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Behavior & Training > Dangerous and capable. Severe aggression help.

I'm a hot mess.
Barked: Sun Nov 25, '12 12:55pm PST 
Sequoyah- Thank you, that does make me feel better. I've been feeling anxious about his future evaluation after reading about several dogs that were evaluated as unable to be rehabilitated.

Selli- I don't know about the shot, but the vet also gave us pills that he has been on, which I know are prednisone. I did not know that about the steroid, it is certainly more food for thought, especially with all the thanksgiving food around and his lack of his favorite doggie treats since we are monitoring his food intake for allergies. Maybe we can give him a bit more than usual while he is on the drug.

I just want to thank everyone again. Even just being able to discuss this is doing wonders for my sanity.
» There has since been -4 posts. Last posting by , Nov 26 11:18 am

Behavior & Training > Dangerous and capable. Severe aggression help.

I'm a hot mess.
Barked: Sun Nov 25, '12 10:56am PST 
Selli- Thank you!

After reading your post and doing some quiet reflecting, I realized I'm an idiot- his changing sleeping spots Wednesday, the odd attack on Thursday, the tension I've been feeling since then- duh! It started after the allergic reaction, when we took him to the vet and had to give him the shot- he was muzzled, but while he was being hovered over to be observed to make sure he didn't have any negative reaction to the shot, he had a violent outburst, to no surprise what with being afraid and uncomfortable from the itching, pain and drugs. The chemicals are probably still hanging around since then- especially with Thanksgiving two days after it happened with more people around than usual and the scent of Turkey in the air all day. I need to learn to stop telling myself 'maybe its in my head.' I'm going to inform the rest of my family at once to use utmost caution the next few days.
» There has since been -1 posts. Last posting by , Nov 26 11:18 am

Behavior & Training > Dangerous and capable. Severe aggression help.


I'm a hot mess.
Barked: Sun Nov 25, '12 8:16am PST 
Hello everyone, this is the list of professionals I am currently planning to contact:

Brian Hendricks
Dr. Overall
Ali of Great Comapions
Jolanta Benal

A lot of specific info about these two for consultations here:
Dr. Bergman (http://www.keystoneveterinarybehavior.com/site/view/188071_Appointm ents.pml)
Unfortuantely we do live mroe than 30 minutes from Villanova, but we'll see...

Dr Reisner (http://www.reisnervetbehavior.com/services/veterinary-behavior-clin ic/behavior-consulting.php)

I am uncertain about contacting Dr. Overall as the main site I can find attached to her name is focused on research for herding type dogs; I cannot find any information about her currently doing private training/evaluations. I'm also having trouble finding contact information/general information about Jolanta Benal, as opposed to finding a lot of articles written by her. If anyone can provide those, that would be great.

I am a bit worried about the descriptions of the veterinary behaviorists consultations. Its difficult to have faith that someone can view a dog for two hours, and from that provide me with instructions to work with Atlas myself. I will still be contacting them.

Brandi- Thank you for those links, unfortunately their website doesn't provide any information about hiring them for private training, and access to their forums is paid membership only. In the Contact Us section, they emphasize that it is a self-help site for paying members, so I am unsure how to pursue them for private training/see where they are located. Also, don't worry about before, I know you were just defending yourself.

Some small updates and some more specifics about his behavior. Yesterday, Atlas found his way into a trash can and almost swallowed a turkey bone. Fortunately, he didn't. My older brother was walking to the stairs of the basement and heard the shuffling of the trash and assumed immediately what was happening. He gave a shout and started down the stairs, and Atlas came to the bottom of the stairs and started growling- guarding the basement. My older brother called to my parents and as Atlas headed up the stairs, my dad ran down, grabbed his jaw and immediately shoved his arm down it, grabbing the bone from his throat. Usually, we only put food in the kitchen trashcan, which has a lid, but my older brother was eating downstairs and I suppose he wasn't thinking. I am glad no one got hurt. I suppose, its difficult to attack when someone's hand and arm are already shoved inside your mouth. But this is a perfect example of never say never say never and why I need to be able to muzzle him in the interim of getting professional help here, especially in case he needs to be run to the vet's.

