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Discussion Starter #1
Hi, there! I have a chihuahua/terrier mix that I adopted about 7 years ago. When I first adopted her, she was a little over a year old and was very sweet. However, I've noticed that as she has gotten older (she is now 8 years old), she has started to snap. She has never even left teeth marks. She simply puts her teeth on your skin, so quickly that you barely even register the growl and snap, before she moves away. She usually does this when you are petting her. She has had trouble with her left knee in the past, and I almost feel like she is still being "protective" of that area even though she has had surgery, and it is fixed. She doesn't seem to be in any pain, but she seems to get nervous while being petted. Sometimes she snaps even when you are not near her back/hips/leg/knee.

Because of this new(ish) behavior, I am afraid to let her around others, especially children, who just want to pet her. I warn any family or friends who might spend time with her that she doesn't like having her back half touched. Although she hasn't caused any injuries yet, and hasn't snapped at anyone besides my husband and me, I'm afraid this behavior may escalate.

I've read different theories as to why she may have formed this habit, and I feel I can say that she is not doing it as a form of "aggression." I feel it's more of a "nervous" snapping. I would really like to know how to stop this behavior! I've read that you should "remove her mouth from you and say 'no bite'" but she does it so quickly there's really no time to impart any idea to her that what she did a few seconds ago was wrong. Or will she know what I'm talking about when I tell her "no"?

Sorry so long, I've been worrying about this for awhile!

Thanks for any input!
 

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I would take her to the vet for ct scan of her back/spine; sounds like she is in pain. Best wishes.
 

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Has she been to a vet recently to rule out any medical reasons? That's usually the first step for sudden changes in behavior, plus she has had issues in the past. I'd recommend starting there (full physical, bloodwork, etc.).
 

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Welcome to the forum.

I agree to have a vet check her out. Since this is a newish behavior she may something going on. Has she had her anal glands expressed lately? Does she have any skin irritation on rear area? Is she walking normal? She is warning not being aggressive.
 

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Yes that sounds like she is telling you "don't touch me there". I would make a note of exactly what and where you are touching when she does that. Could be interior pain or a skin condition. My old cat did exactly that when I tried to touch his lower back (he had multiple issues, but Cosequin helped a lot). You could tell people how to pet him (on head only), or just say he doesn't like petting. It sounds like he is trying to avoid a real bite.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks All!

She actually has been to the vet very recently. Her surgery was a little over a month ago, and they did a bunch of x-rays of her hips and hind legs. However, I sort of suspected what you guys have been saying, that maybe she is in pain/uncomfortable, and that is what is causing the snapping. It seems like my next step should be to talk about my concerns with my vet. This is actually comforting to me, since I had no real idea of what to do! Thanks for the advice guys, and I'll give some updates when I can! BTW, her name is Sophie.
 

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Sophie is very cute, and looks like a happy dog!

If surgery was only a month ago, no doubt she is still guarding the area. It takes a long time to feel all the way better!

You are doing the right thing to keep kids and oblivious strangers away from the dog, so no one gets nipped.

That said, it sounds like she has excellent "bite inhibition" and that she does not actually want to hurt anyone. These sorts of snaps are really the only way she has to say "don't touch me please!" So do respect her wishes. And Certainly do not punish her, as that will add fear to the mix, and may actually make her more likely to snap.

Definitely talk to your vet about the snapping as it is a clear indication that she is still ouchy!. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Another Thanks!

Thanks guys! And thanks, Tess! I will keep in mind that she is trying to communicate. It helps to know that punishing her for her actions is the wrong move. I definitely don't want her to feel afraid, and I don't want to exacerbate the behavior either. :thumbsup:
 

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I would also suggest getting some of the weight off of her. It is better to keep a dog that had leg surgery lighter to help with possible pain and re-injury.
 

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Hope Sophie is feeling better soon. It does sound as though she's still in pain. Even if she's not in pain, she may have lingering memories of the pain.

Years ago, I broke a bone in my foot. It still hurts quite often, but even if it doesn't, I still limp and wince if someone touches it because it might hurt.
 

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I agree with LynneMarie too! The extra weight puts stress on bones, nerves and ligaments!
 

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Discussion Starter #12
An Update!
Sorry it's been awhile, we finally bought a house, and were moving for a bit.

Sophie is doing much better, now that she is in a new environment. Or maybe I'm doing much better, now that I am more aware of how she may be feeling. Either way, she hasn't snapped at me or my husband since we moved. She seems to be feeling better. I did take her to the vet, and we talked about arthritis and its flare ups. I guess I never thought of putting it into the snapping equation. He prescribed me some pain medications to give her when she seems to be in pain, and that has been the best thing for her so far.

Thanks all for your excellent advice!
 

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Fabulous! Snapping is a dog's way of saying something hurts or is frightening. Glad you found out what the problem is and have helped her. ;)
 
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