Mexican Hairless dog aggression problems?
August 10, 2007 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Our 3.5 year old Mexican Hairless has started becoming aggressive and I need suggestions for dealing with it.

We have a 3.5 year old Mexican Hairless (named Kelsi) that we rescued from an awful woman on June 1 of this year. After we had her for two weeks, we found out she was pregnant (she's had two litters before this one). She gave birth to four puppies 6 weeks ago. In the past two weeks, she has started having some aggression problems. When we first got her 2.5 months ago, she did not have any aggression problems. I could take treats from her mouth without any resistance. My wife and I live with her parents, and she seemed to be scared of my father-in-law, but didn't show any aggression toward him. As her pregnancy progressed, she started growling and barking at my father-in-law and any strangers that would come into our "family room", where she and my wife spend 95% of our time. My wife is sick and stays home all day every day with Kelsi. After having puppies (the puppies stay in our family room all the time in a wire enclosure), the growling and barking is getting steadily worse. She won't growl at anyone if she is downstairs, away from the room with the puppies. If a stranger comes in our room, she will growl and bark as they approach the room, and stop usually 30-90 seconds after they come in. Then, she'll generally start wagging her tail and seem normal (except with my father-in-law).

Last weekend, my sister-in-law and her husband were visiting, and while she usually would be fine with them, she did not seem to want the husband in our room. She kept growling at him, and when he went to hug my wife, Kelsi "bit" him. It didn't hurt or break the skin or leave any mark. He said it didn't seem like she was trying to injure him, just let him know that she meant business.

Yesterday, she started growling at my mother-in-law (whom Kelsi normally adores). She has also started growling at me if I put my hand near her when she has a rawhide bone. This morning, my mother-in-law went in to feed the puppies and noticed that Kelsi was only half under her blanket, so she went to cover her up and Kelsi snapped at her. Again, it didn't seem to have the intent to harm.

I should mention that we do not tolerate any of this behavior and we tell her NO sternly and loudly. We have also tried "nipping" at her neck with our fingers at the same time. I'm very upset about this decline in her behavior. At first, I thought it was normal for her to act a little weird about strangers in the room because of the puppies, but this recent aggression toward my mother-in-law and towards me when she has a treat is very unacceptable.

Does anyone have any recommendations, or should I really be consulting a professional at this point? I'd rather not have to spend hundreds on a dog behavior specialist, but it's not acceptable to me to have a dog with aggression issues.


posted by flyingcowofdoom to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In my (limited) experience, it's not that unusual for an abused animal to take against men. But it's at least possible that you're mis-reading, and that she's in pain, and the pain's getting worse. I'd get her to a vet first and get a physical cause ruled out.
posted by Leon at 8:18 AM on August 10, 2007

All I can say is unfortunately this can be pretty common for mothers. They want to protect their pups. I would suggest locking her in another room, then moving the puppies to a quieter, more hidden area. Right now the situation is the equivalent of a new (human) mother's hospital room being used as a waiting room while she's trying to recover with her babies.

The fact that she was abused is probably making the aggression worse.
posted by Anonymous at 8:22 AM on August 10, 2007

Response by poster: I should point out that Kelsi will also growl and nip her puppies if they approach a bone she is chewing on. I'm not sure to what extent she was abused, but she was not aggressive at all until she had the puppies. I'm hoping that the aggression will fade when we have spayed her and the puppies are in their new homes. We were hoping to keep one or two of the puppies ourselves. When does the protective mothering instinct start to fade?

posted by flyingcowofdoom at 8:30 AM on August 10, 2007

Best answer: It is very likely that this is because of the puppies (hormones mess dogs up just like they mess people up), and because of the stress this dog has been through from the start of her pregnancy (being rehomed while pregnant, and having puppies in an unfamiliar place, then having strangers around, etc. is extremely stressful for a dog, especially one which may not have been well socialized early on and/or which has been mistreated).

I would not necessarily be using her stress about people being near her puppies as a training opportunity (you are probably not making her bonding to you easier by putting her under duress and then correcting her for reacting to it - some dogs have very strong protective instincts towards their puppies, although these should have been weaned by now, many dogs keep that mothering instinct for a very long time), rather I would simply just not be putting her under this kind of duress. Keep guests away from her/keep her away from guests while the puppies are in the house, work on remedial socialization after the puppies have gone.

Also, if I were you, I would not be keeping a puppy, and I would DEFINITELY not be keeping two puppies. Two puppies are three times the work of one if you raise them properly, they tend to bond to each other instead of people, and they can develop serious behavioural problems as a result. I think you have a lot on your plate already with Kelsi, who needs good training and structured remedial socialization from the sounds of it, and whose improvement may be hampered by a puppy in the house (which may make it harder for her to get over the pregnancy and the stress this has caused her). At very least, if you must keep a puppy, please keep only one.
posted by biscotti at 8:44 AM on August 10, 2007

Best answer: It's very normal for a whelping bitch to be aggressive. If she keeps it up when the puppies are gone, then worry about it. If you keep a puppy, she might never change her attitude-- it will diminish at least a bit, but some bitches keep a protective attitude towards their progeny as long as they're around (but you can often defeat this by separating them for a few weeks and reintroducing them.)

Oh, and spaying her will cut down a lot of potential aggression, too. So worry about it after she's spayed and the puppies are gone because she's acting very normal given the circumstances.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:45 AM on August 10, 2007

Best answer: I highly recommend checking with your vet and seeing if Kelsi's aggression could be connected to a health problem or if it's abnormal for a dog with pups.

If it's not a physical problem, there are a lot of good resources out there for dealing with aggressive dogs. My dog has been responding really well to the positive training techniques in these books:

How to Right a Dog Gone Wrong
How to be the Leader of the Pack
Feisty Fido

Before I adopted her, my girl had been somewhat neglected by humans and repeatedly attacked by larger dogs, "corrections" and negative punishment only made her worse. It really helped me to think about her aggression as a neurosis or phobia (possibly a result of the abuse). I have tendency to anthropomorphize pets, so once I realized her behavior was irrational and punishment only caused more anxiety (for both of us!), things started to improve.

Good luck!
posted by annaramma at 9:53 AM on August 10, 2007

Response by poster: How long should we wait to have her spayed? The puppies are weaned and haven't had any milk for two weeks.

posted by flyingcowofdoom at 9:54 AM on August 10, 2007

You should discuss when to spay her with your vet. Probably at least a month or so down the road, you want everything to come back to normal before you spay her.
posted by biscotti at 10:36 AM on August 10, 2007

Please get professional help... we adopted a beagle a year ago and let his aggression problems (towards other dogs, not people) go on for 4 months before finally trying some professional help and it turned our life around. The few hundred dollars for a consultation and training session has saved us thousands of dollars in grief. You can read more about our experience on my dog ownership blog...
posted by beaglor at 9:31 AM on September 12, 2007

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