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Terrible Aggression - at my wit's end, please help!


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#1 pansmom

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 12:25 PM

Hi everyone,

I have a non-pedigree border collie whom I adopted when she was only 5 weeks old (taken from her mother too early due to circumstances beyond owners control). She was a great dog until she was seven or eight months old, at which point she began resource guarding high quality treats with great intensity.

The first incident, she was gnawing on something unbeknownst to us beneath our feet as we watched TV on the couch, and my husband reached down absentmindedly to pet her, at which point she FREAKED OUT and bit him. Apparently she had the item in her mouth, hidden from sight, and thought he was going to try to take it. The second incident was similar. We stopped giving her those kinds of treats. She was in Beginner Puppy Training at this point and responding well, and for months she didn't have any aggression. During that time, we had scheduled to have her spayed, but she went into heat before the vet could get to her.

After she came out of heat, we got her fixed, and things got worse. She began to be aggressively protective of many things: her kennel, her toys, her food bowl, everything. When my husband went to the inauguration, she bit me for no apparent reason (I think she thought I was going to take a toy from her). After that, we tried to get her back in obedience training (we were still doing obedience work at home, but thought maybe if we did something more formal she'd be less bored). But she aggressed another dog for a treat while there, and then later bit another dog's owner during a meet -n- greet.

We took her to a behavioralist, who told us to run her like seven miles a day, so I now bicycle with her for about an hour, an hour and a half, every day, and I've taught her commands for left, right, stop, etc. The behavioralist also told us to put her on NILIF (nothing in life is free), put her on a low protein diet, and take away her kennel so she wouldn't have anything in the house that was "hers" to protect. We did all of that, also giving her walks at night and teaching her new words to keep her brain occupied (she now knows over 40 commands--she is WICKED smart and very eager to learn new words and things--I love that about her). Plus we put her on Quiet Moments (with tryptophan).

At first she got worse (as if she didn't like this new development), but then she began to improve. We thought everything was going to work. For three weeks there was no aggression, no biting, not even growling. She got really obedient and devoted; she was a joy to be around. Things were wonderful. She lets us introduce her to strangers, trusting us to tell her when someone is friend or foe. She has been able to go back to PetSmart and play with the trainer's dog, even walk beside him nicely on leash. But now the occasional growling has come back, and escalated to occasional snarling. She growls in common situations that we cannot control, once or twice a day. Once or twice she has snarled at our cats, which she grew up with, making very scary sounds. (Most of the time she plays nicely with them or harmlessly tries to herd them; we are not sure what makes her snarl; she has never bitten them though.) Every other day or so she growls or snarls at us. During the course of all this, she has bitten me at least three more times. She breaks the skin. She doesn't just bite and let go - she will clamp down - I have to tell her to "drop it" (then she obediently does). But she bites pretty hard, and there is rarely a warning growl. It happens all at once. Sometimes she freaks out when people come to the front door, if another dog walks across our yard, if there is a strange noise in the house. If we spray her with a water gun, she immediately calms down (at which point we praise her), and then she comes up to us and licks our hands as if to apologize (!!!!), but it is impractical to carry a water gun around with you at all times. Also, we want to have children soon, and we are scared to bring her in such close proximity to them.

I have heard a variety of things, from if your dog is a habitual biter, you should put her to sleep, to maybe your dog should go live on a farm. We live in an urban area and cannot adjust our lifestyle any further (I love dogs and love having her around me all day, also I love the biking, but we can't afford to move out of the city as our jobs are here and we share a car). I love the dog very much and don't want to put her to sleep unless it is clear she is ill and incurable. But we have spent so much on trainers and behavioralists and so forth that we can't afford to take her back to the vet anymore. We did that in February and he said she was healthy, but he didn't run any blood tests or anything. (We have to drive to another town for internal medicine. Our town is pretty small.)

Does anyone have any advice?

