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Aggressive Young Rottweiler

Hi John,

We have a 1 1/2 year old rottweiler. He is incredibly lovable but when we go to the vet, he becomes incredibly aggressive. He is muzzled but still is incredibly vicious. He had to go in last night for a torn nail and it was really bad. When the vet tried to go near his crate today, to take off his bandage, he growled, showed his teeth and the vet refused to attempt to take it off and did not allow his staff members to either. When I went to pick him up today, the vet shared his concern about his aggression. Even though his paw was hurt, it was a really aggression driven situation. He recommended either finding another home for him (one without children) or euthanized. We are devastated. He has growled a few times with us and soft bites have happened. Did we totally miss early aggressive behavior?


Hi J,

Thanks for the email. We have to keep in mind that I haven’t met your dog or can ask the questions I would ask in a consultation but I can say it appears you do have a very serious situation. I have turned dogs like this around but without meeting your dog it would be impossible to say with your dog.

Some might say your dog should be cut some slack because he was hurt and in a strange place etc. While there is something to be said for that couple of other things worth considering are, lots of dogs don’t behave this way in exactly the same circumstances and secondly a veterinarian that is (I assume) used to dealing with dogs in this context thinks it’s abnormal enough to bring to your attention. Lastly though are the things you’ve mentioned regarding your dog’s behaviour with you. In pain or not it doesn’t appear it doesn’t seem that he has a skewed sense of who’s the teacher and who’s the teacher.

This sort of overall behaviour can be due to mental instability (chemical) but that’s very rare. More commonly it can also be due to fear because of poor early socialization. Either of those two reasons have pretty negative prognosis’s. As common as poor socialization is another possible reason behind this sort of behaviour and that is when a relationship is out of whack.

You may not have so much missed his “early aggressive behavior” as misconstrued how he behaved as a youngster not realizing that playful behavior is also a way for a dog to test who will in the future be the teacher and who will be the student. Once the guarding breeds hit young adult hood their genetics come to the forefront and these sorts of situations occur if their owners haven’t done their foundation work. It catches a lot of dog owners off guard.

You’re not alone, it’s a common mistake people often make when they purchase guarding oriented breeds. More often than not these dogs behave very similarly while they are youngsters as less challenging breeds like a Labrador Retriever for instance. Lack of structure and serious obedience training might impact a Labrador Retriever by ending up with a goofy dog that jumps on people. A guarding breed though often ends up doing what you’re describing. The solution is to transition the dog gradually into a relationship where it understand it is the student and you are the teacher and then to start working on areas you are currently having problems with.

Regards, John

P.S. If the veterinarian recommended euthanasia or a home without children, he or she needs a good smack in the back of the head. If aggression is serious enough that the topic of euthanasia is seriously suggested the idea that a home without children is a legitimate option is just dumb. A dog that cannot be trusted around a child or children living in a home, can’t and shouldn’t be trusted period. There may be homes that don’t have children living in them but there aren’t any where there aren’t children living in the immediate vicinity.

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