Why did he suddenly snap with no (apparent) warning?

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Cleo38, Sep 8, 2010.


  1. Cleo38

    Cleo38 PetForums VIP

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    Toby is usually such laid back, placid boy but this morning he snapped at someone for no (apparent) reason.

    We were on our usual walk, turned a corner & a man who we have seen before was dragging his wheelie bin to the side of the road. It was dark(ish) but it's not as if he suddenly appeared.

    He stood & chatted to me, he is a bit odd but not scary & Toby was wagging his tail in a really friendly way (not low & slowly) & kept sniffing him. Then once he's sniffed him a couple of times, he suddenly growled & went to snap at him.

    It wasn't an attack or anything overtly aggressive but a short growl, ears back & a sort of small lunge followed by a snap.

    I made Toby sit down & then he growled again & barked at the man. I found myself apologising & usually the cliched old line 'he's never done that before' .... but he hasn't. He is usually such a friendly dog & wants a fuss from everyone.

    The only time he has ever been aggressive (ish) towads anyone was when a cyclist suddenly appeard from round a corner, it was really dark & I really jumped. Toby was instantly by my side & growled at the man but that was an understandable incident.

    In this case there was no sudden movement, no fear on my part, the man did not move to stroke Toby or act in anyway that would cause him to be scared/nervous/defensive/protective (as far as I could tell).

    As Toby is a reasonably large dog (Lab/GSD) so this is a worry as a bite could be serious. This may only be an isolated incident but I don't want to ignore it in case it happens again & I am confused why he reacted like this.

    Sorry for the long post & I know that unless you were there it's very hard to determine why this happened but any thoughts would be really appreciated.
     
  2. Bearpaw

    Bearpaw PetForums VIP

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    Hi,have Tobys ears and eyes been checked?
     
  3. Jess2308

    Jess2308 PetForums VIP

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    Maybe something the man was wearing (clothes/hat/glasses/aftershave), could have been wound up by the noise from the bin maybe? It sounds like he was warning the man off (by the growling) so obviously something had upset him.

    If you're concerned maybe get him checked up at the vet for anything that might be causing him pain or discomfort, and maybe get his thyroid checked??
     
  4. Cleo38

    Cleo38 PetForums VIP

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    Thanks. I think that you're both right & a trip to the vets will be in order as this is unusual behaviour so probably best to make sure there is nothing physical that may affecting him.

    I'm trying to remember all the details & I think that he probably was being protective of me to a degree as he positioned himself directly between me & the man. Usually he sits to my side.

    It's just that his behaviour appeared to be that of a friendly dog (which he really is!) & then suddenly changed after sniffing the man.

    I don't want to blow things out of proportion as it was a snap but I don't want to simply ignore it & assume it was a one off.
     
  5. Jess2308

    Jess2308 PetForums VIP

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    He may well have found something in the mans body language to be threatening.
     
  6. Bearpaw

    Bearpaw PetForums VIP

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    If you felt at all uneasy around the man,and you did say he was a bit odd,your dog will have picked up on this,like before,when you jumped when the cyclist came round the corner.It could be that the man looked him in the eye and Toby may have found this threatening.
    If you want him to be ok with the man,this could be worked on.You could ask the man to show no interest in the dog next time you see him,and reward him for being a calm good boy.
    It may be that you have to try and relax a bit more when out walking lol!
    But do get him checked out,it may be something physical,so best to rule it out.
     
  7. Cleo38

    Cleo38 PetForums VIP

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    I don't think it's my unease as I'm fine walking him, I'm not a nervous person at all - a bit too bolshy at time tbh!! :D

    When I say the man was odd I don't mean in a scary way - just a bit too friendly & wanting to talk too much (maybe Toby was fed up & wanted to get on with his walk! ;)).

    The past few times we've seen him it's almost as if he has waited for us to catch him up but I think in more of way that he just wants to talk to someone rather than bother them. Toby has always been fine with seeing him in the past - just not today.

    As I said, I don't want to make a big deal out of it but was just very suprised at his reaction & wanted to bear in mind if he was being protective if this is something that could escalate?

    Will book him in to the vets tomorrow just for a check up though.
     
  8. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    Hmmm, but that's not going to cause a warning distancing growl and air snap.

    I'm surprised nobody found the long sniffing significant, surely that was done due to interest, and that attitude changed after something was detected.

    Why couldn't your dog have picked up another dog's scent on him? You're probably not his only doggie-luving-lady-friend

    I had a dog growl at me at a pub for no apparent reason to dismay of owner (dogs normally like me) and I just think it was from play in the public dog park, leaving lots of scents on my jeans.
     
    #8 RobD-BCactive, Sep 8, 2010
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2010
  9. Cleo38

    Cleo38 PetForums VIP

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    He did sniff him more than he does most people, he's not really that fussed about sniffing unless there is food involved.

    He may have smelt another dog but has never shown aggression to any dogs either (unless they have done so first).

    I know this is very difficult to advise on as you just have my garbled posts to go on! I think it was strange seeing him neing so friendly intially then to snap.
     
  10. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    Odd... the dog's scent idea was just a plausible explanation.

    I just think he smelt something that he really did not like and as you're not saying the guy made any movements, but found the sniffing most important that scent has to be a prime suspect.

    I have heard of a border collie barking at a discolouration on owner's skin, enough to have her consult doctor; it was found to be an early stage operable cancer benefitting from urgent removal!

    All just speculation though, fun to toss ideas around.
     
    #10 RobD-BCactive, Sep 8, 2010
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2010
  11. Cleo38

    Cleo38 PetForums VIP

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    I agree, I do think the sniffing was significant, more so the more I think about it.

    I think although it worried me that he reacted like this it also made me concerned that I was not able to read his body language quite as well as I thought (maybe someone with more experience could have seen any of the more subtle changes).

    I don't suppose I'll truly know why but it makes me more aware of how his reactions can change.
     
  12. tiddlypup

    tiddlypup PetForums VIP

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    trust your dog,an old trainer used to always say that,dogs can sense things we dont
     
  13. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    But things change, as one body language film put it, the dogs can be relaxed one minute, then a few seconds one ear goes up, and the situation is different. He wasn't smelling nothing to be so interested.
     
  14. Cleo38

    Cleo38 PetForums VIP

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    I'm not sure if it's related but last night Toby was limping a bit - seemed fine this morning though. When we had a check of him we found a lump on his shoulder.

    Luckily he was booked in at the vets for a check up so has some anti inflammatories & has to go back next week for the lump to be tested :(

    Poor Toby, he's not allowed any long walks for a whole week!

    Just hope that the lump is nothing serious ..... :frown:
     
  15. Bearpaw

    Bearpaw PetForums VIP

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    Oh bless him,That could have contributed,i hope he is feeling better soon.xx
     
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