Thanks,
Pan's mom

ETA 4/10/09 - Additional information about how good she is being NOW for the most part in the fifth paragraph (the one beginning "At first she got worse..."), since many people seemed to think she was still a terror - I wanted to clarify, she is REALLY obedient now, she just has an inexplicable aggressive streak that seems to pop up randomly once a day or every other day.
mary
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algebar, 14 y.o. DSH feline mister, rescued '98, capital area animal welfare society
with pan and jupiter in memory always

#2 JBlaylock

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 12:32 PM

My advice - DISCLAIMER, I AM NO DOG EXPERT, BUT I DO HAVE THREE VERY NICE DOGS :rolleyes: - would be to claim whatever she is claiming, beat her at her own game - of course, non violently. You need something to block her from bighting you. If she is defensive of her crate, approach it, but have something long and wide in your hands to block her bite, like a tennis racket, just keep it between you and her and keep moving forward. She will probablu lunge and bite at you, but the tennis racket - or whatever you chose - should protect you, just stay calm and confident and keep moving forward until she has backed away from the crate, then stand by the crate and don't let her near it. When she approaches, stand your ground. Once she has accepted that the crate is yours, left you alone, calmed down completely, and found her own spot somewhere else, go praise her generously to associate the good behavior and acceptance of your superiority with her getting praised, then call her to bed and let her go in, you leave. She will learn that you are boss, the crate is yours, and you can give it to her if you so chose.

You can apply that to any item she is protective of. With enough consistancy, you will overcome the problem, she will become your subordinate and not your agressive leader, which she clearly is at the moment - sorry, it is what it is.

The reason I think the methods you tried worked for three weeks and then reverted, is because - again this is just my opinion - you were confident they would work, so internaly you took on the right mind set to be a leader, and she became obidient to you. Then, when she challenged you, you probably fell to thinking those methods must not be working anymore, lost your confidense, and re-subordinated yourself beneath her. Now's she's leader again.

#3 PSmitty

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 12:35 PM

Wow. I'm so sorry you're having to go through this. Two things come to mind immediately:

1) She needs a complete vet check, including bloodwork. Especially a FULL thyroid panel.
2) If you haven't, you need to seek help from a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist. Look here: http://www.animalbeh.../caab-directory

I don't feel qualified or experienced enough to even make suggestions to help you with this level of aggression, I'm sorry. I wish you all the best with her.
Paula
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#4 pansmom

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 12:46 PM

My advice - DISCLAIMER, I AM NO DOG EXPERT, BUT I DO HAVE THREE VERY NICE DOGS :rolleyes: - would be to claim whatever she is claiming, beat her at her own game - of course, non violently. You need something to block her from bighting you. If she is defensive of her crate, approach it, but have something long and wide in your hands to block her bite, like a tennis racket, just keep it between you and her and keep moving forward. She will probablu lunge and bite at you, but the tennis racket - or whatever you chose - should protect you, just stay calm and confident and keep moving forward until she has backed away from the crate, then stand by the crate and don't let her near it. When she approaches, stand your ground. Once she has accepted that the crate is yours, left you alone, calmed down completely, and found her own spot somewhere else, go praise her generously to associate the good behavior and acceptance of your superiority with her getting praised, then call her to bed and let her go in, you leave. She will learn that you are boss, the crate is yours, and you can give it to her if you so chose.

You can apply that to any item she is protective of. With enough consistancy, you will overcome the problem, she will become your subordinate and not your agressive leader, which she clearly is at the moment - sorry, it is what it is.


Oh, we have actually already done all of that. See the second to last paragraph. She doesn't even have a crate anymore (she sleeps in the corner of our room, if we let her in (she has to ask first) or under a desk in the dining room. She doesn't get to keep any toys on the ground. The only things she gets to use are things we give to her. She doesn't even try to guard anything from us anymore. (The mailman is another story...) But ever since she's been on NILIF, she knows better than to do anything to us. Now she is extremely obedient, it's just now we have an extremely obedient dog with an inexplicable aggressive streak. What she does now is growl/snarl at random times. Like if we lean over her, or something like that. Or if she feels threatened somehow. It's just, for a dog that loves lying at your feet, and then falls asleep there, she is often feeling threatened. To keep her from growling at us altogether, we'd have to disallow her from being near us at all which would totally suck!
mary
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nyx, 3 y.o. DMH feline diva, rescued '08, new iberia humane society
vala
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algebar, 14 y.o. DSH feline mister, rescued '98, capital area animal welfare society
with pan and jupiter in memory always

