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Any vets here?: Severe aggression in 16 week old puppy and high testosterone levels?

May 29th, 2009, 07:01 PM
Hi all

This is my first post here so please be kind to me!

I have been rescuing and rehabilitating dog for a number of years. A few days ago I received a call about a 16 week old West Highland White Terrier puppy who was displaying aggression which the family wanted to hand over that very same night. I have had many calls like this in the past and they have always turned out to be normal puppies and the owners have just misunderstood them i.e biting is really puppy mouthing. Sometimes they have got a bit above themselves and need training but I have always found it fixable using positive training methods and rehoming into a more suitable home for the pup concerned. To be honest I thought this would be the same situation; a terrier pup who is perhaps pusing the boundaries but I was wrong.

Otis is an extremely bold/confident pup who is waggy and friendly most of the time. However if you try to intervene when he is chewing furniture, digging the lawn, calm him from rough play with another one of my dogs etc.. he can turn around and attack. I do not use the word attack lightly, he literally does just this. He throws himself around trying to bite several times whilst snarling, growling and screaming. I have never seen such behaviour in a pup so young. Anyway the morning after I picked him up I noticed he cocks his leg when urinating. It occured to me to check his mouth to see if he really was a puppy but he has a mouth completely full of puppy teeth so that clarified that. Also I have noted that his testicals have not yet descended at all.

A bit of extra info. The puppy was bought from a back yard breeder at 9.5 weeks of age. The family saw what they believed to be the mother who they thought looked quite elderly. They took the puppy home and it was a week later that they experienced the first incident with Otis. By 15 weeks of age their was an incident at least once a day. They seemed a nice family and had him on a good diet had taken him to training classes and read lots of books like Gwen Bailey's Perfect puppy so it appeared every effort had been made to bring him up well.

I have spoken to several people who work within canine behaviour and even the breed rescue in the UK. Most of these said that it sounds congential and the prognosis is poor so it is unlikely that he can be turned around if he is this bad at this tender age.

Now my question is, could there be some sort of medical condition that could be causing this behaviour? I understand that a rise in testosterone causes dogs to lift their leg to urinate which is usually at around 10 months (ish) of age. Would the fact that he is doing this so young coupled with dominant and/or aggressive behaviour indicate a connection?

I spoke to my vet today who didn't seem very knowledgable on the subject but said that she will test him for an over and under active thyroid and also some unusual condition (she couldn't remember exactly what it's called) which involves too much testoserone secretion.

I have been scouring the internet trying to find more information as I really want to try to help Otis.

If there is anyone here with veterinary knowledge I would most appreciate your reply.

Sorry for the long winded post!


May 29th, 2009, 08:04 PM
First thing I'd do is get him neutered and start utilizing the 'nothing in life is free' training methods, in other words any reward or affection has to be earned by fulfilling a command such as sit, down, etc. No more free affection or attention.

May 29th, 2009, 08:47 PM
I agree with the above poster..

Also what I wanted to say was my dog started to lift his leg at about 4 months.. I know for sure because I was p'od he started before we could get him neutered, I was hoping he would make it to six months without starting.. I know many dogs that have done this before 10 months.

I don't know why he would still be undecended, but get them to check with a vet. I know neuter can be done safely on a small dog like that at that age, and maybe that would be a wise thing to have done.

I think he is young enough, and that if he continues to be raised right, with boundries and limits, and positive reinforcement he can become a nice dog. My little dog was very snappy and growly when he was little, when he was resting he would bite someone that came up to him ect.. I would give him a time out in the bathroom haha, as long as it doesn't go un corrected. If he growls to keep the bone, he shouldn't keep the bone.. My dog turned out perfectly nice, by 10 months it had stopped, and now I cannot remember the last time he tried to bite or growled, he is almost one and a half now.. Small breed dogs can be like that as pups, especially terriers.. Keep working with him, and use the NILIF and he will come along, good luck!

May 30th, 2009, 02:54 AM
Thanks for the replies so far. I am using the NILIF method and trying to avoid confrontation where he feels he can go for you (although this is not easy as he is a hyper puppy who is always getting up to mischief!). However I really feel that this is not just a learned behaviour and I worry that there could be some sort of underlying medical condition attributing to this behaviour. I just don't know what? Anybody have ideas on any specific medical conditions which the vet can test for??

In the UK it is almost unheard of to neuter at 16 weeks and I don't know if the vet would be prepared to do it just yet (also she might want to see if his testicals still drop naturally?). We usually get the male dogs neutered at around 8/9 months but I would be up for having this done early if the vet agreed.

May 30th, 2009, 03:39 PM
it could just be bad breeding.. You see it often in PM's and BYB's too, anyone that breeds regardless.. One of the consequences is you can get a pup with screwy temperment. Do you know where he was from? Even a bad experience as a puppy...

Could you leave a leash on him? Then you could pull him away from what he is doing wrong and lead him to a distraction without haveing to be confrontational?

May 30th, 2009, 07:57 PM
It is very easy to neuter a dog that young. We often do them as young as 8 weeks old. If she is willing to do it, I would be happy to give anesthesia tips.

May 30th, 2009, 11:53 PM
Otis could just be an undersocialized pup, or his issues may be genetic. It's been my experience that neutering a young dog, with undescended testes or not, won't necessarily help with dog to human aggression I'm afraid....especially if it was indeed aggression his family had witnessed at such an early age.

If your vet can't find any signs of a medical issue, would you happen to have any behaviorist aquaintances that could evaluate Otis personally?

This is a tough situation to be in for you both. I hope you can find some answers for Otis :fingerscr.

June 3rd, 2009, 01:57 AM
Just giving an update on Otis.

There has been a dramatic improvement over the last few days. He has not tried to bite or snap out at me for a few days now. Even when I took him to the vets 2 days ago he growled a bit but refrained from going any further which I was so pleased about. Overall he is getting on well with the other dogs here at home but will still try to assert himself over other pups and try to have a go if he thinks he can get away with it. He now presents me with a down and wait automatically if he sees me come with his food bowl and is learning self control. His energy levels appear to be slightly calmer.

I should get the blood test results back today which are checking for hyperthyroidism, just incase. The vet said that both testes are Cryptorchid and she will neuter him next week which is going to be very costly!

June 4th, 2009, 08:36 AM
If you are in the UK you can try the Superlorin implant to drop his testosterone levels to evaluate if neutering is going to help. I am not sure if that might save you a bit of expense or not. If he is showing such signs of improvement maybe then you could wait till later and cheaper to neuter?

I'm certainly not doubting the Vet but how does she know such a young puppy is cryptorchid? Could he not be just taking longer to descend? Just asking because it would be a simpler neuter if descended but I have no experience with cryptorchid males.

June 10th, 2009, 02:07 PM

I don't have that much to say, you seem to be doing what you need to do already. What I can add is, Sparky is partially a Westie. I see that behaviour in him a bit, he is assertive, very much so with dogs, and I think it has to do with breed as well as the fact that he is not yet neutered (working on that, with slight delay due to anemia). I do not allow any growling or biting, as soon as he crosses the line even in play, he is being told "no biting" in a very serious tone. if it continues - the game stops. By now, he immediately tones down the hyperness, even if he is playing with the cat, he will pull back and slow down if I tell him to.

Westies in general are very independent, stubborn and "their own person" type. They just "know better". You need to be consistent and exersize the NILIF with him, it helps with this behaviour alot, as well as be patient. Besides, it could be all of these factors combined (bad breeding, medical problem, mediocre training, was able to get away with it name it..!) that make his case that much harder.

June 17th, 2009, 02:57 PM
Any updates for us?? Maybe a pic or two?? :D