Why is my dog suddenly defensive?

asked 2020-08-10 09:11:55 -0500

I've had my dog Zoe for about 3 years now since she was 6 months. She's a boxer-lab mix. She is incredibly social with other dogs and people and have never had problems with her and other dogs. I go to dog parks where there's hundreds of dogs, I take her for walks on the crowded beach where other people are walking dogs too, all without incident. I could trust her with everyone and around anything. We moved into a apartment building about 2 months ago, a first for both of us. At the building they have their own "dog park" which is just a small fenced in area people bring their dogs to go to the bathroom and socialize with other dogs. A few days ago I got back from work and did our usual routine of going to the bathroom at the park with all the regulars that at the same time. One woman has a small poodle who we have hung around with dozens of time. The little poodle is known to jump and nip at dogs faces when they get too close. My dog would just walk away when this would happen and just go play with the others. She would just act like she wouldn't care. But this day, the dog did the usual nip to her face when she went to say hello, the usual, but this time she just went crazy like I've never seen before and straight up just tried to attack the little thing to the point I had to tackle her. I have never witnessed this before from her. She has never defended herself even when big dogs are aggressive, usually she just walks away, but not this time. Anyways, the woman made a scene and I just went back to my apartment in shock at what I just witnessed. I was hoping it was just a one off event, even went to the real big dog park we always go to and played with all the dogs with no problems. but the very next day, the same routine, I go to bring her to the bathroom and there's two dogs her size there good for her to play with. They're all sniffing eachother, greeting as usual, and one of the dogs gives a small "you're a little too close" growl and my dog completely loses it again and I embarassingly leash her up, apologies and go back to my apartment, scared about bring her anywhere and possibly being known as the guy with the crazy aggressive dog. But she's not agressive, In 3 years of owning her, she's never fought with another dog, had been around thousands of dogs of different sizes and breeds but these last two days it's like something switch in her and this isn't the dog I fell in love with and I'm scared of what's going on. If anyone has any assumptions or things for me to look out for or anything, I'll take ... (more)

edit edit tags flag offensive close merge delete

4 Answers

Sort by » oldest newest most voted
answered 2020-10-28 10:35:44 -0500

Thanks! Very useful!

edit flag offensive delete link more
answered 2020-09-14 21:15:42 -0500

Well one you said you moved to apartment building. Not sure where you lived before, but any kind of move is extremely stressful for a dog. Their entire world got flipped upside down and destroyed, never to be seen again. Especially if you live in quieter/bigger place before......that can be quite a shock. I walk an Aussie that lives in an apt, and he is always on edge and high strung when I pick him up. I take him over to my house with yard and he immediately relaxes but still takes a moment to "detox". He just is very sensitive to the sounds at the apt where he lives. I easily hear all the noises when we walk down hallway and I can only imagine how amplified it is for dog's with their sharp hearing. Plus they're trapped and stuck with all the commotion and strange smells while you get to "escape" to work for 8+ hours.

I would also recommend more brain games or canine enrichment. There's a Facebook group you can join or can google for suggestions. If a dog is frustrated or anxious that can manifest in negative behavior. It's important to tire out the mind just as the body. An easy option is to get Kong with mix of kibble and water (or peanut butter), freeze and let them work on that when you leave. It doesn't have to be fancy stuff, just something that makes them think or work.

I can't advise you on the dog park situation because in 20+ years of caring for dogs, I never recommend going to the dog park. There's SO much potential of everything going wrong, especially in a small park where everyone is all crowded up? Definitely not. I would venture to say, right now it's too much pressure to go to small enclosed area with unfamiliar dogs. However as time goes by and your pup relaxes and gets more comfortable, maaaaaybe try again. I would test at bigger park though and not at the same place he keeps having negative experiences. And definitely if there is a bratty dog there, leave. Obviously you can always try a professional trainer, but realistically moving to an apt is probably the culprit.

Good Luck!

edit flag offensive delete link more
answered 2020-09-30 04:55:34 -0500

Hey Austin,

Boxer/Lab mixes are such fun dogs to own. Lab intelligence and Boxer antics! :)

I couldn't help but make the distinction of this happening in what you described as a "small fenced in area" but yet when you take her out on walks or to the larger dog park, everything seems fine.

While I can't explain why it didn't happen earlier, I can see where the small area with other dogs, so many smells, and people with differing mindsets and stress levels (dogs pick all of that up!) all in a small area is kind of custom-made for unexpected behavior. Think of everything Zoe is processing.

I agree with Serina's comment about dog parks. I tend to think of them as accidents (lawsuits?) waiting to happen. I've been rescuing dogs for 20+ years and although I find dog parks an interesting and useful social setting for dogs, there's generally just too much chance for accidents to happen. I have a hard time relaxing and I know the dogs pick up on that. If you have others in a small area with perhaps that same mindset, the dogs will pick up on that.

I'm curious Austin - you wrote this about two months ago. How are things going now? How's Zoe?

edit flag offensive delete link more
answered 2020-10-21 03:32:12 -0500

As a pet owner, I believe there’s a motivation behind every behavior of a pet, especially dogs. Oftentimes their defensive behavior is caused by fear or anxiety. The first thing to do is try to calm them, through training and compassion. However, if your dog’s defensive behavior seems unusual and uncalled, I’ll suggest you take them to the vet. For starters, it’s better to connect with a vet on call, there are few portals you can check out to see which vets are near you - https://www.greatvet.com/ (GreatVet), https://www.veterinarians.com/ (Veterinarians),etc. There might be some internal problems, so getting in touch with a vet will be the best option.

edit flag offensive delete link more

Your Answer

Please start posting anonymously - your entry will be published after you log in or create a new account. This space is reserved only for answers. If you would like to engage in a discussion, please instead post a comment under the question or an answer that you would like to discuss

Add Answer