#5 pansmom

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 12:51 PM

Wow. I'm so sorry you're having to go through this. Two things come to mind immediately:

1) She needs a complete vet check, including bloodwork. Especially a FULL thyroid panel.
2) If you haven't, you need to seek help from a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist. Look here: http://www.animalbeh.../caab-directory

I don't feel qualified or experienced enough to even make suggestions to help you with this level of aggression, I'm sorry. I wish you all the best with her.


We have already seen a behavioralist... And we can't afford any more vet bills. Although we were a two earner family when we got her, we are living on only one salary and barely making ends meet anymore. Does anyone know a vet in Louisiana who will do #1 for free?

Thanks for your reply.
mary
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nyx, 3 y.o. DMH feline diva, rescued '08, new iberia humane society
vala
, 4 y.o. BC girl, rescued '09, lafayette animal control center
algebar, 14 y.o. DSH feline mister, rescued '98, capital area animal welfare society
with pan and jupiter in memory always

#6 stockdogranch

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 12:53 PM

I agree with Paula about the full vet check with blood work. First.

"Going to live on a farm," eh? I'm sure you realize that's no solution. I'm not sure why everyone seems to think that's the fix-all for any kind of unwanted behavior--they just need to go live on a farm. Why on earth would someone with a farm want a dog that bites when unprovoked? Ok, end of rant.

I also agree with seeking the advice of a veterinary behaviorist. If the dog is truly biting when unprovoked, and with no warning, then it may just have temperamental issues that are not fixable, and might indeed need to be PTS. However, that is always a drastic measure, and I would sure exhaust all other possibilities first.

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#7 PSmitty

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 12:58 PM

We have already seen a behavioralist... And we can't afford any more vet bills. Although we were a two earner family when we got her, we are living on only one salary and barely making ends meet anymore. Does anyone know a vet in Louisiana who will do #1 for free?

Thanks for your reply.


A behaviorist is not the same thing as I referenced above. Honestly, any dog trainer can call themselves a behaviorist. I fear that if the advice you got was NILIF and more exercise, that you didn't consult a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist. Was putting the dog on any sort of medication ever discussed? Beyond the "Quiet Moments" you mentioned?

I understand financial issues, really I do. But this sounds like a serious problem and I'm not sure what other options you've got.
Paula
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#8 Ninso

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 01:11 PM

Wow, I'm really sorry to hear that you're going through all that! It sounds like you've really done a lot to try to solve the issues. I don't have the expertise at all to advise you and don't envy the decisions you may have to make. A woman in my disc dog club had a similar situation with her dog--a cattle dog mix who I believe was taken from it's mother around 5 weeks. She too did everything in her power to work through the issues--consulted a behaviorist and followed his instructions to the letter. The dog was highly trained, like yours, and it's every need provided for, but in the end she just couldn't handle the emotional stress of being attacked by her own dog anymore. The dog was given up to a rescue organization that agreed to try to work with her and she would go through cycles of being ok and then regressing. In the end the dog was PTS. The owner later found out that every other pup in the litter had been the same way and all had been euthanized, hers was the last.

Very tough situation! You have my sympathy and I admire how hard you've worked with her up to this point.
Tania, Lok & Jun
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#9 LazyGRanch

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 01:17 PM

We have already seen a behavioralist... And we can't afford any more vet bills. Although we were a two earner family when we got her, we are living on only one salary and barely making ends meet anymore. Does anyone know a vet in Louisiana who will do #1 for free?

Thanks for your reply.



If you're devoted to helping her (which, from your posts, it sounds like you are!) I would go with what has been suggested, and get her some serious bloodwork done. Not just a "physical exam" to see that she's "in good health". Talk to your vet, they may allow you to make small payments over the course of time to pay off the bill. I wish you the best with her...
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#10 urge to herd

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 01:25 PM

I'm so sorry that you're having to deal with such unpredictable and frightening behavior. There are no easy answers.

