I get so many calls that start like this, “Hi, I need my dog trained, how long will it take?” When I start to ask some questions about the dog and what their goals are, I find they actually want a behavior consultation. If your dogs have started fighting, bitten a child or are suddenly exhibiting a new unwanted or strange behavior, teaching sit, down or to jump through a ring of fire will only marginally change things at home.
For a behavior consultation where a dog is exhibiting a new worrying behavior, I always suggest a blood profile done by their vet as well as a thorough exam. I am not a vet, but have had many things pop up in blood work that we could have never guessed at. Impaired liver function in a case where a usually calm old dog nearly killed a nine-week-old puppy.
This is VERY unusual behavior as puppies have puppy protection up to around 5 months. Her initial vet visit for checking temperature, listening to her heart, eyes, lymph glands were all normal, but when the results of the blood profile came back the dog had almost NO liver function. The vet was even shocked by the results. She was in such bad shape she had to be euthanized a few days later. She was an old dog that was beyond recovering from whatever damaged her liver. She was masking great pain but just couldn’t tolerate a playful puppy leaping on her! Unfortunately, when dogs feel bad they hide or mask their pain and they can’t tell us what hurts or how they feel.
There have been a number of times that during the course of looking at the clients dogs and asking questions I asked when their bitch came into heat of if she is in heat. Many times the client hasn’t noticed, but that particular dog has just very recently started to act “switched off, urinates very frequently and has started to act grumpy or downright aggressive with the other females” This usually resolves itself after the heat cycle has finished.
I had a working dog in the Mara (a firearms and ivory detector dog) that started to exhibit sudden onset aggression and he too had an undiagnosed liver problem that we figured out after a blood profile. He was young and otherwise healthy but had been treated with an unusual and harsh tick fever protocol that apparently caused liver problems. Under the supervision of their vet, his diet was changed and a natural detox supplement for his liver was added to his diet. We started behavior modification for the dog as well as modifying his working environment and he is back to doing his important conservation work for Kenya!
I had a client ring me to come out and have a look at their male Rottie, they have two and the older dog is acting very quiet and unlike his usual exuberant self. The husband is away on a long work assignment and they thought maybe the dog was depressed. After watching him interact with the family, he does seem to be acting “depressed” however, I also noticed him moving away from the younger Rottie that he loves to play with.
We took turns trotting him on leash and watching him, he does do a strange little movement on a back leg sometimes and his gait is a bit off. I suspected something wrong with that leg as he is unwilling to let the younger dog near him, he seems to be protecting that side from getting banged into which is quite usual play for Rotties. I suggested blood work and having them trot the dog for the vet to analyze the movement. It turns out he has a serious bacterial infection, and they have scheduled an X-ray for the dog. The vet also saw something not right so wanted a better look. We are awaiting the results.
In each of the above cases, teaching the dogs to sit, lie down, stay and fetch a dumbbell would have done absolutely nothing to change an unwanted behavior or most important to understand why the behavior is happening.
Amy is a Companion Dog Trainer who provides education about dogs and
their welfare to residents of Kenya. Check out her website here (CustomMadeK9.co.ke)
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