Another dog gone mad!

nancyinmichJanuary 25, 2009

Hi, I need your experiences and ideas!

We have three dogs. Toby is oldest 9 year-old Golden/Beagle mix. Then Casey Jones, 7.5 year-old polka-dotted Hound/Dalmatian or English Setter mix. Our youngest is Bina, a Australian Shepherd mix who spent her first four or five years in a kennel in a barn with 150 other stray dogs. We have had Bina two years, Toby since he was 8 months, Casey since he was 11 months. All dogs are spayed/neutered. They eat one of the super premium dog foods - DH has been stuck on Merrick foods for a while, so they usually have Cowboy Cookout or Grammy's Pot Pie.

Toby has been the dominant dog since Meggie died three years ago. He was number two before that. We knew Toby was number one after she died because when Toby and Casey play, Toby (the much smaller one) will grab Casey by the neck, then Casey does a shoulder roll and ends up belly-up on the floor. Toby then stands above Casey and puts his genitals in Casey's face and looks back at Casey over his shoulder and says "Smell This!". Toby trots around Casey with a wide-stanced swagger. Casey was always happy to play and chase and wrestle with Toby.

The boys mostly have ignored Bina. She was so frightened of everything for a long while, but Grandpa (who lives with us) went blind when she had been with us for only 6 months, and she got used to people coming and going from our house. Casey will lead her outside even if he doesn't have to "go" as if he knows that she does not like being outside at all, but that if he does not go out with her, she is likely to pee or poop on the hall carpeting - which totally disgusts him. Sometimes Bina will lie near Casey, and he will rest his head on top of her. He has always liked hairy female dogs. She has managed to convince him that she is NOT to be humped, and he no longer tries this.

Casey has occasionally gone after Bina in a snarly growly charge for the last two years. It always happened when she was entering a space in which there was some desirable treat that he had an eye on, and she got between him and the treat. The first time, Grandpa had a cookie on his table that we had all forgotten. Casey hadnt forgotten, and when Bina innocently walked between GrandpaÂs cookie and Casey, he went berserk. This would happen every couple of months. A few months ago, Casey started doing it more often, every couple of weeks. He has never raised blood (as far as we can tell - Bina has thick fur). He went after our friendÂs dog when she was here with her two dogs for New Years dinner, too. (Casey has known these dogs for as long as we have had him.) Once or twice he has gone after Toby. Toby reacts to these violent episodes by avoiding Casey, or by tippy-toeing out of the room while hugging the far wall and averting his gaze. Bina responds by staying out of the room Casey is in for the rest of the night. I say night because it almost always happens in the evening. Sometimes Casey does it when there is no food or other valuable thing around. He just wakes up from a nap when Bina enters the space and he gets up and rockets for her neck while snarling like a mad dog. Sometimes I catch him before he gets to her. She runs for the bedroom, so he usually catches her in the hall. He usually lets go when I tell him to" leave it" when I get close to him. He will sometimes continue to follow her until I get to him., snarling or growling low. I usually put him in a down. I used to force him to the ground, before we thought he had arthritis.

Sometimes we can hear him growl just before the attack. If he is not sleeping, we can sometimes see him start to get bothered, lower his head and look at her with a certain look. Tonight, he was standing behind Toby as Toby rang the jingle bell on the patio door, telling me he wanted out. Casey hunkered down and his tail was slowly snaking side-to-side (lion-like). He was getting mad at Toby, but I could see the gears turning in his head. He wasnÂt going after Toby quite yet. Then, before I could get my computer off my lap, Bina came into the room to follow the boys out the door, mCasey turned on her and attacked.

We took Casey to the vet two months ago, thinking that he might be sick or in pain, and that is why the attacks have gotten more frequent. The vet thought he flinched in a way that indicated pain from arthritis in his neck and shoulders. She ran a stool sample and complete blood tests and saw nothing at all. She gave us 7 days of Derrmax, and it did seem to help him. I got him some doggy glucosamine and chondroitin, too. We instituted Nothing in Life is Free (well, mostly) and I got a crate so that we can keep Casey out of our bed at night. I have him in a down-stay whenever I am working with food in the kitchen, and he has never attacked from that situation with me. He also is perfectly happy to continue to share with his brother and sister when they are in a controlled situation in which they expect to get something from us  like when we are finishing breakfast and they all three stick their noses in to lap up the few tablespoons of soy milk left in our bowls. He has not started fighting over their meals, either. When we bring his crate into the kitchen when cooking and put him inside, he will growl more, as if to keep the other dogs out of the kitchen. It works, the dogs wonÂt enter. So I quit bringing the crate in, it seems to increase his guarding. Casey went back on Derrmax a few weeks ago after he pooped right outside the patio door after coming back from his usual spot in the side yard, then he pooped several times coming down the hallway. I called the vet, and she thought he was in too much pain out in the cold winter air to do the "hump" so he pooped in the house because he hurt less there. So he has been back on Derrmax a few weeks now.

