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Aggressive Behavior
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Sunshi500 posted:
Our 2yr old Collie/Aussie mix is exhibiting unpredictable aggressive behavior. He normally would only guard/get aggressive with human food items he gets (he bit my dad for taking a peanut butter jar away), but more recently he's become unpredictable. Reading articles on here, it sounds like social aggression. One time, I went to kiss him goodnight like usual, and he started growling at me so I jumped off the couch - and he ran to his dad like "what just happened". We've almost tripped over him, and he jumped and growled on me. More recently, I've been trying to desensitize him by giving him treats if we touch him while he's on the floor. He was sitting on the chair, looking at me, and I went to tap the chair and give him a high value treat...and without warning he jumped up and bit me pretty good. We've been through training classes and had people to the house. Any advice would be great. He is partially deaf, and sometimes he just stares off into space and then gets startled when we come near him, like he forgot we were there. Could his anxiety be medical? We've had him almost two years, and it's just been getting worse. We don't want to get rid of him, he's part of the family, but I'm also afraid he will hurt someone badly.
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Byroney_WebMD_Staff responded:
Sunshi500, hello and welcome.

I am sorry to hear about your Collie/Aussie mix. I think your concern that he will 'hurt someone badly' is a valid one. He has bitten two people (you and your dad).

In my opinion, this is not a dog you should be attempting to train at all. Definitely do not kiss him or put your face anywhere near his. I would suggest seeing your vet to look for any organic reason for his behavior that a vet could address. Your vet may consider a referral to a neurologist. You may also want to discuss referral to a trained behaviorist (preferably a vet).

Most garden variety dog trainers are not equiped to deal with this sort of extreme behavior. You need a top-notch expert in aggression and biting if your vet clears him from any medical disorder. Also, a dog who is unpredictable, agressive, and bites is not a dog who can safely be given away to anyone.

I hope you are able to discover a cause for his behavior with the help of your vet. Please give us an update on how you both are doing,

Byroney
 
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Rohvannyn responded:
I would suggest some kind of neurology workup as well. His partial deafness might have something to do with this, but in such a young dog I do wonder about a structural or chemical problem with his brain. If he's two years old and you've had him for almost all that time, then that eliminates problems that crop up in rescues. Did he have some kind of traumatic event, or is he in any pain? I agree that a lot of care needs to be taken, and certainly be cautious about who the dog is near. It would be terrible if the dog severly injured someone. I do know that if there is a chemical issue, that can often be corrected with medication.
 
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Sunshi500 replied to Rohvannyn's response:
Ive been trying to find a certified behaviorist or behavioral vet for us to meet with, but there doesnt seem to be any in wi. About a year ago i did step on hin while he was asleep under the couch, not knowing he was there. He was jumpy before that, but im sure it didnt help. Now whenever i enter a room, i make sure he knows im coming. Also, we did think at one point he had a seizure from a busy bone, and the vet did bloodwork and nothing else abnormal came up except for elevated white blood cells which he said were due to allergies. Does neuro testing need to be done by a special vet? I fear my vet isnt as high tec as when we mentioned his hearing issues their test was snapping fingers when he was looking!
 
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Byroney_WebMD_Staff replied to Sunshi500's response:
Good question, Sunshi500. I am sure Rohvannyn will have an answer for you shortly, but in the meantime, I did want to say there are verterinary neurolgists. They will do a lot more than snap their fingers to check on your dog's neurological status.

Keep us updated,

Byroney
Every dog has his day - but the nights are reserved for the cats ~ Unknown
 
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Rohvannyn replied to Byroney_WebMD_Staff's response:
Thanks for the vote of confidence, Byroney! :)

Just as in standard medicine, vets specialize in different topics. It sounds like your vet would benefit from a consultation with another vet, and most likely a second opinion. Specialists usually cost more though. The reason why I was thinking about a nurological screening is to rule out things like the possibility of a brain tumor or a neurtransmitter imbalance, both of which can cause some serious behavior problems.
 
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Sunshi500 replied to Rohvannyn's response:
90% of the time he is a great dog - is it really possible the other 10% weird occurences are something neurological? I will definitely be looking for a specialist in our area. He's an incredibly smart dog, but I can't fully trust him. My fiance thinks that I'm crazy and there's nothing wrong with him...but I don't think his aggressive outburts, although few and far between, and his jumpiness/anxiousness are normal.
 
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Rohvannyn responded:
I think it's possible, extrapolating from how people are. There are folks that are find 90% of the time but that other 10% of the time are very hard to deal with because their brains just aren't working quite right. I don't know if that's the answer in your case, there could be something else that nobody's aware of like someone who abused him when you weren't aware of it, but I still think it's worth investigation. Bear in mind that I'm no expert, but it just sounds to me like your vet isn't being all that thorough.
 
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caninepawsabilities responded:
Sunshi500, Sorry the family is in a bit of turmoil. With all due respect to the other replies, first let me say I am a canine behaviorist. Let's begin at the beginning of your post. You say that he is part Aussie. You dear, have an incredibly intelligent dog! He is NOT exhibiting unpredictable, social aggressive behavior. Unfortunately, at this present time, you have not been taught properly to recognize his silent and verabl signs he is giving you. You stated he verbalized with growling and YOU jumped off His sofa! When you did that you clearly gave him dominance over the furniture, get it? Then you say he was sitting on HIS chair, etc. Let's not forget that he showed aggression over the peanut butter! Some questions to ponder: How much hearing loss is there? Do you walk him daily?, etc. He is a HIGH energy dog! He can definitley be rehabilitated but with the guidance of a trained behaviorist. In my opinion, he is dominant/fear aggressive. His fear is based on his lack of hearing only. He has learned, if I growl they will go away... He has not been redirected to know that the furniture belongs to you and your father and so does everything else in his environment, including food, toys, etc. This is not a hard case and trust me, I have had many difficult situations in the past. I applaud you for taking him to obiedience classes, do you excercise those commands on a daily basis? If you and your father are given the proper tools by a behaviorist/trainer, you're already half-way home! Please keep us posted...My business motto is; "It's Not the Dawg!" I only wish you were in Alabama!! And remember, patience, you all are on a great journey!!!
 
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Rohvannyn replied to caninepawsabilities's response:
Awesome! Thanks for weighing in and I hope this helps the original poster. It would be great if this dog could be helped without the need for medical treatment. What you say makes a tremendous amount of sense.
 
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Sunshi500 replied to caninepawsabilities's response:
Thanks for the advice, all of which makes sense. We do take him for daily walks, sometimes 2. If we take him out to play, he'll play for like 2 minutes and want to go in the house. He hates being outside - I don't know if this was because he was a stray as a puppy or what. He also sleeps a lot...and is always hungry, which made me think something was going on with him, but blood tests said everything was fine. We are looking for behaviorist recommendations in the area to help us get back on the right track with him, and I think I will look into BAER testing in our area just so we know HOW deaf he really is, but I don't think they do that close by.

We do work on what we've learned at class, and we practice the "Nothing in Life is Free". Recently, I've taken over the feeding role from my fiance, and he does seem more responsive to me now as well. I just make sure to make it known that I am in the room before I approach him, as not to scare him.


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