Worried - new aggressive behaviour

Could do with some advice on how to handle our Pat. Since July he has become increasingly aggressive towards, and nervous of, strangers when we are out walking (hackles up and if they get too close, growling) He has now bitten 2 people - not deep puncture wounds but hard enough to bruise. Usually I keep him on a short lead away from anyone approaching but on the first occasion I missed a boy who was coming within Pat's range and he was so fast at lunging out and nipping.
The 2nd was at the dog kennel as we were just about to go on holiday (he has been there before with no problem). The girl admitting him approached to put a slip lead on him, he growled at her so she backed off and I put the lead on. She then sat down with us to try to make friends - even had some tasty sausage - but Pat just went for her - she was too close for me to even yank Pat back - again it was just a superficial bite that bruised.
We have been to the Vet and she has advised that he wear a muzzle when out (which he hates) and we are seeing a Behaviourist this week.
Since this all started up, I have noticed that he is also increasingly less tolerant of our children and even of me - he has snapped at me and my oldest son and my husband. As we have 3 children and there seems to be a constant stream of small visitors to the house, Pat is finding himself crated more and more often - not to mention that I no longer let him off the lead for free runs anymore. We have had Pat since he was 7 weeks old and he has, up until now, been great with the kids and new people - used to meet them at the school gate and he would get lots of fuss. Is this just a 'teenage' phase that he will outgrow? Any thoughts, advice, anyone been to a Behaviourist? We are seeing someone at the RVC.

How old is he?

I'm sure someone here will mention his thyroid. It seems that's a common culprit for sudden change in behavior. If that's not the case, I think a behaviorist will be the next best step. Sometimes a change of behavior can be linked to something physical. Just a thought.

One thing that I notice in your post is that you say you got him at 7wks? That is really young for a Basenji puppy to have been taken from the litter. My pups do not go till they are 10wks old at the earlist. They miss a great deal of socialization with the litter when removed to early, in my opinion.

Second, while I know that it is not usual for people in Europe, I would suggest you think about having him neutered. He is at that "young boy" age, this is now what is considered Basenji breeding season… so you have in addition to other things, hormones at work.

And last I would suggest that he doesn't rightfully know his place in the pack order... but a behaviorist should be able to help you sort that out. Have you talked to his breeders? What are his sire and dam like? How is their temperament?

I would also add, did the vet do bloodwork? Did they check his thyroid? If he is not feeling well, then he may be acting out because of pain.

@tanza:

One thing that I notice in your post is that you say you got him at 7wks? That is really young for a Basenji puppy to have been taken from the litter. My pups do not go till they are 10wks old at the earlist. They miss a great deal of socialization with the litter when removed to early, in my opinion.

Hi Pat - in the UK it is very common for pups to go to their new homes at 7/8 weeks - and thats all breeds, reputable breeders, and the not so reputable too. Certainly any younger is questionable. I appreciate there are conflicting views about the benefits of this, but it is certainly more common over here to get your pup at 8 weeks than at 10 or more.

I would certainly recommend a behaviourist - perhaps look at some of the John Rogerson Associates? if you let me know which area of England you are i could maybe assist in pointing you towards someone. If you already have a behaviourist in your local area or have one recommended by your vet - check their credentials - there are a lot of franchises set up claiming to be dog behaviourists when in fact they know little or nothing about dogs - i know, because a friend of a friend became one - he had only owned a dog for 4 years(which incidentally bit everyone it met and still does to this day) and yet he is taking money to give advise on other peoples problems.. hmph.

@Elscodobermann:

Hi Pat - in the UK it is very common for pups to go to their new homes at 7/8 weeks - and thats all breeds, reputable breeders, and the not so reputable too. Certainly any younger is questionable. I appreciate there are conflicting views about the benefits of this, but it is certainly more common over here to get your pup at 8 weeks than at 10 or more.

I would certainly recommend a behaviourist - perhaps look at some of the John Rogerson Associates? if you let me know which area of England you are i could maybe assist in pointing you towards someone. If you already have a behaviourist in your local area or have one recommended by your vet - check their credentials - there are a lot of franchises set up claiming to be dog behaviourists when in fact they know little or nothing about dogs - i know, because a friend of a friend became one - he had only owned a dog for 4 years(which incidentally bit everyone it met and still does to this day) and yet he is taking money to give advise on other peoples problems.. hmph.

Was not aware that it was common for pups to go that early in the UK… and yes, there would be lots of conflicts with that.... as most of the breeders in the States do not think that a Basenji especially is ready to leave littermates that early.

Hi, thanks for your responses. To answer a couple of your questions, Pat is neutered. I am hoping that a Vet at the Royal Vet College who has specialised in behavioural problems, would be qualified to help with these issues. Are there any other symptoms of a Thyroid problem - the Vet didn't mention that this could be a cause of his behaviour and didn't mention any blood tests. I had a cat once who had a thyroid problem but he just got very thin - not nasty! Pat certainly isn't losing any weight. As to it being a dominance issue - you may well be right - but I read the bit on this forum about being the 'Alpha' in his pack and we seem to tick most of the boxes there too. He will be 2 in January.

@BasenjiBoo:

Hi, thanks for your responses. To answer a couple of your questions, Pat is neutered. I am hoping that a Vet at the Royal Vet College who has specialised in behavioural problems, would be qualified to help with these issues. Are there any other symptoms of a Thyroid problem - the Vet didn't mention that this could be a cause of his behavior and didn't mention any blood tests. I had a cat once who had a thyroid problem but he just got very thin - not nasty! Pat certainly isn't losing any weight. As to it being a dominance issue - you may well be right - but I read the bit on this forum about being the 'Alpha' in his pack and we seem to tick most of the boxes there too. He will be 2 in January.

There is Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism. I believe Hyperthyroidism is when the dog/cat loses weight, which sounds more like what your cat had.

Hypothyroidism is kind of the opposite, dogs can gain weight.

I suppose it wouldn't hurt to rule out a thyroid problem. Worst case, there is nothing wrong and you simply need to bring him to a behaviorist.

Cats are almost always hypERthyroid; dogs are almost always hypOthyroid. And there is a long list of hypothyroidism, (no idea about hyper, i don't have a cat) and dogs will often just have a few symptoms, not all. just google.

Personally, I'd look for a behaviorist and get the Control Unleashed book. It talks about how to create a new history for experiences. It also talks about threshholds which you really need to understand in dealing with a dog like this.

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