You can't give her to anyone. Placing a known unpredictably aggressive dog in any new situation is not being responsible or ethical, IMO. It very possibly might make the aggression worse.

A veterinary behaviorist is the only recourse you have at this time. I realize you've already spent money on a veterinarian and a trainer, but the dog is not getting better, she's getting worse. And will probably continue to get worse.

If there is no way to get further, specialized medical intervention, then your choices are to continue as you have done, restricting your own lives and that of your animals, or to put her down. She's already bitten you three or four times, and is attacking your other pets, those are your only options.

It's difficult enough to provide simple housebreaking or normal puppy behavior advice over the internet. With a situation like yours, it's useless, even dangerous.

Many of us have lived with difficult dogs for years, we do understand the pain and agony. Some on this board have made the decision to euthanize, others have been able to manage or found help that changed things for the better. I wish you the best, and hope that you find a solution.

Ruth

ETA: There is an excellent vet behaviorist at Texas A&M, in College Station. Lore Haug, DVM. Depending on where you are in Louisiana, that might be an option.

#11 Shoofly

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 01:25 PM

Have you talked with the behaviorist you used since the aggression came back and worsened? Perhaps he/she could offer some more advice since his/her original suggestions didn't hold up? It might be worth asking anyway, and might not cost any more money since the person already knows the dog.

-- Robin French
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#12 pansmom

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 01:33 PM

A behaviorist is not the same thing as I referenced above. Honestly, any dog trainer can call themselves a behaviorist. I fear that if the advice you got was NILIF and more exercise, that you didn't consult a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist. Was putting the dog on any sort of medication ever discussed? Beyond the "Quiet Moments" you mentioned?


No, she didn't discuss that. She wasn't a CAAB. She didn't even recommend the Quiet Moments. That was someone at PetSmart. The behaviorist was more like the do-it-naturally and don't rely on chemicals kind of person. I didn't know there was such a thing as a CAAB frankly! We couldn't have afforded to take her to New Orleans - we've already spent too much on regular vet bills and so forth. And my husband doesn't think we should charge anymore, even though at this point we are both starting to think she is sick and it is not her fault.

I understand financial issues, really I do. But this sounds like a serious problem and I'm not sure what other options you've got.


Yes, I see, this is something different. Thanks for explaining. But New Orleans is almost 3 hours from my house, and honestly, we have already spent over $2500 on a fence and vet bills in the last year and simply can't afford anything more. There's no internal medicine here in town and nothing has worked. It's at the point now where the dog is affecting our plans for a family, putting us into debt, and biting us to boot, causing a lot of tension. My husband thinks she is sick, and either we find someone who can afford to take care of her, or we put her under, because she is too violent to maintain.

Does anyone know any of these CAABs personally? Should I just start calling the vets around here and the CAAB in New Orleans to see if they will take a charity case?
mary
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nyx, 3 y.o. DMH feline diva, rescued '08, new iberia humane society
vala
, 4 y.o. BC girl, rescued '09, lafayette animal control center
algebar, 14 y.o. DSH feline mister, rescued '98, capital area animal welfare society
with pan and jupiter in memory always

#13 pansmom

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 01:43 PM

Wow, I'm really sorry to hear that you're going through all that! It sounds like you've really done a lot to try to solve the issues. I don't have the expertise at all to advise you and don't envy the decisions you may have to make. A woman in my disc dog club had a similar situation with her dog--a cattle dog mix who I believe was taken from it's mother around 5 weeks. She too did everything in her power to work through the issues--consulted a behaviorist and followed his instructions to the letter. The dog was highly trained, like yours, and it's every need provided for, but in the end she just couldn't handle the emotional stress of being attacked by her own dog anymore. The dog was given up to a rescue organization that agreed to try to work with her and she would go through cycles of being ok and then regressing. In the end the dog was PTS. The owner later found out that every other pup in the litter had been the same way and all had been euthanized, hers was the last.

Very tough situation! You have my sympathy and I admire how hard you've worked with her up to this point.


