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We have an eight month old border collie/mountain dog mix. We got her four months ago from a rescue organization. She was extremely timid and had major submissive urination issues. Through love and care and proper socialization, she is now happy and healthy (most of the time).

At mealtimes, we have her sit, put her food in her crate, then have her go inside. If we try to touch her while she's eating, she growls and snarls. She used to snap/bite/bark, but she doesn't do that anymore since we've been more dominant with her when it happens.

I don't think it's a resource guarding issue. We can touch and handle her food just fine. We can even take it away from her while she's eating. It's only when we touch her directly. She also has VERY favorite toys that she has no problem having taken away.

As soon as we stop touching her her tail starts wagging and she becomes extremely docile and friendly. If it's a particularly bad episode, she'll even become apologetic, like, "I'm soooo sorry. I don't know why I did that! It's not me! Look how good I'm being! See? Here's my tummy!"

Lately this behavior has extended to when she's tired and on the bed or couch. We only allow her up for a few minutes at a time to "say goodnight" or "good morning," and only when we tell her she's allowed up.

She'll be super excited to be hanging out with us on the super comfy bed. She'll be giving lots of kisses and wagging her tail and smiling and laughing and playing. It's great. But then all of a sudden it's like a FOG passes over her. Like she forgets where she is. Then if we try to touch her, especially on her hindquarters, she lunges and snaps. If I try to tap my hand on another part of the bed to try to get her to move, she tries to attack it, viciously.

And then, just like with the food, as soon as the "fog" passes she's back to her normal self. Kissing. Tail wagging. And when she acts bad I tell her to get off the bed. She KNOWS she did something wrong and she's SORRY.

I know everyone's probably going to say, "well don't touch her when she's eating! Don't let her on the bed!" or, "She has resource guarding issues!" But I really don't think that's it.

It's really like she becomes a whole different dog. Like she doesn't recognize us or know where she is.

We know she came from a kill shelter somewhere in backwater, West Virginia.

Could she have some kind of puppy PTSD?

Thanks!
 

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Don't "go all dominant on her" unless you really want her to be more aggressive. And it sounds like resource guarding. She is just preventing you from touching her to get the resource.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Don't "go all dominant on her" unless you really want her to be more aggressive. And it sounds like resource guarding. She is just preventing you from touching her to get the resource.
If it's resource guarding, then why is she a-okay with us touching the food itself or even taking it away? Why does she not even remotely guard even her favorite toys? And even give them up readily as soon as we ask?
 

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Maybe RG is the wrong word. My best guess is that when she took something or got up on furniture at her prev home, she would get grabbed/shook/alpha rolled. To prevent that, she is growling/snapping. I would treat it like RG and trade, while encouraging her to come. Just sitting near her and dropping treats might help. When she doesn't have food/treats or is on a bed, ask her to come and treat. Personally, I would keep her off furniture for now, or keep a drag line on her when you are there to supervise, and use that to ask her to move.
 

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Please put all thoughts of being dominant out of your mind. Even if that were a valid philosophy (it's not; please read this, this and this), it would be completely the wrong route to go with a timid dog.

I'm not sure what the issue is here, and I don't feel equipped to give any advice about how to deal with it. I'd suggest contacting a good behaviorist (not a trainer) and going from there. Until you do, I would suggest you leave her completely alone when she is eating and don't let her up onto the bed or couch.
 

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This sounds... strange. I second the behaviourist idea. I suppose the other possibility is medical, I read that dogs can have seizures and/or low thyroid that trigger aggression. That would jive with the 'fog' you are describing but I don't know too much about the subject. I would probably do a vet visit to check thyroid levels and ask about possible seizures. When I thought my dog was having seizures the vet asked me to tape one of the episodes on my phone and bring it in for her so you could do that. She sounds like shes come leaps and bounds though, good for you guys for seeing the potential in a dog that a lot of people would have overlooked.
Good luck with her, hope things get better!
 

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That is resource guarding, in a way. it's just a different type than "normal", but it still is resource guarding. going all "dominant" on her is not going to help in the long run. it may suppress her symptoms for awhile, but she's going to lose it one day. I have a dog that was very similar in his symptoms. He's all better now.
 

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I agree that you need a behaviorist to help you figure out what's going on. Ideally, a veterinary behaviorist who does home visits so they can actually see these episodes. I'm a bit suspicious that in the situation on the bed your dog IS giving you some "don't touch me" signals before the growl/snap that you might not be recognizing as such (not a criticism, just a speculation) until the "fog" overtakes her.

BUT, having said that, if she really is completely normal and then suddenly passes into this "fog" with weird behavior you could be dealing with something like partial/focal seizures. A veterinary behaviorist, observing the behavior in context in your home, should hopefully be able to help you discern exactly what's going on. You should be able to ask your regular veterinarian for a referral. Good luck!

ETA: In the meantime, I agree with others... leave her alone while she's eating and either don't let her on the bed or don't pet/touch her when she's up there until you get this all sorted out.
 

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Dominance is bunk. At best that sort of thing suppresses the behavior, but it doesn't treat the root cause and then other problems pop up elsewhere. It's like humans who refuse to cry and get stomach ulcers instead.

