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Possible Health Issue Causing Aggression in My Adolescent Pup?

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This will be long as I try to include any information that may be useful.

 

Wink will be 10 months old next week. I adopted him as a 10 week old rescue border collie puppy back in January. He was from an unplanned but un-prevented litter on an Amish dairy farm. Wink was well socialized for a couple weeks at the rescue, then with me. I was planning to do pet therapy work with him and took him to all sorts of places, met lots of other people and other dogs and he was doing well.

 

From the beginning there were some issues with resource guarding. I'd transitioned him to a raw diet within the first week and sometimes I'll give my dogs large pieces of food that are difficult to cut up, letting them eat enough for one meal and then taking it away for a later meal. The first time I did this with Wink he objected pretty ferociously. The intensity was unsettling in such a young pup, but I worked with him trading up and learning a leave it cue with lower value food items. He's never been happy with my taking high value food from him, but we'd gotten to the point quite some time ago where it's been manageable. And he was also quick to bark, both at things that caught his attention and demand barking.

 

So, things had been going well up until maybe around 7- 8 weeks ago. I noticed that he was barking at more things more often and more excessively; he was quickly becoming more reactive to both people and dogs. I chalked it up to adolescence and possibly a fear period, but it kept intensifying. And it started becoming more aggressive. I took him to a farmers market one day and he went berserk barking at people, in particular a boy of about 11-12. He actually jumped up at the boy and nipped him. Fortunately he only got the boy's shirt but it was really unsettling; it looked aggressive to me, not just over excitement. I know this boy. I think he has Asperger's but he did absolutely nothing to provoke this. He hadn't tried to pet Wink (I think he may have asked, but hadn't moved to do it yet) or done anything out of the ordinary.

 

A couple weeks later there was a boy visiting at the neighbors' house on the other side of the fence. He reacted very intensely. The boy moved further into the back of the yard and Wink followed, barking more loudly and aggressively. I was finally able to catch him by the collar and he tried to bite me. I'm not proud of this, but I reacted and slapped him on the muzzle. When I did that he snapped out of his frenzy, much like what you see in old movies when someone gets slapped to bring them out of hysteria. It was that dramatic.

 

During this time he was also having slight brief scuffles with both of my other 2 dogs, especially the female. Tansy can be a bit of a brat, but until July of '15 I'd had three dogs and they all got along without any trouble. I rarely saw who started these tiffs and they usually lasted no more than a second. Then two.Then they kept increasing both in frequency and magnitude until there were a couple full blown fights. The latest at least have been over food. On Friday there was a huge fight over a cow hoof he was trying to steal from Tansy (when there were half a dozen nearby he could've had). She was trapped in a corner and he wasn't going to stop; even when I had him by the collar holding him back he was still trying to attack her. They've always been able to share licking food bowls or containers, but yesterday I gave them the basin I'd been using to cut up some beef and he went at Tansy in the worst fight yet. And he's attacked Bodhi for being near the garage door (dog food is stored in and often handed out from freezers in the garage), and Bodhi never starts fights. Ever.

 

In between episodes he's still the sweet pup I've always known. He plays nicely with the other dogs, sleeps curled up with Tansy and is affectionate to me. It's like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I've taken away all chews except when he's crated and am very careful to be sure to avoid any food when either of the other dogs are around.

 

I'd been considering it for a while, but after the fight with Tansy on Friday, I contacted the rescue to tell them Wink wasn't going to work for me and made arrangements to return him. We have an appointment for me to relinquish him this Thursday. As you can imagine, I'm heartbroken, but I need to have some peace in my household and I know my limits when it comes to the amount of work that it would require for the behavior modification he would need . . . if it would even work.

 

But then there was a post from Dogs Naturally magazine on FB this morning about bad behavior being caused by health problems. www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/dogs-bad-behavior-health-problem/

 

Of course I'd considered the possibility, but this didn't look like the examples of thyroid or pain based aggression I was familiar with. But then this paragraph especially is making me wonder.