Thank you. I appreciate your saying that.

I just started crying and she came to love on me and comfort me.

This is all so sad and screwed up.
mary
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nyx, 3 y.o. DMH feline diva, rescued '08, new iberia humane society
vala
, 4 y.o. BC girl, rescued '09, lafayette animal control center
algebar, 14 y.o. DSH feline mister, rescued '98, capital area animal welfare society
with pan and jupiter in memory always

#14 pansmom

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 01:44 PM

Have you talked with the behaviorist you used since the aggression came back and worsened? Perhaps he/she could offer some more advice since his/her original suggestions didn't hold up? It might be worth asking anyway, and might not cost any more money since the person already knows the dog.


I did, yes, thanks. She said she could look into some resources who might help us, but we haven't heard back yet. I just sent her a followup email today.

I think she would've been great for just a regular dog. And what she told us to do really worked at first, SO WELL! I just think our dog is a special case.
mary
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nyx, 3 y.o. DMH feline diva, rescued '08, new iberia humane society
vala
, 4 y.o. BC girl, rescued '09, lafayette animal control center
algebar, 14 y.o. DSH feline mister, rescued '98, capital area animal welfare society
with pan and jupiter in memory always

#15 PSmitty

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 01:50 PM

Thank you. I appreciate your saying that.

I just started crying and she came to love on me and comfort me.

This is all so sad and screwed up.


Awww. I'm sorry. I can only imagine how heartbreaking this is, and has been, for you.
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#16 esox

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 01:56 PM

I feel your pain. Alex has never bit anyone, but she did have aggression issues. Luckily some of the methods you have tried worked for us. One thing I did notice. If a potentially explosive situation arose and I became stressed she would react in a negative manner; lunging, growling, etc. If I remained calm then she was fine. It was almost as is my getting stressed showed her I didn't have control so she took control.


Your dog should definitely get a complete physical. Thyroid irregularities can cause all kinds of problems. Also if she is startled easily it could be something with her vision. Alex had what amounted to a cold in her eyes (thank God it was nothing worse) and she was a bit growly until that cleared up.

There is a pet credit card called Care One. Your vet should be able to do the application at their office. It's interest free for a certain amount of time.

Our one Lab has a hypothyroid and it was less than $200 for visit, blood work, and first month of pills.

Hope this helped.

Esox

#17 pansmom

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 01:58 PM

I'm so sorry that you're having to deal with such unpredictable and frightening behavior. There are no easy answers.

You can't give her to anyone. Placing a known unpredictably aggressive dog in any new situation is not being responsible or ethical, IMO. It very possibly might make the aggression worse.

A veterinary behaviorist is the only recourse you have at this time. I realize you've already spent money on a veterinarian and a trainer, but the dog is not getting better, she's getting worse. And will probably continue to get worse.

If there is no way to get further, specialized medical intervention, then your choices are to continue as you have done, restricting your own lives and that of your animals, or to put her down. She's already bitten you three or four times, and is attacking your other pets, those are your only options.

It's difficult enough to provide simple housebreaking or normal puppy behavior advice over the internet. With a situation like yours, it's useless, even dangerous.

Many of us have lived with difficult dogs for years, we do understand the pain and agony. Some on this board have made the decision to euthanize, others have been able to manage or found help that changed things for the better. I wish you the best, and hope that you find a solution.

Ruth

ETA: There is an excellent vet behaviorist at Texas A&M, in College Station. Lore Haug, DVM. Depending on where you are in Louisiana, that might be an option.