In other news, I feel as though Atlas' behavior has changed slightly the past several days- not positively or negatively, but there's something there I will try as best as I can to put in words. There is a certain stillness, I would say since Thanksgiving. He stopped coming to my room to get on the bed, he started sleeping in his bed downstairs, last Wednesday night. It was a little odd, since he had been so persistent about wanting to be on my bed up until then. On Thanksgiving, there was the incident where he bit my brother outside of his usual triggers, so at first I thought I must be projecting, or I must be responding differently. But I have been consistent, I feel (as objectively as I can claim), in being sure not to act differently/anxious/cold/etc towards the dog, even since when I was personally attacked. But I feel as though there is a subtle tension, he seems less likely to respond when I greet him, less tail wagging, and he seems to be staring more, at everyone. Its difficult to describe or even see, just a subtle difference somehow in the line of his back or...I don't know how to explain it, like a change in the atmosphere that I may not be able to pinpoint but where I know that he is uncomfortable. The only thing I can compare it to, to try and offer more clarity, is the the subtle tension that is sometimes between two people who aren't entirely comfortable with one another even though all the social pleasantries are in place. That subtle difference that most people might not notice, hidden somewhere in tension and body language. I think I will begin filming him on my phone, the only camera I have available. If anyone would be interested, I will link to any video footage. Maybe it is all in my head, or maybe the household's behavior and body language have changed and are influencing him, even though I don't feel they have.

I inquired with my older brother yesterday about the incident that happened on Thanksgiving- although I was there and I saw it, I witnessed it from behind my older bother, so I could see the dog's body and face clearly but not my brother's, which I felt was important. I asked him if he made eye contact with Atlas before the bite took place, even briefly, as this is something that has always occurred that I've spotted when he's tried to nip someone in the past. Unfortunately, he did not (unfortunate for trying to establish patterns, that is)- his head was ducked down so that Atlas could lick the top of his head (he's bald), which Atlas did, and he only lifted his head when he pulled up and away when Atlas started snapping.

Some answers for Sequoyah:

His biting on the Dunbar scale I would say is between a two and a three, from when he got my arm. The punctures were not deep, it was mostly severe bruising.

For warnings, if we are talking about growling, teeth baring, etc. sometimes there are, sometimes there are none. Any incident where his aggression has been severe, there has been none. When we were at the vet and he was nervous, he growled with sufficient warning before trying to snap (he was muzzled). At home, when it comes to cat food there is no warning, straight from nose in the dish to jumping for your throat. The incident on T-day with my older brother, no warning.

Escalation- there has been a slow increase in escalation since he was a puppy, beginning with food aggression towards his owners and our other dog, aggression to his owners when trying to move him (warning growls, snap), aggression towards other dogs at all times, growing to aggression towards strangers outside of the house. The recent severe aggression towards members of the household was abrupt, like something turned up the voltage and it has stayed up. He has always been very 'mouthy' in a way that has been described as controlling, from what I have read. He targets anyone in our home. Out of the five people that live here, everyone has been bitten. I feel as though he learns new behaviors very quickly.

Before coming to dogster, when googling for aggressive dogs, I came across the following list of common dog aggression signs/steps in escalation; I have put an X next to all the signs Atlas has ever shown as of this time:

Becoming very still and rigid
Guttural bark that sounds threatening (only to strangers) X
Lunging forward or charging at the person with no contact X
Mouthing, as though to move or control the person, without applying significant pressure X
“Muzzle punch” (the dog literally punches the person with her nose) X
Growl X
Showing teeth X
Snarl (a combination of growling and showing teeth) X
Snap X
Quick nip that leaves no mark X
Quick bite that tears the skin X
Bite with enough pressure to cause a bruise X
Bite that causes puncture wounds (not deep) X
Repeated bites in rapid succession X
Bite and shake

He almost always aims for the face.
Regarding being "shocked" by his aggression towards other dogs given his breed- I am not and never have been. As I have mentioned previously, I have owned this breed before.
» There has since been 1 post. Last posting by , Nov 26 11:18 am

Behavior & Training > Dangerous and capable. Severe aggression help.