 

After episodes, most of the animals appeared to come out of a trance like state, and were unaware of their bizarre behavior. … Investigators in recent years have noted the sudden onset of behavioral changes in dogs around the time of puberty or as young adults. (Ellipsis original)

The first sentence describes perfectly what happened in the back yard, and the second is right on the mark with his age.

 

The article goes on to say:

 

The typical history starts out with a quiet, well-mannered and sweet-natured puppy or young adult dog. The animal was outgoing, attended training classes for obedience, working, or dog show events, and came from a reputable breeder whose kennel has had no prior history of producing animals with behavioral problems. At the onset of puberty or thereafter, however, sudden changes in personality are observed. Typical signs can be incessant whining, nervousness, schizoid behavior, fear in the presence of strangers, hyperventilating and undue sweating, disorientation, and failure to be attentive.

These changes can progress to sudden unprovoked aggressiveness in unfamiliar situations with other animals, people and especially with children….

 

Could this be related to a thyroid issue? Is it something that could be treatable?

 

Has anyone here had a similar experience?

 

Of course I'll call the vet first thing in the morning to arrange for a blood draw, but in the meantime I'm really hoping some of the vets and/or techs may be able to shed some light on this.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

roxanne

 

p.s. Just now as I was proofing this he went for Tansy again. No food, no chews, nothing to guard. Keeping them separated now.

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I have absolutely no idea and nothing to say except that I hope you find a solution, whether it is something that can be treated or whether it involves some other answer.

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While I always think health problems should be ruled out as the cause of behavior problems, your history sounds like a classic behavior case. Your pup was never easy and you saw him getting worse during recognized periods of behavior change in maturing pups.

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Thanks, Liz.

 

Which would you recommend doing, a 4 or 5 panel thyroid test? Any other blood work?

He's been to the vet a couple times for check up and shots and nothing seemed amiss, though I wasn't consulting for behavioral issues. Though he was very reactive barking when he went for his rabies shot in late July, at 8 1/2 months old.

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Sometimes I think dogs are just wired wrong and nothing we do can make them normal. You can manage them, make symptoms better with training and behavior modification and see a lot of progress, but they will never be that rock solid, laid back dog everyone dreams of owning.

 

I would do a tick panel, esp for Lyme and RMSF, and a thyroid panel that had T4, FT4 and TSH at the very minimum. Ideally also T3, though it's rare to find T3 deficient dogs (and it's very expensive to treat them). Thyroid autoantibody levels are useless info in a dog that is clinical or presumed to be clinical (value is used to catch dogs who will become low in the future).

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I'm so sorry that you're going through this. I can only imagine how heartbreaking it is.

 

While I would definitely try a thyroid test, personally i put very little stock in Dogs Naturally. The articles at sensationalized and the sources are iffy.

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How heartbreaking. I wonder if he was too inbred. Coming from where he did it wouldn't surprise me. But it surely wouldn't hurt to rule out thyroid.

 

Inbreeding would not cause a bad temperament, but if you inbreed on dogs who have bad temperaments, it could fix those traits in the pups.

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Thanks again, Liz. I hadn't really considered tick borne disease at this young age.

 

Tommy C. and Mara, yes, it's totally heartbreaking. I've been a total wreck as this has been escalating. I had such high hopes of his being my future therapy dog partner soon, not to mention my own dear companion.

 

I'm also suspicious of much of what's put out by Dogs Naturally, but much of the article, including the entirety of what I quoted, is taken directly from an article by Dr. Jean Dodds, which I also referred to for more info.

 

Even though the farm he came from isn't a puppy mill, knowing the source I never expected that he would have been well bred. I've even wondered at times if there might not be a bit of something not-quite-border-collie in his DNA, though of course I'll never know.

 

I'm aware that I may well be grasping at straws . . .

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I would also have a thorough musculoskeletal exam performed.

 

Between the thyroid test, lyme disease test, and a vet exam you are looking at a few hundred dollars for a dog that you were going to relinquish on Thursday. Even if the blood is drawn tomorrow, you may not have the test results on Thursday.

