Welcome to Law-Forums.org!   


Sponsor Links:

Discount Legal Forms
Discounted Legal Texts


Discussions relating to Personal Injury Law


Postby Dohosan » Sat Apr 09, 2016 11:23 am

I have a 6 year old chocolate Lab.  He is a wonderful family pet.  He has never shown aggression to any of my now grown children nor any small children--ever.  He is a happy, healthy and good-natured.  I was shocked yesterday when he snapped at my neighbors daughter.  There were many small children in my home at the time, but he seems to only shows aggression to this one child who is 7.  She suffers a mild disability and some behavioral problems.  I  am so upset because Bosco is a fun-loving wonderful animal.  I don't understand why he did this.  Thank you for your expertise.

Posts: 58
Joined: Wed Jan 29, 2014 3:08 am


Postby Basilios » Sat Apr 09, 2016 4:58 pm

Dear Tammy,

Thank you for writing to me about your chocolate Lab.  I apologize for the delay in responding.

Often a dog doesn't suddenly become aggressive. In many cases the signs of aggression were already present but weren't noticed until they progressed to an obvious point.

Below are some medical causes of aggression.


It is advisable that at the onset of any sign of aggression, all possible medical causes are ruled out. BEFORE you consult a trainer.

If an injury, disease or genetic congenital defect, is deemed the cause of the dog's mood swings or aggression, then no training will be effective until the problem has been resolved or controlled.

There are many conditions that can cause unusual or aggressive behavior in dogs. Anything from problems with teeth and eyesight to joint pain.

If the temperament problem is genetic in nature, then the likelihood that the animal can be completely cured of the aggression is minimal. The treatment would then concentrate on the "management" of the behavior rather than an absolute cure.

Other conditions(like Hypothyroidism) can be effectively treated with medication prescribed by your veterinarian. Any condition which causes nflammation of the brain, can also cause neurological problems, including aggression. A chemical imbalance can make their behavior unstable and medication may be required to rectify the problem. A dog in pain can react in a defensive or aggressive manner.

Some of the conditions that have been linked to aggression in dogs are:

Brain chemistry


Encephalitis(bacterial or viral) Distemper


Hydrocephalus in brachycephalics


Brain tumors

Head trauma

Behavioral Seizures


Brain Chemistry

This condition is not unlike clinical depression, obsessive compulsive disorders, etc., in humans. Serotonin plays an important role in the neurochemical control of aggression in the brain, especially when a component of impulsivity is present. As with humans, the family of SSRI

drugs have the most success in combination with "therapy" i.e. behavior modification techniques. There are not many behavior cases which will respond to medication alone.

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome which is associated with age related degeneration can be managed through medication, and environmental and behavioral modification.


A common endocrine disease where the body produces an abnormally low amount of thyroid hormones. An autoimmune destruction of the thyroid gland, which affects more than 50 dog breeds and crosses.

Encephalitis(bacterial or viral) Distemper and rabies are a viral form of Encephalitis;

There are two common forms of Encephalitis;

Acute encephalitis Commonly seen in young dogs or puppies and Chronic encephalitis seen in older dogs, even those with a good vaccination history.

There have been studies, which show that the distemper vaccination, can actually cause an animal to contract distemper


Is a medical term meaning low blood sugar. Symptoms of a hypoglycemic attack can include:

Staggering or collapse, Weakness, Aggression, Moodiness, Glassy eyes, staring, dazed look

Hydrocephalus in brachycephalics

Or water on the brain, is a condition that affects the toy breeds and the "brachycephalics" dogs with very short noses, like the boxer, pug etc.


There are many causes of epilepsy so diagnosis is not always easy.

Primary Epilepsy - is a hereditary condition which is more common in certain breeds.

Other causes include; Canine Distemper, Encephalitis, Meningitis, Poisonings, Liver and kidney disease, Head injuries, Brain tumors, Strokes and Cerebro-vascular disease, Hydrocephalus etc.

Many of the causes of Epilepsy still remain obscure.

Brain tumors

A brain tumor can cause changes in temperament, some or all of these changes might be observed in an animal afflicted, at varying times and degrees:

Changes in mental status, aggression, confusion, irritability, increased vocalization, apathy, hyper excitability, tremors, weakness,

disorientation, visual deficits, circling, falling, sleep habits, abnormal postures, exaggerated gait, head tilt, pain, house soiling, staring, trembling, decreased appetite, seizures, paralysis

Head trauma

When the brain has suffered trauma or injury, swelling or bleeding may result. This swelling or bleeding will interfere with the normal function of that part of the brain. Many unusual neurological symptoms can result, including aggression.

