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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 32754
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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I rescued a 6year old patterdale terrier 6months ago that had

Customer Question

I rescued a 6year old patterdale terrier 6months ago that had been rehomed and returned to the rescue centre before for biting the owners...since that time we have got to know it and thought we could control it. It has repeatedly bitten us and family members . today it has bitten my husband again and iam now considering what i should do about it. It seems to be very unpredictable and i am wondering if it has an eyesight problem or if its a psychological problem. the man at the rescue centre told us we could take it back but i feel this is not going to solve it.....I can't be sure it wont bite any one...any suggestions
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 years ago.
I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. I have advanced training in canine and feline behavior and answer many of the behavior questions on this site. Let me preface my discussion by saying that you mustn't listen to anyone who purports to have specific answers concerning aggressive behavior when offered in a long-distance manner such as this conversation. The following will describe why this is so and hopefully give you a good overview of what you're dealing with.Aggression is the most common behavioral problem for which dogs are referred to specialty counseling centers. It's also the most dangerous problem for family members to deal with, because they, visitors, or other pets may be at risk. Until owners receive appropriate counseling and understand the risks, they should be cautioned to provide safe management of the pets and to avoid situations that are likely to trigger aggressive encounters. The best way to ensure an accurate diagnosis is to combine a physical examination and appropriate diagnostic tests with a complete behavioral history, and view the dog during a typical aggressive display either directly or by video observation. Since direct observation or video taping are not always practical or safe, the behavioral consultant may need to rely entirely on the behavioral history to make the diagnosis. There are a number of criteria that are used for differentiating one type of aggression from another, including the aggressor's traits and behavior, characteristics of the target, and the conditions during which the aggression occurs. In formulating a treatment plan, consideration must be given to the type of aggression, the pet's temperament, and the mental and physical competence of individuals in the pet's environment. It's important to note that a pet may have a single type of aggression or there may be a number of forms of aggression in the same pet. In addition, each aggressive display may have components of more than one type of aggression, such as dominance and defensive, territorial and fear, or chase predation and defensive aggressions. There may also be learned and conditioned components in each display.One of the most crucial aspects of working up a case of canine aggression is assessing the risk of injury that the dog poses to those in its environment. In order to accomplish this, a very complete history must be taken from all family members and others involved with the pet. Factors relating to the risk of injury the pet poses, and whether the owners can control the opportunity for interaction with target people or animals will determine if the pet should stay in the home, be rehomed, or euthanized. For instance, a large, strong dog that bites children unpredictably without inhibition in a busy home with many small children and poor supervision by adults who can't comprehend the danger of dog aggression, will pose an extremely high risk of serious injury.What the forgoing implies is that unless my owner is highly motivated, extremely cautious, willing to spend the considerable time involved in reconditioning these dogs and solicit the assistance of a behaviorist (please see, removal of the aggressive dog from the home or temporary sequestration of the dog should be considered. This is not a behavior to address unaided. You've been extraordinarily patient with Biff but you mustn't wait until you're maimed! Thank you for your understanding. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.