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Dog aggression becoming worse(60 Posts)
We have a 3 year old JRT who I've posted about before. Up until he was about 6 months old he was a lovely pup who was happy to see everyone. Then something suddenly changed and his behaviour deteriorated. We reached a point where people he previously had no difficulty with couldn't come into the house without us shutting him away to avoid the barking, growling and snapping. He will only tolerate certain close family.
We hired a behaviourist who gave us techniques to try but these involved having different people being willing to come to our house to be barked and growled at in an attempt at counter conditioning. Needless to say, few wanted to do this and it tapered off, so we now live with a scenario or either meticulously planning visitors so that the dog can go and stay with relatives or shutting him in another room and leaving him to bark.
He will bark at the slightest noise outside. He will run the fence in our garden if he sees any other people or dogs. He goes crazy at the doorbell. He is aggressive on lead when walking to other people and animals. He can be aggressive when disturbed on the couch or if we are above him, try to groom him, pat him etc and this manifests itself by him flying at us, teeth bared. This has increased recently however to him literally flying at us when we barely move on the couch. He is obviously now banned from the couch.
If someone sneezes or drops cutlery or makes a sudden noise, he runs away.
He is out with a dog walker 8 hours a day, 5 days a week with doggy pals and he loves it, so it cant be a lack of exercise (though they have been on holiday)
We now have an almost 2 year old toddler and I'm finding myself very stressed at the prospect of something happening.
I want to have him fully health checked by a vet in the new year (which will be difficult unless they knock him out as he doesn't tolerate the vet) but I honestly don't know what to do if they say there is nothing physically wrong. There's no way he could be rehomed and I couldn't put him in a shelter. The only other thing I can do is have him euthanised and that breaks my heart.
Can dogs have mental problems??
It sounds like a really difficult situation for all concerned.
Did the behaviourist talk to you about the root cause of his issues? Assuming physical pain is not the route cause, often dogs like this are intensely anxious and can be helped by using anti-anxiety meds (eg I know someone with a dog on the human SSRI fluoxetine). They're usually no panacea, but it can take the worst of it off and allow the dog to benefit more from training.
I'm not qualified to tell you if your dog is a suitable candidate for behaviour meds, but it's an option you should be aware of. I believe the prescription process is normally done between a behaviourist and a vet or by a vet behaviourist (vet specialising in behaviour).
If you do decide that this is a dog you can't safely keep due to your toddler, I wouldn't instantly discount rescue as an option, but I would be very discriminating in where I sent him; Dogs Trust won't take a dog with such issues; RSPCA and Battersea would probably take then PTS. I've heard that Rescue Remedies takes a lot of terriers with issues, but you would need to do your own due diligence on them. Has he actually bitten, or is he an all bark no bite sort of dog?
Does the dog walker/day care find he is this difficult or, without wanting to sound like an aresehole, is it just with you guys?
And yes, of course dogs can have mental health problems. I do wonder if it is a coincidence that this behaviour changed when you got pregnant....
8hrs of dog walking a day? Thats massive overstimulation.
Does she experience the same problems with him?
He sounds incredibly anxious. Barking is often nervousness or excitement - it's not necessarily aggressive although it can certainly come across that way.
I would suspect that all that working is massively over-stimulating him though. Dogs don't need to be out for that long - my beagle is only walked 2 hours a day on average and often copes with less. It's not about length of time, it's about quality - so new places, new things to smell, training, new toys and brain games.
When new people come to the house, do you just shut him away? Have you tried positive reward training? So keep him on a lead/house-line and praise all his good behaviour. Keep him on a short lead so he can't jump/lunge and encourage him to sit/lie-down and treat him. You'll have to treat every few seconds at first but eventually it becomes a learnt behaviour and they'll settle with a kong after gently greeting guests.
Thanks for all the replies.
The dog walking is an outdoor doggy daycare so he is ferried around in the van picking up other dogs and going on a number of different walks during the day so not out walking all that time. He's picked up at 8 and comes back at 4. He seems to love it though. He loves his walker, only showing teeth if she tries to put his jacket on but I doubt he would let her touch or groom him any more than he does us.
He actually started this behaviour before I became pregnant 🙁
Yes we do tend to shut him away if we haven't planned for him to go and stay with my in-laws. It just seems so horrible for our guests to be barked and snapped at and I get very stressed and embarrassed. I wouldn't like it if I went to a house and another dog was like that with me.
