love it. We definitely haven’t had the easiest start with her - she’s terrified of the outdoors so we’ve been working through that.... and we’ve had frequent trips to the vet with her injuring herself/having stomach issues/etc. She seems to be fairly excited to go to the vet and when she comes back she’s in a good mood. But perhaps with all the bumps in the road it’s caused her some stress.
  • jur45jur45 australia
    It takes a lot of patience overcoming sounds, vehicles, surrounding I know....it can be frustrating you take a few steps out and they want in :s it was a lot easier with Memphis as he had big bro to feel secure, moose was a challenge and I live on a highway :o it took ages. Even now I struggle as he tries to tell me where he wants to walk lol

    I’m sorry but I do not have any other advice except her health, unless it’s something you guys wear that’s different....sounds odd I know but my Moose can get real sus with people’s get go idk if it’s the hoodies, beanies or what, but he can give them the dirty look and will fix in them unless I quickly distract. But your her owners so I think this wouldn’t fit your problem. Is it all the time? Does she get to pat, cuddle or does she let you brush her, any intimate handling tolerated? Does she like other animals?
    So many questions sorry but I wish I could advise more. Hope more jump on board.
  • hutzyhutzy Canada
    @jur45 yeah it’s a weird one. We’re thinking that in some cases maybe she’s stressed after coming in from a walk so she wants to be left alone (so she goes to her crate and we leave her be until she relaxes and comes out again). Other times I have no idea why she does it because it happens randomly. Maybe she’s trying to tell us she’s boss and we just need to work on teaching her that this behavioural is unacceptable? She loves all dogs and people (she wants to say hi to everyone). We do also bath her, pat her and touch her... it’s hit or miss. Sometimes she’ll be fine and other times she’s just not in the mood. Just hoping we can get to a place where we trust her not to have these outbursts!
  • jur45jur45 australia
    Brooklyn might be right it’s a behavioural issue so you got your work cut out for you :s but you’ll get there with firm, consistent discipline. All the other things you mention sound good with her temperament so she’s just growing up lol
    Keep reading, I know you have or google some training tips if you need help or believe in yourself and stick to it, no softness now :D
    Good luck
  • hutzyhutzy Canada
    Thanks @jur45 for all your input. Sounds like the journey continues for us!
  • BrooklynBrooklyn New York
    You should address it right away. Back then I was too much into "all positive training, where you can't say NO to your dog, instead you should wave a hot dog sausage and make them to the trick" - boy was I wrong... Snarling Bull Terrier is not something anyone would love to see... While You can't get much out of EBT by raising your voice or physical punishment as they are very sensitive souls. Generally the are eager to please so they sense your disapproval right away but they are strong-willed enough to disregard it. All permissive parenting is not healthy for that specific breed. I think the authoritative parenting style fits bull terriers the best (not to be confused with authoritarian). We thought our guy he has to earn everything as nothing is free - he has to perform a cue to get a treat or a toy (like sit, down etc), he has to "sit and wait" when I put his bowl down, wait another 10-20 seconds and start eating when I say OK. He sits while I'm locking or unlocking a front door. I always enter/exit first if he's on leash. When we play fetch, I ask him to sit or down before I throw - he considers it a part of the game and happy to do it not realizing that I'm training him. When he started growling on furniture, he was banned from it for a good 6 months until he learned it does not belong to him, it's humans and we allow him to be there if he behaves. Even now that he had improved, just to avoid confrontations, he has to get off if we want to sit down. He can jump on if he wants once we settled down. It's not as hard as it sounds and after a while everything goes naturally - most of the time I don't need to cue, he just does it. Also proper exercising makes a big difference. When Vinnie was a teen he needed an hour and a half to two hours of running to get rid of pent up energy. Every single day. Now at 5 years old he's fine with 1 hour of running/fetching. Every single day.
    Did I ever get to a point where I fully trust my dog not to have an outburst? No, I did not. While at 5 years old he became 90% better self, still there is that 10% of stubbornness somewhere deep inside. As I mentioned earlier we also learned what he does not like and don't push his limits unnecessarily. If he does not like to be petted excessively, its ok. He does not like strangers to touch him - that's fine too.
    And as for walking, our guy was acting the same until he turned 4 yo, now he loves going out. I'd try to entertain her with some treats while walking. If you live in the city or small town, you can entertain her with treats while training - at every crosswalk tell her to sit, then treat. Also telling her how good she is during the walks could help to build confidence.
    How does your average walk looks like?
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  • Billie_TinaBillie_Tina California
    That's some really good advice from @Brooklyn and that's such a cute picture of Vinnie, I love how he's sitting :x
  • hutzyhutzy Canada
    Thanks so much @Brooklyn, this is all great advice and we’re going to work on implementing these ideas! Our walks are not great - she gets spooked really easily and then shuts down. She has her good and bad days... we try not to push her too much, but we don’t want her to think she can run away from everything that scares her. Definitely a work in progress and unfortunately we can’t use walks and the outdoors as an energy burner right now!
  • jur45jur45 australia
    Second that, great info Brooklyn :)
    Nice pic of your Vinnie ;)
  • Do you have some news on this one? How is Zoye these days? We had a very similar thing with out mini bull terrier https://fello.pet/en/dog-breeds/miniature-bull-terrier/. She was absolutely lovely and friendly dog from the moment we had her and she started to show some aggression after a vet visit. I think it took her another 3 months (and lots of our nerves) until everything got back to normal. Maybe it is a bit much, but we decided to change vet. I am not saying that something happened there, but my wife was out of his office for about 20min. We are all very happy to have back our lovely friend.
    Here is a nice shot of Lily, that was her first day as our new family member)))
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  • Billie_TinaBillie_Tina California
    That is an adorable baby picture of Lily! I'm glad she's better and back to her lovely self :)
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