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My boyfriend and I are proud, loving, (astonished, helpless) owners of a 5 year old red nose pit bull named Shila. My boyfriend has had her since she was 3 months old, and she has never been spayed.

Shila adores both of us- the problem comes in with our roommates. A couple of days ago, for seemingly no reason, Shila started jumping and biting for hands, and growling very loudly at roommate and roommate's boyfriend (who does not live with us but who she has also met before several times, without incident.)

Shila is a smart dog, and, previously, a complete sweetheart who only wanted cuddles and pets. But she knows a trick in which one holds food or treat above her head and she jumps for it at one's signal. Telling people to show her they don't have food by opening their palms and not raising them above her head doesn't help. Shila hounds our roommate wherever she goes and often tries to block her path. When pushed passed, Shila tries to bite. If roommate wants to talk to me while Shila is in the room, Shila puts herself between us, protecting me.

Besides the aggressiveness, we can't leave her alone anymore. She never liked being closed in a room when we went out, jumping and scratching at the door relentlessly, whining and crying, but now she's taken it to a whole new level. Beyond scratching the door, she was never destructive. But now she's torn apart two bags, flung dirty clothes and books everywhere, and somehow rubbed her nose raw pushing things around. She used to stop after a while of being ignored, but now if she goes quiet it's because she's found something to destroy.

There is nothing new in her life. She has not met any new people, we have not switched her to a new food, she has not gone to any new locations. For some reason, completely out of nowhere, she has become an aggressive and nervous dog. We plan on getting her spayed, but we've both had dogs many times before and we know it's no guarantee to change her behavior.

We're both poor college students. We pretty much gave up food for a week to buy her a dog crate yesterday. We needed a place to put her while we go out where she won't hurt herself or anything else, and someplace to put her when she's gone for someone, but we don't want her to associate it only with punishment.

Please help us- my boyfriend is afraid that she's going to have to be put down because of this, and we've already jumped through a billion hoops to try and keep this dog. She means a lot to us, but this kind of behavior is unacceptable. Is it possible for a dog to just turn nasty out of the blue one day? Is there anything we can do to get our sweet, easy going pup back?
 

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She could have lyme disease or something medical going on. I'd get her medically checked out to make sure she's not sick or in pain. It could also be hormones or an infection since she's not spayed. The freaking out when alone behavior sounds like separation anxiety which my dog has and an antidepressant which takes a few weeks to start working definitely helps, along with a shorter acting anxiety medivine for extreme cases. And behavioral things you can do like giving her the best toys and treats only when you're not home and only leaving for short tomes and gradually increasing. But most vets will want you to see a behaviorist.
There are places that do low cost vet care or offer some kind of financial aid based on your income if you apply. Try researching online. Also some shelters or spca or other online resources might have free or reduced cost behavioral help for pit bulls to avoid more put surrenders. I know in my state there are lots of services that neuter pit bulls for reduced fees.
But whenever there's a drastic sudden behavior change in an adult pet I'd want to know if they had a bad experience or if there's something medical causing it. Since it's mainly when she's left alone and aggression with your roommate and her boyfriend, I have to say what jumps out at me reading this is that they did something to scare her and she's afraid of you leave her it'll happen again. To me that explains the sudden increase in separation anxiety at her age, since I've been told by my dogs behaviorist it's typically worst and onset in young dogs who are more insecure, or older dogs who have reduced health and mobility and are more physically dependent on their owners. And your girl is neither. But something frightening about the roommate and her bf would explain the sudden separation anxiety and the new aggression towards them specifically.

It doesn't have to be something deliberate they did. My dog is scared of people wearing hats. Good luck with that in the winter. He's gradually getting better but still gets set off by the most random things sometimes. Was she alone in the house with them recently before all this started and something unusual happened? Fire alarm went off, they burned something cooking, anything that could have scared her, they had a fight with lots of yelling or any violence?
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
We'll try to find a vet ASAP, but our bank account is literally at nothing, and that's not going to change for several more months.

Our roommate did harass her a little, and during some cleaning in a separate incident she was moving fabric scraps (our roommate likes to sew) and we think that Shila thought those scraps belonged to her (they'd been on the floor quite a while, and were under a window she's destroyed the blinds of trying to watch us whenever we go somewhere) because that was the first time she went after roommate. My boyfriend and I were present for both, and scolded both roommate and dog. Does this kind of thing just take time?
 

