Sudden aggression

If you have recently taken in a rescue Schnauzer or rehomed a Schnauzer and need some advice, then please feel free to ask here. Whether it be about integrating your new dog into your home, health or behavioural issues, someone is sure to be able to help.
Post Reply
heydella
Puppy
Posts: 5
Joined: 31 Oct 2022, 19:05
First Name: Della

Sudden aggression

Post by heydella »

In June 2022 I bought an intact year and a half old male Giant Schnauzer from a young man who had had him since a puppy and raised him in a city apartment. I don't think the owner had much experience with dogs, let alone a breed like this, but he had had him obedience and crate trained, and all seemed to be well.
I have fenced acreage in the country and work from home, so the dog is rarely alone, and I take him for plenty of walks.
I installed a huge pet door so he has free access to the outdoors at any time. I feed him raw meats and excellent kibble. I take him for long rambles both on and off leash, and to the local river pools for swims and the dog parks for socializing, he gets along well with other dogs and people. He has almost finished his trek through puberty, which was a bit trying, but I mostly kept him out of the dog parks during the peak of the humping urge.

He is protective of his home, and barks at visitors but soon quiets down, which is a great improvement over his early *very reactive* posture when I first got him. He and I get along well, and he trusts and obeys me.

However.... He has been reported to have suddenly turned on people who were saying hello to him, in a situation which was not stressful or fear inducing. He would just suddenly turn and... Bark or... Bite. My neighbor reported that he had suddenly done this to her. She thought all was well, and then in the blink of an eye, he turned and bit her and tore her coat. Unprovoked.

Today, we were at our river spot, and all was well, he was off leash and encountered several families and wagged his tail and kept on going. Nothing stressful. Then we re-encountered a family and the mother asked me again where the wildflowers grew best, no sudden movements or alarms.. my dog circled her and was sniffing curiously, she didn't do anything when all of a sudden he turned and bit her upper arm! His teeth left bruises, but didn't break the skin, but I could see that it was a close call. She was very frightened and so were her kids and the husband. I tied the dog up, and apologized profusely. I could see that this could have been serious and it frightened me too.

This behavior comes out of a clear blue sky, with no discernable triggers. His behavior shows no warning. I think all I can do is muzzle him in public and keep him on the leash... Which is hard with a huge dog like this. I'm not sure what to do, or what kind of training would help, since it is so random. Normally he's just so loveable...
Would neutering help?
Thanks in advance for your thoughts..
User avatar
zeta1454
Moderator
Posts: 5151
Joined: 19 May 2011, 16:58
First Name: Leigh
Dog #1: Magic
is a: P/S Mini Bitch
Born: 20 Apr 2010
Dog #2: Trilby
is a: P/S Mini Bitch
Born: 15 Mar 2012
Dog #3: Pip
Born: 21 Feb 2014
is a: P/S Mini Bitch
Location: North Yorkshire
Contact:

Re: Sudden aggression

Post by zeta1454 »

Hi Delia - sudden aggression in dogs is a frightening experience and I can understand how this is distressing you. The only experience I have had in some ways similar to this was with a miniature schnauzer who suffered post-vaccine brain damage and was unpredictably extremely aggressive but at other times the sweetest and gentlest dog.

There is a condition associated more with other breeds than the Giant Schnauzer but can be found in any dog although it is thought to be very rare which used to be called ‘rage syndrome’. You can do an online search but there is one link here which explains more:

https://outwardhound.com/furtropolis/do ... 0territory.

The problem I think is initially trying to get a diagnosis which you have confidence is the case with your dog. In a generalised sense unprovoked aggression is a mental / neurological condition which may be genetic, or due to a medical condition such as a brain tumour or may be caused or triggered by something external - toxins / pharmaceuticals etc. and like many such conditions especially in dogs may be difficult to diagnose without a lot of specialist input - behaviourists and veterinary professionals possibly involving brain scans etc.

Some reactions in dogs may be triggered by something we humans cannot discern e.g certain sounds or scents that are out of our range. This may be related to a past experience for the dog which was negative and strong enough to trigger an aggressive response. However, this is also difficult to establish in a dog especially if there has been time before you got him when something may have happened you don’t know about.

I am just putting out suggestions here as I think the best plan would be to seek professional advice from a behaviourist (definitely one that is well qualified and has a positive approach to training / assessment and not a dominance/punishment approach) but also and maybe before going down the behaviourist route, have your dog assessed at the vets explaining the issue for their input and possible diagnosis.

This is really not in any way related to the fact that your GS is entire from the incidents which you describe and neutering is very unlikely to remedy the issue. In some adolescent male dogs around female dogs in heat there can be aggression but this is a known trigger and related to hormones. Unprovoked aggression against people sounds more like a neurological issue to me and I think you will have to keep him under close control until you have a diagnosis or training advice. If you have any dog field for hire in your area, you could rent it for an hour or so to let your boy have some free running without fear of meeting any other people or dogs but it is going to be risky to have him off-lead in public if there is a possibility of him biting someone and it would fall under the legal prohibition of having a dog ‘out of control ‘ in a public place.
Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. ~Roger Caras

Magic - Silversocks Sharade at Darksprite
Trilby - Darksprite Rosa Bud


https://m.facebook.com/pages/category/C ... 916994967/
heydella
Puppy
Posts: 5
Joined: 31 Oct 2022, 19:05
First Name: Della

Re: Sudden aggression

Post by heydella »

Thanks Zeta, I really appreciate you weighing in on this. I will have to keep him on the leash in public, for sure.
I've been thinking about what he might be feeling...
He doesn't become enraged, it's more like confusion and he flips into Protective Mode and turns on the person as if they are a threat. Just as quickly, the episode is over. I don't think it's neurological, but perhaps a result of the former owner not socializing him enough when he was young. We're away from home, in unknown territory, with unknown people.

