Another dog gone mad!
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 Â 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?