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Hi. I don't know how or why this happened, but my 3 year old intact lurcher has turned very dog aggressive in the last 5 days. I adopted her about 7 weeks ago and since I've had her she's been generally fine with other dogs. She hasn't really tried to play with them, but her interactions with other dogs were almost always 1) not caring and walking straight past, 2) sniffing each other before she walked off, or 3) a short grrr as male dogs especially interested in her backside (this stopped a week or so after her season ended).

However, as of last Sunday, she's become not just standoffish or uninterested but downright mean towards other dogs. On a group dog walk with my trainer last Sunday, she was off leash and was fine with all of the other dogs at the beginning. But, later on this walk she got into a game of chase with a small dog and she ended up pinning it to the ground while growling and snarling while the poor thing shrieked from fear. Luckily nobody was hurt, but I felt horrible. She had met many dogs off leash before and hasn't attacked them or been overtly aggressive, so I thought this was an isolated incident, maybe overexcitement and/or rough play. But then, on Monday morning, something similar, albeit less vicious, happened (again, nobody was hurt). I feel so horrible about these two incidents and haven't let her off leash since. Now I am second-guessing my interpretation of every off-leash interaction that I've seen her have, and am pretty sure that I wasn't picking up on signals that a more saavy dog owner would see.

Since Monday morning she has lunged at almost every dog that she's seen, even one that was across the street from her. Sometimes this is lunging with her fur raised, sometimes with growling, sometimes with snarling and teeth bared. About 30 mins ago she almost got into a full on fight with another sighthound that was off leash, but luckily after a second of leaping and snarling and lunging it walked off as I was dragging her away.

I cannot think of what could have caused this change in behaviour, other than maybe she has always been like this and is just coming out of her shell, and her ambivalent behaviour before was just because of the adjustment. Her previous owners told the shelter that she was OK with other dogs and has lived with another dog before. We saw her interact with a dog at the shelter and there were no obvious warning signs, and this was echoed by the shelter staff. I genuinely believe that the shelter staff did not know about this behaviour when the rehomed her to us. Nevertheless, I don't think that this is something that my husband and I are equipped to handle. In the short term, we will keep her on leash and I've already started walking her at 6am before the nearby park and canal path are full of dogs. And I'm ordering her a racing muzzle.

But I cannot see any long term solution to this problem. I don't think I know nearly enough about dog behaviour to take on an aggressive dog, and my husband knows even less. It breaks my heart to think of returning her; it feels like a death sentence for her. But I was panicking all day at work Monday and Tuesday and getting anxious at coming home because I know that I'll have to take her out again (my husband has been out of town since Monday morning, so I can't take a break to de-stress). I know that Chloe can sense my anxiety and that probably contributed to her behaviour on those days, but today I felt no anxiety and had a "ok, I'll make a plan and work with trainer and I can do this" attitude and then on this evening's walk she tried to attack that other sighthound and I feel broken down again.

Can someone please help? I don't even have a specific question, I'm so lost. Is it glaringly obvious that I should bring her back? Or is this something that a normal, committed but new dog-owner can handle? I'll be talking with her trainer tomorrow evening, but could use some other thoughts or suggestions.

(also, please be kind with your responses; I know that I screwed up massively with those two pinning down incidents and am a basket case about it. i am looking for clarity and suggestions for how to proceed).

Thank you.
 

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Hi,
You are probably correct in that it has taken her a few weeks to settle in and that might have something to do with why the behavior is coming out now. People have been known to lie about how their dogs behave when giving them up, so it may or may not be true that her previous owners had no issues with her. Whatever the truth, you have her now and it is possible to help dogs overcome those sorts of behaviors, and for some dogs it can happen remarkably quickly.

Check out this website: Care for Reactive Dogs

I have a dog who is reactive due to fear, and through counter-conditioning and desensitization, his reactivity to humans is about 99% eliminated. He's still reactive to dogs, but much much better than he was when I got him. Changing the behavior of reactive dogs is not impossible, just takes a bit of management and patience.

PS: You didn't screw up, you had no idea she'd behave that way. Before I realized that my dog had "issues", he bit the ear of a 3 month-old puppy. Prior to that, he'd met other dogs and seemed happy to do so - like you I figured it was a one-off thing, and for a while everything was fine, then he growled and air-snapped at an older dog for no reason that I could see. After that, I started to take more care.
 

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That sticky that Dia posted is a great place to start. We've all had these problems, but mine was plain ignorance when I was fostering Kuma before I officially adopted him. The last owners stated he did not get along well with other dogs in the house. So that told me, one of two things. First, the owners were too lazy to help Kuma and the other resident dogs, or Second, he would be best as an only dog.

I took Kuma for walks and we met a friend of mine who had a dauchund and we went walking on neutral territory and when Kuma met the other dog, he immediately attacked the other dog with no body language or warning at the time. (the back of his hairs were not standing on end, infact he looked very proud.) I too took that as maybe a one time thing, but it became appearant that Kuma wanted to meet the other dogs, but the moment they were in range, he attacked.

I had worked on Counter conditioning with Kuma and it has taken me almost a year before he was comfrotable enough to meet a dog and come to me for treats. (I was doing a lot more then counter conditioning when he got better) But, I have found out that he doesn't like puppies, teenage dogs and would litterly seek them out with the intent to hurt the pup for no reason.

I know I can work with him on that, but without a supply of puppies I can practice with and a lot of the people I know all have adult dogs, it's hard to work on this. (Plus it's been very busy for me for these past couple of months.)

Maybe it might be too much for you and your husband and if you need to give the pup back, don't feel bad about it. You did not know this pup was like that. There is a saying that someone posted on here a while back. Three days, three weeks, three months when a dog would settle and you begin to see the dog's true personality come out.

