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Over the past few weeks I've noticed that whenever I come home together with my parents, our dog starts growling at me--and only at me. Tonight he actually tried to bite me, fortunately he was stopped by my father.

I'm really confused by his behavior because inside the house I can play with him and whenever I come home "alone" from work, he doesn't get angry and I can even pet him. It is only when I come home together with my parents after going out that he gets aggressive towards me. Is it because my parents stay with him at home all the time and I don't see him for almost 15 hours a day?

I would appreciate any advice on how to stop this behavior before he ends up biting me.

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Developing a healthier relationship with this dog will involve play, but it will need to be structured in a way so that you are reinforcing appropriate pet behavior, and not inadvertently exacerbating the problem or quite frankly, placing yourself in danger. I don’t know if this dog has learned to accept clear leadership from either of your parents, but if no one at home has the ability to EASILY direct this dog, without the use of physical restraint, it may not be safe for you to take a stab at this without professional support.

At all costs, safety has to be established, so do not hesitate to ask your veterinarian, or other local pet professionals for a referral to a knowledgeable dog trainer or animal behaviorist. In your description, it wasn’t clear (to me), if the attempted bite occurred when you entered your home, and you directly approached your growling dog (this is one way that dogs communicate a warning), which you ignored and encroached on the dog, or if you entered your home and the dog approached you (only to be restrained by your father). Pet owners often approach their own dogs, even when they are growling, due to a certain amount of denial - it’s understandably challenging to accept that one’s dog might bite them. I urge you to take warning behavior very seriously.

There are too many questions that I would want to discuss before advising you to do anything other than finding skilled, professional behavioral support, immediately. Start of with a complete veterinary exam - please describe the behavior you’ve experienced to your vet. If you can bring your parents to also discuss their observations, it may be helpful. Expect the vet to want to do a complete workup. Many animal behavioral issues have easily addressed physical health-related beginnings. May this be so in your situation.

In the meantime, call ahead of your return to your home and make sure that the dog is secure before you enter. There’s no reason to risk anyone’s safety. There’s nothing positive to be gained by permitting your dog to repeatedly practice threatening behavior towards you, so take an active role in diffusing the conflict by being proactive. I advise against attempting to punish the dog's behavior. It could exacerbate the current problem or lead to other issues.

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I'm sure you know that dogs react based on sense of smell. You need to think where you are coming from when you come home with your parent versus coming home along from work.

It seems there are two scenarios here and coming home with your parent is what you need to analyze.

Also, consider how your mood is in both scenarios. Dogs can smell fear and other feelings.

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