Dogs are sometimes aggressive towards other dogs, cats or humans. An agression behavior often is based on the dog VS master treatment and relationship.
I am hoping that someone can help me as I am truly desperate. I have a 2 1/2 year old mixed breed dog (53 lbs) who I adopted from a rescue at the age of 11 wks. He has never shown any aggression toward humans of any age (I could take his favorite bone or toy out o fhis mouth and he wouldn't flinch), but he has shown intermittent aggression toward other animals. I also have a Miniature Pinscher and a cat. At about 9 months of age after months of great socialization with other dogs in the neighborhood this dog, Grizzly, charged and attacked my friend's dog who was in my house. This scared me to death and I contacted an animal behaviorist immediately. Sinnce he was entering adolecsence she chalked tihs up as likely "normal" and suggested a basic obedience course. He did well in a group setting but was anxious around the other dogs, although not aggressive. A month or so later he attacked the MinPin for no apparent reason (no growl) by latching on to her neck and shaking her while growling. He then did this to the cat a few weeks later. I continued with the training and 90% of the time if he started to "stalk" one of the animals I'd yell "Leave it!" and he would stop and walk away. The attacks have continued, but are very unpredictable and I have never once noticed a warning growl. He can live side-by-side with them for months and then seemingly out of the blue attack one or the other. He gets along well with the other animals in the neighbhoord but has attacked each one on one occasion. I have an invisible fence and he does bark at dogs walking down the street and crossed the line on two occasions and attacked dogs. A few months ago when I knew I was completely out of my league I contacted a behaviorist who specializes in aggressive dogs. She spent two hours with him and he was all "Lab" - cute, cuddly, did commands immediately, was playful and obedient (as he always is with people). In fact, he is so docile, my neighbor's girls have even painted his toenails! She told me to try to identify the trigger and was convinced there must be one. She also mentioned that he seemed dominant, "arrogant" and seemed to have prey drive (she assumed he was a Lab/Beagle mix). I work from home and have witnessed several attacks and I have never noticed a trigger except that sometimes he seems agitated before he attacks (pacing) and then seems a bit out of it after the attack (dazed and confused - not himself). Exhausted and out of options I finally made the difficult decision to rehome him, believing that he would be an ideal pet for someone who didn't have other animals and didn't frequent places where there were a lot of other dogs. I was shocked when called his original rescue and they refused to take him back tagging him as 'aggressive'. They suggested Euthanasia. I then contacted literally every rescue in my area and each said the same thing. I then contacted two local humane societies and was told that they would only suggest Euthanasia. I know that I cannot keep him due to the unpredictable nature of his behavior, yet I cannot fathom Euthanizing him. The last trainer told me that I MUST do whatever necessary to retrain this dog comparing him with a child and asking me if I would abandon my child in need. A "renound expert" on dog aggression suggested an e-collar and me working on my "pack leader" traits, another suggested food-reward swearing that an e-coller would only escalate his behavior. I am so confused and perplexed. We are heartbroken. I feel like the worst pet owner/trainer on earth and my guilt is enormous. The MinPin barked at him when he was a puppy - maybe that was it...I'm not "Pack Leader" material - maybe that's it...I let him sleep on the couch next to me when I work...maybe that's it. Argh. I am wondering if anyone has any suggestions, or if anyone knows of a rescue anywhere that will take a risk on such a dog who has never once expressed any aggression toward people, even under normally "threatening" circumstance (i.e., FedEx man walks to our door when the dog is in front). I can't live like this any more (three good months and then three attacks in one day), but I cannot fathom Euthanizing a dog who has never bitten a human.
