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Avatar universal

Is it sepration anxiety or something worse?

So, I live with my boyfriend and his family. His sister, has this dog (Boomer) who is about five years old and is a mix. Over the course of the past few years, he's become more and more aggressive when people are trying to leave the house. It doesn't matter who's trying to leave, he'll go crazy. When it first started happening Boomer would just whine and whatnot, but as time went on, he became more aggressive with it.

Growling, barking, trying to jump on you and even trying to bite you. He's grabbed a hold of my arm once, but thankfully I was wearing a coat and he didn't get through it. He's grabbed on to the back of pant legs in an attempt to pull people back from the door. Recently, my boyfriends mother was trying to go to bed (her bedroom is basically right next to the door to go out) and he went nuts. He had her pinned against the kitchen table and would not let her move. When she did, he bit onto her shirt and managed to tear two big holes into it. He's broken skin on my boyfriends father once while he was trying to leave. It wasn't anything deep, but there was a small bit of blood from it.

At first his parents didn't really think much of any of this, but within the past few months it's gotten so much worse and they've finally realized that something is wrong. Now whenever someone walks past the door he gets anxious and goes to bark or jump on you.

They've tried locking him in a bedroom when someone leaves and having someone let him out shortly after they managed to leave, but then he completely destroys the bedroom. They've tried having someone simply hold him back, but he takes out his anger on them, instead. They've tried distracting him with snacks and food, but he just doesn't care about that stuff at the moment. And simple, sit and stay commands are pointless when he's like that, because he basically shuts you out and refuses to listen to anything, or anyone.

Now, they have taken him to the vet before, and they just said that it's separation anxiety and there's nothing they can do. They didn't even suggest anything that might help people get out the door safely. The stupid thing is, Boomer is literally NEVER alone in this house. There's always at least one person home, but he still acts like the people leaving are never going to return.

And another thing, Boomer seems rarely happy despite the fact that he gets a ton of attention, walks, playtime, treats and love. Basically, 80% of the time he just looks... Well, depressed. He walks around with his head low and he's not wagging his tail. He literally looks like he hates life, even though he has an amazing home. Granted, this could just be his weird personality, but there are times where he does look happy. His eyes are big and bright, his tail is wagging and his head is held high and he just looks so much happier.

Between the sudden aggression when leaving and his always looking and acting depressed, I think there's more to this than just anxiety, but no one really listens to me. I could be wrong of course, but I can't shake this feeling that it could be something else.

The one thing that worries me the most is that I'm pregnant and within a few months, there's going to be a baby in the house. I'm already terrified to leave as is, but I'm even more scared to think of what he's going to do when I'm holding an infant in my arms and trying to leave.

We're at our wits end with this dog. Personally, as much as I love animals, I wouldn't be sad to see him be re homed, but I know that chances are, he's going to start doing that to another family and I don't want that. Plus, his parents love Boomer. He's a decent dog, as long as you don't try to leave.

So, hopefully my long story didn't scare anyone away and hopefully there's someone out there who went through something similar with their pet or can point us in some sort of direction to seek help. We don't know what to do anymore.

Please help.
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974371 tn?1424653129
Well, definitely aggression whether from anxiety or not.  If this has progressively gotten worse over the past few years, something is definitely going on and very hard to tell without seeing it.  I assume the dog has had regular check ups?  First off, if it hasn't been done, I would have the Thyroid checked.
Agree with Tony, might help to have more information but unless people are "dog" savvy and work together, it would be hard to control the behavior.  Have they tried leash ing him when others visit? Once they get in that mind set, it is hard to get them to refocus.  Have they consulted a good animal trainer or behaviorist?
I am not one to advocate rehoming a dog but you say you are expecting a baby.  This concerns me, a lot.  Add to that he does feel your tension.  Is the dog food aggressive?  
I have had dogs for many years and had 3 kids.  No way would I keep a dog showing signs of aggression around small children.  
Many may disagree, but rehoming the dog or moving to a place if your own may have to be considered.  Unfortunately, the parents may not agree.
You might do some online research on dog aggression and even look up some of Cesar Milan's methods and videos. But again, most of these are posted by trainers.
Good luck and please update.
Helpful - 0
1916673 tn?1420233270
Hi. YES, this IS separation anxiety. Although to you (and others) this would appear to be aggression and indeed, it can be considered to be so when the dog is actually biting at you ... in fact, it is pure fear, stress and panic he is displaying. The holding on to you and others, particularly the biting and pulling at feet and trousers bottoms, is his way of trying to get you to stay. In his mind, he is protecting you, because his fear is that something will happen to you while you are out of the house.

This is a very difficult behaviour to cure - but it CAN be done. The biggest concern is that work needs to be consistent (done by everyone) and it needs to be done now, otherwise the aggression could take another turn for the worse.

He is centering on one or two people as the dominant "pack leaders". The first task is to find out who these dominant people are, because they are the ones that will need to lead the behavioural program with him. Anyone that is fearful of him needs to be aware of certain things - particularly the fact they should not act in any way aggressive themselves (and this includes raising their voice), because that alone could trigger a much more aggressive response from the dog.

This isn't just anxiety, but fear of the unknown. To help, please let me know the dog's daily routine. How often does he get taken out for a walk? Who takes him? Who stays in the house with him the most? Where does he sleep? Is he allowed on furniture (sofas, chairs, etc.)? Who feeds him? What and when does he get fed?

That's enough for now. Please do get back and let me have full and detailed answers. Thanks

Tony
Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
My rescued beagle has signs of separation anxiety, but has NEVER gotten aggressive.  The trick to 'curing' SA is to desensitize the dog. (http://www.cesarsway.com/tips/dogtraining/Dealing-with-Separation-Anxiety-by-Martin-Deeley) Is this dog crated when no one is home?  It's a terrible idea to leave the dog uncrated because most will destroy anything around!  Maybe when someone is leaving, put the dog in the crate and then once he settles down, take him out.  Don't make a big fuss.  Just let him out and go about your business.  If he tries lunging at the crate door, shut him back in... do this until he can settle himself down.  

I have never heard of aggression being a symptom of SA though.  Have you tried obedience classes?  
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