Sweet Dog Suddenly Gets Aggressive Towards Owners

Diesel

Diesel

We have a pit mix his name is Diesel. He gets along with our 2 year old blood hound. Never got along with other dogs. Never bothered us. He barks when people are at the door until he gets to know them.

But within the past week, he has been growling when you put ur face near his which has never ever been an issue. He's a big cuddler and always has been.

But today I opened the door to say bye before work dropped right to my knee and put my face right next to his and started to pet him he started to growl very loud and then nipped at me. So I gave him a little smack and then went to pet him again and he bit my hand really bad broke blood on top and bottom.

Believe me he has never ever been aggressive towards me or other people he's the sweetest dog I know. And I may have been a little rough to him but no rougher than I've ever been when he did that. But when my girl friend pets him he's growling and when I pet him he makes a very loud aggressive sounding open mouth growl and tucks his ears back looking ready to attack.

My girlfriend is getting scared of him and talking about bringing him to a pound she's so worried. We love this dog. He's our baby and we don't ever wanna lose him so we are very worried about this cause we don't wanna be scared of our own dog...

Please tell us what we can do other than training that we can't afford.

Gale's Reply:

Your first step should be to take Diesel to the vet and have him thoroughly checked to rule out any medical problems. Sudden behavioral changes like this can be the first sign that something is wrong physically. It turns out to be the case more often than you might think.

Don't skip over this. Diesel may look fine. But, if there is an underlying medical condition that isn't addressed, his behavior will not improve no matter what you do. And, you may lose the advantage of early detection and treatment if there is an advancing illness.

Once he is cleared medically, consider his age. At two years old, he is just coming into full social maturation as an adult dog. Sexual maturation happens earlier. But as social creatures, pits usually reach their adulthood between 14 and 36 months.

My point about that is this. A lot of dogs don't like it when you get in their face. Neither do they like being hugged around the neck the way we humans tend to do it. To us it's a gesture of affection. But, to a dog it can feel like a threat or a challenge. Perhaps Diesel is one of those dogs who tolerated it or even enjoyed it as a puppy, but doesn't like it as a dog.



You mentioned that when Diesel growls, his ears go back. That's not an aggressive stance, it's generally a fear response. To me, this reinforces the importance of having him checked by the vet to make sure he's not in pain or anticipating pain from your touch.

It also begs the question as to whether Diesel has become afraid of you. If you regularly use physical force to punish him, there's a good possibility that this is the case. And, if so, you'll need to work to regain his trust.

As I read your description of the incident above, I can't help but wonder if you are viewing Diesel's growl as a challenge to your authority rather than simply his attempt to communicate something in the only way he knows how. You really need to step back from reading too much into his behavior.

The growl/nip was a warning that he was feeling uncomfortable. You ignored that. Instead you smacked him and then tried to pet him again. That's like saying, "I don't care what you're feeling right now. You're going to do things my way or get hit." If you turn this into a power struggle, the situation will only escalate. Diesel will feel the need to defend himself. Violence begets violence.

You mentioned that you can't afford training. But, training doesn't have to be an expensive proposition with a professional trainer. In my view, what most needs to happen here is that you and your girlfriend need to educate yourselves on positive training methods so that you can re-build the bond of trust between you and Diesel.

You can borrow books from your local library or record some of the programs that are on Animal Planet if you have cable. There's also a list of recommended tools and resources about half way down our Dog Behavior Training page. If you can't afford something you want, ask a relative to make it an early Christmas present. In the long view, for a dog you love and never want to lose, it's a small price.

Good luck. Feel free to post back and let us know how things are going with Diesel.

Comments for Sweet Dog Suddenly Gets Aggressive Towards Owners

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Nov 10, 2011
Dont give up
by: Anonymous

When my pittie we would leave she had some episodes like that she never bit me but I had to tell her I was in control not her! Now me and breezly are just doing fine I think she was seein if I was in authority! Good luck and dont give up,!

