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Canine Behavior/American Staffy and aggression


Darla is a 9 year old American Staffy who I recently adopted.  I work for a doggy daycare and she was once a camper until she was taken back to the shelter for severe separation anxiety.  The place I work, adopted her as the camp dog.  We found that her separation anxiety caused her to destroy property so she was put on puppy Prozac.  The main problem is she tends to go after high energy large and small dogs.  She has injured several small dogs and we were forced to make the decision to take her back to the shelter.  Due to the fact that she had been returned so many times there answer was to put her down which we did not want.  I ended up adopting her, and have had no issues with her, I have several dogs and she does great with them and has no destructive behavior at home.  I am now taking her back to another not as busy daycamp, and today I saw the aggressive behavior when a small high energy dog kept jumping and barking at her. They picked up the small dog to stop its behavior, but Darla kept jumping to try and get to the dog.  I pulled her back inside and made her relax and sit.  When things calmed down we put her back in the yard, and everything was fine.  What can I do to try and curb that behavior?

Keep this dog OUT of ANY situation that causes her to exhibit aggression (most likely fear and most likely strong conditioned response): no "daycamp".  Also: is this dog still taking Prozac?  If so, you need to consult with a Veterinary Behaviorist.  Prozac can heighten anxiety in Humans AND in dogs; the heightened anxiety makes a conditioned fear response that much worse.  Also, even Humans can't take a strong psychotropic drug indefinitely (unless, of course, they are diagnosed with mental illness which makes medications necessary).  If the dog is still on the Prozac, she must be CAREFULLY weaned off under instruction by a Veterinary Behaviorist, not a veterinary generalist.  After the drug has been totally removed, it can take up to SIX MONTHS for the brain to adjust.  During and after removal, you may see behaviors that are new and you will need to touch base with your Veterinary Behaviorist in order to discuss options.

You may be able to find a Veterinary Behaviorist at the following site or by calling the veterinary teaching college in your area:

One more pass at the "daycamp" situation:  each time your dog experiences a fight/flight response, she learns more about how to use aggression to control the circumstances.  That small dog was taught something too: picking that dog up was the absolute wrong thing to do for that dog and ALSO for your dog because now your dog is associating her fight/flight with a dog "in arms": this includes a human now.  Separation anxiety can be treated although it takes time and effort and age nine makes it difficult, but it can be done.  Once a dog of this breed type attacks/injures or kills another dog, that's the end of its life.

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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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