Michelle, <br />
First, welcome to seeFIDO, and know that you are not alone in the realm of "aggression". <br />
Secondly, in my opinion and experience there are a couple of things to consider in this situation.<br />
1. What possessive/dominant traits does Grizzly ( i think you said that's his name) show on a regular basis?<br />
<p align="center"><font face="Verdana" color="#400000"><small>ALWAYS wins at tug-of-war with the other dogs.</small></font></p>
<p align="center"><font face="Verdana" color="#400000"><small>RECEIVES the most attention from the other dogs, sometimes not wanting the attention.</small></font></p>
<p align="center"><font face="Verdana" color="#400000"><small>RARELY or NEVER licks the other dogs on the mouth.</small></font></p>
<p align="center"><font face="Verdana" color="#400000"><small>Usually has FIRST CHOICE of the best sleeping areas.<br />
<p align="center"><font face="Verdana" color="#400000"><small>Wins all STARING CONTESTS with the other dogs.</small></font></p>
<p align="center"><font face="Verdana" color="#400000"><small>May become JEALOUS when the other dogs receive attention from you.</small></font></p>
<p align="center"><small><font face="Verdana" color="#400000">May STEAL or GUARD toys, chewies, food, children, stuffed animals etc.</font></small></p>
<p align="center"><small><font face="Verdana" color="#400000">May push his way to be FIRST out and in doorways, strive to be in lead while walking, pulling and running.</font></small></p>
<p align="center"><small><font face="Verdana" color="#400000">May MOUNT the other dogs (male or female).</font></small></p>
Decide if these are things you witness Grizzly doing with other dogs. Striving for dominance although natural, can be very hard to deal with. Obviously you have already seen the worst of it, he has attacked other dogs. What's next right? Nip this in the bud!<br />
Google NILIF ( Nothing In Life Is Free), this is a technique which helps overcome the dominant traits in your dog, while putting you in a position of dominance. It costs nothing, and works wonders. NILIF is a really great program that i use with all dogs who come into the shelter, even if they don't possess dominant traits, it's better for them to learn this, than to lash out.<br />
I would also recommend getting a real fence. Although you have an invisible one, which i'm sure cost a bundle, you really put your dog and other peoples dogs at risk. You know your dog is having trouble and you have to be the one who deals with it. I am surprised that your dog has not already been taken from you. Usually after 2 signs of aggression the dog is taken. <br />
Know that you can still fix this, there has to be something going on, dog's just don't attack for no reason. It's really important for you, and your entire family to enforce NILIF rules and to make sure that these problems are dealt with. Don't give up, and work at this. In the mean time, crate and rotate your dogs, and make sure he is NEVER OUTSIDE ALONE. <br />
Here are some links to great places that can teach you about dominance, aggression and NILIF<br />
Thank you for your response. I've Googled for weeks but I haven't read about NILF so I will check that out. Here is the weird part about this: Grizzly shows virtually NO signs of possession aggression. He acts like a happy-go-lucky lab most of the time. When playing with dogs in the neighborhood he actuall often acts passive (is the first to roll on his back). He often lets other dogs take his toys and then will playfully try to retrieve them. I don't know that I've noticed him licking other dogs mouths, but he does play well and doesn't seem to try to get aggressive with them. The MinPin can be a bit sassy but is now understandably scared of him. What behaviorists have found odd is that there isn't a noticable trigger - no growl, not fighting over food, toys, etc. Although the one attack over a bone was the least aggressive. It's sudden and out of nowhere - comes in clusters and then nothing for months. I'm baffled AND tired. I will check out these resources and thank you very much.
Also, a few other things...This is the behavioral method that the most recent behaviorist has had me using on him (past 6-9 months) and it has helped his general obedience immensly, yet has had no seeming impact on his aggression. Something else occured to me...since about 12 weeks he has had this weird (at least I thought it was weird) startle reflex where he growls if awakened suddenly. He also seems either intimidated by the MinPin or wants to play with her. He has no use for the cat and actually stalks him, and has actually growled at him, although he has never growled at the MinPin. The only other thing I have noticed (and I feel like I"m monitoring him constantly) is what I can only describe as an "air" of tension prior to an attack where he will not act like himself and will pace. He hadn't attacked either one since the middle of February and was responding very well to the NILIF program (didn't know that was the name) and was acting far more "humble" around the house so I thought it was working. Then he had seven attacks (both MinPin and cat) in two days (last week), then another one two days ago.
I'm officially out of my league and my only options are to place him or to put him down - and I'll drive across the country to find a good home so that I don't have to do the latter. Although I live in the Midwest I travel to England every other month and also travel a bit domestically and during those times I have college student stay with my son. I cannot continue to put the crating, keeping all separate, constant monitoring burden on my son and a 21-year old. I am even working primarily from home to monitor the situation. It's exhausting.