Behavioral Seizures

Or what has been called "Rage syndrome" Partial seizures occurring in a region of the brain that controls

aggression can cause sudden unprovoked aggression.


It is most likely that your dog has none of the above but it is imperative to rule out medical triggers. Focus on the thyroid is essential as there are many cases where an out of balanced thyroid will cause aggressive behavior. Please ask your vet to run a full blood panel, including for thyroid.

Because you want the best help for your dog, I have put together a series of check lists and questions designed to help you to find a trainer or behaviorist qualified to deal with dog aggression: someone who can truly help you help your dog. Consider joining an online support e-group to help

you as you go through this process.

But before you look for a trainer, consult your veterinarian to rule out any medical causes of your dog's aggression. Up to 50% of aggression problems have underlying medical causes.

I recommend contacting the behavioral department at the nearest veterinary college and asking for a referral for a veterinary behaviorist in your area(this might take some research to find out who is the best person to contact). Remember, a veterinary behaviorist is not the same as a

behaviorist or behavior specialist - anyone can call themselves a behaviorist or trainer. Not anyone can call themselves a veterinarian.


Veterinary Colleges -

Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine

University of California-Davis College of Veterinary Medicine

Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical


Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine

University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine

University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine

Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine

Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine

University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine

Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine

University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine

North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine

University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine

Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine

University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine

Texas A & M University College of Veterinary Medicine

Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine

Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine

Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine

Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine

University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine


After an initial consultation, you might choose to work with a trainer.

The behaviorist may be able to recommend someone, or you may have to find one who is willing to work with the program set out by the behaviorist.

Anyone can call themselves a behaviorist, specialist or trainer. There are many variations in how people to choose to work, and the methods they use.

While a trainer is ideal in working with you hands on, finding one who knows what they are doing and can find a way to work best with you and your dog is not easy.

While there are many great trainers, only some are qualified to deal with aggression. Some can deal with a dog who is simply being bratty, or who has learned to be aggressive, but many trainers are not qualified to deal

with more serious situations, despite their claims. Your best bet is to get recommendations from people who are familiar with those working in the dog training industry.

You could consider consulting a veterinary behaviorist, and other dog organizations for recommendations.


-What areas or cities has the consultant, behaviorist or trainer trained or treated dogs in?

-What credentials does the consultant, behaviorist or trainer have?

-Where did the consultant, behaviorist or trainer receive his training as a consultant, behaviorist or trainer ? Ask for proof! Certificates are always given for courses, and most people display them proudly.

-Do they continue their education in anyway? Confirm their memberships with any organizations they claim to be part of. Look into what it takes to become a member. An organization that accepts people on the basic of

what they claim, or pay for, is much different than organizations that require certification testing, for example.

-What methods does the consultant, behaviorist or trainer use? This should be discussed in great detail, so don't be afraid to ask questions(this is an area where its good to do your homework first).

-What learning theories does the consultant, behaviorist or trainer base his or her work on?

-What are his or her ideas about the causes of dog aggression?

-What is the role of the owner, diet, genetics, socialization, training methods, etc. in the development of aggression?(then do your research on this to see if any of the responses are valid).

-What sort of things will he or she look at or need to know to assess your dog(here again, is another good area to do your homework first)?

-As part of the program, does the consultant, behaviorist or trainer give the dog owner instructions and training? How detailed will these be, over what period of time and how much support will be offered once the program

has finished. Note that you may be on your own despite any promises, or may be required to pay more money, unless something is specified in detail on a contract.

-What learning theories does the consultant, behaviorist or trainer base his or her work on? What are his or her ideas about the causes of dog aggression.

-How long does he or she antisipate training should take before any change can be seen. What happens if there is no or little change observed in the dog?

-Does the consultant, behaviorist or trainer have a place on the Internet where he and his clients can chat, or exchange messages?

-Ask questions specific to your dog's breed to see how well the consultant, behaviorist or trainer knows your dog.

-Does the consultant, behaviorist or trainer have any books or videos available?

-If there is a contract, ask to see a copy of the contract before deciding to go with the consultant, behaviorist or trainer /training facility.

