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Wednesday Wonderings

Dr. Pike's new "Wednesday Wonderings" (officially replacing Monday Musings because, well, life).

As I'm sure you all have heard by now (I think I got tagged in some article about it about 4,376 times already! Lol) the Biden's younger shepherd was involved in a "bite incident" over the weekend with a Secret Service agent and the dogs were subsequently sent to Delaware to stay with family friends. They may or may not be back according to some news sources, but that's besides the point.

What this story brings to light is a multitude of wonderings for me, but what I want to chat about first is why the first response to a behavior problem should ALWAYS be "Go see your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist". First, behavior problems don't crop up "out of nowhere" or "with no warning" unless there was a traumatic trigger (in this case, for example, Secret Service ran into Biden's residence guns a blazing- more on this later).

So, either there is a prior history of fearful, anxiety-based behavior (and/or aggression) that was ignored or missed, or if this was a truly new behavior, there is some underlying medical concern at play that needs to be identified and addressed by a veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist. So, if there is a new behavior, do not pass go, head straight to your vet for a work-up! I saw many comments on the various articles saying "he just needs more training" or "go see this trainer I recommend" or rumors that Major needed a "tune-up" at a shock-collar based training facility where he was supposedly originally trained at (hoping that's really untrue- another topic for another time). None of those things are what need to happen... go see your vet! Maybe he's in pain (he has had alot of romping around the White House grounds recently and he's a large breed dog, so perhaps he has partially ruptured a cruciate ligament?) Or, he is a German Shepherd (mix??) and they are prone to diseases like hip dysplasia. Maybe he has allergic skin disease (it gorgeous here in DC and the Spring allergens are starting to pop up!) and is super itchy and therefore irritable. Maybe he ate something that a well meaning staffer slipped him (a cheeseburger from Five Guys? Hello? Yum!) and he had an upset stomach making him more irritable and prone to aggression. Regardless, trainers can't (and legally shouldnt) be able to address any of those concerns! So, remember- with a sudden onset of a new behavior, or an exacerbation of a previously stable behavior, go see your vet! I cannot emphasize this enough.

Other things that this story brings to light and we can wonder about together at a later time-

1. It takes 3-6 months to acclimate to new surroundings and environment even for "normal" dogs.

2. Punishment techniques and tools and trainers often claim to fix things quick, make your dog more obedient, and guarantee their results. All the above are FALSE FALSE FALSE (and they are detrimental to the human animal bond, increase the risk of Aggression, and lead to so much potential fallout that these techniques and tools are banned in much of the modern world)

3. A bite does not make a dog "aggressive". Aggression is merely a behavioral strategy that we all use (dogs, humans, cats, birds, spiders, etc) when we are scared, frightened, anxious or feel out of control.

4. If a SS agent did burst into the Biden's residence with guns a blazing, can you blame him for being terrified? Thinking this wasn't the case since no news outlets reported it, but you never know!

Anyway, there are probably more things we could discuss about this one single case, so now that I'm not seeing patients on Wednesdays and have tried to pare my outside extra projects down (for seriously needed self-care purposes), I will try to be better about posting these Wednesday Wonderings. Not to mention I have time to see Major if he needs my help! Of course, I (and the 4,376 people that tagged me in the articles) think he does. Happy Hump Day followers!