I would love to post a photo so maybe someone could tell me what they think the likely breed is but I can't figure out how - maybe the breed is the issue? He has a lab face, is black with white (mottled) feet, chest, tummy and chin and has a fluffy tail that curls over his back. He does not have a black tongue but has two medium-sized black splotches on his tongue.
Has your dog been checked for seizures? Some of the behavior you are describing --
"since about 12 weeks he has had this weird (at least I thought it was weird) startle reflex where he growls if awakened suddenly"
"The only other thing I have noticed (and I feel like I"m monitoring him constantly) is what I can only describe as an "air" of tension prior to an attack where he will not act like himself and will pace. "
"It's sudden and out of nowhere - comes in clusters and then nothing for months."
And especially this "I have never noticed a trigger except that sometimes he seems agitated before he attacks (pacing) and then seems a bit out of it after the attack (dazed and confused - not himself)."
I'm a nurse by profession and used to specialize in neurology and neurology. (Elkoor -- been meaning to talk to you about that and you working in Neuro ICU.) Some of what you are describing about your dogs behavior really sounds like it's possibly seizure related.
I know a lot of human type problems are seen in dogs as well but I'm not sure how much seizure related behavior is similar in different species. There are people who seem really fine and normal and then start acting simply odd for a lack of a better word before seizures and then after -- even if you don't see the typical shaking and things that most usually associate with seizures.
Also, there are some people in the time after a seizure that become uncharacteristically violent (I got kicked in the head once and was threatened to be killed by a nice guy after he had a seizure) ... again even if no apparent seizure activity is noticed. Sometimes people just space out briefly and then seem dazed and confused after.
Because your dog can play and romp with other dogs so much of the time and is so docile most of the time, it really makes me think there could be some sort of neurological disorder. It would be worth a shot to talk to your vet about the possibility. Maybe a low dose of anti-seizure medication and close monitoring would be order? Safety precautions would of course need to be taken to keep your dogs and other dogs safe -- like a fence, good leash control, etc.
Thank you so much for your reply. Ironically my vet suggested the same thing very recently but I was hoping that wasn't it because she said that the seizure medication would cause liver failure within a year or two, thus she wouldn't recommend treatment. I guess a part of me thought that I was missing something, some pattern - something that could be fixed. I probably don't even realize how this sweet pup has slowly but surely consumed my life.
I do think that a good and thorough medical check up is warranted (been in a bit of denial about that!).
So thank you again for responding. I feel so ill-equipped to handle this situation but I know I must.
Oh. Well, at least your vet was thinking about the possibility. I didn't know that the meds would likely cause liver failure in dogs. Maybe a small dose is all that it would take and maybe the damage would be very slow or could somehow be controlled? Goodness, you are in a tough position.
You'll have to let us know how it goes.
Thanks for the support Erika. When my vet first suggested the possibility of seizures I kind of blew it off as unlikely because of the no shaking, etc. but when I read your post it all clicked - at least more than anything else has. I'll keep you posted...
Glad I might have been able to help. In the meantime, it's great that you work from home as you can watch him closely. If you see him pacing or doing other things you have noticed that sometimes precipitate an attack (and seizure), try to isolate him (with you being careful just in case he decides to bite or something) for a good long period ... I'd say a couple of hours or so. See how he is after the pacing and agitation has passed. He'll need a while to recover after a seizure to get all his wits back about him. He may be attacking in his "dazed and confused" state when he really isn't himself.
Do you have a crate for him? That may be a safe place to put him when he behaves as you described as long as you are around to make sure he is okay.
If you don't have a crate, maybe it would be a good time to start training him. It's never too late....
I had a dog that was crate trained as a pup and young dog but then developed a bad case of separation anxiety. (LONG story.) Anyway, he ended up not using the crate for many years but I needed to retrain him to use it. Over a month or so I trained him to be comfortable in his crate when we were home. I just used treats and lots of positive reinforcement and didn't force him in there. I think it was at least a week or two before I even tried to shut the door for a minute or two. Just go gradually.
I so hope things work out for you and Grizzly. He sounds like such a sweetie.
reading your behavior descriptions of Grizzly carefully it seems to me that he is confused over his position in the pack. Although he seems to be a more submissive type of dog, he feels that he has to stand up to a leader position in your house or arround you. For a natural submissive dog this is a huge conflict and leads to this kind of agression seen by you. You wont necessary see a trigger of an attack, often it is just look, a hair standing the wrong way, or a tail wagging out of takt. He feels that he has to defend his position for whatever reason, maybe to protect you. There also might be a correlation between him showing attacks and you. Maybe you are especially tense those days, especially emotional or something like that, and he senses this and feels like he has to act.
