Q: We've had our 5-year-old Great Dane since he was a puppy. I took him through puppy class, obedience call, agility class, private instruction and to my office daily. At the age of three, he began to get protective of me, lunging and growling at other people. He stopped going to the office. Now, he's gotten worse, even lunging at a neighbor who put a hand over the fence, and he once jumped on a passerby. I'm very concerned and fear I may have to euthanize this dog. Any advice? -- D.M., Cyberspace
A: Please don't give up hope, says veterinary behaviorist Dr. Valarie Tynes, of Fort Worth, TX. Based on your description, you've done everything right: early socialization (assuming experiences were positive from the dog's perspective), lots of training (assuming no punishment-based training was involved), and even extending that socialization by taking your dog to the office -- an experience which should have been good for you, as well as your dog.
"Odds are, your dog has fear-based aggression," says Tynes, a contributor to "Decoding Your Dog," by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and myself, and due out in January (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, NY, 2014; $27). "There may actually be a genetic predisposition to explain the behavior. In other words, you've likely done nothing wrong."
Tynes adds, "Meanwhile, the dog began to lunge at other people, who, of course, backed off, and that reinforced the dog. Also, you may be inadvertently reinforcing by offering cues to the dog, expecting the worst and tightening up on that leash as someone approaches." The good news is, your dog has only lunged and not bitten anyone. Of course, you do need some expert hands-on help. Please contact a veterinary behaviorist.
©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services
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