Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Insight On Rage Syndrome

Without doubt the most dangerous dog is a professional trainer may encounter is the dog with "Rage Syndrome". Let me first warn the reader not to jump to the conclusion that your dog has "Rage Syndrome" if he shows a simple and predictable domination or pain associated aggression. This will in no way imply that the dog has "Rage Syndrome". This condition is in fact very rare and seldom seen. In 28 years of training approximately 700-100 dogs a year I have only experienced true "Rage Syndrome" about a dozen times. Using these kinds of numbers you can see how truly rare this disorder is. Have expressed this fact, this disorder by its' nature, is the most dangerous of all issues a trainer or owner can face with a dog.
One example was a £ 200 Newfoundland, which was brought to us for training ten years ago.
"Samson" had been purchased as a cute and cuddly puppy a member of the crew of a ship that specializes in taking out church groups and college kids for weekend cruises in a local port. The breed was selected for their reputation as water rescue dogs. Everything went along as planned this weekend excursions until Samson turned a year. The owner noticed that on a weekend trip a cheerleader had begun to start a cheer for the trip and the dog suddenly became very aggressive toward her. Fortunately the dog had been on a leash and restrained.
The owner had written off the incident as a misunderstanding on the dogs side against girls body language and loud voice. He brought the dog to us for the next episode, as the dog after a similar trip, had walked down the gang plank with two girls who were petting him and show him love. He explained that the girls boyfriends showed up, and when the girls went to leave the dog had stormed against one of the girls legs with an open mouth and a growl. One of the boyfriends to see this had kicked the dog in the head. The dog turned and grabbed girlfriend's leg to pull him to the ground. The owner explained this away saying "if I was kicked in the head I would bite him too."
Samson presented at the hearing with a wagging tail and had slobbery kisses to everyone. He was in accordance with command and correction, and sought praise and attention. He was very comfortable in his own skin, and showed no signs of shyness or aggression. He was checked in to education and his first ten days went smoothly. Samson willingly learned all his commands, including the down command. The down command is usually one that will be difficult, if dominance is a factor which dogs will see this is a challenge and a subordinate position. Samson was more than willing to subject themselves to training and he enjoyed the praise that came with a job well done.
On the tenth day Kennel Tech was cleaning the kennels and dogs move as necessary to disinfect. When they came to Samson's kennel one of the girls entered his kennel with a precipitous leash and looped him to move him to another kennel. He went along happily wagging his tail. When she came to the clean run, where she had to bring him, he balked. She had walked into the kennel and turned to him saying "Come on boy. Slipper" in a high pitched tone rose. The next thing she knew he was on her. He knocked her to the ground and grabbed her leg to pull her back from running while shaking her. The other Kennel Tech reported that it looked like a Grizzly Bear attacks.
She screamed and he shook her. The other girl had presence of mind and bravery to enter the kennel and put the hose she was washing up the dogs nose to get him to release.
He was so fixated on his victim, when she was released and ran to the door to escape, he ran right past the girl with the snake and caught her at the gate. He grabbed her by the other leg and pulled as she held it to the door. She was lifted suspended in the air. The second girl then shot the hose up your nose again, which gave them both valuable seconds to escape.
Kennel Tech was taken to the emergency room where the doctor reported that damage to the legs, although severe miraculously was placed in a place where there would be no permanent damage. This is the worst scenario, a coach can face. Usually you can judge a dog by the behavior it presents in a consultation and the information you receive from the customer. In this case the customer had explained away aggression and in hind sight probably withheld some other information.
Unfortunately, withholding information is all too common when a client is addressed with a trainer. The usual excuse is that they do not want to harm the trainer at the dog. The unfortunate result of this may be to place employees in danger.
In another case we saw a woman's eleven months old Doberman attacking her in front of our eyes. He knocked her to the ground and started biting her down her chest area. When we got to save her, we were bitten several times in the process of saving her. Unfortunately, after the dog was probably put in a box (after the three of us had been bitten nine times), she left saying that her husband would have to make the final decision on what happened with the dog. Rather than taking the dog to a neurologist, as we had suggested she left him with a Doberman Rescue group. In this case the relaxation of their conscious by not putting the dog down, put other innocent people in danger.
This is an example of what not to do.
"Rage Syndrome" is actually an epileptic seizure in the emotional lap of the dogs brain. Like other forms of epilepsy (motor, or behavioral) the dog is behaving normally 98% of the time. It is 2% problem. This can happen in any breed. I have seen to date in a Labrador Retriever.Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois, Mixed Race, above Doberman and Newfoundland, and about a dozen Springer Spaniels. Yes, I said Springer Spaniels. This condition is common enough in the race to be commonly referred to as "Springer Rage". Springers have more of a genetic predisposition toward this condition for some reason than other races. Again I must stress that this is extremely rare and therefore just because you have a Springer Spaniel, you should never assume that this condition will automatically be a problem.
Like other forms of epilepsy this condition can be treated with phenobarbital, which have led to an alleviation of the seizures in the brain. The obvious problem in case of "Rage Syndrome" is that even one occurrence is one too many, and therefore dogs diagnosed with this condition are generally put down. Because the stakes are so high it is recommended that at least two opinions are sought before a diagnosis is made. The best professional opinion you can get is a neurologist. Your veterinarian can give you his or her opinion and a reference. In case of a client with a Springer Spaniel owned honest with us and explained that her veterinarian had suggested that the dog be killed. She stated that she would be more pleasant if we would be willing to evaluate the dog and give her a second opinion. In this case we took the dog under observation. It took about a week to see the normally sweet dog fly into a murderous rage for no apparent reason. The dog would then return to a normal state, with no apparent memory of his actions. Unfortunately we had to agree with the owners veterinarian that the dog be killed.
This condition has also been studied in humans. Almost every state that can be found in the brain of a dog can be found in a human. These tests may some day explain some criminal behavior in humans. The symptoms of this condition are:
* Unexplained aggression that comes out of nowhere.
* Aggression that seems related to dominance.
* A marked change in the dogs eyes, snarling and growling, lunging.
* The dog seems to abandon that behavior as suddenly as it came on.
* The dog does not seem to remember the past aggressive behavior.
* Unpredictable timing of aggression.
What to do if you think your dog has "Rage Syndrome"
* Do not try to diagnose it yourself. Owners often are wrong about the causes of aggression.
* Has obtain at least two professional opinions (Veterinarians and trainers) At least one veterinarian.
* Do give your professional advisers all the facts that you can think of. Do not withhold information!
* Do not put others in danger. If you think your dog has "Rage Syndrome" does not leave him with
children. Remove him from all situations where he can do harm to anyone.
* Do not make excuses for behavior that intimidates you or others. Be afraid of your dog should
the first indicator that professional help should be sought for the diagnosis and / or treatment.

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