The behaviourist said there was no real reason for it, some dogs were just wired that way, particularly terriers.
I honestly couldn't rehome him. I just couldn't do it. I either want things to get better or for him to be PTS as awful as that sounds.
Happy New Year!
Meant to add, he has caught us with his teeth but never properly bitten if that makes sense.
Has he been neutered, and if so, when?
Also, this last week with the walker on holiday, he is constantly at us to take him out again and again and wanting loads of play, which I don't mind The reason we started daycare was because when I had DS I wanted him to still get plenty attention and exercise.
Yes neutered around 6 months which I wondered if had an effect but I don't know if it would be 10 times worse if he was intact!
So this behaviour started around the time he was neutered then... Has he been checked to make sure they got everything the first time?
I'm not a dog expert, but I know a bit more about horses. If they are left a bit too long before gelding, they can develop adult male characteristics due to all the hormones coursing round their brains, and neutering doesn't always switch that off. Likewise, if something accidentally gets left behind. Perhaps something similar happens with dogs.
Do you have pet insurance? I'm wondering whether the vet could test hormone levels.
Its a difficult situation for you, but I have to say that a friend's son had the tip of a finger lost to a jack russell. You will need to keep the dog apart from children, permanently really.
He is sooo stressed. Poor thing probably doesnt know which way is up. Out with the dog walker all day then home. I agree with pp who say he is overstimulated.
I also agree with behaviourist that some dogs are wired this way. I have two JRTs one was a rescue and one we had from a pup. The rescue is a sweetheart. Wary of others but a loving little chap. Then there's bob - loving little chap. Unless he meets another dog he takes a dislike to or i do something he objects to. Im a vet nurse and my colleagues only see his demon side. He literally becomes the devil incarnate. A snarling snapping devil that nobody can handle. Ive had dogs all my life. I work with dogs. Rehabilitated aggressive rescues. There is no reason why bob is like this he is just a bundle of neuroses but i have and always will trust him with my family as we know when to give him space. He really is just wired that way.
It is a very difficult situation for you becsuse you have to prioritise your ds safety and it would be irresponsible to rehome your dog. I think you ask yourself if he is happy like this?
I know we wouldn't judge if you made the decision to be kind to him.
My crestie barks at visitors, if she hears the letterbox rattle or someone walks past the gate. She doesn't like children. She's fine with us though and she does calm down after the visitors have been in the house for a few minutes. We think she's just trying to protect us.
Ou are walking on eggshells around this dog and you have a toddler in the house??
You need to get that dog out of the house. Now.
It's only a matter of time, and it could be a short time, before that child touches him wrong.
It doesn't matter frankly whether the dog is stressed or not, or even why. He cannot live with a child.
I know and have known some hyper anxious, easy to over stimulate JRTs. They are a hyper breed generally. They will keep going all day long, but i think he may just be doing too much when he is out with the walker, he probably doesnt switch off at all when he is there, but normally a dog would have naps in that time.
Now he isnt getting as much exercise he is still running on adrenalin and can’t calm down ( not that JRTs are every calm, but relatively ). When he is at home and trying to cuddle on the sofa he really wants quiet so is protecting his space.
He needs quieter time, as with the walker he never has his own peaceful space. The switch from lots of other dogs to a quieter house also might trigger guarding behaviour.
I agree he sounds stressed, and that giving him calm and quietness should be the focus. An hour belting round the park, then a sleep, a walk around the block, then another period of quiet. He has become used to too much stimulation, and doesn’t know how to switch off at all.
Does he have a crate he can retreat into ?
Elspeth I know 😞 My only slight consolation is that he appears wary of DS and tends to run away when he approaches him, but that's not a good thing either.
Sir I think the over stimulation point may be right. Before I went on mat leave, I had a walker who took him out an hour a day and he was crated the rest of the time. When I started mat leave and was at home, I realised that the hour walk included time to get to the walk location and back so he wasn't getting a full hour running about. I felt guilty that he had been basically crated for 8 hours a day so that's another reason we switched to day care. Looking back though, I don't think he was as bad then as he is now so maybe we should cut his daycare down and only have him walked some days.
I would talk to the vet about things that may calm him. Think of stuff like accupuncture too, perhaps your vet does this. Make a quiet den for him where no one disturbs him, and start training him to go in there, maybe with a chewy.