I think I will continue to take him to these places, but keep him on the leash. It anything goes away, at least I have control.
I did buy an e-collar, but I've never used it. Perhaps it would be a good addition. I don't have expert with them, but other dog owners say they work well to get the dog's attention and stop unwanted behaviors.
User avatar
zeta1454
Moderator
Posts: 5151
Joined: 19 May 2011, 16:58
First Name: Leigh
Dog #1: Magic
is a: P/S Mini Bitch
Born: 20 Apr 2010
Dog #2: Trilby
is a: P/S Mini Bitch
Born: 15 Mar 2012
Dog #3: Pip
Born: 21 Feb 2014
is a: P/S Mini Bitch
Location: North Yorkshire
Contact:

Re: Sudden aggression

Post by zeta1454 »

If you are going to keep him in close control that is fine but do monitor his behaviour for any changes in him prior to any repeat aggression - this will be useful to know if at a later date you do decide to seek professional advice. However I definitely would not use the e-collar. There is an active campaign to have these banned in the whole of the U.K. fully supported by the Kennel Club. They are actually illegal in Wales but that is the only one if the 4 countries of the U.K. to have banned them. The link from the Kennel Club gives more information on this:

“ Research funded by DEFRA in 2014 demonstrated that shock collars can have a detrimental effect on the welfare of dogs by causing them unnecessary harm and suffering. More recent studies have reached similar conclusions, highlighting that usage of the device poses a risk to dog welfare and causes unnecessary suffering, as well as indicating that there is little evidence of improved behavioural outcomes. Research has shown that 25% of dogs trained with electric shock collars showed signs of stress in comparison to less than 5% of dogs trained without the device.”

https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/about- ... k-collars/
Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. ~Roger Caras

Magic - Silversocks Sharade at Darksprite
Trilby - Darksprite Rosa Bud


https://m.facebook.com/pages/category/C ... 916994967/
heydella
Puppy
Posts: 5
Joined: 31 Oct 2022, 19:05
First Name: Della

Re: Sudden aggression

Post by heydella »

Zeta, I have never used the e-collar. It seems rather barbaric to me, although the few dog owners I have spoken to say they only use the lowest setting, just a vibration rather than a shock, and it works well to remind the dog that he should listen to the owner and obey. (ie: stop running after something). These owners had hound dogs, maybe that explains it.
Perhaps in my dog's case, it is a question of maturation and understanding. It doesn't happen when he's on the leash, he's actually less reactive than most dogs, and very friendly. Understanding the Giant though... What goes through his mind when he's free to run and encounters a stranger..? He's first instinct is to treat them with suspicion and to "protect". He doesn't do this with the vast majority of encounters, but when I am stationary for a few minutes, then he may click into Territoriality and protect me. When we are actively walking, he doesn't do this. I have a much greater respect for their hardwired instincts now, and while he is learning what is appropriate and what is not, I shall keep him safely leashed.
Thanks again for your generous and healthy advice.
EspressoAddict
Posts: 3
Joined: 10 Oct 2023, 03:35
First Name: Jason

Re: Sudden aggression

Post by EspressoAddict »

This is scary! Is this common with schnauzers?
User avatar
zeta1454
Moderator
Posts: 5151
Joined: 19 May 2011, 16:58
First Name: Leigh
Dog #1: Magic
is a: P/S Mini Bitch
Born: 20 Apr 2010
Dog #2: Trilby
is a: P/S Mini Bitch
Born: 15 Mar 2012
Dog #3: Pip
Born: 21 Feb 2014
is a: P/S Mini Bitch
Location: North Yorkshire
Contact:

Re: Sudden aggression

Post by zeta1454 »

EspressoAddict wrote: 10 Oct 2023, 04:06 This is scary! Is this common with schnauzers?
This is not common with schnauzers who have been well bred and raised responsibly but it highlights the problem of taking on any breed of dog with an unknown history. Even getting a dog from someone who has looked after a dog well there can be issues due to a whole range of causes from separation trauma to over-use of chemical treatments/vaccines which have had a neurological impact to previous negative encounters that are not known or not explained to the new owner. With dogs from a shelter environment this can be even greater.
Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. ~Roger Caras

Magic - Silversocks Sharade at Darksprite
Trilby - Darksprite Rosa Bud


https://m.facebook.com/pages/category/C ... 916994967/
User avatar
Dawnspell
Moderator
Posts: 4725
Joined: 05 Mar 2013, 18:27
First Name: Alison
Dog #1: Barney RIP 8/3/19
is a: White Mini Dog
Born: 06 Feb 2013
Dog #2: Jasper
is a: White Mini Dog
Born: 25 Apr 2019
Location: Guernsey

Re: Sudden aggression

Post by Dawnspell »

EspressoAddict wrote: 10 Oct 2023, 04:06 This is scary! Is this common with schnauzers?
This can be the case with any breed of dog. Same as people they are all individuals.
Our first family dog
Barney - Pocketpark Biali Eyebright 6/2/13 - 8/3/19 Gone too soon
Motto for owners who groom their own Schnauzers -"Never mind it'll soon grow back"
Post Reply