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Ask Jane Lefler Your Own Question
Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 18799
Experience:  Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 18+ years
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My dog has begun aggressive behavior. I had the vet check

Customer Question

My dog has begun aggressive behavior. I had the vet check him out and she found nothing wrong except arthritis and started him on medication. His mobility has improved and he seems to feel good but it hasn't changed his attitude. Sometimes I can pet him but most of the time not. He will come to me for love but then will turn and growl or snap at me or other people. The vet wonders if he has dementia or a neurogical problem and may turn very aggressive or actually attack me. The only thing different is that I have had a lot of remodeling done in our home and almost every room has been changed. I am afraid to pet him or love him. He does like to ride in the car and will allow me to pet him then. What would you suggest???
Submitted: 5 months ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 5 months ago.
Hi JaCustomer, My name is ***** ***** I’ve been involved professionally with dogs in the health and behavioral fields for over 18 years. It will be my pleasure to work with you today. In order to supply you with an informed answer, it is necessary for me to collect some additional information from you. When I receive your response or reply, it will likely take me between 30-45 minutes to type up my reply if I am still online when I receive notice that you replied. I hope you can be patient. Was a thyroid panel run?Any abnormalities in bloodwork?Is he shedding excessively?What obedience training has he had?Any changes in the household such as new animals or people?
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Yes they checked his thyroid. All his blood work came back ok. The only problem he has had was a couple of years ago, he had abnormal lab work regarding his liver. After several months of medication that was back to normal. She did extensive lab work and x-rays about 3 months ago and that's when she put him on meds for arthritis. That improved his mobility but not his attitude. No he is not shedding. He had puppy training but without adult dog, he was several years old by then and did real well. I did it mainly to get him to socialize better. The trainer felt he had been abused before I got him. He was about three when I got him as a rescue dog, had been found wandering in a factory parking lot. The only changes in the home are the following: When I got him my husband had retired due to health problems and was home all the time. He immediately became very loyal to my husband and was with him wherever my husband was. He passed away five years ago and then he of course is with me constantly. He loves to ride in the car and sits on my lap and at this point that is the only place where he will allow me to pet him for any length of time. In the house he will come to me and act like he wants love but then will growl or snap at me and the same with other people that he is familiar with. The other change is that I have had a lot of remodeling done to my home. All rooms have been redecorated and he was very nervous with the noise but that has been finished well before this behavior started. My vet thinks its dementia or something neurological and suggested putting him down before he really attacks me or others.
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 5 months ago.
It could be Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) and has been seen in dogs much younger than your dog. There is a wonderful site that explains it well and also explains how to document your dog's behavior and discuss it with your vet. The good news is that there is a drug called L-Selegeline (Anipryl (R)) which has been recently approved for use in the clinical indication of cognitive dysfunction (CDS) in dogs. Read this site for other drug choices. Please see this site for more information and other causes that may exhibit the same symptoms. That said if the only symptom is aggression then I would not jump to CDS. I'd suspect behavioral issues. When your husband was alive, your husband was male and the boss. When he passed, the dog was left as the male in the household. Even though you are human, the dog would still recognize that you are female and would seek to control you. Initially he might start with just not obeying you immediately or not moving when you ask. Gradually over time he would ignore commands totally or do what he wanted when he wanted and only obey you when he wanted to. Eventually he would progress to the point he is now where he seeks to actively control the whole household. When he wants affection, he would come to you but the minute he no longer wanted you to pet him, he would growl and eventually nip to control what you do or do not do. If he doesnt' want to do it, he will growl. If you don't do what he wants he will start to growl as well. The same goes for visitors. He may decide he doesn't want visitors and thus will be aggressive toward them. If he feels he is boss, then he will object to letting just anyone in his territory. If this is the cause, it can be corrected with obedience training. He had some before, but he need refresher training and daily practice to get him back to seeing the humans as the boss. The following site is helpful in helping owners train their dog. Be sure and click on the link to the page on obedience at the bottom. and links on subsequent pages leading to detailed instructions. Training works best if you train at least 30 minutes a day (two 15 minute sessions). I would start making your dog work via the Nothing in life is free program (NILF). It is outlined below. Until you have him back under control, you can purchase a basket style muzzle for when others are around to protect them from bites. It has to be basket style as the others are designed for short term wearing and not for hours. I hope this information is helpful to you. If you would like any additional information or have more questions please don’t hesitate to press the reply to expert or continue conversation button so I can address any issues you still have . If you do find this helpful, please take this opportunity to rate my answer positively so I am compensated for my time.

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