We are the owners of an aggressive dog.
Somehow, by forces outside of our control and despite our best efforts, Kaylee battles with fear based aggression that is unpredictable and scary. Our sweet girl is also kind of an asshole.
Here’s how it has been. With us, she’s a dream. She’s submissive, loving, snuggly, and kind. She follows instructions perfectly, even if she doesn’t necessarily want to (like when you tell her to drop the butter wrapper). She couldn’t be sweeter. Most of the time, when we have friends and family over, she’s fine. She hides sometimes, and occasionally she’ll growl or bark. When that happens, we put her in her own space.
This Spring, while we were in San Francisco, she nipped someone. She was staying with a friend and a maintenance guy came in to fix something. She waited until she wasn’t looking and nipped his ankle. We responded by immediately enrolling her in a dog training program. It was amazing, she came so far. We thought she was over the hump.
This weekend, we were out of town for a wedding. We had a neighbor watching them, a woman who owns a pet sitting service. We warned her that Kaylee had a history with aggression, that she shouldn’t turn her back on her, and armed her with a lot of treats. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. Our dog sitter didn’t see her coming up from behind and Kaylee bit her ankle. Thankfully, the dog sitter is fine (and still willing to come back later this month), but Dan and I are shell shocked.
Our best reasoning is that Kaylee, who has always been an incredibly anxious dog, was super on edge because we were not there. She’s only spent one other weekend on her own during the nights, and that was over a year ago. Combine that change of routine and our absence with the fact that there were heavy storms all weekend, and I think she was just a wreck. That doesn’t excuse her actions- far from it- but in my effort to understand her motives that’s what I can come up with. She was on edge, there was a relative stranger in the house, she lashed out.
Unfortunately this fall is full of travel that we can’t beg out of and we can’t bring the dogs on, so I am forced to research and brace myself for a repeat of this in a few weeks. After reading about Thundershirts and anxiety this evening I ordered her one, which I am hopeful will work. I also ordered her some homeopathic dog treats that are meant to calm. Will it be enough? I have no idea.
More than anything, I feel like I failed. Kaylee has become increasingly anxious in her adulthood, but we had taken steps with the trainer that seemed to be working. I learned the hard way this weekend that she is far from “cured” and that there is work to be done, always. She is such a sweet and wonderful dog, and I wish everyone could see the side of her that I see. She has come so far, she even kind of likes my dad now, but this is a good reminder that she has far to go.
I would love help, from you, if you can offer it. Do you have any experiences with fear based aggression? Any tricks or tips? I’m open to every idea.