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Sally G.
Sally G., Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 9443
Experience:  Service /assistance dog trainer,Therapy dog evaluator and trainer, AKC evaluator, pet first aide and member of PAS Animal Response Team.
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I need help desperately. I have a 5 year old female black

Customer Question

Hi, I need help desperately. I have a 5 year old female black lab, Allie. She is amazing in every aspect but sometimes she bites. Never has attacked anyone. It has happened when she has gotten startled when someone will go to pet her. Today my son (18 yrs) was petting her and she bit his finger enough to have to go to the emergency room. It's like she all of a sudden freaks out, we are baffled.
She hasn't always been like this, maybe for a couple years. We have not been putting her in a situation where we know it might happen, like keeping her away from little kids and letting people know she sometimes reacts in this way. but today she did this to my son. We have had her checked out by our vet, all tests checked out. So nothing indicating medical problem.
98% of the time she is the best dog ever, it's just the 2% that we are afraid of. I don't want to lose her, I want to help her. Please Help!
Thank you,
Tami
Submitted: 8 months ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Sally G. replied 8 months ago.

Hello and welcome. This is just a short note to introduce myself or to request needed information for your problem. My name is ***** ***** I have been in the dog field for 25 years. I am a Therapy Dog & AKC Evaluator/trainer/ as well as an assistance/service dog trainer, specializing in behavior. It will be my pleasure to help you today. It may take a few minutes for me to type a personal response or type questions regarding your situation. Your patience is very much appreciated.

Can you give me an example of the situation you are talking about?

What is her personality towards people normally like ? Is she a bit shy at first, fearful, or boisterous and out going with new people?

Where did you get her from and how long have you had her?

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Hi Sally, Today Kyle was laying in bed and was petting her as she was standing next to the bed. She was moving so Kyle would pet the areas where she wanted to be petted. As he was petting her shoulder she bit him. 2 years ago she bit me on the finger as well. In that situation she was laying on the floor next to me on the couch. I was petting her and stopped. When I went to pet her again is when she bit me, she was startled.
Allie's personality is usually good. She will greet someone with a wagging tail and look to be petted but we tell people not to. I would say she is outgoing and excited to see people. She is not shy, fearful or boisterous at all with people that is. She is boisterous when it comes to other dogs. Her hair will stand up and she will bark.
We got her from a breeder in Iowa, we have had her since she was a puppy. She was easy to train. Then when she was a year old we sent her to a recommended trainer in Minnesota for field hunting training.
Expert:  Sally G. replied 8 months ago.

Thank you , I am working on your answer now.

Expert:  Sally G. replied 8 months ago.

Because overall her personality is friendly I then have to wonder if even though she seems to love people, she is still not 100% comfortable to allow them their own terms on giving her attention. I would say it is very important to be able to read her body language and it seems when you may be able to already recognize when she might act out as you said you keep her away from situations where it may happen.

In both instances she was being pet and in your son's instance she sought it out intitially , in your instance she may have been seeking it out but then you stopped petting and restarted on your own, possibly when she thought it was done. In your son's case he was petting then went to move to a different area assuming she wanted to be pet.

She is 5 years old now and this started 2 years ago, so health wise even though she has had a checkup I would want to see a thyroid screening done as if the thyroid is off even a little there can be sudden aggressive behaviors. So if this has not been done, and a full thyroid panel not a partial, I would look into this.

The other thing is that dogs go through changes from ages neo natal to four years old and it is how we handle those changes that can determine at least some of the outcome of what we see in a dog as it matures.

You mention that she is not easy going over other dogs, her hair stands up and she barks. this can be the sign of an alpha dog or a fear aggressive dog that only feels relaxed in situations where she knows what is going to happen next. If this is the case she is likely to go after someone again if something happens she is not expecting.

I would strongly suggest that you have a reputable trainer/behaviorist in your area give her a temperament test to accurately read her, as dogs that are often outgoing and friendly with people are like this with other dogs and will not do sneak attacks of the people they live know. So she may be the most wonderful happy dog in situations she can predict, but not so in situations she cannot predict.

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
She has had a full panel thyroid test and all looked good.
Expert:  Sally G. replied 8 months ago.

Okay that is great! Then you have to look into what temperament you are really seeing and how that may have changed through the critical periods , years one - four. Dogs may display subtle signs that are not picked up on a day to day basis because they know what the owners routine is like, what their next move is going to be.

If it were something to do with pain when petting her, then I would think it would happen more often. The actions she takes towards other dogs and the actions she shows you are different. It may be a fear aggression or an alpha aggression she is displaying and you need to find out which one it is in order to change the behavior correctly.

How is she if you want to take a valued item from her ( a bone, food etc)? Does she give it up willingly to you?

Expert:  Sally G. replied 8 months ago.

When you do take walks and she barks how do you handle that?

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
I am guessing it is more alpha but I'm not really sure.
If try to take something from her she growls. If we ask for it she will give it to us.
Expert:  Sally G. replied 8 months ago.

Thank you. Then you are looking at possible possession aggression, where she feels it is hers and not yours to take. This can translate over to you with her actions of other dogs as well, when you are walking, she may be being possessive over you to other the dogs. All that bravado can be saying "I own this" to the other dog.

It does not sound like the perfect all around dog that you described in your original post. It sounds like there are issues and they are coming out in a bad way. Many times when the dog as certain aggressive personalities you are going to see them start to show more around the age of two or just over two years old.

I would want to get a hands on temperament test . A tail wag does not always mean a happy dog, it can mean I am in charge and if you come to close I will go after you so it is important to know what you are dealing with.

You can start though by putting her on the learn to earn program for possession aggression, and I would also dog daily training with the dog so it begins to see you as the one in charge in the home and all humans in the home should follow the same suit.

I would use positive obedience training for brush ups as this goes well with the learn to earn.

This will all change the way the dog looks at you.

I would not trust her though around people until you know what personality you are dealing with.

Here is more on the learn to earn to get you started and I would do clicker training with the dog which is a positive method.

https://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/the-learn-to-earn-program/

When you sent the dog away for training was a shock collar used?

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
When I take Allie on walks she does not bark at all even if she sees other dogs. She heals and walks with a loose leash. And doesn't really seem to be distracted easily.
I'm not sure if a shock collar was used for that training.
Expert:  Sally G. replied 8 months ago.

what does this mean then? "She is boisterous when it comes to other dogs. Her hair will stand up and she will bark."

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
If she is not on a leash I meant. If someone comes over with a dog or if a dog is walking by our house she will bark at them with her hair up and want to fight them.
Expert:  Sally G. replied 8 months ago.

That is the action of a dog trying to move people or animals away from her so that is in keeping with a fearful or alpha dog.

Since she has bitten twice now I would strongly suggest a temperament test.

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Why would she bite her owners? I'm so confused about that.
Expert:  Sally G. replied 8 months ago.

If there were an unpredictable movement yes.

Expert:  Sally G. replied 8 months ago.
Hi Tami,

I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?

Sally G.

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