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What do you mean your roommate 'harassed' her? Careful not to punish the dog if it's a fear based behaviour, as that will just make her more edgy about said people. And is it just with your roommate & her BF or others too?
 

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I'd say she feels scared of your roommate. You say the roommate "harassed" her a little? That might do it. :/
 

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Long story, but, we decided to go over roommate's boyfriend's house, and to prevent Shila from getting stressed and anxious and destroying things, we brought her with us. She's been there several times before with no problem. We're all having a good time, I settle on one side of the couch with my boyfriend, and roommate and her BF are on the other side. In between us is Shila, all spread out and half asleep. (It's a big couch.) As we're sitting there, roommate starts talking to Shila (normal) and then kinda drapes herself over the dog's back. Shila decides she doesn't like this and growls but otherwise doesn't move. Roommate continues to lay on her, sort of baby-voicing, "Ohhh, don't growl at meeeee"
We tell off roommate, she stops, and nothing else happens except that later that night, she goes to move the fabric and Shila goes to bite her, then we scolded the dog.

It's been almost a week and it's not getting any better, she's still blocking our roommate from going anywhere, barking at anything and everything and nothing, and then is totally fine when she's alone with me and my BF. We thought if we just gave her a few days it would calm down a little, but that hasn't been the case so far.
 

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Since you are strapped for cash (I TOTALLY understand) I recommend two things: 1, call a vet near you and even if they don't they will surely know one or a couple sliding scale vets. 2, exercise the dog waaaay more than usual until you can afford the spaying or anything else that needs done. Being physically engaged also mentally engages the dog and she won't care so much about stuff if she's too tired to care. Also is it possible the dog has been abused by your roommates? We'd all like to think everyone is who we think they are but it coming out of nowhere is odd... I wish you the best
 

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Definitely find a way to see a vet because if there is a medical issue no amount of training will help. There's a sticky in the health section about affordable vet care. I'd also recommend at least one session with a rewards-based, force-free trainer. That would allow someone knowledgeable about dog behavior to assess the situation and develop a customized plan for your situation. Trying to deal with aggression on your own can easily go wrong.

As we're sitting there, roommate starts talking to Shila (normal) and then kinda drapes herself over the dog's back. Shila decides she doesn't like this and growls but otherwise doesn't move. Roommate continues to lay on her, sort of baby-voicing, "Ohhh, don't growl at meeeee"
We tell off roommate, she stops, and nothing else happens except that later that night, she goes to move the fabric and Shila goes to bite her, then we scolded the dog.
You might approach situations like this a bit differently. The roommate should respect your dog's personal space and very definitely should listen to your dog's warnings. The growl was a polite way of saying, "I don't like this, please move." Your roommate didn't, so your dog was less polite next time. Your scolding her for normal (but not necessarily desirable) communication reinforced the idea that your roommate means bad news.

Take a look through the training and behavior sticky section. Off the top of my head, I'd recommend (not necessarily the exact titles): how to find a trainer, basics of operant conditioning, reactivity, resource guarding, and shutdown and fallout.

Good luck!
 

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The roommate should respect your dog's personal space and very definitely should listen to your dog's warnings. The growl was a polite way of saying, "I don't like this, please move." Your roommate didn't, so your dog was less polite next time. Your scolding her for normal (but not necessarily desirable) communication reinforced the idea that your roommate means bad news.
Just thought that needed repeating! ;)
 

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I once read a story... You're at the park with your boyfriend, sitting on a bench together. A man comes up & sits down next to you. He sidles up closer & you look to your boyfriend for support. Your boyfriend ignores you, smiles at the other guy, they start to talk. The guy starts touching you & you say 'please don't'. Your boyfriend tells you not to be silly. The guy really gets carried away so you hit him. Your boyfriend yells at you & wonders what on earth is wrong with you...
 

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Also could your dog be coming into heat or be in heat? Overly protective instincts are going to be heightened when she is in height as well as her desire to nest which could be why she is destroying things and protecting fabric.

I also agree with speaking with a vet. Also find a low cost spay clinic and get that taken care of asap.
 
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