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Canine Behavior/Sudden change in behavior


We have had our Siberian Husky for almost 6 years now, since she was 8 weeks old.  She has always suffered from severe separation anxiety.  Through proper training we have (sort of ) been able to work through this.  But she cannot be crated as she hurst herself trying to escape the inescapable crates I have built.  

The bigger issue is her sudden agression.  During her younger years, she occasionally attacked little dogs.  This always seemed to be over things like toys, food, and water.  It was very infrequent, but when it happened she was very vicious.  

Now, she has digressed and attacks dogs of all sizes without provocation whenever she sees them.  This includes our other dog who is a small dog.  We also have a small child now.  She has shown no aggression towards the child, but we are fearful.  

We travel frequently, especially since we moved, but now we are handcuffed because we cannot board her or send her to doggie daycare because of her anxiety and her viciousness.  We have been through several training programs to no avail.  We have looked into new homes but no one will take her because of her issues (not even husky rescues).  

We love her and all dogs, but we are at our end with her and it seems the only option we have left is euthanasia.  We do not want to risk her attacking and killing our own small dog, as she has already come close, or any other dog for that matter.  We also are scared that she will eventually turn this aggression on our child, who is too young to know boundaries with dogs yet.  

We seem to be out of options but thought we would get one other opinion.  Are we out of options?  Is there anything left besides putting her down.

I am VERY relieved that you sent me this question!

Something may have occurred to her at doggie daycare or during a boarding experience: those people lie, money is important to them.

I can't see anything from here but I have GOOD NEWS for you.

At Berkeley is the world's foremost authority in dog behavior, in my opinion (and I've known him for years).  He may not be close enough to you geographically, but I can almost guaranty he will know someone that is.  His name is Dr. Ian Dunbar.  His contact information is:

This man knows (I think) even more than  I do about aggression in the domestic dog!  If he can't refer you, I'd be quite surprised.  Contact me with followup to let me know what's going on.

Meanwhile: dog to dog aggression can be (CAN BE) a precursor to dog to human aggression, and children are at greatest threat.  Put a house tab on the dog (lightweight leash with handle cut off) and control her behavior by redirecting her if she is doing anything that worries you, or her body language is confusing.  Do not allow your child to interact with this dog without very close supervision.  The aggression toward other dogs that she first demonstrated is called "resource guarding" but she seems to be escalating ("random" attacks of smaller dog: now if this smaller dog is also female, that might be a clue as to what's going on).  Do not allow her to interact with the child with toys or when food is involved.  Dr. Dunbar is a veterinary behaviorist and has the ability to prescribe medication, should he be close enough to you.  If not, any behaviorist to whom he refers you will be highly qualified and will know a veterinary behaviorist should medication be indicated.

Bottom line:  this dog has had ongoing problems her entire life.  She may have a physiological cause for the escalation in aggression or it may simply be the change in social hierarchy between her, the smaller dog, and your rapidly maturing youngster.  If all else fails, euthanasia is the only option.  She can't, she won't, adjust to another environment.  Do what you can here and then do what you must.  As good and loving people, you are doing what is best.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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