I'm a hot mess.
Barked: Sat Nov 24, '12 10:27am PST 
Hello everyone,

I just wanted to call attention to the tone coming over some of the posts that I feel is a little unnecessary. Obviously, there are several different beliefs and perspectives on how to handle dogs, particularly in serious situations like this. Please remember, that everyone here giving advice is doing so because of their honest concern and care for this dog's future, and respect one another for that. Its difficult not to get emotional about matters we care for dearly.

For clarification, to prevent any more underlying misunderstandings and hostilities:

1. Everyone here agrees that a professional, in person and properly qualified, is required and I have no intentions of not seeking professional help.

2. Knowing as much as I can about various kinds of training methods and gaining familiarity with as much terminology as possible before meeting with a trainer, and even while searching for a trainer, is very important and I am very grateful for it, as it allows optimum communication both for the training process and for selecting a trainer I feel is right. Advice one what to do and what not to do in the interim is appreciated, because I cannot have a professional here at my side right this instant, and situations, such as the unexpected allergic reaction, may occur in the meantime that require exposing Atlas to other people who I cannot endanger. Muzzle use is necessary. Being familiar with techniques for training the professional I am going to higher in the future may suggest is optimal.

3. It is okay to say things such as "I do not believe this is the right trainer for your dog". It is okay to disagree with one another. As long as "I do not believe", "I feel", "In my opinion," ect are respectfully used, please don't take it as mean-spirited or personal.

4. Please refrain from using emoticons passive aggressively and mocking others, or suggesting those who agree with one another are somehow in cahoots or jumping on the cheer leading bandwagon.

I personally promise that I am not going to try to handle the issues we are currently experiencing with Atlas by myself, no matter how much advice and information I gather. Even if I, myself, was a behaviorist, I wouldn't do so because I am inexperienced and this is dangerous. I will not gamble with my family's safety or this dog's future.

Right now I am going back through the thread to compile a list of all the trainers suggested and their contact information; I will post that list as soon as I am finished so that if I missed one, you can let me know.

I spoke with my mother and we made a compromise about where some of the money will be coming from.

Asher, I will be PMing you shortly about those forms/questions soon as I'm done compiling this list- that would be immensely helpful so I know what kind of questions to expect and have thorough responses for.

I hope that everyone here who celebrates Thanksgiving had a good one. I apologize if this post came off as preachy, as that was not my intention. I am personally thankful this year for all the kind people on this forum offering me their knowledge, experience, and advice in finding the best help for my family, pooch included smile

Edit: There have also been some questions about more specifics about Atlas' behavior that I will try to answer in my next post with my compiled list. (Not because anyone here will have a 'solution' of course but because I know many who are following this are curious about specifics.) If anyone else has any questions that have not been addressed that they have been curious about, please ask so I can answer in my next post to the best of my ability.
» There has since been 12 posts. Last posting by , Nov 26 11:18 am

Behavior & Training > Dangerous and capable. Severe aggression help.


I'm a hot mess.
Barked: Thu Nov 22, '12 10:39pm PST 
Missy- Sorry about that mistake, I had a lot of posts to catch up with, looks like I got mixed up!

Asher- Yes, he undoubtedly needs a professional, the help I'm receiving on this forum in regards to choosing the right one has been invaluable to me. Also, that link you provided did not work for me- anyone else? I would love to read the article.

Now that Atlas displayed an aggressive response in a more sporadic manner, away from his usual triggers, we are trying to act with utmost precaution without causing stress to Atlas and potentially making the situation worse. Its a careful balance. Tomorrow I am going to talk to my parents and see if maybe we can skip on some things we traditionally do for the holidays to try to skim more finances for hiring someone. Its a very touchy subject with my mother, being able to give her children presents at this time of the year is important for a lot of parents; I tried to suggest it to her once in the past for something unrelated and it brought her to tears. But time is of the essence.
» There has since been 42 posts. Last posting by , Nov 26 11:18 am

Behavior & Training > Dangerous and capable. Severe aggression help.

I'm a hot mess.
Barked: Thu Nov 22, '12 4:54pm PST 
First, a few responses, then an unfortunate update.

Stella: I don't think Tiller's comment that seemed to set you off was directed specifically to you, rather the tone some of the recent responses have been adapting lately. There were many posts before yours with recommendations similar to yours; I'm not sure what caused you to go on the offensive, but if you look back a few pages I'm sure you would see you are not alone and your opinions are respected, although your inflammitory response to those who may disagree with you is not.

