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Dogs behavior switching

1422 Views 2 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  Rain
Hello there!
I'm new here and looked over the rules so hopefully there is nothing wrong with me starting this thread.
I am seeking advice so please, if you think you can help, read on and comment below.

I have two rescue dogs, a sheltie/corgi mix who was very abused at his previous "Home". When I got him, he had scars on his head from abuse and whenever someone came by, he would roll over to submit and often urinate on himself and others. He is still very submissive but has become much better and now enjoys meeting new people and other pets.

2 Months after copper, I received another rescue, a lab puppy who I named Lilly. With a bit of abuse history, but more neglect than anything. I got her at maybe 2-3 months old. She was not fond of women and while tolerating me, ADORED my fiancee who was living with me. About 2 months after we got her, I found out that he had an alcohol problem and had started getting into very serious drugs. He had not only spent all his money on them, but also stolen money from me and my family members. I asked him to get help for an entire month and well...things escalated one night to the point where I didnt feel safe. I told him he had to leave until he got therapy. While that itself is a long story that I dont want to go in thorough detail about unless needed, I state it because he was Lillys favorite and she was heartbroken when he left. Then got angry and began destroying any clothing he had left behind and for a while, had a problem with any guy who looked similar to him. However, after a month, she got over that issue and started liking all men and women who came into the house.

She has always been well socialized, never shown any problem with other people or dogs...until one month ago.

A little over a month ago, her personality seemed to switched completely. She went from being semi-independent, to now being constantly glued to my side and often always trying to crawl into my lap. Shes also started to display jealousy for even inanimate objects. I work from home and most of my work is done on the computer. She has started getting up and trying to knock my computer down, kicking it, and the same with cellphones. She has started to wait by the window just to aggressively bark at anything that comes by (Car, person, or dog). Shes been jumping at every sound to try and go attack it. Shes also been freaking out horribly at storms recently, getting so scared shes started shaking. (When I consulted some of my friends with dogs about her sudden fear of storms and why it bothered her now and none in the past, a few suggested maybe it was air pressure change since we are in tornado alley and the storms recently have all had tornado activity)

Shes really only been at my house or at my parents house for the first week or two of this behavior change. But when I started trying to take her on walks or running with me again like I used to, shes started trying to pick fights with other dogs. It switched all of a sudden and surprised me that without even small signs, she just started to freak out. I had to grab her around the chest to stop her from charging at a dog on the other side of the block. She then took this aggression and pointed it towards copper making him submit to her. I started taking her home from the walk when she then started displaying this behavior towards any person she could find. Maybe I shouldnt have taken her out, but she has always loved going around the neighborhood! It was a nice day and I thought she and copper would enjoy it.

I have her signed up for private lessons both for listening and with a coach who specializes in aggression. Since this behavior switch is so new and sudden, and now that I know aggression is involved, I want to seek help immediately. Thats also why Im on here. There have been no environmental changes. But I want to see if anyone can give me advice for things I can do to calm her down. Im of course not a professional, but Im just guessing this behavior comes from nerves. I'm hoping to hear ANYTHING I can do to help her before the training session and so Im hoping some of you may have experienced this before or know of some things I can do so Im not wasting any time and allowing this behavior to grow until her coaching session.

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That is so nice that you took in those dogs who needed a loving second chance with people. :)

