Help - 4 yr GSD Suddenly Aggressive When He Wakes Up Like He Doesn't Recognize Anyone
I have a 4 1/2 year old intact male GSD who is developing bizarre aggressive behavior, usually just after he wakes up, but occasionally just before he falls asleep if he is very sleepy. It started with my husband about 6 months ago but now he has done it to me several times. He looks at me with a totally different expression in his eyes, like he absolutely does not recognize me and growls - even after he gets up and walks to me. Sometimes during those moments it's as if he has flashes where he recognizes me and wags his tail, and I can even be petting him and then it's gone for a second and he looks at me like who the **** are you? and growls again. I have tried talking nice to him so that he could recognize my voice in case he wasn't seeing me, and I have tried correcting him with raised voice. Neither works. The only thing I have found to do, is to call him away and give him basic commands, which he will do, but he will not be normal for up to several minutes. Once he has moved around a bit, (got his blood pumping) then he's back to his normal happy loving self.
There has been no change in his routine. He's had a perfect dog life. He has been raised since he was a puppy in the same house on a 60 acre farm. My husband and I both work from home so he has never been left alone for any periods of time. Quite a bit of our work is outside so he gets plenty of exercise every day and interactions with other animals, two older dogs, a cat, goats, horses. He has water to play/swim in summer. Has never been kenneled. Has always had full run of the house and sleeps in the bedroom at night, but knows his boundaries, (has never been allowed on furniture and does not jump on people or exhibit other bad behaviors.) He had all his basic training and works well off leash.
He's always had a strong prey drive, that we keep sated with durable toys and he is quite vocal as he attempts to rip them to shreds. But again he knows the rules and his boundaries and he is fine with little animals - the cat and even to be in with baby goats. He has always been a fearful dog, something that we addressed with confidence building exercises in his puppy training classes, but he has never been aggressive to anyone - not company, not children, not anyone, until this. He's a big dog now, over 100 pounds, and has always been a big sweet oaf, or a scaredy-cat. But when he's in this new semi-awake trance state or whatever it is, he is a different animal. My biggest concern is that this is something that is going to continue to progress and become more serious and dangerous? I read about canine cognitive dysfunction, but he doesn't have any of the other symptoms and he's not old. But there is definitely something going haywire in his brain when he's close to sleep and it is getting worse. Is this something known to occur in GSD's?