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Canine Behavior/One dog acting strange towards dog that had surgery


Hi. Recently, one of our dogs was spayed. She spent about 3 days inside laying around and recovering, etc. When we let her back out around the other dog (her mother) her mother acts very strange. Like she can't figure out who the dog is. Growls, etc. Is this normal? Could this be because of the different smells, etc that are on the dog that had surgery? The dog that had surgery acts fine. She acts just like she always would around the other dog. Trying to play, etc. But the other dog won't have any of it like she normally would. Any info is appreciated. Thanks.

Hello, and thank you for contacting All Experts,
What you are seeing is not unusual. At the vet's hospital I used to work for we saw this happen quite often, mostly in cats, but we had the occasional dog do this too. To answer your question, yes, this can be due to the new smells coming from the vet's office. As you may know dogs have a very strong sense of smell and those unfamiliar smells may linger for some time.

To help your older dog, you can try implementing some counterconditioning exercises, as outlined below, (for safety, if your older dogs acts aggressive at any time, consult with a dog behavior professional):

Have a helper hold your older dog on leash in a room with the door open and let him/her hold some high value treats handy. Hold your younger dog on leash as well. Walk your younger by the room (not entering the room, just walking by). Every time your older dog sees your younger dog walk by, she is fed those tasty treats. When the younger dog is out of sight, stop feeding the tasty treats. Repeat several times. Treats are only given when your older dog sees your younger dog passing by and are not given when she is out of sight.

After some time, you can try entering the room with your younger dog slightly and then immediately leaving. Every time you enter the room with your younger dog, your helper feeds the older dog tasty treats, when you leave the room with the younger dog, no more treats. If your older dog is upset by your younger dog entering the room, take a step back and continue the walking by the room exercises without entering. Go very gradually.This method is known as 'open bar closed bar"  and it was invented by Jean Donaldson. This may help your older dog create positive associations with your younger one, but it might not be enough to completely put her mind at ease, but it may be a starting point. Do these exercises several times a day, and don't let them interact in other ways until your older dogs appears more relaxed. You can read more about this method here:

Other tips that may be helpful:
Try using a DAP diffuser, plug in to help your older dog relax.
Try passing a towel over your older dog's coat and then pass it over your younger dog's coat, this may help your younger dog smell familiar again.
Walk the dogs together on neutral grounds.

I hoped this helps! Best wishes and kind regards!

Disclaimer: for best results, the above behavior modification program should be done along a force-free trainer well versed in dog behavior or a reputable dog behavior specialist (ie certified applied animal behaviorist). If your dog is aggressive, make safety your top priority and hire a professional to guide you through the most appropriate behavior modification program. By reading this answer, you automatically accept this disclaimer.  

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Adrienne Janet Farricelli CPDT-KA


I can answer questions pertaining dog psychology and general dog behavior. Why is my dog doing this? And what can I do about it? are common questions I am asked. I will not answer questions concerning health problems as this is out of my spectrum, but I can recommend a vet visit if there are chances behavioral problems may stem from a possible underlying medical problem.


I am a certified dog trainer (CPDT-KA) that has attended seminars on dog behavior. I am acquainted with behavior modification programs and have read several books from reputable authors such as Patricia McConnell, Turid Rugaas, Nicholas Dodman and Bruce Fogle to name a few. I have rehabilitated dogs affected by moderate to severe behavioral problems.

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