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Help me with our lab. *Sad update*

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

We have a female lab who was a rescue.  She'd been abandoned to a garage during the time she should have been socialized and burned with cigarettes and lighters.  With some hard work, we did rehabilitate her pretty well but now (about 3 years later) we have a lot of dominance issues as well as anxiety creeping up and I'm at a loss. 


When we  leave the house, she is kenneled- this doesn't happen often or for long periods.  Still, she barks endlessly.  Food/treats/toys do not help. 


She's becoming food aggressive. She tends to be hard to keep weight on and is always hungry.  The vet hasn't found a reason and nothing we do seems to help.  She simply is a very tightly wound high metabolism dog.  She had been growling only, but has started making half-meaningful  snap at the other animals.  I don't let the kids near her when she eats- obviously.  


This morning, she snapped at my small dog.  He had a toy and she thought she needed it.  She snarled and snapped- hurting him enough that he whimpered for a couple minutes. (He's a chihuahua, so it really wouldn't take much to hurt him. :/) 


She has been a great dog, but the behavior changes of the past few months really worry me.  I love this dog, but won't risk the safety of the kids.  She's been the quintessential couch-dog, and has always been great with the kids.  She has never offered to behave in a dominant manner towards any of them, but I fear that  if this progresses further I won't be able to say that.  I can't allow that to happen as she would not be allowed in our home anymore at that point, and I don't expect she would be a good rehoming candidate, which doesn't leave a happy outcome for her.  


Please spam me with suggestions if you have any.  I trained dogs and ran obedience classes years ago but I feel like I've tried every trick in my book.

post #2 of 13

One thing I've read is the suggestion that you start by dropping food in her bowl while she's eating. That gives her the connection that proximity of people to her food is a good thing. Just casually walk by her bowl while she's eating and throw in a nice tidbit, getting her used to you being close while eating.

Good luck, I hope things are improving!

post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 

So far, she's not food aggressive with people. She seems to be doing better.  I contacted the vet and he suggested adding some extra calories and trying to get her up to a good maintenance weight to start. We picked up some and started adding it to her regular diet, and that seems to be helping her to gain a little (it's early yet, we'll reassess this in a few weeks.)  


Coupling that with NILIF to remind her that she's not on top of the pack seems to be helping a little more as well. 


We're keeping our fingers crossed. 

post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 



Sadly, this dog became aggressive with one of my daughter's friends this afternoon. I feel like I have completely failed her, and though it breaks my heart, I don't have any options left. 

post #5 of 13

I don't know how long you've been doing NILIF, but my first thought was, why was she near strange kids if she's still "in training?" Did she bite the child? If not, and you don't *have* to put her down, can you keep working with her and just kennel her or separate her somehow from company in the house? It seems to me like she needs more time. (It hasn't been that long since your OP, but IDK how long before that you've been trying all these things.) What about tranquilizers/anti-depressants for the anxiety? (I've heard that Rescue Remedy works well if you don't want to do prescriptions.) I'm sure this isn't much help, and I feel badly for you, but I wanted to post just in case. I feel for you.

post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 

We've been working with her for the three years we've had her, the aggression suddenly ramped up lately- in the past 3-6 months with no known cause. She went over a fence to get to the child and did bite her arm- luckily I was right there and able to intervene before there was more than a small graze. .  I don't let other people near her- she's kenneled or in a 6 foot fenced run, so in order to get out she had to be very ambitious.  We've tried meds in the time we have had her, but they seemed to exacerbate the anxiety, so we backed off. 


It is one of those horrible situations where I really don't think she is safe enough to rehome or keep. I love her dearly, and I feel like I've let her down, but if she's willing to jump a high fence to get out in an aggressive act, I don't know that I can responsibly take the risk anymore.  


I'm angry at the people who initially abused her, and I am angry with myself for not having been able to fix the behavior.  I am really struggling iwth a lot of guilt about this. 

post #7 of 13
Yikes! If she went over a six foot fence to attack a child... yes, that is pretty scary. I'm so sorry. greensad.gif
post #8 of 13

Wow! I'm so sorry. It's so easy for me to say this being on the outside, but it's true: This is not your fault.  (I would be beating myself up over this, too, even though I know it doesn't change things.) It sounds like you have done everything you can to help this dog, and sometimes they are just beyond help due to their temperaments and their pasts, neither of which you can control or take blame for. Please don't be angry with yourself. You love the dog, and she needs that more than anything, but sometimes it just isn't enough. You can feel guilty if you didn't bother to try everything you have with her, and let it come to this, but you have been working with her and doing everything you know to do. Just because you didn't succeed doesn't mean you did anything wrong.

post #9 of 13

Have you done a FULL thyroid panel on her?  Not just one or two of the tests that most vets do.  I know aggression can be one of the symptoms and is usually greatly improved when you medicate the thyroid problem.  Here is one place you can have the blood sent for testing, Dr. Dodds is very highly regarded and will give you her recommendations as well:



Also if you are trying to medicate her anxiety it can take a few tries to find the right med and dosage, much like in humans, so I wouldn't write them all of just because one didn't help, if you are still in a position to keep trying.


{{{hugs}}}  What a tough spot to be in.

post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 

We met with the vet, and there were some lesions on her brain- they were advanced enough to be visible on xray.  Based on that information and her changing behavior and hypervigilance the decision was made to put her to sleep.  We'll know more of the pathology over the next week or two, but the vet was fairly confident that the pathology will not come back benign. (It wouldn't matter anyway- the lesions were inoperable due to location and her behavior was rapidly deteriorating.)  The drive to the vet was useful for me- my dog who has always loved riding in cars was suddenly scared and growling at any vehicle within 100 yards and lunging at people on the street if she saw them out the window.  It really made me see the shift in behavior in a way I hadn't wanted to. 


Very sad weekend here, but we found peace in knowing that she won't have to suffer or be so anxious any longer. We planted a tree in memory of her on her favorite spot on the lawn.


Thank you all for your suggestions, I wish we had been able to have a different outcome. 

post #11 of 13

I'm so sorry. I hope that her condition (as sad as it is) will help explain why you couldn't help her as much as you'd hoped. You did NOT fail her. You did everything you could, including yet another trip to the vet.

post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 

It really did help me- odd as that is to me still.  To know that there was some cause, as opposed to something I couldn't explain helps a bit.  We've been struggling to keep weight on her for a few months, and the behavior changes should have really suggested that something was up, but I didn't really connect the dots until the vet did. 



post #13 of 13
(((HUG))) You did the right (and very hard) thing. I'm sorry.
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