Help! I feel like I have a completely different dog than 3 months ago.

Discussion in 'Labrador Puppies' started by Alison L Hildebrand, Sep 11, 2019.

  1. Alison L Hildebrand

    Alison L Hildebrand Registered Users

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    Hi everyone- New lab mama here and brand new to this forum! I have used this forum quite a bit while raising my 8 month old yellow lab, Charles, but it seems like this problem we are now facing needs a post of its own.

    A back story on Charles: I rescued him very unexpectedly from a breeder/puppy mill who was eventually shut down. (May 2019) He was 4 months old when he found his way to me. I immediately enrolled him in Puppy School with a certified dog trainer and he has completed his classes. (he actually did very well and was the best behaved pup there). I travel weekly for work and I still live with my parents, so it has been a family affair looking after Charles. When I travel for work, I take him to a Woman's house who boards dogs for a living. (I think this may come into play later in the story-the boarding started in July of 2019)

    The first few months of having Charles, he was incredible. I felt almost jinxed that I ended up with SUCH a sweet, good little puppy. Not one accident in the house, loved being social and meeting others and other dogs, never chewed anything in the house (up until recently that is) and was a cuddle bug.

    My parents have a little 9 year old shih tzu who is the queen of the house and she has never been trained or socialized. She absolutely hates any dog with a vengeance. She will growl at Charles and instigate. Charles has usually just tried to play with her or paw at her, or he would generally ignore her.. until this evening.

    Our Shih tzu took it upon herself to snag Charle's bone when he walked away. Charles saw she had his bone and walked up to her, she started to growl and show her teeth (all while holding his bone) and Charles growled back, showed teeth and he seemed to have put his mouth around her neck. her neck was damp. This is the first time he has ever showed true aggression towards her. She cried out of fear, but he did not hurt her. We took a flash light and checked her up and down.

    Since I have had to board him for work, I have only noticed one other time when Charles was aggressive. He is OBSESSED with balls. Actually obsessed- like a drug. He has never had a problem at the dog park before. A puppy walked up and tried to take his ball, and same thing, Charles growled and seemed to go for his neck but not actually bite?

    I have no idea where this is coming from and I have no idea what to do. I dont know if this could be coming from the other dogs at boarding? I have asked the lady who watches him and she insists its not a problem. This is not like the sweet little but I know. He is not aggressive towards humans at all. I have taken a steak bone out of his mouth (i know you are not supposed to do this!, but I would never be scared to have my face down near his. I feel that if I reach out to the trainer, she will either try and get me to come back and pay for classes or just give me flyers/blogs on aggression. Has anyone had similar experiences with this? Any tips, comments, stories or words of encouragement are appreciated. I am feeling a little helpless right now!
     
  2. HollyBerry

    HollyBerry Registered Users

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    Hello!
    Hopefully one of the more qualified people using this site will reply to this, and i will be really interested to hear what they say!
    My inlaws have a dog who has no tolerance for other dogs whatsoever after 4 years of living with an older bully from a puppy, we don’t live with them but unfortunately occasionally it is unavoidable that our dogs have to be at the same house for a few hours and so i read a fair bit so i could get an understanding of their early communication so i could better control those situations when they occasionally crop up. (Basically 100%management, if they have to share the room pup is on a lead and we don’t stay very long then but its incredibly stressful for me. Holly frantically throws out all her best submissive play instigating moves and luckily with her on a lead the other dog just ignores her so long as she can maintain a good distance.)This would be my take on what you’ve said based on that research,
    Your dog is communicating. Admittedly he’s progressed directly to shouting instead of a quiet discussion or simply giving up. But perhaps he’s escalated more quickly because he lives with a dog that is using more escalated communication presumably daily? The repeat event in the park is probably just because he’s seen this works. And he cares about that ball sounds like. The crap thing with this is that you won’t always control what other dogs he will interact with and what their escalation rate may be like.
    We’d all like our dogs to have really long fuses and be ultra tolerant because it makes life good as dog owners but not every dog is made the same and he may be learning a few of the wrong moves from your parents dog.

    Qualified behaviourists would probably come and assess how the two dogs live together on a home visit and be able to make meaningful suggestions relevant to your individual on fuse lengthening and the social management at home in a way that is impossible on the internet. Honestly with a dog like your parents it may be really beneficial just keeping more peace at home and helping the shitzu feel safe and maybe not need to vocalize so much.

    For now I would remove opportunities where things that belong to him can be ‘stolen’. Give them bones to use in seperate places that are ‘their’ down time space, and keep communal dog spaces bone/toy valuable things free if thats possible. So the response doesn’t get to be repeated and you don’t create more opportunities for even further escalation. Especially if he’s living with a dog with poor social skills.
    I know you don’t want a blog or anything like that but seriously i can recommend to read Suzanne Clothier, her book Bones would rain from the sky is fantastic.
    Also Ian Dunbar talking about fight/bite ratio is good to read!
    And i would ask whats going on when hes in boarding....
    i hope it goes a bit better, i understand its really stressful to see your dog react in this way. Just try and read as much as you can and read the dogs!!
     
  3. 5labs

    5labs Registered Users

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    This is fairly normal dog behaviour. As he is young and it has only happened a couple of times, I would be tempted at this point to avaoid putting him in the situation were this can happen. Keep toys, food, chews ect away unless he's on his own.
     
  4. J.D

    J.D Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    Hampshire UK
    I think dogs learn behaviour from other dogs as well as humans.
    If he has got used to being growled at it would make sense that he might try it out for himself. Try not to make a big issue of it but make sure situations don’t arise for it to happen again. Small dogs seem to get away with murder when it comes to barking and growling. When Toby was around 10 months we met a small terrier on a lead and because she didn’t move her dog to her other side I assumed it was friendly and they would just sniff each other.
    The other dog waded in and for the first time ever Toby retaliated. I went home in tears thinking I had a vicious dog on my hands. He has never done it again since however I am more wary of dogs meeting when they are on leads unless I know the dog already.
     
  5. Henry77

    Henry77 Registered Users

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    I want to comment on the shift from being an affectionate cuddler to maybe not so much. My dog showed the same progression as she grew from a tiny dog into adolescence. I think growing independence is normal and that increasingly being picked up or handled closely is seen as a precursor to exuberant play.

    I would recommend you continue to handle him if you want him to become comfortable with that kind of interaction. Do it for short stints, try to keep him calm without squirming or biting, and finish with a treat and tossing a ball. Do this all after your dog has released any pent up energy with rigorous exercise.

    After progressing past the stage where being picked up, held, or hugged was always seen as a signal for play, mine has become increasingly more affectionate and calm and sometimes actively seeks out “cuddling.” I think reading your dog’s mood in the moment and timing is a big part of it. Try to make every experience closer and closer to where he exhibits the kind of behavior you want to see, and watch out for your being the cause of a stressful situation. Don’t force it.
     

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