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Old September 5th, 2008, 09:46 AM
cap20 cap20 is offline
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Very strange behavior in dog

Hello, everyone:

I'm new to this site and it's such a relief to find it! I hope someone out there can help.

I got my 7-year-old lab/pit mix rescue when she was 1 1/2 years old. She was a happy-go-lucky undisciplined charmer and with training she got some manners and calmed down. We lived in Queens, NY, where there was no dog run so she and the other dogs played in a cement playground. We moved a block away from Central Park less than a year later. She had so much fun with the other dogs, playing, running around, etc. But when she was three years old she started exhibiting really strange behavior. She began balking -- resisting with all her weight (75 lbs) -- walking down certain streets. It just got worse and worse and the number of streets she refused to walk on grew. She would tremble and resist going outside the apartment at night and stopped going to the park then. It took all my strength to walk her. She was diagnosed as having severe noise anxiety, her fear being thunderstorms, gunshot sounds and garbage trucks. I was given tranquilizers for her, but they didn't work. It was recommended that I might want to try Prozac at a future date. In the meantime, she started getting aggressive to the same dogs with whom she so happily played. After she attacked a friendly golden who did not provoke her, I took her away from the rest of the dogs who ran around during offleash hours in the morning. Her aggressiveness grew. She began hating huskies, then all furry dogs, then dogs that looked like her. She went after a beagle, also unprovoked. Two years ago she went into an on-leash frenzy seeing her arch-enemy, a dog who lived in our building, who was walking by, and ended up sinking her teeth deep into my leg when I blocked her view.
Needless to say, people usually recognize us and keep their dogs away, though there's always the fear that an offleash dog will approach. It's awful when that happens.

She has had two trainers. They did not work. I put her on Prozac in October. Though we adjusted the dose a lot, it never worked and I weaned her from it this summer. I am at my wit's end and am wondering if her problems could be the result of a brain tumor or some other medical problem which the vet has not found. Has anyone out there experienced this? Does anyone have any ideas? I have no money for neurological tests, but all the time in the world for advice.

Thank you so much and I look forward to hearing!
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Old September 5th, 2008, 09:53 AM
aslan aslan is offline
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sorry to hear about the problems you are having. I've never experienced the issues you're having so i will be of no help in correcting it. But i might suggest that when you walk her now that she be muzzled, for the safety of other dogs, herself and your poor leg. I'm sure someone will be along that can help.

Oh and welcome to the forum.
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Old September 5th, 2008, 10:39 AM
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kathryn kathryn is offline
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I agree to keep her muzzled. Also, use a harness and a regular non-retractable leash if you are not already.

If you can afford it, I really would say it's time to get an MRI of her brain. But that probably would cost a fortune =/ And even if you did find something on the MRI, it might not be fixable or could cost even more to fix.

I had a dog who was a rottweilier (pure breed) and she was a nice puppy but started becoming aggressive as she got over. She ended up having hip displaysia and was in severe pain, and that's what caused her to be so grumpy. Sorry to tell you, but we put her down. Your dog doesn't sound very happy and if this gets any worse that might be your only option.

I would say there must be some sort of imbalance going on in her brain. If your dog is not showing pain or illness like my dog was, then it must totally be in her head. Is it possible to try a different kind of medication other then prozac?

My only other advice is you should call up the Univeristy of Penn. They might charge your credit card for an over the phone consultation, but I can't imagine it being too much from what I've heard.


I think that would be a good and hopefully affordable idea. Call them and just quickly explain you had a dog that has been becoming aggressive, what you've tried and if they had any ideas of what it could be. They might want you to bring her in but I've been told by my vet that they may charge a few bucks for advice but they are somewhat helpful. Can't hurt to just give them a call.

Good luck and maybe you can find some answers here.
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Old September 5th, 2008, 10:44 AM
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pitgrrl pitgrrl is offline
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My goodness, if both my dogs weren't sitting next to me right now, I might suspect you'd kidnapped one of mine

I think that you actually have a few different things going on which are not necessarily connected to each other (though may effect each other, if that makes sense).

First, it is not completely out of the ordinary for pit bulls, or mixes there of, to become less tolerant of other dogs as they age, often times around full maturity (ie 2-3 years old). I really like Bad Rap's page on dog tolerance:

Though you can't train a dog into being totally dog friendly (and I'd be wary of any trainer who says they can), there is certainly a lot you can do to work on the dogs behavior around other dogs (meaning in the same area, not the chaos of a dog park type situation) and get them to be more relaxed and calm while out on walks and the like.

Finding a breed savvy trainer may help, perhaps if you tried contacting the Animal Farm Foundation, they could point you in the right direction.

The second issue is the noise sensitivity. As I mentioned, I too have a pit bull mix who, at the age of 4, became extremely frightened by thunderstroms, which then led to fireworks and the like and, at it's worst, a fear of going outside when it was dark and a fear of certain streets.

