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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Copper is 6.5 years old and an "only dog" to just my husband and me. We've had our boy since he was 8 weeks old, and he's always been so good with humans and other dogs. He's been particularly great with our infant- and toddler-aged nieces and nephews over the years. They can poke him and pull his ears and lift his skin--and the worst he does is eventually run away and come to me for sympathy and relief from their "torment." :) There's never been an aggressive bone in his body.

But we've noticed in the last few months that he has started doing "warning growls" at bedtime. He sleeps in the bed with my husband and me (not ideal, we know). We help him and his tiny legs up into bed, but then when we need him to move to the foot of the bed, he will sometimes growl and snap. We have learned not to mess with him at night once he is lying at the foot of the bed. I have been really bothered by this behavior--because I don't understand where it has come from--but he has never "done" anything...

...until today, when Copper bit my father. I was showering and didn't witness the incident, but this is what I was told: Copper was on the couch sort-of snoozing. My father knelt down to pet him on his snout, and Copper bit his hand. The gnash was deep; we debated taking my father to the hospital to receive stitches.

I don't know what to think or do. My father broke the old-wives-tale "rule" of letting sleeping dogs lie...but Copper BIT A FAMILY MEMBER whom he has known and loved for all his years. When I say to Copper, "Granddaddy's here!" he cannot contain his joy! My father (aka Granddaddy) has been gracious about the incident, but I cannot help but imagine if one of our nieces or nephews had been the victim.

My husband and I will call the vet on Monday and make an appointment. But in the meantime (and not knowing of any physical malady that might have caused a change in Copper's temperament), I'm hoping someone here might have advice for us.

Please help if you can. We love our boy, but this suddenly aggressive behavior is terrifying me.
 

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I think the very best you should do is have him examined by your vet because I'd suggest he may have some medical problem going on = he's hurting. I'd hate to guess what this might be but be aware, I once heard of an owner with an older hound who changed. He climbed onto the table after food, which he'd never done before. Turned out very sadly, that he'd developed a brain tumour.

Meanwhile I would say your boy has been spoilt to the point he's now resource guarding - your bed, your sofa. Giving Copper the benefit of the doubt with your father - he must have been in a deep sleep, so reacted before he realised who was touching him - especially on his nose!

I don't blame you for being alarmed at this change of behaviour, but until you see your vet, try not to worry - and avoid the situations that might produce this response.
 

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1. There is a reason for the say let sleeping dogs lie. When startled awake it is often because of a threat and natural reaction is to defend first then figure out what is going on after, It is normal behavior . You must keep in mind normal doe not = appropriate

2. Defending a sleeping spot is a form of resource guarding. Dogs that resource guard tend to guard more than one thing and are also touch sensitive. Keep in mind Resource guarding is normal adaptive survival behavior in dogs. just as above normal does not equal appropriate. First the best resource in working with resource guarding behaviors is Mine! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs: Jean Donaldson: 9780970562944: Amazon.com: Books+

review Book Review – Mine! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs

The basic first step is removing the resource that is guarded to prevent rehearsing and reinforcing the inappropriate behavior. Lot easier said then done but that means not having the dog on the bed or couch and on the occasions they are there avoiding physical confrontation/

3. Much of how humans react when they want to move the dog off a piece of furniture is the cause of poor behavior on the dog. We grab the dog by the collar and drag them to a more appropriate spot. If your boss at meeting get grabbing you , by the collar to move you to the seat that they wanted you to sit in at a meeting. Eventual you would start backing away when he reached out for you and if that did not work warn him to stop being a jerk. or even get physical to prevent him from grabbing your collar. Dogs are no different. Teach an off command to move the dog so you do not need to get physical see


4. given this is a fairly recent behavior like TeazelsMum says make sure the dog in not in pain which can cause the behavior with a thorough exam by a vet.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you for your responses! What you all said made a lot of sense, and I went into today's vet appointment with a lot more knowledge because of what you shared with me.

The vet did a full physical exam, and he passed with flying colors. The vet said that we could go on a fishing expedition--doing lots of tests and seeing if anything comes back abnormal--but that would be costly, time-consuming, and probably fruitless. I will continue watching him physically.

Since there is no "diagnosis" to be had, she suggested that we start removing the "resources" he seems to be "guarding" (to steal YOUR words!). We will also "retrain the humans" in his life, telling them to let him initiate contact instead of us always approaching him with activities and pets.

Thank you, again, for your words of wisdom. I'm glad there is no terrible physical malady, but I am still a bit fearful as we move forward with other family members--tinier family members--coming to see their beloved playmate who isn't so playful anymore.
 
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