The Animal Doctor

Aggressive Dog Issue

DEAR DR.FOX: I am writing to you because of your article about animal behavior, and hope you will be able to help me and my dog Woodrow.

Woodrow is a large Lab mix, approximately 6 years old. He is a victim of the South Korean meat market. I got him two years ago from the SPCA. He gets along fine with my pit bull and four cats, but will nip at my human visitors and once bit a friend of mine. I don’t let him around my visitors now.

Woodrow is afraid of going out the front door. I’ve tried with a leash, without a leash, treats, pulling, toys, raw meat -- nothing will get him to go over that threshold. He does go out my back door with no problem.

I can’t take him to the vet, so I have a mobile vet come see him (and Woodrow bit him!). He gave him a sedative that had no effect. I’ve tried valerian root, and that seems to make him agitated.

Is there anything you can recommend? He is over 100 pounds, so I can’t easily move him. -- T.B., Howell, New Jersey

DEAR T.B.: I commend you for giving a loving, safe haven for this canine refugee from another country, where dogs are regarded as food and are treated with the same cruel indifference as is seen here, and in most other countries, with animal species that are marketed and slaughtered for human consumption.

Eating dogs (and cats) off the street actually causes far less harm environmentally than raising billions of pigs, poultry, cattle, goats and sheep for human consumption -- an industry now implicated, along with consumer demand, with possibly irreversible climate change and loss of wildlife habitat and wildlife.

Your poor dog most assuredly suffers from PTSD to some degree, and was probably not properly socialized earlier in life. I imagine he either survived by scavenging on the streets, or was in a crowded holding pen with other pups and dogs being fattened for slaughter. Since you have had Woodrow for two years and he still shows some behavioral problems, I would consult with a qualified veterinary animal behavior specialist, the paucity of which here in the U.S. is lamentable.

It is important to determine if he bites out of fear, or out of assertive defense of territory or social dominance. Either way, he should wear a comfortable muzzle in situations where he has shown aggressiveness before.

His phobia about going out your front door should be resolved by a behavioral therapist with one or more home visits. Have you tried taking him out the back door and coming in the front door with it set wide open?

If he fails to improve, I would explore high serotonin, l-theanine and tryptophan supplements, and some organic turkey and good quality fish oil (1 teaspoon daily). Also try a few drops of organic essential oil of lavender on a bandanna around his neck twice daily, plus 6 mg of melatonin at bedtime.

Keep me posted.


-- Natural Life Pet Products is voluntarily recalling Chicken and Potato dry dog food due to it containing elevated levels of vitamin D.

-- Nutrisca is voluntarily recalling one formula of its dry dog food due to it containing elevated levels of vitamin D.

-- Lidl USA is voluntarily recalling specific lots of Orlando brand Grain Free Chicken and Chickpea Superfood Recipe Dog Food because the products may contain elevated levels of vitamin D.

Dogs consuming elevated levels of vitamin D could exhibit symptoms such as vomiting, loss of appetite, increased thirst, increased urination, excessive drooling and weight loss.

(Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

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