I saw a 4 year old dog who presented for growling at the owners when they would try to put his collar on, pet him, and pass by him while he was sleeping in his favorite spot. The dog was more inclined to show aggression to the male owner than the female owner.
Showing aggression in these contexts is common for many dogs. Nonetheless, it is important to do a physical exam to make sure there is no underlying medical problem causing or exacerbating the issue.
After taking a detailed behavior history, I did a physical exam and found that the dog had a painful neck and back. As I reviewed the detailed behavioral history along with these findings, I recommended one behavior training exercise only. The rest of the recommendations were dealing with the medical issues.
This dog was put on pain meds and had x-rays. The pain meds helped reduce the aggression but the x-rays did not show any abnormalities; therefore, the owners will likely pursue an MRI.
The really heartbreaking part of this story is that this is the dog’s 4th home. He had been returned many times and likely has a history of working with trainers for the aggression issues. I only hope no one used harsh methods on this dog such as choke/prong collars as that will certainly escalate the pain and aggression.
Fortunately, this dog’s veterinarian had them come for a behavior evaluation to ensure an appropriate plan was put in place and the dog’s new owners are very dedicated to helping him.