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Canine Behavior/dog agressiveness

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Question
My three year Havaneese recently has shown very uncharacteristic behaivor. He is such a docile sweety, so good and cute. However all of a sudden when my wife goes to take him from my daughters bed he growls, shows his teeth and even tried to bite her. This is after she already ensures he's awake. I decided to try myself and he showed the same behavior which is uncharacteristic because I am of the old school and will smack his snout softly upon such behavior but this time to no avail.  His growling turns into a really harsh sick growling. Some background: we've had him since he's a puppy, he's had kidney failure six month ago but was revived and his numbers remain at about 4.5 with fluids being given every other day. His diet is lower protein bec of his kidneys. As he does seem to be more hungry and want to eat more I just had a thought that maybe by the morning he's also starving but not sure that it, its just a thought.

Answer
Hi Mitch -

Sorry to hear about your pup being sick and giving you trouble.  I would speak to your vet about this situation to see if it is health related.  Ask if any medications or if picking him up cause pain to the kidney area, etc that would cause this reaction?  You didn't mention how old the dog was or whether the kidney failure was acute due to recent illness or chronic and due to age.
Is he only doing this behavior on your daughter's bed or elsewhere in the house?  Is this the place where you give him the fluids?  If so he may have created a negative association to being handled while on the bed.  You can try luring him off the bed with a treat (ask your vet for a recommendation or try carrots)and praise him if he either gets down or lets you pick him up without growling.
Usually when you see this type of behavior it is a form of resource guarding where the dog guards what he thinks of as his such as food bowls, toys, and furniture where he sleeps.  It can also be a form of dominance by getting up on the furniture and claiming an area where the owner or other pets sleep and relax.  Growling and showing teeth when you try to remove the animal is a serious display of aggression and it can quickly escalate to a bite.  Please do not smack his snout because YOU WILL GET BIT!
Please consult with your vet about his behavior immediately.  They may have suggestions on how to make your pup more comfortable.  It seems like this could be health related since it coincides with the kidney failure, but again I don't know how long he has been in treatment or how old the dog is.  If your vet says this behavior is not related to the health condition then please contact a certified dog trainer who can work with you one on one and show you how to handle this unwanted behavior.  Please let them know of his dietary restrictions and provide them with treats he likes and can eat.  Best of luck with your pup.  Keep me posted.

Canine Behavior

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Jennifer Ganser, LMT, ABCDT

Expertise

For canines I can answer questions related to behavior, obedience training, health and massage therapy (anatomy, health benefits) For equines I can answer questions related to behavior, barn management, health and massage therapy (anatomy, health benefits) I am not a veterinarian and it is not within my scope of practice as a licensed massage therapist or certified dog trainer to diagnose health conditions. Please contact your pet's veterinarian for illness related questions and emergencies.

Experience

I am a licensed massage therapist for people, horses, and dogs and a certified dog trainer. I teach group obedience classes as well as private lessons. I also work with horses and help barns establish good management practices.

Organizations
Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) National Certification Board of Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB)

Education/Credentials
2009 - graduate of Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy 2010 - certified in canine/feline first aid + CPR by Red Cross 2012 - graduate of Post University equine program 2012 - graduate of Animal Behavior College Obedience program

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