automatic aggressive reactionThe delightful Marty is now six years old. When he was about two-and-a-half he was diagnosed with Addison’s disease. A couple of months later he displayed aggression for the first time.

Could it be a coincidence, or could it be to do with either a chemical imbalance in his system or the effect of the medication?[divider type=”white”]

Marty has a short fuse

Sometimes Marty has a very short fuse. He also gets stressed and hyped up very easily.

Over the past three years there have been around nine incidents, each a little more serious than the last. Several have involved children. He has a sudden automatic aggressive reaction if touched whilst asleep.

Although his teeth had previously engaged, only three months ago did he actually puncture a friend’s skin. A few days ago he snarled and snapped at the teenage son.

There seems to be nothing separating Marty not liking something and his immediately reacting.

The situation must be managed sensibly by playing safe. As being disturbed causes an automatic aggressive reaction, he should be left in peace when asleep.

However, there is a lot more that can be done, especially in reducing Marty’s stress levels. I found that he couldn’t tolerate any activity for more than a few minutes without beginning to pace and pant.[divider type=”white”]

Petting forced on him
labradoodle doesn't want' to be petted

Marty needs to learn to value human touch. At present it is always freely available – he is never turned down when he demands attention. Added to this, petting is pushed onto him by people he doesn’t want to be touched by (he certainly does look and feel lovely). The family, too, simply touch and pet him too much and for too long.

Because Marty chooses when he is touched and when he gets attention, it’s logical to assume he chooses when he’s NOT touched too. Attention doesn’t have to be in the form of touching.

If our dog behaves in a hostile or aggressive manner it can be so upsetting. In order to show the offended person we are taking it seriously, we go overboard in our own reaction to our dog, punishing the dog. Unfortunately this only confuses him more and makes things worse. This isn’t to say we don’t deal with it – but not like this.

As the automatic aggressive reaction is probably a reflex, any punishment is only going to make things worse.

We expect so much from our dogs don’t we.

This is from The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson. ‘All dogs have a threshold at which they will bite. This kind of breaking point also exists for you and me….the point is that absolute pacifism is not the yardstick we use to describe ‘normal’ human behaviour…The Walt Disney ideal would have us believe that absolute pacifism is the norm for dogs with the exception of extreme provocation. Announcing that nice dogs don’t bite and vicious dogs do is like saying nice people never argue or get angry and vicious people do…..Real dogs have a bit threshold’