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2 weeks ago

Canine Counselling by Mark

This is such a great read!

As a behaviour professional, one of my first tasks is to rule out any potential medical issues. Once that is done, I can start to work on the behaviour. But if the behaviour is a result of medial issues, then those need to be sorted by a veterinarian first, before I work on any behaviour modification.

That's why proper diagnosis and assessments are so vital, and why web advice may not be working for you.

Have a read below, and let me know if you need help determining if your dog's behaviour might be related to medical condition or just a purely behaviour issue.Pop quiz! A dog growls at their owner when they try to move him from the couch. What would the reason be for the growling? Dominance? Stubbornness? Being a jerk?

Let's add in a little more info:
- The dog growls when being picked up.
- The dog snaps when people pet his hind end.

Maybe he's afraid of people? Maybe it's a past negative experience when being picked up or touched?

Now a little more info:
- The dog has a difficult time jumping up on the couch and has to use most of his front legs to pull himself up.
- When eating treats off the floor, the dog has a "roached" back and actually lifts one of his rear legs up to compensate because he cannot bend down far enough without doing so.

How about now? What could be the cause for his growling issues?

Many aggression cases are related to underlying pain. Dogs are notoriously good at masking pain --- they happily play, go for walks, or romp around at daycare. Nothing really indicates to the owner "go to your vet immediately!"

Though when we dig a bit deeper and look at the behavior history, and observe the subtle movements, it becomes very clear why the dog is using growling to communicate his discomfort.
No dominance, stubbornness, or willful disobedience here.

While this type of behavior can have other underlying reasons, it is always best to work as a team with a veterinarian familiar with behavior or Veterinary Behaviorist to rule out pain (or any other health issues) for the best outcome for the dog.

Some other common cases I see where a dog may use aggressive behavior due to pain or discomfort:
- Wiping or handling of paws (injured pads, cracked nails, etc.)
- Petting or reaching around the head (ear infections, teeth issues, etc.)
- Clipping on a leash or putting on a collar (neck/spine issues, ear infections, etc.)
- Approaching or touching a dog when they are resting (just like us, they just want to rest because they might be sore!)
- Rubbing or petting the belly of a dog who is on its back (some dogs actually don't want to be pet at that moment and are rolling over on their back to try and get the person to stop)
- Going for walks --- the dog grabs the leash or starts biting the owner because it wants the walk to stop.
- Using aggression towards other dogs after a certain amount of good play (the pain becomes too much)
- Asking the dog to sit or lay down ("Well damn it! Why do you want me to do that? My hips really hurt you know! Grrrrr!!")

What experiences have you had with dogs displaying aggressive behavior when in pain?

(Note - picture not of actual client. Credit PetMD)
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