I assume that he is neutered, so this might be not the problem associated with hormonal imbalance. I dont think that his behavior is seizure related, allthough I dont want to exclude any other neurological problem. But to hunt this down would be unjustingly expensive since even in humans it is more a "rule out" game to get to the correct diagnosis.
I am sorry that I can not suggest you anything what would fix Grizzly. I agree with others that a real fenced in area would be better for him. I also think that there is a possibility of a malfunction of the e-collar what makes him this anzy. Other than this take him on long walks to demonstrate your leadership. When you see hin getting anzy or pacing, put a muzzle on him and see how he does with it. If he continuous into his attack mode at least he cant bite anybody.
Would love to take him in, but hubby is going to trow me out of the house if I come with another dog.....sigh
Thanks Erika, for letting me know about this post. Got to go to work shortly
Thank you so much for your reply. I can see that may be a possibility. The list of dominant behaviors matches the MinPin more than Grizzly. But then I get concerned about his attacks on the neighbor dogs and his first attack was against a friend's dog as well. But I do wonder if he is not confused about his place. The day he had seven attacks in one day (after months of no aggression) was the day I came home from the hospital after having surgery. If he's a sensitive dog he certainly would have picked up on my illness. If you do know of anyone who would be willing to take a chance on him, please let me know. I'll drive him anywhere for a good home. Thanks again...
Michelle, do you know what medication the vet was talking about? My parents one dog had seizures and was on phenobarbital for YEARS! Yes, they would have a blood test done every year but that was it. The dog did fine on it. So I would not let that worry you. It does sound like seizure activity and as your other dog avoids him at certain times, I am wondering if he is picking up on it and trying to get out of the way... If your vet is not encouraging, find another one! And good luck! We are pulling for both of you!
It really does sound like there is a nurological problem there. Could be an aneurysm or tumor. Not all seizures are gran mal which involves the severe shaking etc you are familiar with.
That is the norm for shelters & rescues as they would not be able to adopt this dog out. He would be too much of a liability.
You also need to consider that in the event you do rehome him. If this dog should attack a person or God forbid a small child somewhere down the road, not only would you feel terrible, but you could be held liable.
No matter how many behavorists you have work on him, you are always going to have to protect him from himself & certainly from other people.
I really think you only have 2 choices - have the testing done for nurological problems or euthanize him. sorry but I've seen scenarios such as this too many times.
are there any other types of seizure meds you could use? my grandmother's dog Balto (they found his, but we're pretty sure he's a Border Collie or something similar) has been on seizure medication for at least the past five years and has had no such problems, even though he's very old.
All she said was that they don't typically recommend anti-seizure medication for such a young dog because of the high incidence of liver failure and other associated problems. But, we've had three incidences in the last two days that have increased the crisis nature of the situation (at least in my eyes). I've noticed a steady increase in his aggression, despite the training (and him behaving better in just about all situations). Last night I checked on my son sleeping and he pushed his leg out into the area on the foot of the bed where Grizzly sleeps and Grizzly gave a very low and long growl (clearly a warning). And then today Grizzly was at the window excited to see a friend of my son's coming to the door. Charlotte was standing nearby and in the midst of Grizzly's excitement he turned and attacked her. My son was standing 2 inches away and despite me telling him 100 times not to intervene he did the natural thing and grabbed his collar. Well, for the very first time Grizzly whipped around and bit him on his hand. I am quickly passing the point where I care where the aggression is rooted and just know in my heart that he has passed a line (at least or me).
I'm taking him into the vet first thing in the morning and while I have no idea what I'll be doing, I no longer feel safe even having him in the house.
I'll keep everyone posted on the outcome (ugh). Also, I am a renter thus putting a fence or a run in isn't an option. Nor, do I have the time or resources to manage such a "special needs" dog. Now that he has had his official first "people" bite somehow it feels different to me. I guess I was operating under the belief that it wasn't that because because he hadn't bitten anyone (ugh again).
Anyway, thank you for your input...I'll post again with an update.
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