ASK DR. CHIP - JUNE EDITION

Want to be featured in next month’s newsletter? Email our very own Dr. Chip at info@petsplusus.com and make sure you reference ‘Ask Dr. Chip’ in the subject line.

*Please note, that this is page is not intended to address pet emergencies, but rather general pet questions. If your pet is currently experiencing symptoms of an illness or has had an accident, please visit your regular veterinary practice if open, or your nearest veterinary emergency clinic for assistance. 

About Dr. Chip

Dr. Chip Coombs is Pets Plus Us’ Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO), and has practiced veterinary medicine since 1976, initially in the United Kingdom, then in Western Canada and, finally, in Toronto, where he owned a multi-veterinarian practice for 33 years.


Question:

Dear Dr. Chip,

We have a dog (not purebred but a cross, we believe) in our family who never, and I mean never, stops barking. She always advances towards other dogs when I walk her, and has a reputation for being aggressive. She has even tried to chase a jogger, and seemed tempted to snatch or bite their glove, which was hanging from their wrist. I definitely cannot take her to an off-leash dog park as she barks and lounges at the other dogs.

She can also cause harm when she scratches at you for attention - her nails are sharp. The most concerning thing is that, although she has never attacked me, she has shown her teeth if I have tried to remove her from the couch. I am torn because she can also be very loveable and sensitive. She can listen, if she wants, but it can be very difficult to get through to her.

Do you have any helpful advice?

Linda

Answer:

Hello Linda,

It certainly sounds like you facing a challenging problem. It would be unfair of me to suggest that there is a quick fix as a solution. My first thought would be how much of this behaviour is genetically based. I also think that the barking is merely a manifestation of a more significant problem of aggression. The fact that she has shown aggression towards you (barring her teeth) is worrisome and would definitely suggest that you need to seek veterinary advice sooner, rather than later. My concern is that the chasing after a jogger with apparent interest in the flapping glove will escalate into a true predator-prey behaviour of attacking the jogger. The fact that she considers herself dominate to you is also worrisome, because it may well place you at risk.

To delve into modification techniques here is beyond the scope of this question and answer column, as aggression can be quite complex to resolve. You are far better to discuss this directly with a veterinarian who has an interest and experience in behavioural problems, or a dog trainer / behavioural specialist.

Hope this helps and I hope the behaviour sessions are successful.

Cheers,

Dr. Chip