Nov 10, 2011
A little extra help.
by: Anonymous

My pitty did that as she was getting older, it was usually jealousy that drove her to miss behave and then she didn't want affection later. I found that once I stopped using a tap on the nose as punishment she was much better. I taught her that when she was bad she had to sit in her kennel for a few minutes, never too long. I never closed the door to the kennel just had her lay in time out. I know I had a lot of time to train her, but I didn't invest anything but time and persistence into her training. If you look up Peace, Love and Pitbulls, they have tons of videos online that helped me get my dogs to be wonderful pets I wouldn't trade for the world!

Nov 10, 2011
Is he neutered?
by: Anonymous

This kind of situation makes me nervous. It sounds like the owners are not knowledgeable about dog behavior and training and it's difficult to evaluate what is really going on in this situation from a few short paragraphs. I agree with seeing a vet first. Aside from just not feeling good, there are conditions (such as those affecting the Thyroid) which cause behavioral and personality changes. Also, if he is not neutered, that could be a factor playing into this, although usually by the time aggression appears, it's too late to "fix" the behavior by neutering.


I would strongly recommend AT LEAST having him evaluated by a professional (who is pit friendly and has experience working with aggressive dogs/powerful breeds - i.e. probably not your local PetSmart trainer.) The trainer can observe him in his own environment and even if the growling isn't observed, there's a lot that can be learned about his personality that will lead to clues as to what type of aggression this is.

Also Check around because many cities now have free training classes specifically for pit bulls. My city offers free CGC classes sponsored by the Bully rescue in the area. Even if something like this is not available, do check with a bully rescue (most states have them) to see what local resources are available and if they can suggest a trainer.

I do think the owner could benefit from educating himself on dog behavior and training and it certainly sounds like he needs to change his own behavior towards Diesel, but I do not think he should attempt to "train" him out of his aggression without professional assistance.

Until this issue is fully resolved, I would not allow Diesel any contact with other people or dogs (that even includes your girlfriend if she is fearful of him, as she will only cause him to feel more uneasy). If guests come over, it is only fair to them to put him away. Be diligent in keeping him in the backyard or on a leash and if anyone approaches, tell them that he is in training and cannot be petted. Please do not create another negative Pit Bull headline.

Note to Diesel's owner. If he becomes too much to handle and is taken to the pound, please be up front about him having bit you. He will be put to sleep because of this, but it is not fair to pass him off to another well meaning person and have them or someone they know harmed. My grandma was attacked by a new foster dog I had before we were aware of his aggression issues (he was an owner surrender), so just be aware that he will eventually bite someone else if you pass him off and it could be a child or someone unable to defend themselves and no one deserves that.

Nov 10, 2011
get it together and do what it takes
by: Anonymous

1.) Is the dog fixed? If not, why?
2.) He states that training is cost prohibitive. Vets are expensive too. Regardless, for the well being of the dog and the safety of themselves, this dog needs to be evaluated by a vet and a trainer. As a pet owner its your responsibility to adequately care for your animal. Not to mention the HUGE liability on the owner's part if/when the dog bites somebody and what it does to the breeds reputation. Its better to shell out the cash for vet/training than a lawyer and medical bills. don't make excuses for why you can't take action to help. Its your responsibility.

Nov 10, 2011
All good advice
by: Anonymous

I'd also like to point out that, if he is cleared by the vet medically, the next step is to consult a behaviorist that works with bully breeds. I'm not talking about a trainer, though. You want someone who understands dog behavior and can evaluate Diesel. Hopefully he was just scared and your not respecting his discomfort is what caused this to happen. If that's the case I hope you can work with him to get past this phase.

Do be prepared to do the responsible thing if needed though. Don't rehome him if you can't handle him. Our breed of choice has enough problems against them now and doesn't need another instance in the news of someone getting attacked. If he truly is unstable please have him PTS. An unstable dog is NOT a happy dog and nothing you can do will change that fact. Pit bulls are exceedingly human friendly. Any human aggression should NOT be tolerated at all.

