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Discussion Starter #1
A little back story, I have an almost three year old Australian shepherd (neutered male). He's been in training for almost 2 years for his reactivity towards other dogs. He's stellar at training class and his reactivity has gone down majorly. That being said, about a year ago I moved into an apartment complex and that's where everything started going down hill. He has nipped 3 people between October-January. Nothing serious, a catergory 2 bite. I quickly moved out of the apartment, he calmed down quite a bit and returned to his normal self mostly. In June, while I was traveling, my parents were watching him and he went after a plumber doing work on the house. Again, no damage done. Obviously this is concerning but being managed. Now, he is attacking dogs though. Once in training class, my fault, his collar broke and I shouldve been more careful. The dog had a puncture on his chest. Last week though, was the worst. He jumped over my enclosed deck (railing is 4 feet tall and is at least a 7 foot drop) and attacked a dog walking by. This was completely unprovoked. he left a gash in the dogs neck(of course I'm paying all the vet bills). Now, if he had even ever attempted to jump over the deck railing before he wouldn't have been unleashed, also an adult family member was outside with him.

Oh, and another important thing, we've noticed him growling more at our family dog which he has never done before.

Now, I talked to my trainer (who specializes in dogs with issues) and she said that he must have something wrong in his head and he was probably sick. I feel like my choices are now very limited of what to do. So I guess, what would you do in my situation? Would you go trough the potential thousands of dollars it would cost to figure out what's wrong, use a muzzle the rest of the dogs life, or euthanasia? I hate to think about that since he's my baby, but he's becoming unpredictable and a huge liability.
 

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Australian Shepherds are often suspicious of strangers, and many don't seem to care for the company of other dogs. At close to 3 years old, he may be coming into his true personality. That being said, I don't think it's normal for the breed to go out of their way to attack another dog, and they typically won't attack a person unless that person is invading their space. Most seem to just ignore strangers. So, it could be a number of things:

1. Genetic. Sometimes poor breeding or just pure bad luck leads dogs to be genetically predisposed to have fear issues; fear of dogs, fear of people, and that manifests in aggression. You can't fix the genetics, but you can train coping mechanisms. Sometimes you can train them to ignore other dogs, strangers, etc., and sometimes you can't. Either way, you probably won't ever have a really happy go lucky dog that loves everybody. You will still always have to manage him and keep him out of bad situations. Sometimes, you can use medication to help you teach him to cope with these situations. Consult your vet about it.

Also, if you got this dog from a breeder I would be contacting him/her at once about this issue so they can note it, and perhaps give you some insight.

2. Medical. Some diseases cause a drastic change in behavior. Have you ever had his thyroid checked? A malfunctioning thyroid can cause aggression issues. I would recommend a full blood workup to rule out medical issues. I know you said he's always been reactive, but that's kind of a common thing in many herding breeds. Unprovoked aggression to the point of leaping over a 4 ft railing in herding breeds is not.

Until you figure out what is going on, a muzzle is a good option so he can't cause damage. If that's what he needs to wear in public for a while, or even the rest of his life, do it. It may also get you some space to work. If you can't find a medical reason and the problem continues to worsen and your trainer can't help you, I would consider medication. A member here had a BC that had severe reactivity issues and detailed her journey in a thread called Medicating Molly.

And sometimes, nothing works, and you are looking at a life of closely managing the dog for the next 10-12 years. Quite honestly, that type of lifestyle is not for everyone, and I don't think there is any shame in admitting that. If the dog is okay when not in the presence of strangers or other dogs, I would consider rehoming to a place that rarely has strangers and has no other dogs. I would ask a rescue for help. Honestly I probably still wouldn't feel comfortable rehoming considering the dog's history, but if he has a chance at a happy life with a person that can accommodate that type of strict lifestyle, I would take it. If the dog is constantly anxious, constantly on alert, then the dog's quality of life is not that great and I would consider euthanasia.
 

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Can you describe what his training looked like? What tools and methods?

What is the dog's history?
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
First, thank you Lillith for your thoughtful response. About the genetics, I did get him from a breeder and I will be contacting them soon about him. I think his reactivity is definitely genetic, he started showing it at about 8 months old and he had done AMAZING in training classes. From where he started to now he's a different dog reactivity-wise. I also feel the need to say if it was just the reactivity I wouldn't be writing this, I can handle the reactivity with no problems.

Now the medical side of things. As you told me, my trainer told me, and mulitple reputable sources on the internet told me, jumping over a 4ft railing and attacking a dog isn't what a normal, well adjusted dog does (even with his reactivity I consider him 98% well adjusted, especially with all the training). My trainer said that the only time she sees a dog have as much training and has made as much progress as mine has it isn't a behavioral issue at that point, it's a medical issue. Last night I was talking to my family and we started to talk about what we've noticed him doing more of/less of in the past 2-3 months, this is what we came up with; Attacking dogs, becoming more irritable/growly with the family dog, his leg sometimes having what looks like muscle spasms, random problems drinking/breathing (that has just started), becoming more uncoordinated, panting, more anxiety/constantly alert, more needy than ever, and regression with training (ex. I tell him to do something and he just kind of looks confused). there might be a few others but those are probably the main ones. Any ideas? Honestly my mind goes to brain tumor but I don't even know if that's possible with his age and with an MRI costing $3000 that's sadly not a possibility.

