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Monday, 14 February 2011

Helping my dog's nervous aggression

We have had a rescued German Shepherd bitch for four years, who is now about nine years old. Since she came to us we have seen two behaviourists as she suffers from nervous aggression towards other dogs and also people if they approach too closely or try to touch her.
We have followed a program produced for us over the years, including once-a-week sessions with a vet-recommended dog trainer, on a one-to-one basis where we worked in a large paddock with different dogs, all on leads and walking at a distance that our dog can cope with without reacting.
For the past year we have been unable to improve her any further than that. We enquired whether any calming drug would help, but the most highly qualified behaviourist, who is also a qualified vet, did not think it would be a good idea. I believe the reason was that if she became too relaxed and over confident, she would maybe loose her "bite control" or "inhibition"? (She has never bitten, but has air snapped as a warning.) With us though, she has never shown a single act of any aggression whatsoever and is a perfect pet.
We are hoping that you would give us your opinion on whether any natural product could possibly help her. I know Dorwest Herbs sell calming products for fireworks etc and have seen advertised a product called Zylkene, but have no idea if anything would make any difference and we certainly don't want to risk making her any worse, as we have got to a stage where she is manageable. It's simply a case of it being a bit difficult to admit to ourselves that there is no more hope of any improvement.
Thank you if you have time to reply.
Bronwen and Keith Gould, by email


  1. I originally developed Burns food as a means of managing physical health problems but have had a lot of success in dogs with a variety of mental and behavioural problems also.
    This is what one might expect with a "holistic" approach which treats the individual both physically and psychologically. Another way of looking at this is that there may an unrecognised problem with food intolerance/allergy.
    We at Burns Pet Nutrition have a number of foods which are suitable for a dog of this age and are worth trying. Bear in mind that you may have to try more than one variety but our nutrition team will be able to advise.
    John Burns BVMS MRCVS
    Burns Pet Nutrition

  2. I have had a lot of sucess in cases like this by just walking quietly with one dog and using parrallel walkingin a quiet area.
    If you can find someone with a very quiet, calm dog who has good canine communication it will take the stress out of the situation. Classes like the one you are attending with your dog can sometimes do more harm than good or at the very best lead you to a point where no more progress is possible.
    Parrallel walking with a quiet dog will take the stress away and allow you both to relax. Often in these kind of cases where other dogs are present the anxious dog will only become more stressed and it is worth avoiding drugs as they are never going to solve your dogs intense anxiety around other canines.
    It may worth also be trying a therapy like canine Bowen but it is best if you do the Bowen and walking sessions at different times otherwise your dog will have too many things to think about all at once.
    PS you may want to try Bowen too, these kind of problems take a toll on us too!

  3. I am afraid you should just accept your dog has very weak nerves and a poor temperament. You have been trying to improve the situation, but there is no way to completely control the "environment" outside your home, and even if your are very vigilant all the time you just can not control other people's behaviour (getting too close to your dog, touching it, etc.).

    The only way to insure your dog will not bite someone is to put a muzzle on her. It is not that dramatic for the dog and it will give you peace of mind.