-Does the consultant, behaviorist or trainer offer any kind of guarantee, i.e. your money back if not satisfied, placement of your dog with another home if your dog isn't improved to your satisfaction, etc. If so, be aware

that this is problematic. No consultant, behaviorist or trainer can promise to fix your dog, and what defines your satisfaction can be subjective.

-Where does the consultant, behaviorist or trainer get his or her referrals?

Referrals from a vet are good, since the owner usually continues to see the vet, and the vet continues to see the dog(you might get that vets info so you can talk to him/her in person).

Referrals from others in the industry that have nothing to gain by recommending them can be good, although less so if they know little about treating aggression

Referrals from other trainers of classes are not as good, since those people usually do not see the dog again, and if there are problems, the owners often do not go back to these people to report.

Referrals from clients are usually only from happy clients, and thus, are only part of the picture. Clients often will accept their trainers word as gospel and have very little frame of reference to determine whether the consultant, behaviorist or trainer is actually qualified. Most happy clients descrive their consultant, behaviorist or trainer in glowing terms.

Its always a good idea to try to find additional sources that the consultant, behaviorist or trainer has not provided to you for a fully rounded picture. Generally those who are good, develop a good reputation

and their name gets mentioned time and time again.

Make sure you get these referrals, and make sure you contact them.

I would also have a full blood workup done, especially an extensive thyroid panel.  If the thyroid is off, even a little bit, it can promote aggression in some dogs.

Aggression is the most common behavior problem reported in dogs. About three times as many dogs are destroyed because they have behavior problems as die from cancer!


Dealing with an aggressive dog has its emotional baggage. There are some people who will exploit this vulnerability so that you will take on their services. Often owners of aggressive dogs are pressured by their circumstances to choose the first person they talk to. This is what some

scam artists are counting on. You should also bear in mind that dog training attracts certain kinds of individuals. For some scam artists it is not all about the money. There are trainers out there who enjoy the power and control they have over both dogs and owners.

Ideally you want to be clear headed and objective so you can pick the best person qualified to help your dog. Here are some things to keep your eye on.

-The consultant claims to have years of experience, but there is no real proof. Many people claim to have years of experience without mentioning the majority of those years were with their own dogs.

-The consultant has no real credentials or you can't confirm the creditials he claims to have are real.

-The consultant subtly(or not) suggests the dog will be put down, etc. if you do not change your dog's aggression. While this may be true if you are not sensible about keeping your dog from harming others, it can also be

designed to create an anxiety in getting your dog help right now. This puts pressure on you to make a fast(and rash) decision.

-The consultant talks as if he/she's the only one who can help your dog. There is the idea that no trainer wants to deal with an aggressive dog –they would be crazy to. This is just untrue - there are people who can help.

-The consultant uses terminology that makes him/her sound like he/she can ‘save” your dog from inevitable death. This is designed to take advantage of your vulnerability. Your dog won't be put down if you keep people and other animals safe from it.

-The consultant suggests that your dog aggressive dog may become people aggressive that your dog may turn on you. There is no evidence to suggests a correlation between dog and people aggression if the dog is healthy.

-The consultant puts down other trainers or consultants. This is designed to make the consultant look knowledgeable while undermining the credibility of others.

-The consultant makes you feel you are not to blame for your dog's behavior. While this is generally true and everyone needs some empathy when dealing with an aggressive dog, some people know to exploit an owner's guilty

feelings. Reassurance is important, and desirable, but scam artists will take advantage. You need to be objective.

-The consultant feels you should not use a muzzle. The truth is if your dog is potentially dangerous, saftey must come first. A muzzle won't prevent aggression or traumatizing another dog or person, but it will

prevent bites. Head halters can give you more control as well as being humane.

-If they are being used to put dogs into a situation they are not ready for, or as a way to avoid treatment, then this is obviously not good. However we have reports of one "expert" suggesting that muzzles shouldn't

be used. This makes the client dependent on the traiiner to "fix" their dog even more.

-The consultant looks down on people who “cope” with, or manage" their dog's behavior. This is a way to exploit your guilt and/or make you feel better than others for doing something about it. Good management is essential for any aggressive dog.

-The consultant claims to train differently than the majority or the consultant claims to have pioneered a new way of different training(his usually goes hand in hand with putting down other consultants). This is a

big warning sign and should be viewed with suspicion. Discuss these methods in detail with a veterinary or applied behaviorist.

