Senior getting aggressive? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 27 (permalink) Old 08-05-2008, 06:07 AM Thread Starter
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Senior getting aggressive?

New to the board and reading it you guys are wonderful, so I am looking for advice. I have a 11 1/2 yr old female GSD Ruby, a 5 yr old male GSD Bear, and a 1 1/2 yr old male GSD Riley. All three of them are altered. The problems are coming since Riley is maturing and trying to find his place. I get that part. What I don't get is that as Ruby is getting older, and her sight is not the best anymore....she is now being attacked by Bear also. She has been pretty much Dominant until recently. Ruby came to us over 9 years ago. Bear has been here since 10 weeks old, and Riley since 8 weeks old. She has been motherly to them, with the occasional bark and nip to drop them in line. They sleep on the floor surrounding my bed. Ruby has to pass by Bear to get to her spot. Over the last couple of days Bear has been growling at her when she passes him to lay down. At NO OTHER TIME. Just when she tries to lay down. Yesterday he growled and she attacked him! When Ruby attacked Bear, Riley attack Bear from the other side! This went on for 5 minutes as I called the Leave it commands and No and stop. They did not hurt each other. Maybe a little pride. Is Bear trying to take dominance from her because she is aging? Has anyone else had this problem? I am starting to apply their training again as I got lax in it. I now am reapplying the sit stay to feed, and the sit stay to go through doorways. Any help would be appreciated before one of them gets hurt. Also is it wise to have two or three males together?

Riley Feb 07 GSD
Snowy Apr 06 Cat
Pichu Apr 06 Cat
Baby Girl Dec 07 Blind Tortie Shell Cat
Tiger Oct 08 Cat
Kiyoko Apr 09 DDB
At the Bridge:
Trooper Jan 93-0ct 03 my heart, my soul
Ruby Jan 98-Jan 11 GSD
Bear Aug 03-June 11 GSD
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post #2 of 27 (permalink) Old 08-05-2008, 05:07 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Senior getting aggressive?

Does anybody have any help? Should I post this in the aggressive dogs area?

Riley Feb 07 GSD
Snowy Apr 06 Cat
Pichu Apr 06 Cat
Baby Girl Dec 07 Blind Tortie Shell Cat
Tiger Oct 08 Cat
Kiyoko Apr 09 DDB
At the Bridge:
Trooper Jan 93-0ct 03 my heart, my soul
Ruby Jan 98-Jan 11 GSD
Bear Aug 03-June 11 GSD
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post #3 of 27 (permalink) Old 08-05-2008, 05:15 PM
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Re: Senior getting aggressive?

My older female has become more aggressive as well. And she is the alpha dog in the household. There are no problems for me at home but she is no longer trustworthy with dogs she doesn't know, especially on her turf.

As they get older the other dogs sense that they are weaker and depending on their temperament they may vie for pack leadership. The older dog also feels more vulnerable and so may be quicker to attack rather than to warn.

What you need to do is to establish yourself very clearly as the pack leader. If the dogs know that you will be keeping order (and the female knows that you will protect her) then that should maintain order at home. I would interrupt any growling, etc., immediately and remind them of their place. I am not advocating physical punishment or corrections but a simple voice command and perhaps redirection, if necessary. If you need to step in between the male and the older female to get her safely to her bed then do that.

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post #4 of 27 (permalink) Old 08-05-2008, 05:28 PM
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Re: Senior getting aggressive?

My Wooly Bear became aggressive in his old age. It was his thyroid.

Joanne

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Mila (GSD) Adopted from BDBH.

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post #5 of 27 (permalink) Old 08-05-2008, 05:36 PM
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Re: Senior getting aggressive?

Yes, I was going to mention the thyroid until I saw that the other dogs seem to be instigating the problems.

Ruth & the 4 Legged Rescue Gang

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post #6 of 27 (permalink) Old 08-05-2008, 05:48 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Senior getting aggressive?

BowWowMeow..that is funny. I have three cats as well as my three dogs. The newest is a 7 month old blind kitten.
Thanks for the advice. I am definitely taking over head pack leader again. My poor old Ruby is only 55 pounds of probably shepherd mix but I will never get in front or between what she wants to attack. She will take my two boys 75 ponds and 80 pounds down quick and harshly! LOL! Thanks for the advice!

Riley Feb 07 GSD
Snowy Apr 06 Cat
Pichu Apr 06 Cat
Baby Girl Dec 07 Blind Tortie Shell Cat
Tiger Oct 08 Cat
Kiyoko Apr 09 DDB
At the Bridge:
Trooper Jan 93-0ct 03 my heart, my soul
Ruby Jan 98-Jan 11 GSD
Bear Aug 03-June 11 GSD
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post #7 of 27 (permalink) Old 08-05-2008, 05:49 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Senior getting aggressive?

