I have a 4 year old bitch, Roxy. She is wonderful and a joy to have although she can be standy at times.
But i have started to notice that when ever some one strokes her she starts licking her lips and then stops dead and her face seems to change, like she wants to nail you? This is making me feel a little unnerved and so whoever strokes her i’m on tenter hooks and as soon as i see her do that face i move her away from people which isn’t fair to her.
I’m not sure where this has come from as she is well socialised and we have had her since she was 6 mths old, she has always been apart of our family and grown up with my children, she has never really liked other dogs but has always loved people.
It sounds as though something is making Roxy uncomfortable about being stroked, but I wouldn’t say she’s behaving aggressively as you don’t mention her ever actually growling, let alone snapping, at someone.
First of all I’d recommend having her examined by your vet to make sure that she’s 100% healthy. You want to rule out any sore areas or pain (for example arthritic changes that could cause her joints/hips/back-bone etc. to be tender or painful). Sometimes if this behavior is unusual and out-of-character for a dog there’s a physical reason behind it.
If she gets a clean bill of health, then it may be a touch of dominance showing in her behavior, in that she doesn’t think others have a right to be petting her. This is something you would need to work on with her, and I’d advise getting her enrolled in a dog obedience class so that you have some hands-on help and guidance and she gets some additional socialization.
To reinforce the idea that she’s NOT in charge, you can make a few small changes at home, things such as….
1. Don’t allow her up on beds/furniture. Get her a dog bed and have her sleep there.
2. Make her ‘earn’ her meals, treats, grooming etc. by asking her to sit and waiting for her to obey before going ahead.
3. Don’t let her lie in doorways or block arrow halls/passages, or wind around your legs to obstruct you as you walk, or jump all over you. These are all subtle ways that dogs try to assert their authority over people.
It’s also important not to get too tense or worried about this, as she may be picking up on your anxiety or fear and be reacting to THAT. Dogs are very intuitive and aware of their owners emotions, if you get tense when she’s being stroked or petted, she will be aware of that and will interpret it as fear about the situation – but misunderstand the context. If she thinks there’s something to be afraid of, she will stiffen and be on guard.
It’s very unusual for a dog of this age who’s been well socialized and who has a sound temperament (as Roxy seems to have), to become ‘aggressive’. I doubt that this is something serious, but simply a behavior you need to find the cause of and work to overcome before it becomes a habit. Your vet, a local dog trainer, or a dog behaviorist should be able to give you more help and advice too.
I wish you the best of luck and hope that you get it all worked out.