-Additionally, this tactic of appearing to be unique is designed to make the consultant appear as if he is the only one you should be talking to. These are the sort of consultants others people describe as "magic"(or

words to that effect). They are often the sort of consultants that seem to work in mysterious ways thereby ensuring your dependence of them. The reason why there the majority of consultants use particular methods is

because they work, or they are easy. The methods that works are not new.

-The consultant guarantees or implies that the dog will be “fixed” or made ”perfect”. No person can guarantee this.

-The consultant guarantees satisfaction or he will rehome the dog for you if you can't manage the him or he. Beware of this offer. Will they take your money and then take your dog? Taking your dog to the pound would probably be a cheaper way to get the same result. It may seem like a good

solution to your problem when putting your dog down seems like the only option, but is probably just a method to drum up business, or cover up the inability to effectively treat an aggressive dog.

-The consultant discusses his own problems with his clients.

-The consultant makes big complaints about other owners/clients. While consultants are understandable frustrated by owners lack of compliance to their programs, often it indicates a potential for personal conflict.

-On the consultant Internet dog training group, he/she talks more about him/herself more than training dogs in general.

-The consultant's web site, brochures or other material appears grandiose to you.

-The consultant name drops to impress you.

-The consultant speaks in such a way to make you feel stupid or small. This may be an unpleasant personality tick or it may indicate a problem with future communication.


-The contract is not detailed or is excessively detailed.

-The contract includes spelling mistakes, or doesn't look professional.

-The consultant claims not to have any copies of the contract at the moment, or “forgets” to get you a copy a head of time.

-The consultant's references do not return your calls, emails or other forms of communication.

-The consultant's references describe the consultant as eccentric, magic, gifted, etc. Find out what this means. Chances are a past client who hasn't been referred to may have a different word for eccentricity - one less charming. Anyone who used such words as magic or gifted most likely

was not well educated b the consultant. Any kind of training is not magic. The skill a consultant offers is in accurate diagnosis, sound knowledge of dog behavior and treatment, the development a clear plan to follow, and

offers comprehensive follow-up.

-The referral describes the consultant in overly glowing terms, or claims they are specially gifted with dogs. This is not going to help you, and it could be the the referral is dependent on the consultant on some level.

-The referral doesn't return your calls or attempts to contact them.

-The consultant tries to separate you from your dog convincing you things like:

~your dogs will do better without you being around, or

~you and your dog need a time of separation, or

~you need time away from the “stress” of owning an aggressive dog.

~He/she can get the job done faster

~He/she will need to live with your dog awhile to really understand his problem. This is a little like a therapist suggestiing he needs to live with your child to understand him. While dog aggression is not simple, a good behaviorist should be able to get to the root the nature of your dog'

s problems, through consultations, viewing the dog's behavior if possible and doing an in-depth interviews with you. It make take some repeated consulations, but living with the dog is suspect.

-The events in the consultant's life are full of drama, and seems to deal with a lot of conflicts with extreme people.

-The consultant is reluctant to let you take the contract home to read it over thoroughly before leaving your dog.

-The consultant does not return phone calls, emails, etc., in a timely, professional manner.

-The consultant is inconsistent, forgetful, manipulative or highly emotional.


You have been doing behavior modification but its not working.

1) The methods you are using may not appropriate for his or her issues. People who are using aversive or punishing methods to suppress the behavior will often find that they are increasing the anxiety rather than decreasing it.   This means while the behavior may be temporarily

suppressed, the dog's mood and attitude towards his triggers have not been improved.

2) You are using positive methods for counter-conditioning, but your dog is still being exposed to his or her triggers beyond his or her comfort levels.   For example, it's not enough to do behavior modification with your dog-aggressive dog and your friend's dog when your dog still gets

ambushed by strange or off leash dogs.    If your dog is still behaving anxiously or aggressively, the neural pathways involved in these behaviors and emotions become stronger.

3) Moving too close too quickly.   Most people think they are making progress if their dogs are not behaving aggressively.   For counter-conditioning to be effective, it should occur in a situation where the dog can be encouraged to relax.   It may be that you are too close,

there are too many distractions, or there are too many factors causing additional stress. Even if your dog is not behaving aggressively, if he or she is anxious, then this is an aversive experience.   He will not be

able or relax and learn to associate anything positive with the experience. This is one of the most common reasons for set backs.

4) The dog has not been taught to relax on cue in the absence of the stimuli. If the dog can't relax on cue in the absence of the stimuli, then he or she will not be able to do it in any other challenging situation. This is another very common reason for not seeing progress.

