Questions About a Dog's Sudden Personality Change


A sudden dog personality change could be sparked by an underlying cause. Share these visitors' experiences.

Boxer's Sudden Personality Change

I have a 16-month-old female Boxer dog that is normally hyperactive, but for the past two days she has been laying around and her nose is warm. When I let her out, she eats grass. She has a good appetite and sometimes she is willing to play. During those times I check her nose and it is cool. What could cause the sudden change?

~~ Nancy

Expert Reply

Hi Nancy,

Let me begin by addressing the nose temperature. I know that some dog owners will swear by it, but the nose is not a good indicator of how your dog is feeling. Dog body temperatures normally run around 100-101 degrees F, so they are bound to feel a little warm to our touch. If a dog is up and active, it's more likely to be licking its nose, and this moisture cools the skin just like an evaporative cooler. If a dog has been resting, the nose is more likely to be dry, and therefore feel a little warmer.

The fact that her appetite is still good is more good news that there's likely nothing seriously wrong. If she's willing to play, then she's probably not in any real pain that would cause her to lay around so much.

As for the grass eating, I always discourage owners from letting their dogs eat grass, mainly because so many home owners use products on the lawn that aren't meant for consumption. I would expect her to throw the grass up if it was truly irritating her.

All of that said, here's what I'm thinking. At 16 months she could be getting ready to come into season. I don't know what her history has been, but typically a larger breed will come in season the first time between 12-18 months. This isn't a hard rule, just typical. Many bitches will experience a bit of a personality change as their hormones flux. Usually they return to their old selves once the cycle is complete.

Your dog is also reaching the age where she should begin to tone it down a bit. Although Boxers are high energy dogs, they do settle a bit as they mature. You may be seeing signs of this in her current behavior.

All in all, I don't see any real warning signs in the behavior or symptoms you've described. Just keep an eye on her to see if anything new comes up, and then you can decide whether a trip to the vet is in order. Remember, you know your dog better than anyone. You'll notice changes first.

Thanks for your question~~ Kelly

Dog Is Suddenly Aggressive Toward Daughter

We adopted a Lab/Pitbull mix from the local shelter. She is now about three years old.

She recently had surgery on her earlobes because she shook them so much she broke the blood vessels. After a long period of wearing a cone collar, she now seems to be doing better. However, she has shown a new type of aggression towards our five-year-old daughter.

Most of the time they are the best of friends. However, the dog has left pinch marks from her front teeth on my daughter two times now, and today she got aggressive when my daughter accidentally stepped on her foot.

I realize that most of the time it's the child that needs to learn appropriate behavior, and these are lessons to be learned. However, the breed does come into question, and obviously I need to protect my child first. Should we be concerned? Our dog has been with the family for two years now, so she is not going through an adjustment period.

Thank you in advance for your help~~ Brad

Expert Reply

Hi Brad,

I completely agree with you, your daughter's safety is the first consideration.

Did the vet give you a reason why your dog was shaking her head enough to break the blood vessels in her ear flaps? Typically this happens as the result of a severe ear infection. If the infection did enough damage it could have impaired your dog's hearing to a certain degree. If your dog doesn't hear your daughter approaching, she may nip as a startled reaction.

That's just one thought. Your dog may also have another medical problem that's causing her some pain. Dogs are fairly stoic creatures, so they try to hide pain unless it's too great to bear. This could result in your dog feeling touchy, and since your daughter is still small, your dog might see her as lower in the pack order. Again, this could result in the nipping.

So here's what I suggest. First, take your dog back to the vet. Describe the sudden personality change and ask him/her to examine your dog thoroughly for any signs of infection or illness. If you can rule out a medical cause, then you need to address the behavioral issue.

You must make sure your dog sees all human family members as dominant over her so she doesn't think she can get away with nipping or more aggressive behaviors. If you haven't put her through obedience training yet, now is the time. Take your daughter to the classes with you too, and let her participate with the dog. This will teach your pet that your daughter is her master too, and hopefully end this foray into aggressive behavior.

If at any time you feel your daughter is in danger of true injury, you'll have to consider whether it's safe to keep your dog in the home. It may become necessary to find another place for her.

I hope you find a way to keep everyone together. Best of luck.

~~ Kelly

Was Dog Traumatized?

Hi, I have a three-year-old Labrador Retriever. One evening my dog went out for a walk with the servant, and ever since that day he is terrified of the servant and equally afraid to step out. He refuses to go out with the leash, goes out twice a day only when desperate and does not go out to play.

He seems very scared once outside the house, and does his job and runs back home. Sometimes he comes out, hesitates and then charges right back inside.

However, when no one's around at night, he thoroughly enjoys himself and even runs around playfully. What can be the reason for this sudden fear and how can we help him overcome it?

Expert Reply

Hi Crimson,

I'm curious. Have you ever questioned the person who walked your dog about what went on that day? It appears your dog went through some sort of trauma that triggered this enormous personality change.

I recommend you hire an animal behaviorist to come to your home and observe your dog in person. You'll want to schedule this visit on a day when the employee in question is working. The behaviorist will observe your dog's behavior with a keen eye, as well as how he reacts with your employee. Together, you can all piece together what has triggered your dog's extremely fearful behavior, and the professional will plan out a course of action to address it.

Thank you for your question, and I hope that with love and patience, your dog will return to his old self once again.

~~ Kelly

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