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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 20217
Experience:  Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 18+ years
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My Goldendoodle is almost 8 years old. She has a sweet nature

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My Goldendoodle is almost 8 years old. She has a sweet nature and has always been obedient and friendly, but recently has become very grumpy with other dogs and even aggressive when they come near. She had been a little on the jealous and territorial side, but nothing like this in the past. Her behaviour has become increasingly worse in the last couple of months. Although she is never aggressive to any human at the moment, should I be worried? Thank you.
Hi JaCustomer,
My name is Jane. I have been working professionally with animals especially dogs in both health and behavioral issues for over 18 years. I have over 14,000 satisfied customers. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.
In order to supply you with the best information, I do need to ask for some additional information. Once I receive your answer, it will likely take me about 30-45 minutes to type up your response. I hope you can be patient.
Has she started acting a little off such as asking to go out and not eliminating or wanting in but then right back out? Have you found her in any unusual spots like behind furniture or doors?
does she have any health issues that you are aware of?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


No nothing much at all out of the ordinary. She has no health issues as far as I can notice. She developed a few bumps around her body so I took her to the vet to have her checked over and he said they were completely benign lipomas nothing to worry about. He said she was in fine health. She gets 2 hours in the morning running around the woods everyday. I walk her around the block in the afternoons so has plenty of exercise and healthy food. People think she's 2-3 years old from the way she bounces around. She is very good with people and even small children. Just turned into a bully to other dogs recently (unless they are more dominant) even to dogs she's been friendly with for years. Quite puzzling and embarrassing. Thank you for your advice.

Having said that, she might be acting a bit clingy recently, following me around everywhere. Seems anxious. Perhaps something to do with the 3 months renovation work we did to the house? But the aggressive tendency had already started before the renovation...

I am so sorry for the delay. My mother in law was rushed to the ER and we just got back. I asked about her behavior as Your dog is not to young to be exhibiting a condition called Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) and has been seen in Golden retrievers younger than your dog. There is a wonderful site that explains it well and also explains how to document your dog's behavior and discuss it with your vet.
The good news is that there is a drug called L-Selegeline (Anipryl (R)) which has been recently approved for use in the clinical indication of cognitive dysfunction (CDS) in dogs.
Please see this site for more information and other causes that may exhibit the same symptoms.
However, it could be strictly behavioral and not related to CDS or due to another medical condition. Pain can cause this as can hypothyroidism. You can read about these below.
If there is no medical cause, then it may just be that she has become more dominant in her older years or is feeling the need to maintain her position within a group of dogs that she knows. Often when dogs become older they do develop some health issues. Other dogs sense the older dog's weakness and then start testing the older dog to see if they can become higher ranking. Often the younger dog will do this by just pushing a dog out of the way to get to a human and get attention or eat first or rush to get a treat first or even go through a door first. Those are things that higher ranking dogs get to do and submissive dogs have to wait on the boss dog.
When a dog has enjoyed these privileges and becomes older, they often start becoming more aggressive toward other dogs to help ensure their position stays the same. About all you can do is to rule out the medical issues and then work on the behavioral.
You will need to keep a leash attached to her and reprimand any dominant or aggressive behavior with a short tug to break her concentration and a firm low toned NO. When she acts appropriately, reward her with tasty treats like hot dog slivers. You can start her on obedience training again to remind her that she needs to obey and that you are the ultimate boss. Training works best if you train at least 30 minutes a day (two 15 minute sessions). I would start making your dog work via the Nothing in life is free program (NILF). It is outlined below.
I also would suggest you read up on body language so you can interpret not only what she is saying but the other dogs are saying as well with their body language. It may help you determine if the other dog is pushing her or transmitting signs of dominance that she is reacting to. It will help.
She is elderly so she does need a senior checkup since things change quickly. I hope this information is helpful to you and you are satisfied with my response. If you would like any additional information or have more questions please don’t hesitate to press the reply to expert or continue conversation button so I can address any issues you still have .
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for the information. I hope your mother in law is better..

I had already looked up medical causes and think I can rule them out for now. There are no other symptoms and her behaviour is not something I feel is 'abnormal'. It seems purely behavioural as she obviously chooses who to be aggressive to and it's more of a bluff rather than a real attack. She chooses to bully younger inexperienced dogs or older/weaker and more submissive dogs as if she feels in her old age she has gone up the pecking order. I think I am quite familiar with dog body language as I grew up with dogs.

She is most aggressive when she is with me but not so much when I am not around. She clearly is possessive and protective of me. I have tried over the years to be the 'boss' rather than her mummy, and she does listen to me, but not enough to stop her from what she wants to do instinctively.

I know I have to persevere with re-training her, but she has been a difficult dog to train purely because she is not so obsessive about food, and rather let go a treat than do something she doesn't want to do.

When she was young, exercising her and starving her then training using food worked to a certain extent, but in her old age, she is becoming less and less responsive to training using food.

Twice a day for 15 min each may be a good start so I will do that. Sorry for asking more and more questions but was wondering if you could give me a bit more advice that I haven't heard before. Thank you.

Try the special treats of paper thin hot dog or liver slivers. Most dogs love these even picky dogs. Having her a little hungry or doing training when she is hungry may help. Like humans dogs get used to specific treats like the boring store bought ones or cheese pieces.
The most you can do though is provide some negative consequences to the aggressive behavior and the positive reinforcement for desired behavior. I use the tug and FIRM LOW toned NO reprimand as I am against physical reprimands like tapping the nose, etc. While I use treats, any positive thing the dog enjoys can be used as positive reinforcement. If there is a toy she likes or a special spot rubbed, etc, that can be used as the reward for the desired behavior.
You might check out the BAT method as well.
Another option is a basket style muzzle which will allow her to eat, drink and breath normally be not bite thus making her "aggression" ineffective. Many dogs don't like other dogs approaching their human, but it is up to you to let them know that it is your choice who you choose to pet or show attention to, not hers. Training should help, but if you find her not responding well to it, I would ask your vet about CDS. Possibly try the medication and see if things improve and have her checked for arthritis since most have a touch by now.
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