Secondly, I would like to clarify something because of your comment on why the same actions in this dog are not considered fear responses when they would be with another dog. I am not sure how closely you have been reading, but one thing that everything I have read, our previous trainer, and our veterinarian has agreed on is that he is not displaying what seems to be fear based aggression. Since that seems to be the most common cause of severe aggression, that was the first thing I began researching and the first angle our previous trainer approached from. His non-aggressive responses, body language, and the behavior during his aggressive expressions do not seem to be fear based. I would also like to note, for anyone else who may have come into this thread later, that he has been showing aggressive tendencies since he was very young, even as of 4 months of age. He is now 3 years old.

As I mentioned before, I am evaluating all the options I can in my area, to find someone who has dealt with precisely this situation before successfully. This requires specific experience combined with success, and the professional who is confident they have encountered this situation with this kind of dog is who I have to go with, because everything else comes down to theory. There are a wide variety of training approaches that will work with most dogs. That is why we can have arguements like this in the first place, because there are many different supposedly 'tried and true'. But not all methods work for all dogs, and not all *people* work well with all kinds of dogs. I am taking everyone's suggestions to heart and giving them all serious consideration, and will be contacting many. After an incident tonight, my main concern right now is coming up with the money as soon as possible.

Now for the part that's harder to type.
Firstly, the swelling reaction was totally gone as of this morning, thanks to the steroids. Tiller, that's an interesting thought about a spider bite, I will look into that. It certainly did seem like a bug bite reaction, and since bees are not out this time a year and he has been stung without reaction before, spider is a good next consideration.

I have been working on muzzle training Atlas, and its easy to get it on him, although he still gets upset and starts scratching his face after a minute or two passes. My thought was to have it on him at times when people are active in the kitchen/whenever the cats are being fed, since those were really the only times we were having significant problems...

Today, my older brother was petting him, and Atlas suddenly turned and bite at his face. It was not like the reactions to the cat food that I described earlier, where he continued attacking until everyone backed away. There was no food near the dog. He was wagging his tail, and curled up against my brother's knee for side scrubs. My older brother bent down and was petting him, and Atlas was fine for a good minute while my brother made usual happy-doggy-talk. Without warning, no growl, no anything, Atlas suddenly surged towards his face, snapped twice, caught the side of my brother's cheek (not badly, fortunately; there was blood, but it shouldn't leave a major scar), then he just stopped. My brother stood quickly but calmly, and my mother and I who were within a few feet stepped closer. Atlas was totally normal, looking at us like nothing had happened. We were all a bit stunned. My brother looked at me and asked me what caused that, and the first thing that I could think of was that there was turkey on the counter that Atlas had been looking at a minute or two before my brother was petting him. Maybe just the scent of the thanksgiving turkey was enough to make him act out, although again, his behavior was not like the previous attacks, it was quick snaps at the face and back to normal, blink and you could have missed it.

I mentioned before that my priority was to see if we could wait for his leg to heal, to see if we could get him out for more than 40min to an hour a day, because he needs more exercise than that and the leg just isn't letting that happen yet. But after today, I don't think I can afford to wait any longer than is absolutely necessary to acquire funds and have him in a professional's hands.

I feel as though I may have been deluding myself that any progress was being made as we increased his walking time and some training tactics. I feel as though the violent reactions have escalated to a higher level of unpredictability. The leg and allergies will have to be worked on simultaneous to working with a professional, to the best extent that I can afford to do so.
» There has since been 50 posts. Last posting by , Nov 26 11:18 am

Behavior & Training > Dangerous and capable. Severe aggression help.


I'm a hot mess.
Barked: Tue Nov 20, '12 7:39pm PST 
I agree I definitly think something outside triggered this, I was considering bugs myself. Its so cold out now there really aren't many bees around, and he has been stung by a bee before. It could be some other bug? We do have a variety of plants but nothing he hasn't been encountering consistently for the past 3 years. When its daylight tomorrow, I'm going to go out and look along the fence and see if there are any new weeds or signs of something he could have dug up or... well anything, I suppose. I'm so relieved his breathing passages didn't close.
» There has since been 135 posts. Last posting by , Nov 26 11:18 am

Behavior & Training > Dangerous and capable. Severe aggression help.