CaseyÂs worse two attacks happened when DH was home with him. DH had to pick Casey (60 lbs) off the floor to get him to release Bina one time. The other attack was this week. Casey quit playing with Toby AT ALL over the past few months. Then a recent warm day, they were chasing each other outside in the snow and continued into the house with their play. Then Casey just went for Toby, all snarling and snapping. DH grabbed him and held him until he calmed down, but then Casey went for Toby again as soon as DH let him go. DH wonders if there is a brain tumor or something, to make Casey so vicious.

Casey has also become impossible around the house, getting into any dish he can reach on the counter or in the sink, stealing anything that resembles food or paper (which he prefers to chew), and getting into purses and bags of GrandpaÂs caregivers. He will go with you out of the room, then go back to get whatever you forgot to put up high when you are not looking. He even got a Christmas stocking off a 5 ft high entertainment center. He has always been an opportunist and counter-cruiser, but it is much worse lately. AND if he is not stealing something or watching for an opportunity, he is fast asleep, with his head covered. He seems to sleep more soundly and longer hours.

DH is off work, looking for a new job. He is walking Casey and Toby now, when the weather is not too cold. They always used to run together in our yard, and got their energy out that way. The walks are not helping much. What seems to help is to keep Casey under constant command. If he leaves the family room and walks past the water dish, I call him back because it means he is cruising. He is listening better, lately. But if I get into conversation with someone, he will leave when I am distracted and be back looking for trouble. I have seen him guard the two other dogs away from me, so I am reluctant to tie him to me all the time, he then gets aggressive if the dogs come close.

Once DH has a new job, we are planning to get a behaviorist into the house to observe and give us some direction. Until then, we are trying to stick to NILIF and leadership training so that he knows he is just a dog. What might be going on here? Has anyone else seen this kind of change in an older dog, where he just snaps? It sounds a lot like iemmaÂs problem, but we have already had the blood work and know there is nothing different. He is having some pain from arthritis, we think, and we are treating it. What else should we do?

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Have they checked his eyes? When my Moms older Bully started to lose her eyesight she got a little bit more aggressive. Just a thought.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 11:37AM
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First I think you need to look at leash walking. How much do you do, how often? It is clear that your dominant dog is not getting the idea that you are running the household and not him. It sounds like he is progeressing into being a dangerous dog. THE ONLY WAY TO CURB THIS BEHAVIOR is to strictly control his behavior. Take him and all the other dogs out for leash walks 3 times a day AT LEAST 30 minute walks, not just sniffing around walks either but real walks. Training needs to be started as well. Especially sit stay leave it. It almost sounds as if you just let the dogs run around the hosue willy nilly solving their own conflicts as they come up and you dont really get involved - I could be reading that wrong. Your dogs NEED outside stimulation, they are suffering from fishbowl syndrone (same place day in and day out - very little stimulation) dogs should be walked down different streets, they should be taken to a local park or fire road r lake or creek and let to play for a couple of hours whenever possible. Good luck

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 4:27PM
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Definitely check his ears and eyes. Our older guys' sight and hearing are going, and he startles easier, and in turn gets irritated easier.

Next time your dog attacks one of the others, touch him as little as possible. Pick up the target dog. Picking Casey up is rewarding his behavior. He's getting attention, whether it be bad or good attention. You're holding him, not the other dog. To him this means "It's okay Casey, it's Toby's fault"

Remove Casey from the situation - tell him to get out, go to bed, whatever command you use to tell him to go away. And ignore him once he's gone.

