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Canine Behavior/Waking up in attack mode


My dog Shelby wakes up in attack mode and goes after the younger dog, Cooper. This behavior has been going on about a year since I brought Coop home.  I think Cooper may have been aggressively playing with her and this might be what is causing Shelby to have nightmares and attacking. I now  keep them separated when I'm not home and at bed time.  Is there anything I can do to help her get over this or will this be on going?  When she wakes up and goes after Coop, I hold her down and talk quietly to her until she snaps out of it.  Any help or direction is greatly appreciated.

Hi, Debra. This is actually completely common and Shelby is only reacting after being startled. Is this happening at every awakening? To help with this, I would suggest at any random moment when she's sleeping, actually do something to startle her, then do absolutely nothing, to basically desensitize her. And just in case, hide Cooper somewhere for safety ;) I would also recommend to reinforce Cooper on how you would rather him act, which I'm assuming leave her alone. (In case he was attacking her.) I live by redirection and positive reinforcement. So I would reward him for simply laying down and relaxing. But also, the need for correcting is necessary...followed by rewarding for the positive behavior. How old is Cooper? I would also recommend social training classes so that he would get the training in an atmosphere where there are distractions.

Feel free to follow-up with any questions or thoughts. Thank you.

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Melissa Burg, RVT/Behavior Consultant


I have experience with multiple obedience issues, including anxiety, different types of aggression, introductions to a new pet and basic obedience situations, such as housebreaking, excessive leash pulling and excessive barking. There are several approaches to each behavior issue, depending on the animal's environment, as well as the breed, sex and age. I can also help you decide whether the problem sounds medical or behavioral.


I recently graduated with a Veterinary Technician degree with an emphasis in behavior and obedience training. I spent 5 years working in animal shelters where I trained shelter dogs in basic obedience and corrected behavior issues and educated adopting owners how to continue the training at home.

"Pawfect Pets;" a weekly column on canine and feline health and behavior tips.

Associate's Degree in Veterinary Technology from Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Iowa.

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