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Suddenly agressive with mother in law

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

  
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Bella

1240031
 
 
Barked: Mon Dec 24, '12 9:14am PST 
Our two year old pup has periodically stayed alone with my mother in law at her house since we got her last December (just for a few hours while we go out). She's always done well with her, mostly sleeping in her crate (door open) or following her around.
Recently (the past 3 visits), she has become aggressive, growling and barking at her at times. It seems random (not brought on by something) and if we (the owners)tell her to stop, she does and then will go back to calm behavior. Last night she growled at my grandmother in law and an aunt. There didn't seem to be anything that brought it on.
For the most part, all 3 of these people ignore her. They don't shower her with attention or take her out or play with her. We do those things quite a bit,so I'm wondering if she's trying to get more attention from them.
I'm also concerned that the growling could expand to snapping or biting (she has not bit anyone before). I want to be sure I can trust her and I want to respond to the behavior in the right away. It seems so strange because until recently, they were getting along fine.
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Farley

Farlekiin the- Dragonborn
 
 
Barked: Mon Dec 24, '12 9:47am PST 
It is highly unlikely a dog would growl for attention (unless it was play growls during play). Generally a growl is a warning- sometimes out of uncertainty.

Can you please give more details about the situations when the growling occurs? What is happening, exactly? What is the dog's body language like when this happens?

Is it possible something happened at your MIL's that made the dog uncomfortable or afraid?
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Belle

Will Take you- On!
 
 
Barked: Mon Dec 24, '12 10:37am PST 
How is she with other people she doesn't live with? What does she think of complete strangers?

Some dogs are extremely suspicious of everyone outside their immediate family. I had clients I knew from the time they were 12 weeks old and petsat as often as once a month who would still react to me and take 1 - 3 days to settle down. Some of them didn't settle down, and I had to work out a system of cues rewarded with the lack of my presence to care for them safely.

This is behavior that is typically emphasized as a dog matures... You wouldn't necessarily see it right from the start. There are things you can do if that is the case. Many of my clients who behaved this way had owners who didn't care and wrote off the behavior as normal and unchangeable.

But if she only reacts to your MIL and aunt, no one else, I'd say something happened while she was at your MIL's - intentional or accidental. There are still things you can do to make things better, but it's a bit of a different issue.
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Bella

1240031
 
 
Barked: Wed Dec 26, '12 4:37am PST 
The growling and barking really doesn't seem triggered by anything, but it does seem to happen more when we're not in the room or even in the house at all.

Yesterday, they spent 4 hours alone together with no issues. Our pup laid in a bed in the same room. My MIL got up to go to the bathroom and when she came out, the dog seemed to have flipped a switch and started barking and growling. It didn't stop until we came home (she called us, so 15 minutes later), at which point she was fine with her. Then we went up to bed and she growled at her in the hallway.

I guess we just aren't sure what to do, as it is happening more when we aren't present. We have tried having MIL feed her and give her praise and treats. We aren't sure if something happened. We asked, but I wouldn't assume MIL would have necessarily noticed or think something accidental was the cause (she's not the type to punish or do something on purpose).
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Bella

1240031
 
 
Barked: Wed Dec 26, '12 7:08am PST 
I forgot the body language. She doesn't show her teeth. Sometimes her hackles go up. She usually tries to block my MIL's path and just appear big. Last night when we weren't home, she said she was "stalking" around the house, meaning she was moving low while growling. It is very odd, because I have never seen these reactions with people before.
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Czarka, CGC- UJJ

Why walk when- you can run?
 
 
Barked: Wed Dec 26, '12 8:43am PST 
Begin with the obvious... take pup to the vet for a check-up (making sure you explain your concerns to your vet).
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Farley

Farlekiin the- Dragonborn
 
 
Barked: Wed Dec 26, '12 11:34am PST 
I agree with the vet checkup first and foremost.
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Bella

1240031
 
 
Barked: Wed Dec 26, '12 12:33pm PST 
She was at the vet on Monday last week for a yearly wellness check. The behavior started on Friday.

She was given a full check up and a Lyme vaccine and was found to be healthy and doing well. Should we consider taking her back when she was considered healthy just 4 days before this all started?
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Bella

1240031
 
 
Barked: Wed Dec 26, '12 12:46pm PST 
Sorry just realized I also didn't respond on how she is with strangers. She is great with all people, including strangers. She can get overwhelmed in a crowd and start barking at other dogs, but not at the people. She is a very easily excited dog and does get really excited when she greets people (jumping up, kissing people's hands, pawing at their feet). She very rarely barks and until recently, I had only seen her growl at another dog or at cats or squirrels she can see from the window.
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Czarka, CGC- UJJ

Why walk when- you can run?
 
 
Barked: Thu Dec 27, '12 7:17am PST 
You went in to the vet for the usual poke and prod without reporting any issues. And the vet did the poking and prodding to whatever level they usually do. They were not really looking for a specific problem relating to aggressive behavior. So, unfortunately yes, _I_ would go back with my concerns in hand. You might want to check for thyroid hormone levels; tooth problems; joint issues; sight/hearing... and anything else they can think of.
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