Sweet Dog Suddenly Gets Aggressive Towards Owners
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.
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.