Aggression during heartworm treatment
The whole LONG story--my apologies.
First of all, I have been lurking around for several months now, but this is my first post. I am confident that all the answers I need have already been discussed, but honestly, I don't have time to find them all.
The story starts quite a few years ago, when we adopted our then 7 year old Sargent. After an initial "break-in" period of about 6 weeks, he was a great dog. After he turned 15, we knew he was living on borrowed time, and we started trying to decide if we wanted to get a 2nd GSD. When we finally decided to get a 2nd, I had also found out that I was pregnant with baby #3.
In May, we found Riley, an 11 month old GSD. He was so pretty, and the description that I read of him on Craigslist and the description the owner gave me over the phone made him sound like the dog we were looking for. According to the owner, he was going to need a little training, but he did know his basic commands. When we met him, he was a little excited--as to be expected--but he did reasonably well with his commands. We decided to bring him home, and I QUICKLY realized that he was not a trained dog. But, I was willing to put in the time training him, confident that I could have him doing pretty good by the time the baby got here. He is very excitable, very easily distracted, and terribly disinterested in training. But, working hard with him, he was starting to pick up on the training. We live in a neighborhood. My back property line is a lake, and a have a fence across my front property line, but there are no fences down the sides of the property (stream on one side and neighbors house on the other.) He was also learning the limits of where he could go on our property (about 2/3 of an acre), he was great around other dogs and all adults. He was okay around kids, just got a little too excited around them, and we hardly ever heard him bark. Then at the end of June, I had him neutered and had the vet do a full work up. He came back heartworm positive. Middle of August, we started the heartworm treatment. He did good with the confinement for about 5 weeks, but then about 3 weeks ago (his treatment will be done on Friday) a friend of the family came over and he went crazy in his crate. It was one of those days where he really did not have the interaction that he needed due to errands I had to run, so I assumed it was that, but then a few days later, our 6 year old neighbor came over to play, and he did the same thing. Since that day, he has gone absolutely ballistic any time anyone is in our house. He is really starting to scare us with this bark. I am almost convinced that if he could get out of his crate, he would tear up anyone in our house other than the 4 of us. (For what it is worth, we also lost Sargent about 4 weeks into Riley's treatment, if that has anything to do with it.)
My hope was (and is) that once he could come out of confinement and start getting an appropriate amount of exercise that these behaviors would eliminate themselves. Then this afternoon, he accidentally slipped out of my hands and made it out the door. He saw my neighbors Lab--a dog he was formally indifferent about, and took off toward her in total fight mode. Fortunately my neighbor was able to redirect him, and when I called come, he came, but if we had not been there, things could have gotten ugly. As of yet, he has not bitten anyone or any dog, but the way he is acting, I am afraid it is only a matter of time. And, as I mentioned above, I don't have an area where he can be off-leash getting exercise and still be contained where he cannot get to passing dogs or people. (And unfortunately, he is still Horrible on a leash--learning, but Horrible, so I cannot walk him enough to get his energy out.)
Now we are in a situation where we will have a new infant in about a month and although he is great around my two boys (age 3 and 5), he is very reactionary around the neighbor kids. I have a fear of him being outside with my boys and one of the neighbor kids coming in the yard and getting hurt, or another dog getting hurt. I cannot take those chances. I know it is just a matter of the right training, but am I in a situation to offer such training? I am 35 weeks pregnant and not getting around at the top of my abilities. I live in an area where there aren't really any GSD trainers, and so to take him to a trainer, would require about a 100 mile trip both ways. Given everything else going on, that is not exactly feasible right now.
So, with everything I have mentioned, does anyone have any suggestions for my situation. I would like to keep him; I think he has the potential to be a great dog, but I also have to put the safety of my family and friends and neighbors first. I am willing to put as much time as possible over the next month, but I know that is not long enough to get him properly trained. I am willing to continue training after the baby gets here, but obviously there wont be as much time as is really needed. Is there anything I can do, or is my best bet to find him a better home with someone who can handle his unique needs--extremely distractable and excitable. Does anyone have any experience with one of those "doggy boot camp" type companies where they go off to an off-site training facility for a few weeks and get full-time obedience training for those few weeks? Would that be a possible solution.
My apologies for the long post, but any help would be greatly appreciated.
I'm not an expert by any means, and I don't know if I have the right solution. I do want to say that a few things popped out to me. In the instance with the lab, the fact that he listened to your command makes me think he wasn't as hellbent on destroying the lab (I feel as if when a dog wants to fight, it's going to fight, and it sure as heck isn't going to listen to come!) I am also a strong believer that dogs DO grieve. He may be suffering from stress from the loss of Sargent. Like I said, I'm definitely not an expert, and others can chime in, but it really sounds to me more like extreme pent-up energy. He might also be feeling better, too, now that he's nearing the end of his treatment, so that could also be why he's being extra energetic. Can you use a flirt pole to tire him out? These don't require too much space. Also, when he goes berserk in his crate when visitors are over, how do you treat him/react?
