View Full Version : Aggresive Youngster

Alpaca Girl
18th January 2011, 10:00 PM
Hi, I am really new to this so please bear with me. I have a year old Cavie called Archie who is becoming very aggresive. I adore Cavaliers as we all do as their nature, charactors and temperaments enchant us sooo much. I went on an Endurance ride last March and came back with an 8 week old Cavie pup. He was very cute, sole survivor of a litter of 6, whose Mum rejected him at birth and therefore he was hand reared. I couldn't say No when he was thrust into my arms so home he came. That night I also found a large unbiliacal hernia which the breeded 'forgot' to tell me. Anyway, a few weeks ago he started growling when he was being stroked by my husband, then if you picked him up. His growling became quite challenging and started increasing. Archie is also extremely possessive. Sometimes you would just look at him and he would growl. He hardly greets you sometimes, when I come down in the morning he can choose not to greet me. He growls at us both . I have never known anything like it. I have another Cavalier Mia and also a German Shepherd Sebastian.I have had Cavies in the past and they are such lovable affectionate dogs which makes it so hard with Archie. Anyway, I have had him castrated, his hernia repaired, checked over physically and he is fine. So now I am trying to go back to basics, he isn't allowed to go on the furniture, play with his toys, sleep on the couch unless we give him permission to do so. He tries to get on the settee or our knees but we won't allow him to. Its so heartbreaking but we just have to try. Has anyone else been through this problem. I am aware at Archies age his hormones are rife but he is a Cavalier for goodness sake, . I was wondering whether anyone else out there has had similar problems. I feel so sad, frustrated as poor little mite must also feel confused and not be a happy bunny. He is not aggresive all the time. Please help and advise. xxxxx

18th January 2011, 11:15 PM
Hi and welcome. :) So sorry you are having such difficulties! I can imagine how upsetting this is.

First off I would stop the 'rank reduction' approach of not allowing him up on anything etc -- this actually can add to his existing problems and is based on now very controversial and much-challenged, old notions of how dogs think and behave. For many dogs depriving them of everything just reinforces that they have every reason to guard.

I don;t think your are facing an easy solution and maybe some difficult broader issues. If he were my dog (and this is what I would do if he were a rescue tht cam into my cavalier rescue) I would have him professonally temperament tested (always the first stop for a growling, unhappy dog) and have him see a neurologist. Your description to me sounds strongly like a dog with a congenital temperament problem (which means you could face a lifetime of management issues and possibly a more severe problem), or potentially something caused by a neurological problem, potentially syringomyelia, as this is a frequent description of the kind of behaviour dogs in pain from SM (which may not be picked up on by a vet as it is neurological pain) behave. I would not allow him anywhere near children.

It could be behavioural and would have developed over time, if not addressed early on -- eg by rewards based training to teach him to swap one item for another, to allow handling, etc. It seems likely he could have been very poorly socialised while being hand reared as well -- puppies badly need other dogs and lots of social interaction, not just a human hand-rearing. So this would complicate things.

I would start by looking for a CPDT trainer who knows how to temperament test and also consider a referral to a neurologist to discuss his behaviour and make sure the neurologist knows about syringomyelia in cavaliers, as there's a very high incidence in the breed.

If it seems to be a behaviour issue you really need professional guidance again -- please, from someone with APDT or better CPDT qualifications as they won't put you down the road of demoting the dog and potentially escalating the problem further. There's a very good book on guarding issues as well if I can find it. But really I think this sounds worryingly like much more than resource guarding as a behavour issue and needs full exploration, as you are right -- it is so much against a cavalier's nature and raises alarm bells. :(

Umbilical hernias are very common in the breed and not generally a big deal -- they typically resolve themselves by the time a dog is neutering age and if not it is a minor extra operation for most.

19th January 2011, 02:59 AM
Definitely talk to a trainer.

But also, why not think about neutering him?

19th January 2011, 10:32 AM
I know a Cavalier who was very aggressive, if anyone approached her she growled. Eventually it was found she was unwell and in pain, this was the reason behind her aggression. Now she is on pain killers she is a different dog.

I am not saying Archie is in pain but it might be worth checking it out.

