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URGENT advice needed asap!

(10 Posts)
hotchristmasbunny Tue 14-Dec-10 12:00:28

I'm hoping Valhalla and other knowledgeable Mners may be able to help with some advice please.

My parents rescued a Welsh Terrier/Terrier cross about 3 years ago. He's been a difficult dog since then, even though they have had dogs all their lives.

In brief, his list of woes include: escapology (meaning he can only ever be running free in their smallish garden), epilepsy type illness (trembles on and off and stares into space and is on a cocktail of drugs), he isn't the most loving and responsive of animals (he only comes when he feels like it, isn't interested in titbits, squeaky toys etc) but the most difficult problem is he can be snappy.

He's been seen by a behaviourist, without much progress noticed.

Anyway, my mum rang me very upset at the weekend and said he'd snapped at my dad, completely unprovoked and at her the week beforesad She feels they need to consider having him put to sleep, but dad is distraught at the idea but would consider rehoming him if possible....

My question is: have they exhausted all possibilities with him? He has snapped at the grandchildren a couple of times (unprovoked again) and I'm worried.

Thank you!

Vallhala Tue 14-Dec-10 12:23:40

Right... first things first, what did the behaviouralist do/say/recommend?

Also, what drugs is he on and what dosage?

And what were the circumstances in which he snapped? IE, as people were passing, as they stroked him, did he approach them to snap, was it when there was food in the area?

Are there any common denominators, such as the snapping has occured each time there was food around or when there was noise or when there has been a change in the dog's routine or environment?

Was it a snap and run or a sustained attempt to bite?

Who is the dog's primary carer? Are they with the dog all the time or is his care shared between mum and dad?

Sorry, loads of questions, but it's very hard to get a picture without knowing or at least meeting your folks, their home and their social circumstances, much less without meeting pooch.

hotchristmasbunny Tue 14-Dec-10 12:40:37

Hi Valhalla!

Um, will try to give as much info as possible, but my parents aren't the most forthcoming with details!

The behaviorist was very interested in him, he seemed to be quite an unusual case... She recommended my mum did lots of one-to-one training with him, lots of treats when he was good etc etc. Not convinced my mum really understood tho, as she seemed to treat him constantly, and he is now the size of a house! Have just spoken to my sister - mum stopped going to the behaviourist as she couldn't afford itsad and saw no immediate improvement.

I don't know about the exact drugs or dosage, something to help with the epilepsy. They were also told to try a low protein diet.

He seems to snap mainly if people are walking past. We've all learned to say hello to him so he knows we're coming. But this time dad was stroking him. It always comes out of nowhere - there's no warning, he doesn't come over to snap. He also snaps at visiting dogs if there is any suspicion of food around, even though they're fed seperately. Mum does feed him titbits tho...

He can't bear beeping noises, reversing lorries etc and barks constantly in the car.

Usually the snaps are fast, usually don't break the skin although they do leave bruises.

He's with them all the time, retired couple at home. Mum does most of the training, dad does most of the walking and feeding.

Do you know, the more I write down, the more I think they're confusing himsad We live so far away we only see them a few times a year, so not much time to observe them. I do feel they are almost trying to buy his love...

Maybe they're just not the right owners for him, he's certainly made them behave differently towards dog ownership than in the past. But then although they've always rescued, they've never had one with such complications.


hotchristmasbunny Tue 14-Dec-10 14:58:05

Just had mum on the phone. She's talked to her vet, and he said there is no question he'll put the dog to sleep. He wants to see them on Thursday to see if any of the medication could be causing the bad temper or if there is anything physical going on. He has suggested (again) that crating while the grandchildren are around may be necessary though...

Vallhala Thu 16-Dec-10 12:27:29

Sorry to have been absent for so long, I've been mulling this over and over whilst going through family problems (hence the delay).

I find it hard to give any concrete advice TBH. One thing I AM sure of is that your parents are doing EXACTLY the right thing in making a vet check the first port of call to rule out illness, pain, eyesight problems (I'd DEFINITELY make sure his eyes were checked if I were you), and to review his meds and consider the possibility of the meds being the cause of his issues.