It's okay and don't feel bad about it. If you are not the best place for the dog, then it's no fair to both you and the dog to be unhappy. Our job is to find a dog who can suit our needs and vice versa. no one here will look down on you because you are being a good owner and doing what is best for the dog. ^_^
 

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Hi Norakay,

I joined this forum almost two years ago when I brought home my first dog as a novice dog owner. If you click on my profile and then statistics, you'll find all of the various desperate threads I started about him. I gave that dog my best effort for two months, but I fell short in being able to meet his needs. In the end, through the wise advice of one of my mentors on this site, I realized that Maru and I would never be a good fit for each other and I rehomed him. I was very fortunate to receive the assistance of a lovely woman in rescue who helped me place him in a no-kill shelter. He was adopted just three hours later by a much more suitable couple. I have no contact with them, but I know that I made the right decision.

Not all dogs and not all owners are good matches for each other. I would suggest having a very honest conversation with your trainer and get her opinion. I assume that your dog has already received ample vet care and there is no medical cause for her aggressiveness. If you and your husband decide to return her to the shelter, then I'd be upfront with the shelter about her behavior so that they can facilitate a better placement, maybe with a rescue group.

In rehoming Maru, I was able to save more dogs from a high-kill shelter. One of them, Jesse, had a broken paw. I nursed him back to health and he is now living with a close friend of mine. And, I arranged to adopt Miles, my "heart dog" in my avatar, from the shelter when he was slated to be euthanized at 7 pm the following evening.

Of course, I hope that you can find a way to keep your lurcher, but I also know that sometimes a dog just isn't the right fit for a family, especially when the dog has serious behavioral issues and the owners are inexperienced. I just wanted to share some of my story with you to let you know that I understand and sympathize with you. From all of the various posts you've written on this forum, I know that you have been a very conscientious owner and have given this dog your best effort.
 

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I'm sorry you are in this heartbreaking position :huddle:

If you decide to consult a trainer/ behaviourist perhaps you could let us know which area of Scotland you are in and we could recommend one.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you all for your advice and kind replies. I have an update on Chloe. Last night she went to both the vet and the trainer and I feel less hopeless now.

She went to the vet because her previously under-control allergy (probably grass pollen) came back in full force after Sunday's walk, so bad that she had scratched her belly raw by Wednesday morning. In addition, I wanted to talk to the vet about her behaviour and the fact that although her season ended a week into July, her vulva is still swollen and she's still cleaning it a lot (no discharge [vet confirmed this] no excessive male attention). We made a plan for the allergy, and the vet thinks that her vulva might still be swollen because she may be having a phantom pregnancy, although her teats aren't producing any milk. She's still not positive about what's going on with the vulva, but she thinks that it could be contributing to her behaviour. She did, however, say that there were warning bells ringing with what I described about her behaviour.

Her trainer thinks that the problem is totally solvable with more socialisation and training, and using the muzzle and leash in the short term. He has seen her interact with dogs both in training and on the group walks and flat out said there's nothing wrong with her, she's not inherently mean or aggressive, but just needs extra work. And she was perfect in training last night with the other dogs. Her fur didn't raise once, she either ignored them or sniffed, and was fine at the end of the night when a younger dog was very excitedly sniffing and jumping up at her (we kept her on a short lead and had an eagle eye on her behaviour, as did the trainer).

So, some conflicting advice from the vet and trainer, but I feel like there is hope that this is something that we can work through, whereas yesterday afternoon I felt completely hopeless and broken down, and thought that we'd be taking her back on Saturday. Plus, there could be a medical reason for her behaviour, and maybe after she is spayed she won't be so protective of her backside.

She is due to be spayed on 23 September (depending on what's going on with her vulva, of course), so that is our unofficial date to revisit her behaviour and progress. I truly don't want to give up on her because she's such a lovely dog, and I don't want to be without her. But, at least I am not wracked with guilt at just the idea of rehoming her if we can't provide her what what she needs.

Thank you again for your comments; I don't have any dog friends here in Scotland, so I feel like I'm flying blind and don't have people to talk to who can really relate to what I'm going through.
 

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Hi Norakay,

Thanks so much for the update. I think you're doing all of the right things - seeking the assistance of a trainer and a vet. Like you, I'd like to give her some time to respond to both extra training and to getting her spay before making a final decision.

One of the daunting aspects of adopting (or buying) a dog for a conscientious owner is the emphasis of this being a life-time commitment, which for your girl is probably a good 12 to 15 years. I remember your trying to decide which dog to adopt, and it's very hard, especially for the novice dog owner, to know what a dog will be like outside a shelter kennel. It's a very stressful process.

So, rather than think of whether you and she can go on like this for many more years, I'd suggest doing a thorough reassessment after she's healed from her spay and received more training. Maybe you could give yourself and her two or three months after the spay to see if she's made any appreciable improvement. And, then if you still feel overwhelmed, you can think about rehoming her.

Please keep us updated and let us know how we can help!
 

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SusanLynn, thank you again for your advice, I was really struggling with the guilt and shame of possibly rehoming my dog and now I'm not wracked with those feelings so I feel like I can make a rational decision if it comes to that.

I took yesterday off work to de-stress and take Chloe on a long walk to start counter-conditioning and had good results so I'm optimistic for the future with her.

thanks again,
Nora
 

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Readning the thread and finding she was unspayed, I was going to ask if perhaps she might be going into season or if there might be a hormone imbalance issue. Dogs can have some pretty serious mood swings when it heads towards their time. I'm i nterested in finding out if her behavior settles once she's been spayd and more training happens.
 
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