Our dog has behavioral issues. There, we said it. Despite the fact that she is the actual center of our world, Maddie is progressively having more and more unfavorable outbursts of poor behavior including food aggression, dog-dog aggression, and, on rare occasions, dog-human aggression.
As dedicated pet owners, we have made a substantial effort to give our dog every advantage in life. We feed her an all-raw diet complete with proper supplementation and rotation of foods to ensure that she has the best nutrition. We pay close attention to our schedules and make adjustments so that she does not have to spend extensive periods of times alone. We take track her fitness activity (via the Fitbark 2, read our review here) and are sure to take her on frequent walks, play with her inside and out, have training sessions, and even arrange times that she can play with other dogs.
For the first year and a half of her life we took her to the dog park at least once per week. While there, she quickly became the life of the party and would have all the dogs chasing her as she weaved in and out of the woods, around people, and underneath obstacles. In addition to dog park visits, we arranged for dog walkers to come by our home for mid-day walks when our work schedules would not allow us to be home for her.
Over the last year, however, Maddie has faced a severe change in behavior. We know, deep down inside that our dog is still there. In fact, when it is just us, she is almost the same, behaviorally speaking. The only difference is an increase in lethargy and a substantial increase in reactivity to outside stimuli, i.e., anything that moves or makes a sound outside our house.
Maddie use to receive rave reviews from Wag walkers about how sweet she was and how the walks would go perfectly. Walkers would frequently comment on how much personality Maddie had and how they simply adored her. Unfortunately, Maddie’s behavior got to the point where she would not even allow Wag walkers into the house to walk her. She would show her teeth, growl, and even let out an alarming bark. We caught one such instance on camera and could not comprehend the bark as it was a tone of fear that we have never encountered with her.
In an effort to curb Maddie’s behavioral issues, we have done everything within our power to figure out what is going on. Countless hours of research have led us to experiment with different training techniques, supplements, and more. We have gotten full workups with our vet, including a variety of expensive blood testing to see if we can find anything that will offer us a clue as to what is going on.
Recently, we hit an all-time low in Maddie’s behavior and an all-time high in frustration. Well over a year into trying to help her return to her normal-self, she recently became aggressive with two family dogs. These are dogs that Maddie has played with many times throughout her life and had nothing but positive experiences. However, within 2 minutes of greeting them, she became aggressive.
How is it that we give her the best nutrition, training, and medical treatment, yet she still continues to worsen? How, after all the time we have spent reading research articles, personal accounts, and speaking with professionals from a variety of fields, can we not have the answer?
Upon speaking with one family member, it was jokingly stated that we should just start feeding her kibble, letting her do whatever she wants, and stop putting so much effort into her. Although it was directed as a joke, it did have some truth to it. So many people give their dogs significantly less attention than we give our dog, yet their dogs do not have these behavioral issues. Are we doing it wrong?
As tempting as it is to give in and stop trying, we absolutely will not. When Maddie has episodes of poor behavior, it hurts us on a multitude of levels. So many emotions are sparked as we feel failure, shame, embarrassment, anger, and annoyed, to name a few. When the moment subsides, and it just us alone with our dog, we feel a strong sense of caring and love. We know that our dog is facing something and that something has a solution.
Dogs do not go from being praised as sweet, lovable, and filled with personality to aggressive and anxious for no reason. This understanding and the deep love for our dog is what pushes us to continue to research, to continue to have uncomfortable conversations, and to continue to be persistent for our dog. The alternative is simply giving up, which runs the risk of running into worsened aggressive behavior. All it takes is one bite to put us in a situation where we could be facing major consequences.
When we decided to become pet owners, we said that we would do everything within our power to provide for Maddie and give her the best life possible. We remind ourselves this everyday, especially during the low moments. Maddie has had such a positive effect on our lives, even though she has certainly faced issues. We have learned to fight for those that we love, to not accept a diagnosis that we don’t agree with, and that you need to put your family’s best interest in your hands, not in the hands of others (no matter how qualified they may be).
For those of you that are facing any issues with your dog, whether it be behavioral, health, or anything else, keep pushing forward. Believe that there is an answer, understand that you are your dog’s voice and hope, and do everything within your power to get the answers that you are looking for.
What have you done to help your dog? We want to know! Leave a comment below!