I would take the dog to the vet first. That could be hypoglycemia. If you'd ever had an episode of low blood sugar, you'd know it makes you snappy.

Personally, I think it may be the dominance training. She's learned that you being around her can have scary consequences and while she's eating, that's especially scary. Remember, eating is hugely important for dogs. They don't see it like we do. To a dog, every meal is potentially the last and that makes it serious business. You need to do some reading on the science of dog behavior and training. Ian Dunbar is a great place to start.
 

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I agree with others behavorist. One more thing that I noticed you have her in her crate now when she is eating. She is guarding her den (crate). I would leave her alone when she is eating in her crate. Remember she is "trapped" while she is in her crate since there is only one way out and you are blocking it. Good luck and let us know what the behavorist says.
 

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I agree that you need a behaviorist to help you figure out what's going on. Ideally, a veterinary behaviorist who does home visits so they can actually see these episodes. I'm a bit suspicious that in the situation on the bed your dog IS giving you some "don't touch me" signals before the growl/snap that you might not be recognizing as such (not a criticism, just a speculation) until the "fog" overtakes her.

BUT, having said that, if she really is completely normal and then suddenly passes into this "fog" with weird behavior you could be dealing with something like partial/focal seizures. A veterinary behaviorist, observing the behavior in context in your home, should hopefully be able to help you discern exactly what's going on. You should be able to ask your regular veterinarian for a referral. Good luck!

ETA: In the meantime, I agree with others... leave her alone while she's eating and either don't let her on the bed or don't pet/touch her when she's up there until you get this all sorted out.
Listen to Sass, she's a Veterinarian and probably one of the most qualified people on here. I have a feeling your dog is going into a freeze mode (the fog) right before she's warning you to back off, it could be from previous mistreatment or it could be medically based anxiety (prime suspect there would be a low or low/normal Thyroid or tick born illness, which is prevelent in W.Virginia the rest of the rural NE). I also highly suggest you getting the DVD/Book Combo of "On Talking Terms with dogs:Calming Signals" so you and your family can learn the 'body language' your dog is sending trying to communicate that it's uncomfortable.
 

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Really? I was under the impression that Sassafras is a vet tech. Bit of a difference.

No disrespect to her and I do know that she is quite knowledgeable in her field and her posts are well-reasoned and certainly well-intentioned.

But, unless time has passed or I've missed something, is she not a vet tech, as opposed to a full-fledged vet? I could be wrong and maybe she's gone on to vet school?

Flames or ban may follow this but I just had to ask ...
 

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I think you may be confusing her with someone else, Feather. We do have several vet techs on the forum.
 

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FACT: You cannot be banned for mistaking a veterinarian for a veterinary technician.

Or at least I'm reasonably certain you can't be. :p


Although I am unsure how to personally react. LOL.

-sassa "DVM" fras
 

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Really? I was under the impression that Sassafras is a vet tech. Bit of a difference.

No disrespect to her and I do know that she is quite knowledgeable in her field and her posts are well-reasoned and certainly well-intentioned.

But, unless time has passed or I've missed something, is she not a vet tech, as opposed to a full-fledged vet? I could be wrong and maybe she's gone on to vet school?

Flames or ban may follow this but I just had to ask ...
Nope, she's a vet, was when she joined.
 

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She's only 8 months old and still relatively new to you. Lots of room for speculation there. A fear period maybe combined with a learned response to former abuse. Regardless, you should treat her growls and snaps as gifts and back off until a behaviorist can teach you how to deal with these issues. The more you try to confront her the worse it will get - I guarantee it.
 

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Could it be that when she felt touched, she felt threatened as it felt as if the touches were dominant moves? Dogs that tries to claim over would move towards other dogs and sometimes start touching or pushing the other dog to claim the stuffs. She might have felt that you were trying to have her go away. When you touched her food, she might not feel that she is being made to go away, but maybe touching her could have that effect. Or she simply don't like to be annoyed when eating.

If this is really an issue then you might work with desensitizing by hand feed while petting gently, and then gradually move to having her eating on her bowl while petting gently. But sometimes, I think that we should also respect a dog's space too.

With the resting, my parents' dog also growled sometimes when being moved when she was asleep. She used to growl with just approaching, probably coz she was not secure enough (she probably suffered when wandering at streets - she was adopted from a shelter), but then if she senses security from someone she would not really mind. I guess that I would also growl if I'm constantly bothered when I'm sleeping thought lol.
 

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Dogs that have questionable backgrounds can feel the need to guard or protect their resources, including comfy spots. You know she came from a kill shelter, but you don't know what her history was before that. Now she's in a safe, comfortable home, but, she may feel like she needs to eat in peace, or relax in peace, because she really was never able to have that kind of "peace" before, in the shelter, or where she was before that.
I also agree with the behaviorist.
 

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FACT: You cannot be banned for mistaking a veterinarian for a veterinary technician.

Or at least I'm reasonably certain you can't be. :p


Although I am unsure how to personally react. LOL.

-sassa "DVM" fras
I've been away from the forum for a while, Sassafras and others. My mistake and my apologies.

So great to have a real DVM on the forum. I've always listened to your wise words here and will continue to.
 

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We actually have (I think) three vets here, Sass, MrV and Kris L Kristine (though I could be mistaken about Kris).
 
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