My Personal Experience With Fear Aggression (Chapter 8)

This is it.  End of the road.  My only option is Majestic Canine Rescue in Colorado.

Or is it?

When I got home my mom called to see how I was doing and she said this one thing to me that changed everything.

She said, "Can't you just give Frisbee one more chance?"

It's exactly what I needed so desperately to hear.  I needed one person to open that door back up.  I needed one person to be on my side and not condemn me for not being able to put Frisbee down.  I needed one person to have faith in me and Frisbee.  And the good news is I got more than one person.  My dad was on the phone too and agreed with my mom. 

It's all I needed to put the wind back in my sails.  I went upstairs to my office and went back to work on the computer.  I started thinking again about the disarming.  Would that be a better alternative, as drastic as it was, then killing my dog?

I started researching disarming again and came across a story that caught my attention.  A lady my age wrote this about 7 years ago.  She had been experiencing similar situations as I was with Frisbee.  She hired Cesar Milan to come to her house and for a while her dog was fine but when Cesar was out of the picture, her dog bit again.

She even took her dog to Cesar's Dog Psychology Center and he did great while he was there but when Cesar wasn't around to control the situation, he bit again.

She was at the end of her rope when she heard of a vet in Los Angeles who did a partial disarming.  He just filed down the canines and did not remove any teeth.

Hmmm...maybe this would be an alternative, not so drastic?

I looked up the vet thinking I am going to have to be awfully lucky if he's still around since that article was 7 years old.  I found what I thought to be their office and called.  Bam. They were still there.  But the vet dentist actually lived in South Dakota, however, came down to Los Angeles once a month.  They said they would have him call me. 

A few days later I heard from the vet and told him my dilemma.  He told me how he came across doing the partial disarming when his dog bit one of his office personnel and was a little aggressive in general. 

His dog also loved chewing on toys and eventually wore down his/her canines which required him to do some dental work to file down the rest and do what is similar to a root canal.  After this was completed his dog completely changed.  It was no longer aggressive.  

He feels that when a dog realizes they have lost their weapons it changes them.  He told me a story of a pit bull who was partially disarmed.  When he woke up from his surgery he got up and was bouncing up and down, actually prancing and dancing.   His whole personality seemed to change in an instant.

He felt this would be a great option for Frisbee and while of course, he couldn't guarantee it would eliminate the aggressive behavior what it could and would do is minimize the damage if we made another mistake.

So, I scheduled an appointment and drove Frisbee to Los Angeles as soon as possible. With this new option, I decided I was keeping Frisbee and I would work even harder with a trainer and be even more diligent with situational things at home.

I spent $3200 to have this partial disarming done (far less than 9K and a much easier procedure, although still rough on a dog).  Frisbee's behavior was peculiar at the vet's office.  When the vet walked into the room and sat next to me, Frisbee went and sat between his legs on the ground looking at him and waiting to be pet (he had a muzzle on of course).  The vet was a little caught off guard but pet him.  When he stopped petting him Frisbee laid across his feet.

Do you think Frisbee knew this man was essentially saving his life?

When I picked Frisbee up at the end of the day, I was told he was very friendly with everyone, wagged his tail non-stop and was very relaxed.  (maybe it was the meds???)

He recovered wonderfully and quickly and now he has no fangs.  In fact, they also round out all the front teeth between the canines, top and bottom so all of those front teeth are smooth like doorknobs. 

I included a picture above but it's not a great picture.  It's hard to catch him with his mouth open when I have a camera ready. But you can see that all four of his canines/fangs are gone and now he has an almost human-like smile. 

Now this doesn't, in any way, treat the aggressive behavior issues.  I did it primarily to give myself some peace of mind that if I do make a mistake he won't be able to dig in with those front teeth and sharp fangs.  I also hoped and still hope that perhaps he would have the same reaction as the pit bull and just give in.

On the other hand, you have to think that if a fear based aggressive dog realizes he has lost his weapons does that help him or make him more fearful?

This I don't have the answer to but it's worth noting.

Are you wondering if the surgery worked?

Well, I wish I could tell you but how would I test it?  I guess, in a way, I will never really know. 

It's not like I can have someone just come through my front door and we could see if Frisbee was okay with that or not.  I don't know anyone who would volunteer to do that.

There really is no way to test it.

But I do know that it makes me more relaxed and I also know that dogs react from the vibes we, as humans, give off.  I know that Frisbee senses how nervous I am and that affects him.  I actually feel he is less nervous with my husband who I think is able to play a more alpha role to Frisbee.

But I won't apologize for my nerves or how I feel.  I can't help it.  I try to be assertive and calm when I walk him and do a pretty good job but I still prefer to walk him with a muzzle. My husband walks him without a muzzle and he's fine.

It's been a year since Frisbee has had the procedure.  He doesn't notice anything different and never has.   In fact, now I think he looks like a dog you would see in a cartoon (no fangs) or a perfect model for a doggy toothpaste commercial. 

I'm working with a new trainer that specializes in fear base aggression and we've mostly focused on the "go to place" command which is kind of like the "leave it" command.  This helps to teach him if he's about to do something wrong that he has certain behavior we are expecting of him and he will be rewarded with yummy treats if he responds appropriately. We are hoping we never have to test how well he's learned this behavior.

He's not around any people anymore other than my two daughters who both live away from home and my son in law and my 17-year daughter who lives at home.  When my parents visit I either put him in his crate/cage or I muzzle him.  

My mom is afraid of big dogs in general so I don't want him to feel that vibe even though I know he loves my mom.  But as I also mentioned, I weigh the reward against the risk and there's almost no reward great enough to outweigh the risk.  

For Frisbee's sake and my own, I can't afford to make a mistake so I don't take any chances.

So, that's the story of Frisbee and my personal experience with fear aggression.

If I could ask you to take one thing away from this it's this:

Make sure you understand your breed of dog and if it's a breed that has aggressive tendencies make sure you work with a trainer so you are in control. Make sure you learn how to read your dog's stress signals.  It's so important.  So many signals we mistake as happy or excited when in fact your dog is trying to tell you they are uncomfortable. 

And, (okay I lied, two things) don't just assume your dog likes to go everywhere you go. Despite what we like to think, they are not human.  They can't process all the external stimulation like we can.  Your dog most likely doesn't particularly care for strangers fussing all over him/her in loud, smelly, unfamiliar places.

I totally believe that we caused something in Frisbee to snap because of all the outings he wasn't able to handle.  The behavior specialist said somewhere a switch flipped.  We flipped that switch and now don't know how to switch it back.

If you have a dog displaying aggressive behavior, don't ignore it.  Seek help from a dog trainer who has experience in that area.  It won't go away on its own and will probably get worse if you don't address it.  

Thank you again for sharing this journey with me and Frisbee and as always Peppy-Paws thanks you for your support.  

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1 comment

  • Thank you for sharing this blog. If nothing else it really feels good to know I am not alone. I rescued Tasha from the PSPCA where I did a little volunteering. She was not my first dog thank God. We went for training classes where she did fair. She was also a failed previous adoption. My husband and I are older and we make sure we do everything to keep her safe and out of trouble. Any disarming is out as we live in the city where she may have to protect us or herself.

    Kathleen Shahalij

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