Nov 10, 2011
thanks i GUESS
by: Anonymous

thank you gale and every one who had nice comments that helped... i put this post up for help not to be told im basically dumb and cant train my own dog. i have people ask me all the time how he is trained so well and how he obeys the basic commands so well. he doesn't get beat we crate trained him. he snipped at me so i gave him a little smack on his nose. and sooooo sorry i made the title to the post related to my question next time ill make it pit bull loves captain crunch or something stupid and unrelated to my question. i never said i wasn't going to bring him to the vet i said i couldn't afford training for my already very well trained dog. so maby you should have read the question i didn't ask to be criticized and told im a bad dog owner. im not getting rid of my dog even if he were to bite again witch i highly doubt i love this dog i was just saying how my girl friend is very worried about our dog. i do plan on bringing him to the vet at THE VERY LEAST THANK YOU.i care about this dog he is our second pit bull and my 4th dog and i trained all them my self and none of them run away or are on the news for biteing people. whoever posted the is he fixed post thanks for nothing you can be rude to someone else you don't know.im guessing daddy beat you on your nose and that's why you are so aggressive.i treat this dog like my own child and if i didn't care about him i wouldn't have spent an hour last night looking for this website and another half hour asking my question and i wouldn't have read all your comments word for word. so thank you but if your going to be rude i don't want your help i needed help with my dog not someone to criticize me so dont waste my time if you wanna be rude

Nov 10, 2011
Vet him NOW
by: Anonymous

When my dog was young..about 2 or so, she was subjected to a difficult transition with the family of moving and getting a new job. I had two kids 9 and 14.
She was definitely stressed with all the new changes, but we gave her extra leash time and taught her difficult tricks to keep her distracted..like balancing soda cans on her nose and "bang" which is pointing your finger at her and saying the word..she lays down, looks at you and drops her head..ha ha. I know sounds silly, but it forced her to have a little fun, even when she wanted to eat the fence.
One thing she did on her own at the new place was 'fetch rocks'..little did we know is that in spite of her being a powerful breed who could easily carry bricks and heavy rocks around in her mouth, teeth are just teeth. She had cracked one..and as the discomfort grew, she started avoiding our hands around her head. Can't have that around kids..they don't think at those ages.
We didn't hit her, so it wasn't like hand shy avoidance..the kids' dad, brilliant dog lover that he is had a suspicion she was in pain and took her in...and they discovered the tooth.
They pulled it and voila, she was back to her gentle self..she tells us when she's in pain or discomfort..we just have to listen.

Nov 10, 2011
My experience with holding them around the neck!
by: Anonymous

I raised two Rottweilers from pups along with my boyfriend. Gypsy, the female loved Greg my boyfriend. One thing she did not like was holding her head or cuddling around her neck and head. I told him that and he stopped doing it. She would growl, never nipped, but growled and I knew it wasa sign of being held down by my boyfriend or worse and she took it as an aggressive move.

Once he stopped holding her head or putting his face up next to hers, she never growled about anything again. It was evident that hold around her neck and face to her was someone trying to either hurt or control her and she didn't want any part of it.

Gypsy lived to 11.5 years and Rocky the mail lived 10.5 years in our home and they never bit anyone.

I think you slapped your dog's nose as a reflex, but I didn't see you being physically abuse although I told my boyfriend from day one to never lay a hand or anything else on these dogs or my rescue Pits because they see the hand as a weapon and will definitely rebel.

Others here have given some good advice, just wanted to add the part about some dogs not wanting to be held around the neck or close to their face.

Good luck, many others with more experience than I have given you a direction to follow to see if you can solve this dilemma.

Nov 10, 2011
Hitting the dog?
by: Anonymous

Oh great, another idiot who shouldn't have a Pitbull. When is this going to end up a bad news story about how the Pitbull attacked its owner, once again making the breed look bad due to stupid owners who don't know a thing about dogs.

I hate when people don't take a dog growling seriously enough to give it some space. Then they cry when they end up getting bitten.

Is this going to end up in a news story about the Pitbull suddenly "snapping" and turning on its owner?

Nov 10, 2011
Good Points
by: Gabrielle Vachon

As already mentioned, it sounds likely that there is a medical problem at play here, and the growling is him voicing his discomfort with being touched.

Neutering can be a factor as well. Although more so for the dog aggression.

