My 5 month old goldendoodle puppy growls aggressively. We've been trying (unsucessfully) to stop him since he's been 12 weeks old. He is exercised, socialized, and obedience trained, but seems to have a thing about feet on or near him.
He growls and snaps without warning and it seems to happen if a foot brushes by him, or is placed gently on him, etc. He has never been kicked or had an unpleasant experience with feet that I know of. He is also growly and aggressive meeting new people (and he goes to many new places to do so), but I can't have it in the house with 3 active children. I thought this breed was good with kids, but ours is temperamental. How can we safely desensitize him around feet and new people?
Strangely, new dogs or cats are not a problem, but the neighbor jogging better watch out!
If your pup has been behaving this way since he was 12 weeks old, it's probably a very ingrained behavior by now and he's reacting instinctively and without thought. Although you're not aware of him having ever been kicked, I tend to think that at some point he's been hurt or scared by a foot (either accidentally or on purpose, and this could have been before you got him) and it's left a deep impression on him.
Many puppies are 'mouthy' around feet and tend to nip, chase, bite and so on at ankles/feet/shoes and so on. But if you've followed the tips and advice on my Puppy Biting page and corrected him consistently I would expect him to have overcome this behavior by now. Which is why I think it's deep-rooted in some way.
If you've only been using verbal corrections, withdrawing attention and so on, I'd recommend getting a few small water-spray bottles and giving him a quick 'shot' of water from those if he growls or bites at a foot/feet. If the plain water doesn't work, then try a vinegar:water solution.
However you also need to try to help him overcome his fear of feet, and I'm going to go out on a limb here (sorry, no pun intended!) and suggest you may want to try a similar exercise that works well for pups/dogs who don't like hands near their food or are 'snappy'. In those situations recommend hand-feeding at least one meal a day, as it helps the dog to see the hand as a non-threatening and rewarding appendage :o)
I'm not sure exactly how possible it is to 'foot-feed' and this is just my own personal idea based on a cause-and-effect scenario, but perhaps you could feed your pup some extra special treats (perhaps freeze-dried liver, or even toasted hot-dog slices) but place them close by your feet, and allow him to approach and eat them at his own pace. Don't move your foot while he's eating, or as soon as he's finished, but allow him to move away first. Do this at least once a day for several weeks, gradually moving the food/treats closer to your feet... eventually you may be able to put them on top of your foot!
I wouldn't suggest being barefoot in case he snaps, or gets scared, a sturdy shoe would be a good idea, but as he gets more comfortable you can vary the footwear. Don't rush things, and let the pup get familiar with this slowly. Also, I wouldn't advise letting the children try this at all, until you're certain that he's been de-sensitized. During the weeks that it takes to work on this, try really hard to avoid touching him with, or letting him too near your feet as much as possible, or it will set the whole process back.
I know this is a bit unorthodox, but it's sound in theory.. do bear in mind though that you know your dog best, and if you don't believe this is an option or possible given his level of fear/response, then don't put yourself at risk. In that case I'd recommend talking to a local dog trainer or dog behaviorist and asking for their advice.
As for the growly behavior with other people, it could again be an anxiety problem, but as he's obviously been trained and socialized well, he should be adjusting better than that. Although Goldendoodles are a breed that's generally good with children, and has the added benefit of being good for people with allergies, as with any breed all the pups/dogs are different and some can be more nervous, anxious or 'highly strung' than others. It could be that this is simply the personality he was born with and you'll need to be extra-patient and expect it to take a bit longer for him to accept things/people than it may do a more outgoing and confident pup.
Although he's been to obedience classes and been socialized, these are activities that should be on-going, and with a pup like this that is even more important. My Socialize Your Puppy page has tons of tips and ideas to help you with this process and to help keep things 'fresh'.
As he seems to be doing well overall, and you're willing to work with him and aware of his 'issues', I think that given time and patience he will gain in self-confidence and this behavior will disappear. Adolescence (which is where your pup is now) can be challenging for a pup, especially a male, and maturity helps!
Best of luck, hope he overcomes his worries soon.