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Hello,

I just joined this forum for support from other dog owners & to hear if anyone has experienced or heard of similar issues.

3 months ago I adopted a 6 year old 13lbs terrier mutt, his name is Tyrion. Tyrion is mostly perfect-- he is obedient, energetic, potty trained, sweet and loves to cuddle. He is everything I wished for, except for his episodes of aggression. Before I go more in depth with each incident, I should disclose that this is apparently a new occurrence. The foster mom did not experience any aggression, and though I haven't been in contact with the old owners, I am told there was no history of aggression. He was surrendered by his previous owners to the local animal shelter because he was "too much responsibility." 4 days before I got him he was neutered.

The day I met him I fell in love. I asked if I could adopt the following with because that weekend I had flights booked. The foster parent said no; he had a lot of other interest, but because of his calm temperament he would be fine with a sitter for the weekend. I got him on a Tuesday. That Friday, I went to my friends house and he met her dog. They got a long fine-- we hung out for an hour and before I left, I picked Tyrion up, he got aggressive and growled at me. I decided to stay a little longer-- Tyrion hid under the couch. When I would try to lift the bed skirt and call him out, he would stick his face out and growl. Eventually, I let him be and caught my flight. I returned on Sunday-- he was not aggressive towards my friend that weekend. I went straight to her house and was sitting on the floor, my friend, her husband and his friend were on the couch. I was petting my Tyrion. Out of nowhere, he lunged at me, bit my hand and my breast drawing blood in both places. I dismissed this-- I had just gotten him and put his through a lot of changes and felt that I made a bad mistake.

A month goes by and Tyrion is perfect. He sleeps in my bed every night and sweetly cuddles me. We go hiking every weekend and he's calm in the car. I take him to dog parks and have many guests over, he is friendly and sweet. We play a lot. He waits by the door for me too get home and follows me around the house, even to the bathroom. He is very attached to me. One night, I had a friend over. We were sitting on the couch watching TV. Tyrion was sitting in between us with his head on my lap. My friend was trying to open a can, and couldn't figure it out so he passed it to me. Tyrion sat up as if something was ailing him, and looked out the window. I looked out of the window to see what was there and back at him and said "What's up, buddy?" Tyrion lunged at me. I shook him off and got him off the couch. About an hour later, he climbed back into my lap. I held him close and tried to calm him down. Then, he had another episode; he bit my arm, I kicked him off the couch, he bit my leg, I ran back, he cornered me and bit my foot, I kicked and he flew off with my sock. I went to the ER as both my arm and leg wound exposed tissue and needed stitches. That weekend I talked to the shelter, they said they think it is me as he has no history of this. I also though "Yes, the foster had him for 4 weeks, but I have seen him go 4 weeks with no issues."

I felt sad, but made many adjustments-- I was quickly falling in love with Tyrion's typical temperament and didn't want to let go. Tyrion stopped sleeping in my bed, instead, he slept in his bed outside my room. I stopped consuming marijuana incase that had anything to do with his change in behavior. There were a lot of treat rewards and extra training. I didn't allow guests in my house except for a close friend that Tyrion was very familiar with. Tyrion was only allowed on furniture with me when invited. Last night, I came home and was quite sad because of a personal issue and wanted some comfort and allowed Tyrion to sleep in my bed. He slept by my feet, but this morning I woke up as he curled into my chest to cuddle. I scrolled through my phone, got out of bed and went to the bathroom. I came back into my room, turned the lights on, cleaned some stuff up, and got back into bed. I moved Tyrion up a bit (He was awake) and all of a sudden he lunged at me. Now that I have experience I knew what to do and threw him back and off the bed. After multiple lunges, he backed off and hid under my bed. I went downstairs and let him have some time.


This is where I'm at. I don't really know what else to say. I have a vet appointment in a couple weeks and am in the process of scheduling an appointment with a behaviorist. I'm sick of hearing our chemistry is wrong, because I know it isn't, and those that see us together say the same. I'm sad that this is happening because we have developed a strong bond. Help?
 

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Definitely go to the vet first to see if there's anything wrong with him, but if it was my dog, I would have him put down. It is NOT normal for dogs to lunge and bite without any warning.
 

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It sounds to me a though some situations trigger an extreme fear/agression response in your dog. I am not experienced enough to advise you but please wait for further advice from the forum's experienced members. What you are describing is not unusual in rescue dogs who have been mishandled or have had upsetting events in their life. It sounds like fear aggression with definite triggers which can usually be sorted out by a good behaviourist. The situations you describe all seem to involve interactions where the dog feels threatened by unasked for contact or uncomfortable proximity. Not having seen the incidents I may be wrong of course, this is why you need a behaviourist to come and watch you and the dog interacting. I personally took on a bitch who had bitten four people before she came to me (I used to foster shelter dogs). A good behaviourist desensitised her to her triggers and taught me how to manage her. She has not shown any aggression for three years now.
 

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Remember that that the first month or two with a new dog is a "honeymoon" period and the dog may not exhibit all potential behaviors because they are too afraid in their new place. 4 weeks is a short period of time. Something must have happened to cause fear aggression such as sights, sounds, maybe even the time of night. My suggestion is to first of all, not let him sleep in your bed. It could be that he has a fear of contact, maybe a fear of being too close to you and he cannot escape? Some dogs can have night terrors so it might be like a human awaking from a nightmare, it wasn't directed at you, but just he was unable to distinguish whatever he was scared of from you. Have him sleep in a bed or crate next to you with something that has your scent. If he awakes, speak to him, soothe him, but don't pick him up.

He could have some sort of neurological issues. I had a dog I could not adopt because out of the blue he would get aggressive and just lunge to bite me. I never found out the exact cause, but it was neurological. Find out first and then see if you can work with a trainer or if it's medical, find out what it is.
 

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I am afraid I agree with Francl27. It is one thing for a dog to snap at you but to cause that much damage, then be fine and then do it again, that is certainly not normal. I doubt a Vet can tell you anything and it is so random, hard for a behaviorist to do much.

I know if it were my dog, I would have him put down.
 

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I'm no expert, but that sounds like some pretty strange behavior. Yes, fearful dogs may display aggression, but they typically back off when you back off and demonstrate you understand they are uncomfortable. They don't corner you and cause damage that requires stitches. I mean, it's difficult to assess without actually seeing it, but it sounds weird based off of the information you have provided.

It's possible that he has been punished in previous homes for displaying low-level warnings, like growling, so he goes straight for the bite when he feels uncomfortable. So, for example, if you leaned over him or restrained him or moved him and he felt uncomfortable, instead of lip licking, showing the whites of his eyes, or growling, which would be pretty appropriate warnings, he just went for the bite.

I would most certainly bring in a behaviorist to assess the situation if the vet turns up nothing of note. At the vet, make sure they check his thyroid. Thyroid issues can cause some pretty radical and strange changes in behavior.
 
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