Canyx, his training started out 100% positive, but moved to I would say 90-95% positive over a year ago. We noticed he wasn't progress and wasn't coming back to check in with me. The only negative thing we use is a prong collar (Something I've been working to get him out of) We never "pop" it. It's just there so if he starts to pull intently and isn't listening he'll stop. Which that has worked, and these last couple months we've been working to get him out of it. We tried the easy walk (was pulling trough that), a martingale (he was pulling trough that and choking himself out), and we never tried a head halter since he would hurt his neck with one. Also, he's not fear aggressive towards dogs, it's more of frustration he can't go and see them. I used to take him to the dog park and off leash and large areas he did fantastic with them. But the methods have been learning back aways, paying attention to me, trust type exercises, letting him make good choices for good rewards. No yelling/screaming/hitting.
 

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I would most definitely get him a vet visit with full workup, pronto, considering the medical things you just revealed. It could really be so many things, and only a vet can diagnose it. Tick borne diseases, parasites, thyroid, or any number of other diseases can cause a change in behavior. If you can write a detailed list and timeline of when you started to notice these issues, do it, because it will only help the vet make sense of it. Write down any medications (including wormers/flea/tick/preventatives) or supplements he is taking (the vet should know anyway, but sometimes it helps you), because even a bad reaction can cause a change in behavior. The more information you can provide, the better.

Get medical ruled out so you know what you're working with.
 

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Yeah, I'd talk to a vet and get a full blood panel and thyroid test done to rule out medical. It sounds like you are using the prong thoughtfully though I will say that there is still a possibility that the prong can be contributing to this. A good way to evaluate that is to think back and determine if the increase in reactivity/aggression happened shortly after the prong collar was implemented.

You're right that it isn't normal for your dog to suddenly do level 2 bites to people and level 3 bites to dogs. I'd be especially concerned if it isn't fear based, as you mentioned. I have never seen a dog react out of frustration and put a level 3 bite on another dog passing. I'd believe it more if it was fear or territorial...
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Hey, just wanted to give you both a little update. I went to a consult with my vet today, I actually just got back. The consult was to see if a thyroid panel would even be worth it with all his symptoms and to talk about what could be causing all thee symptoms. As I was leaving for the vet's office I was saying "bye" to my dog and scratched him on the neck, he whined in pain. :( I cried all the way to the vet's office. We talked about everything, from his whole history to what's happening today in great detail. The vet said he was definitely ill, something in his brain. She thinks it's a brain tumor. Her advice is to end his suffering and put him to sleep. So in a week, that's what I'll be doing. I'm so beyond sad and heartbroken. I have to say goodbye to my best friend, what makes it worse is that he's only 2. But I have to do it, with him whining today showed me he's definitely in pain. So this week I'll barely be leaving his side; he'll be treated like a king, he'll be showered with love and want for nothing. When it's time to say goodbye, he'll be surrounded by the ones who love him.
 

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Oh no... I'm so sorry to hear that! Kudos to you for exploring all routes and for giving your pup such a caring home. This is tragic.
 

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Oh my, so sorry to hear that.

I am not a vet but wanted to put out one possible idea to consider before euthanasia.

Has he been MDR1 tested and if so, what were the results?

Anytime I hear about Aussies and neurological symptoms, I think possible drug reaction. Muscle spasms, bad coordination, disorientation and such can all be signs of toxicity. Has he had any treatment of more than one medicine at a time (like, heartworm meds but also anti-diarrhea meds?) or had the chance to eat the poop of farm animals like sheep who may have been dosed with ivermectin?
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Shell, he hasn't been tested for the MDR1. Both his parent's were though and came back clear. He's only ever had one kind of heart worm preventive (sentinel) which he's never had any sort of adverse reaction to. Also, the last time he had any meds mixing is when he was neutered (around 10 months old). So, unfortunately I find it hard to believe that his behavior/symptoms would be linked to it.
 

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I'm sorry to hear that...That's just horrible.

Would it be worth getting a second opinion? Did the vet actually examine him? You said "As I was leaving for the vet's office I was saying "bye" to my dog", which makes it sound like you went alone to talk to the vet? I mean, he's 2. The chances of brain tumor are slim, and if the vet made that conclusion without even examining my dog, I would be scheduling an appointment with another vet ASAP. There are many diseases that can mimic the symptoms of a brain tumor!

If it's a brain tumor, that's what it is, but at least you know you did everything possible for your dog.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Lillith, Honestly at this point I don't think so. She was kind of already my second opinion, first as my dog trainer (she knows my dog inside and out), and they both said the exact same thing.

I didn't bring him since he's been stressing out so easily and I wanted to limit whatever stress I could. I went there for a consult to talk about if it could be his thyroid or anything else not involving the brain. The answer was it was definitely something involving the brain with how he's progressing.

I personally don't feel right just trying him on random medication in hopes it might help his symptoms. My vet also studied a mass amount of animal behavior and in the past has guided my family what to do for our animals quality of life, so I do trust her and her medical opinion. She also said the only real test she could do with his brain was checking his pupils/eyes, everything else is an MRI or just as extensive as an MRI. As the days are passing by, I'm starting to notice little (and big) things that tell me he's in pain.
 

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I'm so sorry.

Your friend will be at peace. Be gentle with yourself following this difficult decision, knowing that you saved him from unnecessary suffering.
 
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