Most of the time, Teddy was happy, funny and playful. His base breed is terrier, so we expected playful with a dash of temper. A few months after adopting him, the temper, shall we say, was turning to aggression. There was a change in his attitude. Teddy’s random angry outbursts were mostly during play.
“Operation Tranquil Teddy” was on. We went for broke and did everything we could to help this funny and loving dog fit peacefully into our family.
Clues to what triggered aggression:
- Sometimes he was explosive during play, even when he initiated it.
- Occasionally, he challenged the other dogs over bed-space (READ: comfort space)
- He had a few “bad teeth”. I wondered if when he “play bit” Bear, Teddy had sharp pains and thought Bear was hurting him. Perhaps in Teddy’s mind, he was defending himself.
Pieces that didn’t fit Teddy being labeled an aggressive dog:
- He was never food aggressive
- He shared being petted without jealousy
- He usually played “nice”
- He obviously liked his canine brothers and nurtured them by licking them when they were wet.
How did we reduce Teddy’s explosions? Here is the formula we used.
- I gave Teddy more special attention by petting him more at arbitrary times.
- I don’t often approach my dogs to pet them. I let them approach me. Prior to us adopting him, Teddy had been through at least 6 homes in his 2 years of life. I suspected he was insecure about relationships. Teddy loved the special attention.
- I corrected Teddy when he went into intimidation mode.
- Teddy is very willing to please, so when he started posturing or growling, I would say “aa” (as in cat) and stare at him. This is all it took for him to choose to do something else.
- I praised him when he chose something else.
- I praised him when he was friendly with Bear.
- Perhaps the most important change was I took Teddy to a doggie dentist.
- His teeth looked chipped.
- His gums were red in places
- He often had bad breath
- (NOTE: the photo is Teddy being silly asking for a treat.)
- It turns out his teeth weren’t chipped. He had hypoplasia. His tooth enamel was scarred from a developmental issue. We had adopted Teddy as a two-year-old dog and had no clue about his origin.
- His x-rays showed bone deterioration and two loose incisors. A canine tooth was badly scarred and was likely sensitive. A rear tooth was cracked.
- The dental vet:
- Pulled the loose teeth
- Bonded the places where the enamel was missing.
Although being a terrier, he will never be truly tranquil, we haven’t had an aggressive problem since.