I would start tethering Casey a few hours a day. Casey is losing his manners, disobeying house rules, and disrespecting you - in other words, Casey rules the joint. He needs to be attached to either you or DH and be made to go where and when you want him to, do what you say when you say - he needs to realize you and DH are still in control over him - BEFORE his aggressive behavior progresses to include his people.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 8:02PM
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Nancy, After you rule out any medical issues that may be affecting Casey's behavior - this really boils down to the issues of resource guarding and space guarding. Both are workable, but it will help you to understand what may have changed to cause this, or if he's always been like this and it's escalated because of something (lack of exercise, change in home routine, changes in one of the other dogs). You might want to get a copy of Patricia McConnell's pamphlet, 'Feeling Outnumbered.' It's a quick read and could help you to get perspective on why things have changed and some basic structural approaches which may help. I do think a behaviorist would be a good idea as he/she can assess the situation in your home and determine what's going on in the pack. It may not be just a 'Casey issue.'

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 9:29PM
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I've never really experienced this so can't really comment, just wish you the best of luck.
Will be interesting to know the outcome.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 9:37PM
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If you can afford it, I would get Casey a full body scan, including his brain. This sounds like it could be something medical to me.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 6:42AM
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I'd assume medical first as well. It sounds like Casey has been just fine with the other dogs up to this point, and the fact that he's been fine with Toby especially for so long, and now just seems to have "snapped" says brain chemistry to me, and barring that, possible pain issues. It could be that since he got a little better with the Deramaxx, that the dosage just isn't enough, or that he needs a different pain killer that will work better.

Dogs don't generally just "lose" their manners for no reason, and since you haven't recently added any dogs or changed your routines (from what you say), I doubt it's environmental. You might want to do a search on both Dalmatians and Spaniels, and see if there's any breed-specific inherited syndromes that might explain this as well. Both of my mixed breeds inherited bad genes from a specific breed...can't hurt to do some research...

    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 5:27PM
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Thanks for all the replies.

Trinigemini and Munkos, we will check his eyes and ears. Many of the incidents seem to happen when he is sleeping in the evening. Bina will walk into the room or move from where she was lying, he wakes up and goes for her. We wish we could just ignore Casey and comfort the dog he had attacked, but we have to hold onto him to keep him from attacking the targeted dog again. He remains agitated and growly for a while. I think that keeping him on a leash will help, we will be better about doing that.

We have had some recent success in getting Casey to listen better. Just now, he found a roll of toilet paper under his Grandpas bed. Grandpa is very ill, and DH or I are either with him or someone else is in the house solely to take care of him. So Casey found the TP under the bed, and he did walk away from it when I told him to "leave it." If you knew how much he loves to chew paper, you would find this amazing. I am keeping him under voice command more, too. If he leaves the family room to go into the kitchen, I call him back once he passes the water bowl, and he listens. He will stop counter cruising when I tell him to "Leave IT" as well , (as long as he has not found a high-value item, I would guess). We are keeping him gated out of the kitchen when DH is in his office, too. Keeping him nearby, (not roaming freely) does seem to help.

Mazer, I knew you would recommend more walks, and you are right. DH is doing this when the temperatures and icy sidewalks allow. He is doing one longer walk, though. I cant walk outside with temps this low, though lung disease and single digit temps do not mix. Casey and Toby did well in training 6 years ago and we have made them do a sit/stay/leave it when feeding them, with a verbal release. He heels well off leash, so I have him heel and do sit-stays when I am moving around the house. He seems to enjoy it and he is listening better, too. Their biggest outside stimulation is in greeting their Grandpas various caregivers, nurses, and therapists. We do not have places where they can safely run off-leash around here. With Casey so unpredictable now, I do not think I can safely take him to the Dog Park that is a half hours drive away. We have started taking him out to dog supply stores, since he has never aggressed in this situation. We walk him through the store, practice his obedience, and he learns yet again that these stores exist solely so that humans can worship him in a comfortable environment.

Cynthia, it does feel like resource guarding sometimes, and that is one reason I am thinking twice about tying him to me. Keeping Casey at my feet makes him the "favorite" and I dont want him resource guarding me! Do you think thais will happen, or is leashing him to me a good idea? I will get the behaviorist involved as soon as I can.

Thanks PKGuy for the support!

Weed, that is what we are thinking, too, it seems medical. Does anybody know what a whole body scan is? CT? MRI? We have the Michigan State University Veterinary School only an hour and a half away.