19th January 2011, 10:42 AM
So sorry to hear you are having these difficulties, so hard with what should be a very loving, affectionate breed. Thank you for adopting Archie - it's very unusual for 5 puppies to die and Mum to reject this one...they usually one do that if they know something is wrong.

I agree with Tania and Karlin, I think that sadly you need to rule out Syringomyelia first and foremost, I see he has been vet checked but a vet not experienced with the condition might not pick up the signs. Ideally you need to see a neurologist - is he insured?

You also need to involve a trainer using reward based methods, otherwise it is just going to make things worse :(

Please keep us posted and we do hope that things can be greatly improved.

Soushiruiuma, he has already been castrated

19th January 2011, 01:40 PM
I wonder if the breeder was on the "up and up" if she "forgot to mention" the umbilical hernia, I wonder what else she forgot to tell you!

I would contact a trainer and bring him to the vets, like the other Ladies suggested!

Good luck and keep us posted on Archie's progress!

19th January 2011, 05:27 PM
And have his thyroid checked- low thyroid can cause aggression in dogs. Here's an article (I just skimmed it, but it sounds about right) about some medical causes of aggression, starting with hypothyroidism in dogs. Here's an exerpt:

"Somewhere between "normal" and hypothyroid are dogs whose thyroid hormone levels are lower than necessary for optimal function but whose levels are still technically within the normal range. In this situation, only one or two of the clinical signs of hypothyroidism may be present, and even so, their extent may only be subtle. This situation can be referred to as "sub-clinical" or "sub-threshold" hypothyroidism (i.e. below the threshold for a definitive diagnosis).

For example, a 2-year-old golden retriever that is shedding excessively and showing aggression may have thyroid hormone levels in the 25th percentile in the normal range. A healthy, active dog of this age should have her thyroid hormone levels between the 50th to 100th percentile of the normal range for optimal well being. If thyroid hormone levels are elevated to the optimum end of the range by giving synthetic thyroid hormone, dramatic improvements in the dog's physical status, mood, and behavior can result.

Sub-clinical hypothyroidism is diagnosed with a number of other factors in mind such as:

~The breed of the dog (e.g. golden retrievers and shelties).

~Various physical subtle signs of hypothyroidism (e.g. excess shedding, bald spots, susceptibility to infections, allergies, irregular heat periods in intact bitches, a tendency to gain weight).

~Anxious or aggressive behavior that does not conform precisely to any of the usual aggressive patterns or is excessive for the circumstances in which it occurs.

~Borderline low thyroid hormone levels

~Positive behavioral response to treatment with synthetic thyroid hormone. This may be rapid (5 days) or slow (up to 4 weeks).

For dogs that are being treated with synthetic thyroid hormone, close monitoring of thyroid levels is very important. Blood samples should be taken 4-6 weeks after initiating or adjusting the dose, and should be taken 4-6 hours after the dog is pilled. The goal is to elevate thyroid levels to the upper end of the normal range."


19th January 2011, 05:30 PM
Oh, and I don't know what the norm is, but our boxer's hypothyroidism showed up when she was about a year old, and her symptoms were 2 nighttime seizures and thinning hair on her back. So the symptoms (or the number of symptoms) can vary greatly. I hope you find an "easy" solution. <3

Alpaca Girl
19th January 2011, 09:48 PM
Thankyou all so much for your advice. I asked for his thyroid to be checked but the vet wouldn't do it as she said he is showing no symptoms . When Archie meets friends and the vets, anyone really , he is absolutely adorable, just like a Cavie should be. I will refer to a Neurologist and a behaviourist.I get so confused as what I ought to be doing/treating him but I will seek professional help.
It just really upsets me and his behaviour has only started changing the last few weeks !!!!!
Thank you all again,
Alpaca Girl

20th January 2011, 02:44 AM
It's your money and the vet works for you. If you want your dog tested for something with a simple blood test, they should do it. If they refuse, I would get a second opinion. Behavioral changes, especially an onset of "bad mood"/aggression IS a symptom. Your vet sending you off to be paying for a neurologist and a behavoirist (around here, they are expensive!) before ruling out the simple, relatively inexpensive things (sometimes there are surprises!) makes no sense. A good behaviorist should be asking if all the health related possiblities have been tested for, and shoot, why not just do it? Especially since it is a new issue, not an ongoing one. IMHO, of course ;) . It would be sad to have gone through all the behavioral training (which won't work if it's a health issue), etc. to find out that all he needed was one little pill tucked in a treat a day.