Just understand that there are two aspects to dog training, commands and behavior. Even the best trained dogs will break a command if they are fearful enough. Even the best trained dogs can be aggressive. Looking at different training options does NOT mean you don't know how to train a dog.

Until you get to the bottom of the issue and rectify it, keep a close eye on him. If he felt the need to bite you, he might have a lower tolerance to a stranger.

I know I'm just repeating what has been said, I just want to say that they're all good points, even if they came accross as rude.

Gabrielle-AHT

Apr 12, 2012
good dog went bad
by: wendy

Hi I have a pit bull his name is ghost. One summer I left to go visit my sick mom in laketaho I was gone for a week he was with my husband he is more of my husband s bog I got a female she is fixed he's not but any ways , i come home he start s graling at me. He never did that. Both dogs sleep in the bed . When I go to work try to hug him he starts graling, if I move him some times he grals. He one time I went to say give me a kiss he starts to do it and he is almost 4 . I didn't do any thing for him to start that they are spoyold they get treat s and all that. I don't know what I did.
.

Apr 13, 2012
@Wendy
by: Gale

I have left a comment for you on Ghost's page.

Apr 13, 2012
Good advice
by: Kathy

Like you, I was desperate to find answers when I opted to foster a shelter pit bull with fear issues. She wasn't aggressive, but the shelter wanted to euthanize her because "she could become aggressive." I was determined to find out everything I could about the breed and this is how I landed on this wonderful site. Gale knows her stuff and I would urge you to ignore the negativity and focus on the positive information you've received here. I pray for Diesel that this is nothing more than a manageable, minor health issue and that he'll be back to his loveable self in no time.

Maybe I missed it, but did you say whether Diesel was neutered? I don't know enough to say whether this would be a contributing factor, but I do wonder why it is that so many pit bull owners refuse to neuter their dogs. This is more of a general question and not meant to be accusatory at all. Perhaps Gale can comment on this.

Good luck to you and your family!

Apr 14, 2012
Benefits of Neutering
by: Gale

There are lots of good reasons to neuter or spay your pet dog. Here's a pretty good list of the benefits of spaying and neutering.

Of course, the best reason is to prevent random litters that compound the overpopulation problem and lead to the unnecessary suffering and death of domestic dogs.

A dog Diesel's age should be neutered, in my opinion, for general purposes. Whether it would have any real influence on his disposition at this point, is impossible to say. Results vary from dog to dog. My impression of Diesel's case is that this is more about the dog/owner relationship than it is about hormones.

Neutering has the most impact on a dog's personality when it is done BEFORE a dog reaches puberty. For a dog that's already an adult, it's simply the responsible thing to do.


May 10, 2012
This could help but idk
by: Anonymous

I have a pit bull too. She is the sweetest dog ever. If you hit your dog he/she will become aggressive. The only reason dogs attack owners is if you hit them no matter what. It's good to just give him/her lots of attention too. I am not sure what's wrong or if he/she feels threatened maybe. Hope this helps a little sorry if it doesn't.

May 20, 2014
I wouldn't take any chances. NEW
by: John

I don't care what anybody says. If a dog can't be controlled by its owner, then it's time to put the dog down. People are more important than any dog. I don't mean to sound insensitive, but people and especially children can get seriously hurt or killed. Dogs aren't human and shouldn't be approached or treated as such. I wouldn't take any chances

May 20, 2014
I wouldn't take any chances. NEW
by: John

I don't care what anybody says. If a dog can't be controlled by its owner, then it's time to put the dog down. People are more important than any dog. I don't mean to sound insensitive, but people and especially children can get seriously hurt or killed. Dogs aren't human and shouldn't be approached or treated as such. I wouldn't take any chances

May 20, 2014
I wouldn't take any chances. NEW
by: John

I don't care what anybody says. If a dog can't be controlled by its owner, then it's time to put the dog down. People are more important than any dog. I don't mean to sound insensitive, but people and especially children can get seriously hurt or killed. Dogs aren't human and shouldn't be approached or treated as such. I wouldn't take any chances

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