Jamie, the one recent change is that DH has been home, unemployed since December 1. But Caseys aggression has been increasing for several months. Even when we are not home, Dad and his caregivers are here, so we usually have a good idea of how the dogs are doing during the day. Bina spends her day at her daddys feet now that he is home, but Casey is happy to sit on the loveseat in his office. I dont think he is jealous. Hes a mommas boy ;-)

    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 9:00PM
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Trinigemini and Munkos, it turns out it was a vision problem. We had his vision checked at the vet last winter, but she saw nothing. This spring, we started doing formal training with him again and lo and behold - he can't see the treats! It has been a gradual decline over the past six months to a year and nobody "saw it" but us until the training, but it really is happening. He is going blind. Progressive Retinal Atrophy, his vet says. She sees a definite change from what she saw last winter when examining his eyes.

The good news is that the increased training has helped. We also increased his exercise, Mazer. When we stick to those things, he is much better. He is begining to appreciate his crate, too. He seems to appreciate that he can nap in comfort there and know that he is safe. I put him there when food is around, too, since food is his main trigger.

Next I will get jingle bells for Toby and Bina's collars. Maybe she "sneaks" up on him and the bell will give him better warning. I am reading at and will explore the Yahoo blind dogs site next.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 12:31AM
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Nancy I'm glad you found out what the problem was/is. Sorry he's going blind. I've had several blind animals and they seem to get used to it quite well. That's great that the training is helping. You know NILF does work. If there are times when he seems a bit stressed out tethering him to you really can help, but use two leashes together so there is more space. Then if you notice him looking confused you can tighten up the space between you so he can "feel" where you're at. This is particularly helpful when you're all sitting down in the evening and such.

I think you've got a great idea about the bells. As you said, Bina is sort of meek so she probably did 'sneak' up on him in his viewpoint.

Wishing the best for him and all of ya'll.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 1:00AM
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Nancy...sorry I was right, but at least now that you know what the problem is you have a better understanding of how to help.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 3:29PM
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Wow, this is an old thread. We were all so confused by Casey's change in behavior back in 2009. I thought I would tell you all what happened with him.

I did take him for private and group training lessons, and this is when we noticed he wasn't seeing well. For a while, that was our major focus with him. Putting bells on Bina did seem to help cut down on attacks for a while. Then, on Christmas Eve 2009, pre-dawn, Casey had two gran mal seizures. Strangely, we have a 24-hour neurological ER about 45 minutes away. Casey and I got an appointment there for mid morning. The physical exam showed that he had neurological deficits. He was weak on the left side and not paying as much attention to the left side of his vision. The exam indicated he likely had a brain tumor behind his right eye, maybe as far back as his ear. I did not want to do brain surgery, so paying for a CT (done under anesthesia) made no sense. We opted for medication to keep him as comfortable as possible for as long as possible. Once he was on meds, his eyesight improved and he usually did not run into things anymore. He could see treats again.

Casey was put on Prednisone to shrink the tumor, phenobarbital to treat the seizures the tumor was causing, and continued on pain meds, which were changed to Tramadol. He clearly still had spinal pain.

I asked that his thyroid hormone levels be checked because I remembered the incident here on the Pets forum where the lady in a western Canadian province was waiting for a ride to go to the vet to have her dog euthanized due to uncontrollable seizures, when she stopped to write to us about her sadness at having to do this. One of the people on the forum wrote to her to have the thyroid levels checked first. The lady did so, and they were terribly low. The dog was put on synthetic hormone, and was saved. So I asked about this. The neurologist said I was welcome to have my vet check the thyroid, but he definitely had a neuro problem, likely a tumor, either way. We did have the thyroid check done, it was quite low, and Casey was on levothyroxine the rest of his life.

Casey never had any more seizures that anybody saw. He did improve greatly with the aggression, then would become worse again. When he did, we would talk to the vet, who upped his Pred, later added Melatonin, and then upped the Melatonin when he started aggressing again later. He also got an herb for liver function added when those labs got elevated.

He never resumed playing with Toby. He continued to counter cruise. Towards the end, he was so restless each evening that we were giving him a rawhide chew each night and he worked off his energy/discomfort or whatever was happening inside him by chewing. He enjoyed short walks. His muscle tone deteriorated and he adopted a wide stance to feel more secure on his feet. He would lie down in a froggy position anytime he was not actually walking. He loved his home and his friends and treats, getting into things, outsmarting me and getting me distracted so that he could steal food or drink (he loved fancy coffee drinks that Dad's caregivers might bring in, could take the paper cup off a table and onto the floor, pry off the lid, and drink from the cup without spilling it.)