 

Once upon a time, my rescue Border Collie was very dog reactive. One day, I was able to look in her eyes when she was blowing off at another dog and there was nothing there. This was one of the things that prompted me to take her to a DVM behaviorist. Prozac helped her to be not so quick to launch into orbit and to come down faster. Still it took years to rehab her, but I never had to worry about her biting a kid. She was a resource guarder and used to guard the bedroom door so my other dog could not enter. All of this went away post-prozac

 

Prior to taking the dog to the vet, you should decide how much you want to spend and how far you are willing to go because this has the potential to be a giant money, time, and emotion suck.

 

I would think that it is unlikely that such a young dog would have a thyroid issue without having other symptoms.

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I had a pup from my kennel that had had serious behavioral problems due to thyroid problems. I have a very special vet so when I came in with the dog and asked for a thyroid test, he did not oppose the idea after I told him what was wrong.

 

The bitch was then a young adult who gradually started displaying fearfulness to a greater and greater degree, until it became very problematic and at this point the owner contacted me and brought her to stay over for a few days. She is a certified therapy dog but she had to be pulled off her job because her behavior became too erratic and panicky at light, noises, movement, anything. She was not able to train obedience or agility any more.

 

However, there were no other issues visible that would point to thyroid, and I'd say most vets would say I was batty. But the tests came back with a definite issue related to thyroid. After medicating her and getting the hormones up to par everything disappeared.

 

But this is just to show that thyroid is very sneaky showing no obvious thyroid physical symptoms and yet wreak havoc with dog's behavior.

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So sorry to hear about your pup, Gentle Lake.

 

When reading your description, my mind jumped to 'thyroid issue'. I know of several instances of low thyroid causing aggression in a dog. (personally or friends of friends or reading about a case study) I think that it may be worthwhile to send a blood sample to Dr. Dodds. In this case, I would want her expertise at running the sample and reading the results since she is the expert in the field. About 6-8 months ago, I sent a blood sample to her (to see if lethargy in my aging dog was thyroid-based), and IIRC, the cost was about $190. Make sure that the vet relays the behavioral issues when sending the sample.

 

I am wondering if you could make a case for the rescue to pay for the diagnostic testing. It is certainly cheaper in the long run than having a dog returned, and my understanding is that you have been a foster, etc. for them so they should be open to helping you out.

 

I would also want to know if there are any behavioral issues in other siblings. If there are, that would speak to a 'problem breeding'.

 

Or he could just be wired wrong. No one's fault.

 

Best of Luck whatever you decide to do.

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I've been doing a lot of thinking about the progress of this over time and talking to people who either can help me remember some of the incidents and/or have a less emotionally charged perspective.

 

There had been indications of the food guarding from the very beginning. I remember being quite taken aback by the ferocity of his response the first time I tried to take raw food from him at about 11 weeks old. My trainer, who's also a breeder of longhaired whippets and very well informed, told me that she'd read that if a pup is food aggressive at 8 weeks the pup wasn't a good choice. 11 weeks isn't that much older than 8 and if the guarding response was as intense at 11 weeks I really can't imagine it would have been much less at 8. And even though I worked intensively with him on this, he never relaxed when I approached him when he was eating and was more likely than not to stiffen and freeze, which is not a good sign.

 

I'd also remembered being told that there had been some behavioral problems with at least one of the other pups from his littler. I don't know exactly what the nature of his problems were, but it still isn't encouraging.

 

I would spend the money on the tests, but the more I consider this the more I'm thinking that this is an escalation of issues and behaviors he's exhibited all along. As Liz pointed out, though smart and really awesome in so many ways, he's always been a challenging pup.

 

This has been a really heart wrenching decision to make, but Wink will be going back to the rescue tomorrow. I'm a mess, and will be even worse tomorrow. But it's a good rescue with trainers on site and they'll be able to use their considerable resources to help him through this. I know he'll be in excellent hands.