Without knowing what meds he is on it is impossible to tell you what those issues could be. I have an epi dog myself, who is on pheno, he's fine but if you introduce bromide or gabapentin you often find problems and have to juggle to dosage to get it exactly right and ensure medicinal benefit is weighed against side-effects.

Beeping noises may well be an issue because of his epilepsy. All your parents can do is keep him away from them as much as possible and keep him in a stress free environment.

I normally hate to suggest crating a dog just because people are around but with an epi, inpredictable dog I would have no hesitation in doing so, both for the grandchildren's sake AND for the dog's. He needs a place of security to call his own where he cannot cause problems and doesn't feel threatened BUT make sure that it's in a quiet place for the sake of his epilepsy and his behaviour and that he is left alone (no kids going up to say hi and waking or distressing him!).

MY OWN THEORY - and remember please, I'm NOT a behaviouralist, just a dog lover, is that it would be an idea for Dad alone, as walker and feeder, to train pooch as I agree he is probably confused. Who should he trust, who should he be loyal to? The human who provides his food (thus very important) and walks or the one who treats him and tells him what he can and cannot do? He hasn't a clue!

IME dogs like this often need little more than firm but kind, consistent care from one person so they don't have any confusion as to who their leader is. Sometimes dogs need to know who's "in charge" so that they don't have to take responsibility for protecting themselves and their family. It is this feeling of needing to protect himself and everyone around him for lack of a persistant "boss" which can make a dog snappy.

As I said, I'm no expert but these are my thoughts borne of my experience and that of others I've worked with. The immediate importance though is the vet's opinion, which I would be very interested to hear.

hotchristmasbunny Thu 16-Dec-10 15:37:19

Thank you so much for your detailed and sensible advice Valhalla. It all makes total sense, will be interesting to see what the vet says and whether they carry his ideas throughhmm I'll let you know when I've heard anything.

minimu1 Thu 16-Dec-10 18:24:57

As a behaviourist I would first recommend a vet visit. If the dog gets a clean bill of health he definately needs to increase his exercise.

If you overfeed a dog loads of titbits and not enough exercise you will have a grumy frustrated poorly dog.

So stop the extra titbits - do still treat but make sure it pieces of chicken and deduct this from the dogs meals.

Terriers are clever busy dogs and if this instinct is blocked you will see alternative behaviour. Give the dog something to do and you will see a calmer dog.

I would work on the NILIF regime with the dog. Nothing in life is free. So if the dog gets anything he has to do something first. so to get a stroke ask the dog to sit, to get a titbit get the dog to go to its bed etc.

Personally I don't see any confusion in one person training and one person feeding the dog as long as the commands are the same.

There will of course be no immediate attention - this could take months of hard work to sort out but it is sortable. It is very unusual to see a behaviourist weekly it sound more like a trainer to me - so maybe get advice from a qualified behaiourist as well

hotchristmasbunny Thu 16-Dec-10 19:13:04

Thank you minimu1!

The visit to the vets went well. It turns out the poor dog has a massive infection throughout his body. His blood results are all abnormal and the vet suspects a thyroid problem. All this on top of all his other problemsshock He's on antinbiotics and has had an anti-inflammatory injection too.

The vet agrees with the crateing and also suggested considering getting a companion dog so he can play properly. He certainly gets on well with our dog...

Will keep you posted!

Vallhala Thu 16-Dec-10 19:42:27

Poor little boy! No wonder he's feeling grumpy.

I hope he recovers from the infection very, very soon.

santascupcakes Sun 19-Dec-10 16:17:09

This is just my opinion but aside from the ilness medication which should be checked, this sounds like a socialising problem and the dog needs de-sensitising.

Especially if he is rescue, he might not be used to people stroking him and so when he has had enough he just snaps. There is a big difference between a get away snap and a snap with the intention to make contact.

My parents have a rescue dog that did exactly the same thing when people walked past or stroked her in the basket. It was generally to the grandchildren who she was dominant over.

We made a hand on a stick and used it to stroke her with, each time she snapped she was told off. It reduced significantly but I have taught her and the kids to stay away from each other just in case.

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