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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all. Brief intro, I live with 5 dogs and a husband :) The two youngest ones are Polly, female Am. Staff. Terrier 1.2 years old, and April, female Am. Staff. Terrier, 1 year old. (all my dogs are altered)

April, the youngest came to us two months ago. She is a shelter dog with unknown past. All the others came to us as tiny rescue puppies.

Back to April: sweet, reserved, not overly active, loves to snuggle, showed mild food aggression on day one, but we nipped that in the bud, it's not an issue. She goes nuts when the doorbell rings and attacks the door. But we are working on desensitizing her to the door bell by keeping her on the leash and having neighbors ring the door bell, and guide her through the response.

Other than that, she is a sweet, sweet dog.

Polly is the other young pibble. Polly is fun loving, high strung, nosy, non-confrontational, loving, always having to be in the middle of things, moderately high energy. But all that really does not matter in this case. The two of them get along famously! We were so happy to have found a great match.

Last night, out of a deep, deep sleep, no warning, no growling, April attacked Polly, who was getting ready to curl up next to April as they always do.

I pulled April off of Polly, who wet herself and was terrified (non-responsive), and April went right back after Polly. I separated them again, locked April in the bathroom for a while, checked for damage (none), and reintegrated April into the living room.

April was very aloof but friendly, did not play, was not threatening - like in a trance, like the first day she came here ... very uncommonly unattached.

I have lived with dogs for 25 years. I volunteer in rescue for the past 10 years and thought I was pretty well versed with dogs ... but I have never seen anything like this. I mean out of solid deep sleep and went straight for her buddy, was on top of her, and just did not have time to sink her teeth into anything - I think, because I was too quick.

Does anyone have any educated guesses? PTSD? Seizure? Indigestion? or crazy dog?
 

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This might sound crazy but here goes.... sleepwalking? I used to do it when I was younger and my parents tell me I also seemed vaguely dazed and aloof (I never did attack anyone though). Dogs definitely dream and move around in their sleep, maybe she dreamt she was being attacked and responded accordingly. I'd be interested to know what she's like tomorrow morning. If she's back to normal then maybe the fix is to crate her at night when she sleeps.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
That is an interesting twist. Yes, this morning she was all normal, like her own self. She is a relatively detached dog, likes to be left alone, not overly playful, so it's hard to tell if she is not normal :) ...

Actually, come to think of it, I have often observed her in her sleep running and growling and snarling viciously... Excellent idea aiw.
 

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It's also possible that your dogs are leaving puppyhood and entering a more mature stage of their lives. It is not unusual for same gender dogs, especially females, to grow less tolerant of each other as they mature. Dogs, especially pit bulls, can be friends for several years and then grow much less tolerant of each other. When my male and female turned about 3 years old, they went from sleeping on top of each other to requiring a modified crate and rotate lifestyle and close supervision to keep them from killing each other. I would watch them more closely now and seperate them when you aren't home.

At first, the squabbles may be weeks apart and not very serious. Then, they can progress. Or, if you aren't there to intervene, the fights can escalate very, very quickly. This is a breed that is known for dog aggression, so I would just be mindful of the possibility.

My two still play together and hike together and live a great life. They just need to be kept in check. And the root of my problem is my female.
 

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Its called Sleep Aggression.

You ever hear the expression "let sleeping dogs lie"? Well, I found out the hard way that there is a reason for that.

I had (for a very short time) a terrier who bit me 4 times in a week, two of which occurred when I inadvertently woke it up. Once just by walking past it, once by shifting my position on the couch - which moved the pillow the dog had his head on.

I couldn't live in fear of my own dog so I gave him back to the rescue.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Thank you all for the comments. Definitely well worth thinking about. Any other thoughts on this are still welcome. We are somehow hoping it was an isolated incident. Due to the conditions in our home (disabled person) we cannot have dog fights. It is too dangerous for the disabled party if they are in the path or nearby (psychological trauma, risk of fall, dog bite) and we would have to take the dog to the pound. She has one more chance... :( because we really like her otherwise.
 

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Terriers are notorious for being agro with other animals.....you might need to separate, crate and rotate.

A breed specific forum might be more useful, as well.
 

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My terrier mix does this I would be careful, maybe crate April at night. My guy does not need any provocation he will just wake up in the middle of the night and shoot across my bed at another dog in full on attack mode. He's fine during the day and most nights it's pretty random my guy is small so I just keep him on a leash.
 

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Does anyone have any educated guesses? PTSD? Seizure? Indigestion? or crazy dog?
Answer...... Pretty simple She is a Pit Bull (Am Staff). Dog aggression is a common and to be expected.

Both dogs involved are young adults coming into their own. Dogs typically remain more aware than than humans during sleep. It can be very hard to sneak up on a healthy sleeping dog (no deafness, hearing loss, etc)
And sleeping puts the dog in a vulnerable position.

To me is sounds to just like a reactionary response of a dog with some level of DA.
 

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Good ideas here, I still like my sleepwalking theory although its a little out there. I wouldnt bet on this being a one-time thing though, its lucky you were right there when it happened or things could have happened very differently. I would crate her alone at night just to be safe, maybe even cover the crate so its harder to disturb her. That way she can sleep in peace and you dont have to worry about nighttime attacks.
 