We tried everything in the book to deal with this, and the following is what has worked best for us:

1.slow desensitization to the streets, darkness, etc. that he had developed an anxious response to. This meant doing things like playing tug, sprinting, practicing obediance, anything he found enjoyable and engaging in areas or at times of day that he found stressful, always being sure to end on a good note and before he began to be anxious. This is time consuming, but very necessary.

2.We did choose to use medication very, very briefly (like 3 times total), but NOT a sedative, to just get him over the worst of it and allow for some progress during thunderstorms. If you want to go this route, you may want to discuss using something like Xanax, rather than a sedative or something you use all the time.

3.We now use Rescue Remedy during thunderstorms or fireworks, along with basically having a giant party, playing tug, hide and go seek, chase, etc. to keep the dog as engaged and occupied, rather than just spinning into a panicked state.

I hope some of this helps, I feel like I'm maybe not explaining the whole process of getting Streets to a dealable point with his anxiety, as it was a long process full of wrong turns, but please ask questions if you need further clarification.

ETA: Can I ask if, when she bit your leg, was it intentional, re-direction, or a total mistake? Could you tell? This would worry me far more than anything else in your post honestly.

Also, I really feel like none of this reads as some sort of medical issue with her brain, it truly reads as a highly stressed, anxious, less than dog tolerant, reactive dog that needs some help learning to calm down in a few different areas.

Last edited by pitgrrl; September 5th, 2008 at 10:48 AM.
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Old September 6th, 2008, 10:47 AM
Hogansma Hogansma is offline
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It may be a long shot but maybe she's losing her vision. My girl Molly, lost her sight slowly and exhibited all of these signs and behaviours. The part about biting you is exactly what happened once with my girl. It was an accident when protecting me from a stray dog. Dogs first sense is smell so the vision is secondary to them. It would explain the reluctance to go out at night, the hightened fear at sounds (thunderstorms etc). Also the increased stress at dog parks etc. My girl would try to defend me against everything but without her eye sight, that was very hard to do. Therefore, she used aggression to ward off any approaching shadow. Visually impaired dogs also don't go around bumping into everything like people would. They often appear quite normal.

Anyway, just a thought ...
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Old September 7th, 2008, 12:01 AM
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TeriM TeriM is offline
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Excellent post pitgirl . No further advice except to maybe consider consulting a behaivourist who might be able to help you. I might also suggest using a halti on your walk as this can help prevent attacks as you can easily direct her head toward you (never yank!) and divert her attention from the other dog.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 05:15 PM
cap20 cap20 is offline
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Strange behavior in dog

You all have been incredibly helpful. I'll take all your suggestions into consideration.

to answer one question posted, she had no idea it was my leg when she bit me. Right afterward, she fell to the ground trembling. When she is in the red zone, she can't tell me from anything.

I consulted New England Veterinary, behaviorists who came highly recommended by my vet. They're the ones who diagnosed the noise anxiety. They suggested I use as background noise in my apartment a tape or CD of the things that scare her. Only problem is, I don't know where I can find a tape or CD of a New York City garbage truck! I also have an appt in October, if I can save the money for it, with one of the best animal behaviorists in Manhattan, Dr. Elyse Christensen who will work with my dog and me for two-three hours to see what's going on.

Your suggestions have been so great -- and so has your understanding. I love my little girl, just want her to be happy.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 07:08 PM
Jim Hall Jim Hall is offline
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good luck i really have nothing to add I would bet its something related to her senses or her health esp sonce she changed so radically
please keep us posted
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Old October 5th, 2008, 02:59 PM
rsg2001 rsg2001 is offline
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dr. christensen

I was wondering if cap20 could send me the phone number for Dr. Elyse Christensen, the behaviorist in Manhattan. She was recommended to me by a trainer who didn't have her contact information, and I haven't been able to find Dr. Christensen on the web. I have a maltese mix, a little over two years old, who we rescued a little over a year ago who is a bit unpredictable with fear aggression. Loves other dogs, but unpredictable with people, very loving with us and we would like to be able to share that with others.
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Old October 5th, 2008, 03:32 PM
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satchelp satchelp is offline
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One test that should be done for sure (if it has not already been done) is a thyroid panel. I've known a couple of dogs who had not been aggressive become quite aggressive due to hypothyroidism.
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Old October 6th, 2008, 01:21 PM
kandy kandy is offline
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I would also suggest that her hearing be checked. It could have started with a hearing problem where the hearing is actually super sensitive so sounds like a garbage truck would literally cause extreme pain. She would naturally associate the noises with pain, and eventually anything that happens to be near the source of the noise would also be viewed with suspicion and aggressiveness. I agree with the suggestion that she may be in pain - I have seen dogs strike out at anything that gets close when they are in pain.

I hope you get some answers for you and your girl.

Oh, and for a recording of city street noises, why not take a small tape (or digital voice) recorder and sit on the street for just a bit?
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