Thank you very much for your advice, Ruth. It's tough to say what you've said, but I think I probably needed to hear it. I am going to call some regional CAABs and vets to see if anyone will do this out of charity or greatly reduced rates. My husband and I are both willing to make the drives, of course, we can afford the gas! We just can't afford any more multi-hundred dollar vet bills. But if no one will take us out of charity, and no one else comes through for us (we've contacted a whole network of people with resources), we will probably have to PTS, which will break my heart (it would be the second animal I've had to PTS in the last year - the first being an elderly cat who had metastasized abdominal cancer, whom I kept alive way longer than I should've before I knew it was cancer by handfeeding him). But I think you're right, it probably wouldn't be ethical or responsible to simply displace her. Probably she is too sick to be helped by something as simple as a change of locale. Medical care it is. Thanks everyone for your help. And I'm so sorry to be such a depressing post.
mary
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nyx, 3 y.o. DMH feline diva, rescued '08, new iberia humane society
vala
, 4 y.o. BC girl, rescued '09, lafayette animal control center
algebar, 14 y.o. DSH feline mister, rescued '98, capital area animal welfare society
with pan and jupiter in memory always

#18 dracina

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 01:58 PM

This sounds like a really bad situation, and I am sorry that you have to go through it!

I do not see an alternative for you other than an intervention by a certified veterinary behaviorist. I also have a dog that bites, and we finally got some relief after implementing both behavior modification AND medication (fluoxitine). The change in Jack is remarkable, so there is hope!

I understand that times are tough for you financially, and I hope that you can find a way to address this issue before making a drastic decision.

#19 pansmom

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 02:02 PM

I feel your pain. Alex has never bit anyone, but she did have aggression issues. Luckily some of the methods you have tried worked for us. One thing I did notice. If a potentially explosive situation arose and I became stressed she would react in a negative manner; lunging, growling, etc. If I remained calm then she was fine. It was almost as is my getting stressed showed her I didn't have control so she took control.
Your dog should definitely get a complete physical. Thyroid irregularities can cause all kinds of problems. Also if she is startled easily it could be something with her vision. Alex had what amounted to a cold in her eyes (thank God it was nothing worse) and she was a bit growly until that cleared up.

There is a pet credit card called Care One. Your vet should be able to do the application at their office. It's interest free for a certain amount of time.

Our one Lab has a hypothyroid and it was less than $200 for visit, blood work, and first month of pills.

Hope this helped.

Esox


Complete physical it is. We'll see what we can do. I'll make the phone calls ASAP.

And oh yeah, I used to get SO UPSET when she bit me or snarled or whatever. Now I'm used to it. Honestly, she's not trained to kill or anything. All she ever does is bite my hands and give me small puncture wounds. When she growls or snarls, we just spray her with the water gun and say "no ma'am." And when she bites, I calmly say "drop it," and she does. It's truly bizarre.

ETA: Did I mention after biting or snarling she will come over with her tail between her legs to LICK my hand? Truly bizarre. God how I wish she could talk.
mary
Posted Image
nyx, 3 y.o. DMH feline diva, rescued '08, new iberia humane society
vala
, 4 y.o. BC girl, rescued '09, lafayette animal control center
algebar, 14 y.o. DSH feline mister, rescued '98, capital area animal welfare society
with pan and jupiter in memory always

#20 pansmom

pansmom

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 02:12 PM

The reason I think the methods you tried worked for three weeks and then reverted, is because - again this is just my opinion - you were confident they would work, so internaly you took on the right mind set to be a leader, and she became obidient to you. Then, when she challenged you, you probably fell to thinking those methods must not be working anymore, lost your confidense, and re-subordinated yourself beneath her. Now's she's leader again.


Actually, we WEREN'T confident they would work at first. At all. In fact for the first week she was AWFUL, awful, awful. But that was over a month ago. For the last several weeks she's been obedient. Sit, stay, down, rollover, out, move, left, right, shake, kiss, touch, heel, very obedient. Drop it, even, in the middle of a bite. The problem is she goes over threshold and then the brain isn't available to interact with anymore temporarily. Not to mention she has always been, yes, an assertive dog - although in some situations she is fearful too, depending where and when we are (around other dogs she is usually fearful and shy and UBER submissive - if aggressive, it's tail down, scared, ears back, she was petrified when we brought her back to obedience class). I guess the truth is she's neurotic.
mary
Posted Image
nyx, 3 y.o. DMH feline diva, rescued '08, new iberia humane society
vala
, 4 y.o. BC girl, rescued '09, lafayette animal control center
algebar, 14 y.o. DSH feline mister, rescued '98, capital area animal welfare society
with pan and jupiter in memory always


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