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Canine Behavior/female pit bull aggression

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female pit
female pit  
My aunt has a female pit that she says got aggressive. After her heat cycle that she started attackibg the other dogs and even my uncle so they tied her up and left her alone , took the other dogs away fron her but she says that her eyes were blood shot red , she had foam to her mouth and just lying around so my question is

What happened to her because she was the sweetest dog?
And for her to even try to bite the hand that feeds her is just not her

Answer
Thank you for the question and the pic. She's very cute.

So... when a female dog goes into heat, she experiences essentially the same hormone surges that human women experience during their monthly period. Just like with women, this can cause mood swings, shortened temper, irritability, loss of appetite or increased appetite. It can cause cramping and that can cause increased hyper sensitivity because she's feeling unwell.

Many female dogs will show an increased aggression during or immediately following their heat cycle - especially toward other females (especially other intact females). Typically the aggression will subside as her hormones return to a normal base line. But if there's an incident, it could create a learned behavior and thus a continued aggression toward a dog she had the incident with.

That she had bloodshot eyes and foaming mouth tells me she was experiencing an extreme over arousal that resulted in an increased blood pressure. That she wasy "just lying around" suggests that she became so overwhelmed that she essentially "checked out." We call this Shutting Down.

If she was not back to her normal sweet self within a day or so, I'd encourage a vet exam to make sure there's nothing else going on that may have begin coincidentallly at the same time as her heat cycle  - or if she got an injury during that aggressive display which may be painful and thus prolonging her sense of self protection.

While heat cycles can cause an aggressive display that lasts for a while during the heat cycle, I stand by the mantra: Any time there's sudden and unexpected behavior change, the first thing to do is rule out all medical possibilities. We often see coincidental timing of unrelated things and can miss real medical causes for behavior change because we believe we pinpointed an environmental trigger or something like her heat cycle.

So, while it's not unusual for a female dog to have an increased aggressive display during her heat cycle, if this were my dog and this behavior was completely out of character, I'd be asking the vet to do a complete physical exam including blood work - including having them check the thyroid levels (the more detailed tests that need to be sent out, not the overview one they do in-house) to be sure we're not missing an medical cause that might need treatment.

In the picture, she's holding her ears back and squinting her eyes, both of which suggest worry/anxiety. Her tongue is swollen which suggests she's overheated or has been panting excessively (which is a sign of stress). Those behaviors cues are not a sign of aggression, but rather an indicator of stress and anxiety and an effort to defuse potential aggression from others. I don't know the context of the picture, but that is what I see in the picture you supplied.

I hope this proves helpful. Please speak with your vet. If her medical exam comes up clean and the behavior does not subside in short order, I strongly encourage you to seek an in-person evaluation with a trainer or behavior specialist who is familiar with canine body language and aggression (fear, resource guarding, territorial, jealousy, etc) who can help you determine the reason for the behavior and how best to proceed to improve the situation. Please seek advice from someone who uses force free, positive reinforcement methods. In this type of situation, it has been shown repeatedly in multiple studies that aggression (from humans) begets aggression in response from the dogs, whereas using cooperative, force free methods such as counter conditioning can very successfully change her emotional response to the things currently triggering her aggression and with that emotional change, we see a clear change in her overt behavior.

I wish you the best of luck. Please feel free to followup if I can be of any further assistance.

Jody, CPDT-KA, APDT
Los Angeles Behavior Specialist
http://NutzAboutMutz.com  

Canine Behavior

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Jody Epstein, CPDT- KA, APDT

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IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 5 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at http://CashewsCorner.wordpress.com/ If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.

Experience

I have been professionally modifying behavior and training obedience for 7 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I have just changed the name of my business. It is no longer Good Dog! Dog Training. The new name is Nutz About Mutz!. If you see previous questions with the Good Dog! website information, that is my response.

Organizations
I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications
http://NutzAboutMutz.com ; http://CashewsCorner.wordpress.com ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

Education/Credentials
I have a graduate education in animal behavior and learning. (While I completed my coursework and did the requisite research, I did not defend a dissertation. I am qualified, but not certified and so technically not a doctor. This is commonly referred to as Ph.D.-ABD which means All But Dissertation.) My educational focus was with non-human primates, but my personal interest is with domestic dogs and their relationships with humans and other animals. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences.

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