Casey died a week after his last vet exam, in October 2012. I thought that he had a GI problem and spent I a night up with him cleaning up vomit and keeping him away from water because he just vomited it back up. We got about three hours of sleep before the vet opened and she saw him straight away. He had deteriorated drastically while I showered that morning. My friend and I carried him to the car. The doc euthanized him after she examined him. He had apparently had a stroke that morning. His heart was likely behind all the vomiting the night before, she said. I was glad I had stayed up with him.

Casey lived two years and ten months after the diagnosis of brain tumor, and 3 years, eight and a half months past the date I posted this question. Bina had died a year earlier, following surgery for cancer in a toe. Her kidneys failed after surgery and we could not get her to eat and drink to get them working again. Toby, our oldest and smallest, is still here with us.

Here is Casey before the diagnosis, when he still thought he was my lap dog.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 11:46PM
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Thank you so much for posting, Nancy.

I'm sorry you lost Casey, but your story is just glowing with the love you had for him & the diligence with which you cared for him.

And thanks for the reminder about thyroid levels.

I'm the one who suggested Petunia (Petunie? it's been a long time) get her dog's thyroid checked.

Vets often discourage thyroid testing, saying that hypothyroidism is rare in dogs...
well, it would be if it never is diagnosed.

Thanks again for sharing your story, & bless you for the exceptional care you give your beloved pets.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 10:10AM
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Nancy, thanks so much for posting the rest of your story. It's nice to hear that there were still a lot of good---if difficult---times for all of you. There's something so bittersweet---but mostly sweet---about taking care of an old friend right to the end like that. Your story brought back some nice memories of old cat and dog pals I've loved and lost.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 10:33AM
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Wow. This is very enlightening. You are truly a kind
and loving dog owner. I just wonder how many dogs are
given up, abandoned or harmed because they were
simply suffering from changes in their body. This is
a lesson to us all and future readers.

Thanks for sharing this.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 5:30PM
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Checking my dogs ears and eyes is the first thing I do when I feel that something is wrong with my dog. I recommend you the same.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 5:30PM
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Thanks for sharing the rest of the story, Nancy. The picture of Casey on your lap is wonderful.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2013 at 9:17PM
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You are all very welcome! Casey's story is a sad one, but has so many lessons to teach us! He was pure Id, for the Freudians on the forum, but sweetly funny in the way of the bad boy in class who is the secret crush of the all-A good girl teacher's pet. (Of course, I got straight As)

As Mazer always reminds us, dogs need their exercise! A change in behavior may also mean sensory issues, changes in the home environment, medical problems, or all of the above could be involved with behavioral changes like his. Keeping Casey out of trouble exhausted us. Not being able to relax and forget that you left a snack next to your chair, your fish oil capsule bottle on the kitchen island, the gate to the kitchen open, or some food on the counter led to accidents time and time again. No one was to blame. Casey was ill, we were tired. DH got awfully tired of chaos, and both of us were ready to relax by the time Casey died. We missed our friend, but did not miss what the brain tumor and the meds had brought him to be in the end. I cannot tell you how many times we have since carelessly walked away from food on the counter and commented on how nice it was to be able to do so.

Toby seemed to do really well without Casey for a few months. Then right at Christmas time, he lost interest and seemed to sleep more. His auntie came to visit and he only went over to her once the whole visit! He is 13 now, and has never been an only dog. The vet and I discussed it, and he seemed to really like it, and we decided he should stay the only dog. His hearing is failing him, so change may be difficult. That is what we thought, until the change at Christmas came.

We talked it over, looked at rescues online, and found a little 10 year-old Dachshund girl who needed a home. Lizzy was old enough to sleep a lot, too, but alive enough to give Toby some pep. The rescue would let us try them together for two weeks and refund our money if it didn't work out. With me not working anymore, this was a big consideration. Toby has always liked little dogs, so Lizzy came to live with us. It has been working out well, with a few issues about her being a growly, pushy little girl. But they do get along well, and her presence has livened Toby up a LOT!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 8:19PM
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Toby looks so sweet in that picture. I'm glad Lizzy worked out for your household.


    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 12:11PM
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Thanks, Susan. Here is a pic of him and Casey sitting at the intersection of our two hallways that I found today. It is a few years old, Toby's fur was still short. The older he gets, the longer the fur on his shoulders and legs gets!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 5:07AM
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