5) The dog is unable to relax in the absence of the stimuli.   Then medication may be needed.   If any neurochemical are out of normal range, then it will be an uphill battle trying to modify behavior for the

positive. Although experiences can change neurochemical levels, medication might so it faster and reduce anxiety enough that the dog is able to learn.

6) You are unable to relax in the presence of the stimuli.   You may be transmitting to your dog that there is something, in fact, to be worried about. However after we have had some negative experiences in the past, its natural that we may be unable to relax. In that case, we should allow ourselves to progress at a rate with our dogs that we are comfortable with.   

The dogs should receive a huge amount of exercise and never be left together until the entire situation is fully under control.

There are many tapes and books that can be very helpful in understanding what is going on in your "pack."

Behavorially speaking, when you are the pack leader your dog will look to you for cues.  If you establish yourself as the pack leader, you will automatically have more control over your dog.

I suggest therefore that you obtain a tape called: People Training for Dogs by Cesar Milan.  You can Google it on-line for the ordering information.  There are many excellent bits of information in Milan's approach to aggression, except for what is called the "rollover."  Never roll a dog over on it's back to show dominance.  In nature, the dog who submits does it voluntarily..the dominant dog does not roll the submissive dog over.  When a human does this to a dog it can result in massive descruction to the human.

There are some marvelous books that can help you to establish yourself as pack leader in your pack of two:

The Other End Of the Leash(McConnell)

Leader Of The Pack

Calming Signals

Natural Dog Training(Behan)

The Culture Clash(Jean Donaldson)

The Dog Whisperer(Paul Owens)

It is not enough to just live with your dog.  Your dog needs guidelines and boundaries set so that he can become well socialized and the two of you can enjoy life together in safety and without undue stress. Exercise is also a key factor.  A tired dog is a good dog!Make sure that your dog gets a 45 minute brisk walk twice a day whenever possible and a minimum of one 45 minute very brisk walk at least once a day.

I believed that I have provided material for a way to start your new life with your dog.  The hard work that you will put into the next year with your dog, will last the lifetime of your relationship together.

Regarding diet:  Feeding your dog a natural diet is the best approach to good health and a calm disposition, merely for the fact that your dog is getting and absorbing all the necessary nutrients, as nature provides.

A reliable place to start: http://www.petdiets.com/main.asp

If you want to feed a real food diet you can read up on it at: Dr. Pitcairn's Natural Healing For Dogs & Cats as well as Martin Goldstein's The Nature of Animal Healing.  There are also groups on Yahoo that address feeding everything from BARF to a home cooked diet.

Some decent commercial foods are Solid Gold Fish and Potato, Venison, Rabbit, or try Spot's Stew or Avoderm.  When you switch, it will have to be slowly so as to prevent diarrhea.  When you start switching, include some canned pumpkin(no spices) to help with stomach adjust. Adding Prozyme to your dog's diet(J&B Wholesale Pet Supply) will ensure that he has proper digestion and absorption.  To give him the nutrition that his body needs include Missing Link(also from J&B) and Probiotics(B-Natural).

Children should NEVER be left alone with a dog under any circumstances. The largest percentage of dog bite incidents relate to children.

In this situation, if you didn't see what happened then you do not know if the child provoked your dog's reaction.  To avoid this in the future, remove your dog from a gathering of children.  Once a dog bites, the second bite come easier.  If your dog continues to interact with children unsupervised and another bite happens, your dog will be the one to suffer.  He could even lose his life, so I cannot emphasize how crucial it is to keep him away from children at this point, or at least until you've worked with a behavorist.

I wish you the best of luck. I know how upsetting this must be for you.


Shelley Davis


Get a sneak peek of the all-new AOL at http://discover
Posts: 32
Joined: Wed Jan 08, 2014 12:20 am


Postby Donnel » Sun Apr 10, 2016 6:32 pm

I have a 6 year old chocolate Lab.  He is a wonderful family pet.  He has never shown aggression to any of my now grown children nor any small children--ever.  He is a happy, healthy and good-natured.  I was shocked yesterday when he snapped at my neighbors daughter.  There were many small children in my home at the time, but he seems to only shows aggression to this one child who is 7.  She suffers a mild disability and some behavioral problems.  I  am so upset because Bosco is a fun-loving wonderful animal.  I don't understand why he did this.  Thank you for your expertise.

Posts: 46
Joined: Mon Apr 07, 2014 7:48 pm

Return to Personal Injury Law


  • Related topics
    Last post