When you say his HW treatment will be done on Friday, do you mean the injection or the confinement? Has he finished actual treatment? Is he on any medication, for pain? Sometimes dogs react negatively to pain medication. It could also be the amount of confinement and lack of exercise.
I really sympathize with you. This is a very tough situation. Is there any way you could hire a behaviorist to come to you? It would be helpful, even if it was a one time thing, if the behaviorist could come out and give you an evaluation on your dog. Have you discussed this behavior with your vet? He/she should know if treatment would cause any such behavioral changes in the dog.
Where are you located? (General area?) Perhaps someone here can point you in the direction of someone who can help.
Good luck. Please keep us posted.
Given the fact that his recall on "Come" is only about 40% at best, I am inclined to believe that you are right, he was not hellbent on getting to her.
I also think you are right in that he was not allowed to grieve like he needed with the death of Sargent because of his confinement.
A flirt pole may not be a bad solution, but I am not sure I want to do that in the house. Outside, space is not a problem. My house is on 2/3 of an acre and across the street, I have 2 acres of cleared land. The problem is I let him off the leash to play, even with a flirt pole, I run the risk of him seeing something that is more interesting than me (because I have no way to confine him outside), and taking off before I can get to his leash.
When he is going crazy in his cage, we usually tell him to hush and then ignore him. We tried a time or two giving the 6 year old some dog treats, and let him out of the cage with my husband holding him. That worked okay, but not enough to trust Riley around him. Obviously, I realize that was not enough, but even doing that was getting the dog pretty worked up, so I needed to get him crated again before he caused damage b/c of the heartworm meds. I have 3 crates for him around the house. Generally, he is in the crate in the living room, but when someone is going to be over for more than about 15 min, I put him in one where he cant see us. That seems to help better. When the person is gone, I let him out to fully explore the house.
His last injection was 3.5 weeks ago. Unless something goes wrong, the vet should give me clearance to let him start back to normal exercise on Friday. He is not on pain meds, but I have been giving him one low dose tranquilizer each day just to take the edge off the confinement.
I have discussed the behavior with my vet, and he is reasonably sure that the confinement/lack of exercise is what caused the behavior, and probably not the medication itself. He said that I have about a 50/50 chance of exercise helping, but he said that Riley is also at a very important developmental age (now 15.5 months old) and this could be a developed behavior that wont go away without serious training. Unfortunately, he said that he does not know of any good GSD trainers in this immediate area--I live 15 miles NE of Huntsville, TX, or about 100 miles N of Houston, TX. His recommendation was to call the police department and see if they would be willing to give out the name of their trainer. I can call and talk to some behaviorist today. I can't do multiple sessions with them, but I could probably do one or two. Living so close to such a huge metropolitan area, I know I can find some, but as I mentioned, they could be 80-100 miles away, which is only feasible to do once or twice before the baby gets here (due November 12).
You also have to consider that he has lost 2 more months of socialization, is a young dog with a sketchy background - so he is basically a very large puppy who is kennel crazy from the HW tx. I have seen that before - not necessarily aggression but a weird combination of exhaustion from the physical toll it takes on the body, and agitation from lack of exercise and stimulation.
This MIGHT be something you could work on with your dog: http://www.dogdaysnw.com/doc/Overall...onProtocol.pdf
Search for Professionals
Might be worth it (I know big state) to give her a call:
No off leash for a while (long while) a nice long line will help. Not sure if you can fence with real fence, but it is wonderful to have!
Be sure and discuss with the trainer when you call them the timing of the first aggressive behavior appearing.
Neuter, then about 5 weeks after (about the time for the hormones to significantly lower), change in behavior you saw. It doesn't happen often but there are some dogs who do show a change in behavior after altering.
Thanks for the info. I will give the lady in Dallas a call. I can't really take him to see her, but maybe she can give me some info or recommend a person in Houston. I looked at the list of Certified trainers in Texas. 2 are within an hour, and about 10 are within about an hour and a half. Thank you so much for providing the list, it is a great starting place. However, is there a similar list for trainers who work more extensively with GSD's, rather than all dogs in general? I am thinking about calling a company in Houston called "Man's Best Friend". They offer a program where dogs go and stay with them for 3 weeks (I think) and during those three weeks, they work on a specialized training program and socialization. Do you have any experience or knowledge of programs like these and their effectiveness?
I will definitely discuss the dates of everything with the behaviorist/trainer, as I realize that could be a factor. Just for clarification though, he was neutered on June 18. It was at least 3 months later before any of the aggressive behavior started.
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