 

I'd like to thank everyone for their input and sympathy.

 

roxanne

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If he has been displaying such aggressive tendencies since a very young pup, IMHO it seems like he is 'wired wrong'. I don't say that lightly, but with the background that you are an experienced dog owner and have an appropriate environment for a dog. If he was in the hands of a newbie dog owner with a crazy household (unruly kids, no rules, etc. that allows bad behavior), I would wonder about the environment causing the behavior - but in your case, I can't imagine it.

 

I hope you try again with another pup/dog once you are ready.

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So sorry you're going through this. I've been following this thread, and in addition to the much more experienced and knowledgeable members who have responded, I think that returning this pup to the rescue is the right thing. As Jovi pointed out, your handling/home situation are not causing the problem.

 

Hope you can do this painful thing with reassurance that it is the best thing for the dogs who are already members of your family AND for the pup himself.

 

Ruth and Gibbs

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I am so sorry you are going through this, but it sounds like you are making the best choice for every one involved. You did a wonderful job with him and that foundation will help the rescue immensely. Like others mentioned the impact on your current dogs is of upmost importance and some dogs just are not wired correctly. Wishing you lots of strength to get through these hard times, I know how much he meant to you and the work you put into finding the right pup. I hope you don't let this deter you from trying again with a new puppy when you are ready.

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You know what caught my attention was the Jekyl/Hyde thing. I have taken care of dogs with bad temperaments but they were always consistent. I took care of one Springer that I didn't trust as far as I could see her. I never pushed her. And she consistently would attack men. I mean really attack - not just a warning and a nip. She would go after them and bite really hard. But she was always consistent. And I took a couple of rescues with bad temperaments because they did ok at my house where it was quiet and there weren't any kids. But I couldn't take them out. But it was always consistent.

 

That Jekyl/Hyde stuff doesn't sound right at all. And it's escalating even with all the time and training you have put in. That really sounds like there is something seriously wrong.

 

I am just so sorry for you. Sometimes working with animals is just so heart wrenching. But there is another little rescue out there that needs a wonderful home and he will find you.

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i'm very sorry for the no win situation you are in. I know your dilemma. I too had to return a dog to rescue when his aggression/fear was too much for me. I knew when I adopted him he was fearful, but he had been worked with through the rescue for 4 or 5 mons. before adopting him out. I thought I between what they knew and what I knew, I could handle it. I was wrong. I probably could have handled his fearfulness of men, but he took a dislike to my female dog (she has a strong eye and poor manners). he was attacking her almost daily. I could see her really starting to suffer. when he went after my female obedience teacher and then my old dog, I had to draw the line. I didn't think I was the person to handle this dog. I drove over 14 hrs. to get him back to his rescue. thankfully it is an excellent rescue. I was able to follow his progress through their web page and after a year of training he was successfully adopted. when he was alone with me he was a love and a fabulous dog. and incredibly handsome. I still wish I were the one that could work the magic, but it wasn't to be. good luck to you.

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If there was anyone I would trust to make the correct decision for their dog on this, it would be you, GentleLake.

 

I am really sorry that you had to go through this, and I'm sure you will be second-guessing yourself, but (for the little that it's worth) it sounds like you really did the right thing. Both for Wink, who as you say will hopefully have the resources of the rescue rather than an individual, and for Tansy and your other dogs. You upheld your responsibilities, to protect your dogs, and who can do better than that?

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Thank you all for your support and very kind words.

 

Wink's back in the hands of the very capable folks at the rescue now. I miss him terribly already, but I know he's in good hands.

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I just read this thread. I am so sorry that you experienced this. I know if it happened to me I would really have a hard time with it, and I would be second-guessing myself all over the place wondering if I did the right thing. I hope that you are not doing that, because from everything you said (and everything I have read of your posts in years past) you did nothing wrong and it is best for him to go back to the rescue. I hope that you don't have too many sleepless nights, and can gie your love to another dog soon. It would be the best medicine, if you got another one.

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