Behavior changes can be caused by so many different things that it is up to the owner to do some thorough searching as to what changes could have occurred in the dogs life.
Some of the main causes of behavior changes are a change in the environment or schedule of a dog, from something as simple as an owner getting up earlier for a new job to a change when they are walked to later nights up.
It could be something bigger, such as the death of a family member, a change in the behavior of other family members (if you are stressed your dog is far more likely to be stressed as well, and protective). Dogs feed off the energy of those around them.
Another cause could be a medical issue. Sudden changes in behavior can be brought on by neurological conditions such as seizures, anxiety and hyperactivity issues (some breeds hyper-focus and this can lead to crazy aggression and protectiveness towards the oddest of things, including inanimate objects).
Another cause could be something as simple as a dog that has matured and possibly has gone into heat. I'm guess Lily is fixed, but I do know that one of our dogs is spayed and still enters heat and she acts very differently during these times.
If Copper has recently been injured, sick or has been acting weaker then normal then Lily may find herself taking on the roll as your protector, something Copper had once done, and this could be leading to the significant behavior change. We saw the change between our two mix-breed brothers, which would swap places as the out-side guardian and prefer to watch the borders of the territory while the other enjoyed the lap of luxury inside.

Behavior changes must be met with consistent and calm responses or else it will only be fed all the more. Yelling, cuddling, or giving them attention during a "moment" will increase the likely-hood of Lily trying to do it again. Instead, you can try ignoring it or you can firmly but calmly ask her to stop what she is doing, removing her from the situation or changing the behavior to something such as asking her to sit or lie down. This refocuses her mind, breaking her out of her obsession-aggression.

Another important aspect behind obsessive behavior in dogs is mental or physical energy building up. This is especially common in naturally active or intelligent dog breeds or mixes. Labs being one. Dogs with this type of obsessive tendency need regular, daily physical and mental stimulation in the forms of fast-paced walks or jogs, hiking, sports and agility, trick-training, a chance to try tracking or hunting, or other jobs that they can set their mind too while getting their exercise out. This VASTLY improves on all behaviors seen in a dog, no matter the breed, the age, or the behavior condition, so this would be a great step towards helping.
Don't try to avoid a situation just because she is beginning to act aggressively or you are letting her rule over your schedule and your life. Instead, take small steps. Start walking her at a park where no one else is around and build up to walking her near people.

All trainer see things in a different light and use different methods, but I would certainly suggest a good trainer for Lily who can help show you a method that is not harsh but exercise discipline. A dog that doesn't know any pack rules will try to make up her own and this will majorly stress her. Since Copper isn't setting any rules to how far her behavior can go, it is up to you to help guide her towards a healthier pattern of behavior. Guarding you is not a bad thing, but obsessing is, and she must learn to refocus her attention and energy on a task that is helpful to her and you.

Another note to add is that a dog that is raised in an unstable or neglectful home, especially if separated from its mother too early (as many puppies are), is far more prone to behavioral problems, especially those not seen in dogs raised in a stable environment. For this reason, even a dog adopted as a puppy can have issues with obsession, aggression, and knowing how to properly behave around people and other animals, and this may continue to be a struggle even with guidance.

Remember, a dog is a wolf at heart. A wolf has a common goal with its pack, and works with-in the rules to accomplish it as a team. They raise a family, hunt, keep warm, and protect their territory. It takes miles of running each day, hard work, and plenty of intelligence. Lily wants to be a part of a pack with you, and she wants someone to show her what her goal is, her mission that she can work on with you as a team. Once she figures that out (as well as being taught what is NOT a goal, as a dog must be told no as well as yes to fully understand what is being asked of it), she will be a far calmer dog and you can be a far more peaceful home again.

NOTE: Female dogs tend to have far more aggressive and dominant behavioral traits towards people and other dogs. They can play "mind-games" in the way they seek out weaknesses in others. I know this because our female dogs have always tried to fight with each-other and need to be told no all the time. They've even tried to kill each other while all our poor male dogs just sat there and tried to understand what the whole point was. For this reason it may always be a bit of a struggle with a mature female dog to get past her need to be the alpha female (the one who produces puppies), even if she is spayed, and to find something else to make a goal.

I certainly hope this helps. Don't give up on her yet. Keep studying her behaviors and working with her. Be the mother she may not have had, guide her behavior with rewards when she does what is right, an understanding but firm no when she is doing something wrong, and a calm and steady hand that she can trust in to be the guide she desires.

Best of luck! :)
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