Terriers are normally one man dogs. They thrive on one on one activity, walks with other dogs, digging fun etc, then rest. Eight hours a day with a dog walker, all week, is too much for any hyper, sensitive sort of dog. From six months to three is the formative period from puppy to adult, through the tricky adolescent stage. He has spent his formative time being taught that he can never relax or switch off, and i think this is a very common mistake with bouncy terriers.
You now need to work on calming him, and getting him to feel safe and relaxed at home.
I don't think he's the right dog for you. What will you do when your son has play dates?
A couple of walks every day, but for far less time, is what he needs. Obviously crating him for eight hours a day is terrible for a puppy, do you mean he was alone all that time ? Because he would have become very anxious and distressed if so. You were working full time with a puppy ? Dogs like this, especially when young, just don’t cope with a life like that. They need to be with someone , preferably the same someone, and not left for too long, they need fun and games, and then to rest, and they need to trust that they are safe. I think he has been on high alert for several years and his whole system is now primed to be anxious. Are you going back to work full time ? Because if so this is absolutely not the dog for you, or the breed for you, and i would talk to terrier rescue about rehoming him to a terrier savvy home with no young children.
I am not judging you, as you clearly care about him, I myself had no option to leave my old terrier alone for long days at one point, and he was a terribly unhappy and clingy dog at that time. I would never do that again. Puppies shouldn’t be left for longer than an hour or so, gradually increasing to a few hours, but eight hours is far, far too long.
You need to properly bond with your dog, he isn’t getting the time to do that with you, hence the insecurity.
He has snapped, but not bitten, that is a dog who can’t cope with any more telling you he is at the end of his tether.
If you want to keep him, you need to give him a reliable routine, take him out yourself every day, and do some training with him. Talk to his very about calming plug ins etc. Let him have a dog walker walk for an hour, two tops, if you really need to, but not for any longer than that. Make his crate a nice, quiet safe place, and try and bond with him properly.
I wonder why anyone let you have a JRT puppy when you were out ao much ?
That should have read “talk to his vet”
Do you do anything with this dog one-on-one? Do you ever play games with him, do training or groom him yourself?
Sounds like he's sent out to daycare all day and then shut away at home. How is he meant to learn how to behave when he's pretty much never around you?
Do try to get him to the vets, ideally you want to eliminate a physical cause for his issues. Will he tolerate a muzzle? Can you clicker train him to accept a muzzle? It will be a lot easier and safer for the vet to examine him if he will accept a muzzle.
If it were me I'd take him straight to a specialist vet who can also consider medication. As mentioned right at the start of the thread some dogs show a huge improvement on fluoxetine. Yes, it is weird giving your dog prozac but if it works who cares?
Having said that, given your circumstances and the fact you have an unpredictable, aggressive dog in a home with a toddler I think you need to also consider rehoming or, if not possible, PTS. I had a dog with bizarre resource guarding issues. Basically she guarded food and the family but mainly against my other adult dog whom she would fiercely attack even when she was a puppy. I tried for 2 years, including two behaviourists and a behaviourist vet. I got bitten twice when I accidentally got caught between the two dogs. I had a toddler DD in the home and it was too much. I was lucky to manage to rehome the dog, but she also calmed down a lot away from my other dog. Some dogs need a radical change in circumstances. If your dog is better at daycare maybe he gains security and stability from other dogs and would do better in a home with other dogs and no children. If he is already fearful of your DC it will only get worse as DC gets more mobile, plays more loudly, etc.
No way on this earth would I have that dog around a small child. You're not overreacting to think about pts. He sounds like a stressed, unhappy dog. If you don't know anyone experienced personally that will take him with all his known issues then pts is the kindest option.
I had a dog exactly like yours many years ago. Barking, taking dislikes to some dogs, walking away growling from DC. Generally showing unpredictable aggression. He was a brilliant Agility dog, fast runner fast thinker good as gold when worked. But a "rubbish" pet. Mine was a pure breed Parsons Russel Terrier. With all the problems, I wanted to understand and help my dog. It turned out, he came from a strong working line. They are bred to be fisty and independent little workers. They are very intelligent, able to take control if needed with the ability to get them out of sticky situations.
He is true to his breed, but can't cope with modern life. Your dog walker is giving him work hence less problems there.
In all honesty, you could throw all the money in the world at him in dog training but unless you change his lifestyle, (from pet to working dog) he will always be unpredictable.
Maybe it's time to re home and if you can't find a suitable one, pts.
(Mine went to a couple who lived for their ability dogs. He was kennels and worked every day. Much better than my twice a week 2 hour training class.)