5 Month Old Puppy Fear Aggression

Hello, we have a five-month old Basenji who is starting to exhibit fear aggression. We consistently introduced her to new things during the 8-12 week mark (we live in a city, she met several people, new smells, sights, sounds, etc.). However, quarantine happened at 12 weeks and then she fractured her ankle while playing, leading to a cast and a lot of vet visits.

All of this to say, she has recently started exhibiting fear aggression within the past month. However, the vet told us today she has consistently displayed this behavior from day one, explaining she will often growl and lunge when they have to put a cone on her (they withheld this information, even when asked, which is a whole different topic). I have witnessed one incident in which I passed her off to a neighbor while holding her and she snarled/sneered and pulled back from the neighbor and was clearly terrified.

I am incredibly disheartened by this and would love any feedback. She has always been overly rambunctious/mouthy/dominant in comparison to her littermates and her breeder did not seem concerned by this news, indicating she is still a puppy and would adjust over time.

Lastly, we are starting Zoom video training sessions with a fear-based trainer this weekend but I would love any insight from anyone who has dealt with this. Thank you in advance.

@bforbasenji - I am surprised that her breeder would not be concerned? And really sad that the Vet didn't tell you about this before? I am not wondering if the vet has something to do with her actions/fear? Good that you are doing some training, is this trainer familiar with Basenjis?

I have never had a puppy basenji as mine was a year and a half by the time we got her. The one thing I can tell you from my experience is that if I tried to pass her to someone who is not in her "pack" she would have done exactly the same thing. An acquaintance or a neighbour would not make the cut. In my case, only family and my office staff (which she sees everyday) would be trusted and allowed to treat her in a familiar way. Any one else would have to wait for her to choose to allow them into her circle. That includes a vet who she would hate for trying to put a cone on her head. She is a gentle sweet girl but she has very clear boundaries about who she lets near her and who she will allow to restrict her.

@bforbasenji said in 5 Month Old Puppy Fear Aggression:

Hello, we have a five-month old Basenji who is starting to exhibit fear aggression. We consistently introduced her to new things during the 8-12 week mark (we live in a city, she met several people, new smells, sights, sounds, etc.). However, quarantine happened at 12 weeks and then she fractured her ankle while playing, leading to a cast and a lot of vet visits.

All of this to say, she has recently started exhibiting fear aggression within the past month. However, the vet told us today she has consistently displayed this behavior from day one, explaining she will often growl and lunge when they have to put a cone on her (they withheld this information, even when asked, which is a whole different topic).

An early injury and resulting treatment could definitely result in mistrust of strangers. However, as noted by Ember, Basenjis often resent strangers being "too familiar", and many (most?) prefer to make initial approaches themselves rather than being subjected to unwanted attention. Tactful handling around strangers and being present yourself for any vet attention might go a long way to solving this problem.

Ordinarily I'd suggest that, when on walks or out and about, you take some extra treats, give them to people you meet who express an interest in your dog, and let them feed her a few. That way your dog begins to associate good things with strangers. The pandemic may make this impossible. If you can come up with some alternatives along these lines I suspect you'll have success.

Puppies do go through fear periods and it's not a linear process. One day strangers may be fine and the next week scary. At five months this process is likely not completed.

You are taking the right steps. It sounds like you have been very diligent in training your puppy and caring for her especially with a broken foot and quarantine.

If you specifically asked the Vet how she did and he didn't say anything until now that's really disappointing - I would look for a new Vet but at the very least I would stay with her through the visits.

I agree with Ember's comment.

Good luck with the fear trainer.

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