Bruce he has now bitten four people.
The 3-year-old Golden Labrador was a friendly and well socialised dog up until about 9 months ago when things started to change.
He lives with a couple and their other dog Archie, an easy-going Chocolate Labrador.
What could have caused such a big change in him? The very first time he showed aggression to anyone was when a man put his hand through the open car window – despite the dog’s warnings he wouldn’t move away. That man asked for that bite.
Could this have been the turning point?
Nothing happened for a few more months though they report he was becoming more growly. Maybe because the growling made them cross he’s learnt not to growl. Growling is good. It gives us a chance to work out why and deal with that, and to save the dog from situations he can’t cope with.
The next three bites were on people in the house or the garden who he didn’t already know. Each incident has happened in the presence of the man, not the lady. One, a lady friend, was apparently just sitting still in a chair talking and the dogs were playing with a toy. As the man remembers it, the next moment, out of nowhere, Bruce had flown at her.
The most recent time, a few days ago, he broke a repair man’s skin.
Any angry reactions towards Bruce after each incident will undoubtedly have helped to push things in the wrong direction. People don’t realise this – they mistakenly think punishment will teach the dog not to do it again.
At first I thought that this was just going to be a case of over-attachment towards the man and territorial protectiveness. We would also work on the dog’s confidence along with the man altering his own behaviour.
Then I very nearly experienced for myself what Bruce had done to that lady and could have been bitten too.
Initially the man had brought Bruce into the room on lead. I sat still and avoided eye contact. Very soon he settled and I got absolutely no vibes of trouble that with my experience I am very tuned in to, so I said to the man to drop the lead.
Bruce seemed fine for a few minutes.
He ate a treat I rolled to him. He came calmly up to me and sniffed me. Then, all of a sudden and out of the blue, with no growling, he flew at me. Fortunately he didn’t use teeth. I gently asked the man to casually come over and pick up the lead. From then on he held onto it.
The very odd thing is that throughout the evening Bruce seemed mostly fine, playing with the other dog even – punctuated by similar outbursts. Each time it was without any warning or provocation that I could see – and I have seen a lot of dogs. The inconsistency and unpredictability are really very puzzling.
We will work on the behaviour issues – his confidence and protectiveness, and they will change his diet.
A visit to the vet is now a priority just to make sure nothing else is going on with his body, something that we can’t see but could be affecting his behaviour.
NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Bruce, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dogs (see my Get Help page).