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Becoming instantly reactive out of sleep can also be related to seizures.
I would have a vet visit, just in case :)
I'd look into seizures, too. It could just be dog aggression, but when I have seizures, I am awake and look "strange, unfocused and detached" according to my husband.
 

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Answer...... Pretty simple She is a Pit Bull (Am Staff). Dog aggression is a common and to be expected.

Both dogs involved are young adults coming into their own. Dogs typically remain more aware than than humans during sleep. It can be very hard to sneak up on a healthy sleeping dog (no deafness, hearing loss, etc)
And sleeping puts the dog in a vulnerable position.

To me is sounds to just like a reactionary response of a dog with some level of DA.
Yea this was my first thought, too. The breed, genders, and ages of the dogs involved are all sort of the perfect storm.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I appreciate all the responses. Basically, I am no further than I was after the event :) ... but I am glad that there is such a wide variety of responses. I don't necessarily buy into the breed explanation, because I have an Australian shepherd that was quite aggressive for a while, especially with new arrivals. He has chilled in his older age, and I think there is a point to the 12 to 36 months theory.
In our home we do not have room for crating, so we will have to think of alternate methods. I have stopped letting the dogs sleep with me, and taken myself (one of the great possessions) out of the game. I am also looking into correlations of food and aggression. I read that high protein diets aggravate the issue, as well as thyroid issues, so I will be taking April to the vet this coming week for a thyroid test. I am hoping we don't have a recurrence of the nightmarish event before we can figure out / rule out the reasons.
 

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I appreciate all the responses. Basically, I am no further than I was after the event :) ... but I am glad that there is such a wide variety of responses. I don't necessarily buy into the breed explanation, because I have an Australian shepherd that was quite aggressive for a while, especially with new arrivals. He has chilled in his older age, and I think there is a point to the 12 to 36 months theory.
In our home we do not have room for crating, so we will have to think of alternate methods. I have stopped letting the dogs sleep with me, and taken myself (one of the great possessions) out of the game. I am also looking into correlations of food and aggression. I read that high protein diets aggravate the issue, as well as thyroid issues, so I will be taking April to the vet this coming week for a thyroid test. I am hoping we don't have a recurrence of the nightmarish event before we can figure out / rule out the reasons.
An Aussie and a Pit/Am Staff are two different animals.... I am not saying this might not calm down later.... It may never happen again......

But if you look at what you have now.... Two young adult, same sex, fighting dogs, game terriers, etc.
It is a fight waiting to happen.... I am not saying you should not have them both..... I am not saying you cannot manage it.... All I am saying is that it happening is not a surprise....

IF it was my house, I would separate during times that might cause conflict.... Feeding, resting, when toys are present....
 

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Protein does not cause aggression. That's an old, debunked myth. Hypothyroidism absolutely does. And yes, am staffs are more likely to be dog aggressive than herding breeds and they do turn on around that age.

So, yes, investigate the thyroid and seizures, but don't start feeding a crap diet and ignore the fact that this breed tends toward dog aggression.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I am definitely not ignoring the aggression fact, please don't get me wrong. I've been in the situation and ran out of options. I just want to make sure I cover all avenues early on before it escalates and possibly figure out a cause that can prevent an escalation. Blood tests will definitely follow.
 

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I was thinking the same thing.

Answer...... Pretty simple She is a Pit Bull (Am Staff). Dog aggression is a common and to be expected.

Both dogs involved are young adults coming into their own. Dogs typically remain more aware than than humans during sleep. It can be very hard to sneak up on a healthy sleeping dog (no deafness, hearing loss, etc)
And sleeping puts the dog in a vulnerable position.

To me is sounds to just like a reactionary response of a dog with some level of DA.
 

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An Aussie and a Pit/Am Staff are two different animals.... I am not saying this might not calm down later.... It may never happen again......

But if you look at what you have now.... Two young adult, same sex, fighting dogs, game terriers, etc.
It is a fight waiting to happen.... I am not saying you should not have them both..... I am not saying you cannot manage it.... All I am saying is that it happening is not a surprise....

IF it was my house, I would separate during times that might cause conflict.... Feeding, resting, when toys are present....
Excellent reply, While nothing may ever happen again it behooves one to prepare for anything. You received a possibility of "harm warning" and how cool is that.
 

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I have a 8 yr old Yorkie that has the same problem. He wakes up out of a deep, deep sleep, no warning, no growling and attacks my Maltese. Each time he has got a grip on his head and brought blood. I have had a hard time seperating him from the malstese since his bite is locked down. I started putting him in a cage at night, but it happened during the afternoon. He came out in an attach mode looking for the maltese which was on the back of the loveseat. I jumped up to stop him and he finally came out of it. He was a rescue which I got 2 1/2 yrs ago and it seems to be agressing and I am in a delima not know if I should find him another home or what to do. Otherwise he is a lovable , he minds and seems to be very loyal. I have also noticed if the maltese growls or screams the Yorkie is in a attack mode and I have to intervene. Any comments will be appreciated. I gues my next step will be to take him to the vet to check for him.
 
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