Sorry, I deal with a lot of doctors for myself, and it grates me how many times I've said "what about this?" and they have ignored me, only for me to have been proven right down the road. :p

Alpaca Girl
21st January 2011, 08:16 PM
Thanks Furrfoot, you are right, I shall ask the vet again, Archie isn't insured and we are looking at hundreds of pounds for a neurologist andf perhaps two hundred for a behaviourist.


22nd January 2011, 12:26 AM
Sorry Furrfoot but I really disagree that being 'sent off' to the neurologist or a behaviourist is a waste of money. We have very different perspectives! A temperament test by a behaviourist costs me all of 30 euro -- about $40 -- and will at least be a good indicator if the dog is reacting due to being hardwired that way (a serious issue) or due to pain reactions etc. Temp tests reveal a lot of useful information in this type of dog and have helped me make decisions about what to do next. If temperament seems fine and working with ome positive training methods doesn;t address this, THEN, given that a vet had checked for numerous thing already, and these are exactly the symptoms written about recently when dog owners and breeders were asked about signs of aggression in their dogs affected with syringomyelia, and that SM affects at least 50% of cavaliers it has to figure as a real possibility for such behaviour in a breed known not to act this way especially if reactions come and go. A clinical visit to a neurologist does not tend to be hugely costly. Indeed in comparison to numerous vet visits and tests, etc a single trip to a neurologist is going to cost far less. Neurological problems are very high on the list for ANY breed that is showing aggression and cavaliers have a high rate of two of the neurological problems that can be associated with aggression: epilepsy and SM. This would therefore make a neurologist the next place I'd go if a vet is not turning anything up AND working with a trainer does not help. Actually the same article you posted, lists neurological problems as a common cause of aggression issues. I'd guess this could be behaviour and training... but the wariness, desire to be left alone etc would make me wonder.

There is a standard approach my certified trainer friends recommend for dealing with aggression cases. The first is to have a basic vet exam. The second is to temperament test. The third is to consider breed related conditions a specialist may be needed to pick up. That is good practice.

By all means get a thyroid panel done, but if a vet isn't seeing anything that would suggest to her professional eye that this is likely to be a problem, surely she is doing right in not trying to waste a client's money :) ... my vets tend to also be conservative and won't test for something they really cannot imagine being an issue. But absolutely fair enough to suggest someone go and insist, it isn;t that costly to check. :thmbsup:

I also do like to get a second opinion if one vet isn't turning up any possibilities so it is always worth having a second set of eyes consider the issue. I would just make sure the vet understands something about SM.

22nd January 2011, 03:04 AM
I certainly did NOT mean to imply that the behaviorist and the neurologist were a waste of money as specialists, only that not checking something as simple as the thyroid levels BEFORE going on to a neurologist and a behaviorist when a dog has a sudden change of temperment, especially when the owner requests it, didn't make any sense to me. A dog can have borderline low thyroid, and have symptoms, and can have any range of symptoms, from one to all of them. By all means, if the thyroid test and the other medical tests that her regular vet can do rather inexpensively are ruled out as reasons, then she should go to the specialists.

And when I said expensive, yes, an initial temperment test isn't that expensive, but seeing a behaviorist on a regular, continuing basis (here it is $45 for 30 minutes) can get expensive, and if her vet hasn't ruled out something as simple as a thyroid issue, then it could be a waste of money for the most part. If it's necessary, then yep, off to the specialist it is. I took my boxer to the cardiologist to the tune of $500+ a year, and then added one of our cats to the trip (gah). If, when she (our boxer) had the seizures, but no other strong symptoms of hypothyroidism but a bit of thinning fur (and she was fairly new in from the pound), and my vet had sent me straight to the neurologist, that would have been a waste of money, and put my dog through tests she didn't need. I think that if you would please reread my post, I only said it would be a waste IF the vet hadn't ruled out something as simple as thyroid first, especially considering that this is a new behavior, and the dog's age. We are not in disagreement about the value of specialists ;) .