Aggressive out of the blue

Posted by Sammydog
Jun 30, 2011
Hi Guys,
I have an eight month old Lakeland hound cross who will sit, stay, wait and lay down on command. We all as a family (five in total) make him sit and stay every time we go through a door to the outside, humans first. He is made to sit and wait when his dinner is placed on the floor until he is told he can eat. He happily goes in his crate at night and sleeps through to about 6, if he wakes early we take him outside and then straight back in his crate and he is happy to go back in until we get up about 6.30. He walks quite well on a lead, but I have just invested in a gentle leader which has helped enormously.

Our problem with him is one of aggression. He seems fine, allows you to stroke him, then all of a sudden he lunges, growling and biting, not breaking skin, at a member of the family, always male. We have noticed it is normally around his meal times, particularly when I am fixing his food. He doesn't go for me ( I am the only female in the house).

Any ideas as to why this happens and how I can curb his behaviour.
Posted by KOPCaroline
Jul 1, 2011
Hi Sammydog,

First off, did you get your dog as a puppy, or adopt him at a few months old? Basically, do you know his history? If he reacts strongly to only the men in your house I wonder if he had a bad experience with a male, maybe a male who fed him, and is now a bit anxious at feeding time? Have you ever tried to take his food away while he's eating? I would start trying this, to help emphasize your alpha role and to help break him of bad eating habits. I can stick my hand into my dogs bowl while hes eating and take the actual food out, leave the bowl, and he doesnt do anything. You want to aim for this kind of safety, especially where a family is involved!

The other problem that occurs to me is he might see you making his food, and interpret someone else petting him as them "competing" for his food. It sounds like you're doing a good job of training him to realize you and your whole family are dominant to him in the house, so keep that up! Are you always the one to fix his meals? You should try having every member of the family feed him throughout the week.

To try and help decrease his episodes, keep up with making him sit and wait for food until you say its ok. Instead of having him wait where he can see his food being prepped, have him wait around the corner or in the next room, so hes not in eye-shot of it being made. This might help him decrease his anxiety over seeing it being prepped and having people "interfere" with him while its happening. Put his food on the floor, and go to the room where he is. Have everyone interact with him as usual, praising him for being calm about it. If he snaps or growls, try removing him from the area, to a time out sort of room to be quiet in (and delaying food even more!), then bring him back to the new "waiting area" and try again. Someone should pet him everyday while he's waiting, so he gets used to it, but use the time out method every time. And remember to take turns getting his food ready.

Its pretty basic, keep us updated if this helps or not. It sounds like youre doing a great job with training at home, so hopefully you can make it past this behaviour! Good luck!
Posted by Sammydog
Jul 2, 2011
Thank you Caroline,

We will try your suggestion of other family members feeding him. He does allow me to move his bowl while feeding, take some out and feed by hand and add to it while he's eating.
In answer to your question, we adopted him at four months of age. He was dumped at the side of the road with four of his litter mates on Xmas eve in the snow and ice. A driver by crashed his car trying to avoid them, then went back and picked them all up. They were all shipped to England from Ireland and then he was fostered by four separate carers before coming to us.
He behaved really well when we first got him, very shy and calm. He has since found his feet and is obviously happy here. We noticed a problem of aggression soon as he had been castrated at five months (the perfect time we thought).
He definitely shows signs of possessive aggression, we have to use a time out or exchange method to get something off him, he gets really nasty if we forcibly try to remove it, so we don't. He only display this sort of aggression with items he's found himself. He will leave the ball once fetched if playing a game in the garden.
I have nearly read all of Daniels book and think Sammy also shows signs of dominant aggression. I think we will have to try the 48 hour ignoring method.

Thank you for your reply
Posted by Sammydog
Aug 11, 2011
Hi Guys,

Well, I tried everything in Daniels book and we still have a dog who's a right grouch.

We had major aggression problems in the end so last weekend we took 48 hours out to ignore him completely. It took a long time for him to get anxious, whined a bit, but just seemed to take it in his stride.
By the third day he was slightly subdued, but we did get him to obey us completely. I have stepped up his walks and his training, a few 10 minute sessions a day, including heel work on his walks. He still leaves items on command, but the sit, sit stay, down, down stay, come, and wait commands only work some of the time now(when I use treats, he is very food orientated) and we are only 4 days from the ignoring.
He has aggression over his food, so we have fed by hand and are now feeding by dropping into his bowl a bit at a time, removing the bowl if he growls or lunges at someone who gets too near. He was even lunging when we were hand feeding.
He only likes being touched on his terms, today he went for my 14 year old son when he moved him out of the way of his dining chair, and again at my husband when he moved him out the way to come down the stairs.
He doesn't hassle for food when we're at the dining table anymore and he waits for us to get up in the morning instead of barking and whining to be let out of his crate.
He spends a lot of his time with his head down or staring with his ears back against his head.
He was castrated at 5 months and is now 10 months old.
Any ideas as to what we do next, we're desperate.
Posted by KOPCaroline
Aug 14, 2011
Hey sammydog,

This sounds really strange - he's obviously listening to you on some things, but reacting really inappropriately to other stimuli, like your petting him.

Are you continuing to put him in time out after every display of inappropriate behaviour? You could try a muzzle on him to work with giving things up and not lunging during feeding (most muzzles allow dogs to still eat through them). This way you can take any object or move him as needed, without the threat of actually getting bitten.

Has he been to any social or training classes? It might pay to take him somewhere that another person can see him interact with you and give you tips on how to react. Being around other dogs and owners can sometimes help tone down aggression by giving more "objects" to pay attention to, but on the other hand, he may just get more anxious. If you can find a class to participate in and it goes poorly, you can always talk to the leader/teacher of the class about personal lessons.

If this set in after his neuter surgery, you might want to talk to your vet about the possibility of some swelling or other side effect that could be causing pain or infection, leading to his sudden change in demeanor. You can also ask about sedative medications to try at home if you are at all interested in that. It might be good to have an overall check done on him, just to be sure there isn't some underlying health problem accounting for his bad mood!

I would start with the muzzle training, honestly. This way you can regain control without worrying about any one (including your kids!) getting hurt. Remember to be stern with him - it may pay to retrace your alpha dog training steps, just to be sure he knows how the home heirarchy works. Especially in combo with a training class, he may learn to calm down.

The possessive aggression should be decreased if you firmly establish that you are the alpha dog - not him. The dominant aggression too, for obvious reasons. Try going through alpha training with every member of your family - we really need to set this idea in his head!

Hopefully some other members have more advice, this sounds like an escalating problem!
Posted by Sammydog
Aug 31, 2011
Hi Caroline,

We are still having problems with Sammy.

We can no longer put him in time out as this causes him to growl and snap even more. We cant take him by the collar and lead him out of the room for fear of being snapped at, coaxing him out of a room and into time out doesn't work either, he bit my leg this morning as I attempted this.
I don't think he has a problem with who is boss as he is otherwise fairly obedient. He always waits for me to go through a door first. He sits and stays when told, always sitting and waiting for a door to be opened and going out after me when told he can.
We have managed to get him to leave an item on command and he is praised abundantly, sometimes even gets a treat.
He comes when called 9 times out of 10, then sits until he is told he can go.

The training is pretty good and he is learning more all the time, he is certainly a very clever dog. I just wish there was a way of making him realise we are not going to hurt him.
He spends a lot of his time with his ears back, I presume in fear. His ears are back for the whole duration of a walk, until he comes across another dog or person.

I have tried many methods from Daniel's book and some things have worked, but some have not. I think it is time to call in a professional for hands on help.