I'm a hot mess.
Barked: Tue Nov 20, '12 5:46pm PST 
Update...I am so confused.

So, Atlas occasionally comes in with scratches around his maw that seem to be caused by jumping up and trying to see over the edge of the fence, usually appearing under his chin. Recently, he seemed to be acquiring some redness on the top of his snout as well...

He came inside with blood on his face. The area on top of his nose was cut, there were these little pinpricks above his eyes, and there was a sore area that was also bleeding slightly on the side of his head. My family and I were all shocked- he hadn't been outside that long, my mother had stepped outside, and she hand't heard anything from the other side of the house where Atlas had wandered in out yard. We were debating what could have done it- sticking his head into the bushes, an animal that had wandered inside the fence, we didn't know, and it was especially odd that my mother didn't hear anything so whatever happened, it happened quietly.

Maybe 15 minutes later I was sitting with him and noticed welts forming on his legs. Then they popped up all over his chest, and his jaw began to swell, along with around his eyes. He's never had any sort of reaction like this, and it was escalating quickly. My mother called the vet, I have him 4 benadryl, and we made our way over as quickly as we could. He was so scared at the vet- tail tucked under, tense. He started giving warning growls, and we had to muzzle him to give him the steroid shot. His breathing right now is fine but the scary thing is we have no idea what caused that reaction. We're going to have to start keeping him under close observation outside.

According to the vet, she believes the blood on his face was from him itching- that he started having a reaction first, and was rubbing himself along the fence to try and itch at his face, because it really doesn't look like claw or bite marks.

I was so scared. Now I'm just bewildered.

Whatever it was, seems likely to be unrelated to the ongoing skin and ear irritation, since it was so sudden and isolated.
» There has since been 137 posts. Last posting by , Nov 26 11:18 am

Behavior & Training > Dangerous and capable. Severe aggression help.


I'm a hot mess.
Barked: Mon Nov 19, '12 1:09am PST 
Small Update:
I feel as though Atlas is doing a bit better on the leash. Its still too early to tell, really, but when we passed a couple getting out of their car, instead of barking or pulling, he just became very alert and put a slight tension on the lead.

On the food, he reacted much better to it this morning- I feel as though his previous hesitation may just have even because it was new, and likely still smelled like the vet's office.

Also, my parents were at Costco today and picked up Kirkland's grainfree Nature's Domain- it was $35 for a 35 lb bag! Almost knocked me off my feet. We picked up the Salmon and Sweet potato variety. We also found some grain-free banana-flavored treats, perfect. We aren't going to give them to him yet until we've had time with him switching foods over, so we'll have an easier time isolating the allergy.

There haven't been any food aggression incidents, but no real opportunities have crept up. If anything does, of course, I'll post about it here.
» There has since been 140 posts. Last posting by , Nov 26 11:18 am

Behavior & Training > Dangerous and capable. Severe aggression help.

I'm a hot mess.
Barked: Sat Nov 17, '12 7:20pm PST 
Thank you all. I think making our own treats out of ingredients that match the kibble he's on right now is the way to go. We're going to be going out and exploring what foods area available nearby, we got a tip from another forum about kinds of shops that unexpectedly carry dog food for cheap (tractor supply- who would have thought?).

Ophelia- Thank you for the advice. I do know that exercise is very important, especially for this breed; I don't know if you have been following along but Atlas has some physical conditions that make it impossible for us to walk him for an hour's length right now, which we are trying to absolve as quickly as possible, but will unfortunately require some time for healing. As of right now we are trying to take him out for multiple walks of shorter length in a day to try and get as much walking time in as we can without upsetting his legs.

Nare- Oh man, the tangles. We have a 20ft one and I don't dare go longer than that. I also have to be careful because Atlas gets it under his legs a lot and... Well, he is the clumsiest dog I've ever owned, and the last thing I need is him hurting himself again. I keep a close eye on it while we are walking.
» There has since been 142 posts. Last posting by , Nov 26 11:18 am

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