LJs Mom She is growling at the kids when she is startled too. Could that be a Thyroid problem? Do they check that with a blood test? Thanks!

Riley Feb 07 GSD
Snowy Apr 06 Cat
Pichu Apr 06 Cat
Baby Girl Dec 07 Blind Tortie Shell Cat
Tiger Oct 08 Cat
Kiyoko Apr 09 DDB
At the Bridge:
Trooper Jan 93-0ct 03 my heart, my soul
Ruby Jan 98-Jan 11 GSD
Bear Aug 03-June 11 GSD
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post #8 of 27 (permalink) Old 08-05-2008, 05:55 PM
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Re: Senior getting aggressive?

The startle response could be a result of a loss of hearing/eyesight.

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post #9 of 27 (permalink) Old 08-05-2008, 05:56 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Senior getting aggressive?

Yes she is having some eye sight problems going on. Her eye problems are slowly getting worse over the last year or so.

Riley Feb 07 GSD
Snowy Apr 06 Cat
Pichu Apr 06 Cat
Baby Girl Dec 07 Blind Tortie Shell Cat
Tiger Oct 08 Cat
Kiyoko Apr 09 DDB
At the Bridge:
Trooper Jan 93-0ct 03 my heart, my soul
Ruby Jan 98-Jan 11 GSD
Bear Aug 03-June 11 GSD
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post #10 of 27 (permalink) Old 08-05-2008, 06:09 PM
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Re: Senior getting aggressive?

Could be pain. When dogs are in pain, they just don't want to put up with guff from other dogs, even stuff they've always tolerated with good humor.

You know how it is when you have a headache, the goofy coworker and his stupid jokes that you usually tolerate? Now, suddenly, his jokes annoy you. If it's a migraine, you just want to smack him.

Imagine being your dog, in pain, on the floor with the others, and they just look like they're going to come near you. You know it's likely they might bump into you, so you snap at them. Or, maybe they're doing nothing. Maybe they're across the room, but you just want to tell them to stay far away from you, that you're not feeling well. A growl will do the trick.

Orthopedic pain is where I'd look first. But it could be that general "feeling crappy" feeling that comes from systemic issues -- heart, lungs, liver, etc. Your senior just doesn't feel right, feels tired all the time. Might not be anything too serious, just something that needs some tuning up.

Seniors also sometimes lose some of their cognitive functions as they get older. It's not dementia necessarily, but they get confused more easily. It takes longer for brains to figure out what's going on, especially in a fast-moving house where the younger kids are moving at what now seems to be lightning speed. Confusion leads to frustration leads to acting out. In this sort of condition, she might also be feeling jealousy, even if she's never felt it before.

Any of these could be going on. All of them could be going on. It doesn't mean that your dog is very ill, or that much is wrong with her at all. It might mean that she needs a few meds for inflammation in her joints that you may not have noticed until now; or a nice quiet place where she can watch without actually being part of the activity; or a special time when you take her for training and new activities (both help brains stay engaged and stimulated). Special time with you reminds her that she's your special girl and that the others can't intrude on that. Separate trips to the park. Taking a simple obedience class. Separate walks. Drives and nice walks on the beach, just the two of you. (Take lots of picture too, so you can show the others!)

She might also need you to step up and be what I call the Super Alpha. My senior is my alpha, but she trusts me to make sure that the kids don't bug her. She'll relinquish power to me, but no one else. So I have to be on my toes and anticipate.

I have a senior who's in a situation much like I explain above. Overall, she's in great shape, but when she is having a slow day (either physically or mentally), she doesn't want to be bugged. And she lets the kids know ahead of time. When they don't listen (particularly the 3 month old puppy), she reminds them. And my senior/alpha before her was in the same situation (although Grover remained sharp as a tack until she died) when I got Camper, my GSD as a puppy. When Grover died a couple years ago, Zamboni stepped in as the alpha. But being alpha is tough when there's kids and you don't feel great all the time.

I recommend a vet visit. A full exam and a complete blood panel (with thyroid) if you haven't done one in the last six months. Perhaps even xrays if you think there are orthopedic issues. Once you know what's going on, you'll have a better idea of how to manage it.

My guess is that your girl is just getting older. And when we get older, we are entitled to get a little grumpier. That's ok. Give Bear her own space that she goes to (or you send her) where she can observe everything, feel included, but be out of the way (in my house, Zamboni's spot is under the dining room table, and NO ONE is allowed to bug her when she's under there.) Everyone will adjust. The kids will learn when to leave The Boss alone and when it's ok to coax her to come out and play in the sunshine.

If she needs meds, start there. Fish oil, Ester-c and a good multi-vitamin are good not only for joint health/inflammation but also for brain health. Unless there's something specific wrong, it will take you managing things for a little while, until she realizes she can relax and enjoy from the sidelines unless she's up to being a happy participant.

And then, Ruby and Riley's jokes might actually seem funny to her.
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