Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Getting What You Paid For

I got a call from a new client wanting to set up an appointment for her almost 6 month old puppy.  She'd gotten her puppy from a breeder that had been recommended to her by a close friend. She indicated that the puppy's behavior was not only causing her frustration at every turn, she was also on the outs with her friend as she feels like her friend "duped" her with regard to this breeder.  I agreed to meet with her and the puppy in person to see if we could sort this all out before she gave up on the puppy AND her 15 year friendship.

The puppy in question is a Maltipoo.  Right away I can hear some of you saying, well that's a mixed breed dog, so what do you mean by "this dog came from a breeder."  Well, this puppy is a purposefully bred dog, the product of a breeding between the breeder's two existing Maltipoos (Maltese x Teacup Poodle).  Yes, I know, Teacup Poodles are not a recognized size for Poodles as Toy is considered the smallest within the breed standard, but nonetheless, there are people out there breeding even smaller poodles, and thus smaller mixes. This client has had small breed dogs before, though none with an adult size as small as this puppy will be. She was frustrated because the puppy seems impossible to housetrain, won't come when called, hasn't even learned to sit or lay down, and nips at her hands and ankles relentlessly, leaving marks on her skin and clothing. When I gently asked her what her expectations were when she chose this puppy, I found out that she didn't, in fact, choose this particular puppy; the breeder chose for her.  And when I asked why she was so upset with her friend, she stated that her friend knows the breeder and should have made sure the breeder picked the "best puppy for her." I was starting to get the picture. This was a case of buyer's remorse, so to speak.  

It was clearly time for a reality check.  Puppies are a lot of work, regardless of breed or temperament.  These super small breed puppies are notoriously difficult to housetrain for everyone who owns one.  The rule of thumb seems to be, the smaller the dog the more difficult to housetrain completely. I've known many a Yorkie, Morkie, Maltese, Maltipoo, and Chihuahua that were never completely housetrained. Why?  It isn't just that their bladders are small, for example.  Actually it's about something called "neoteny," which is the retention of juvenile characteristics into adulthood. In the effort to breed these small, cute, puppy-like little dogs with their big eyes and even bigger foreheads, we're also breeding in puppy-like characteristics like lack of self control, housetraining mishaps, mouthy behavior, etc. Basically, a Labrador puppy will grow up and become a Labrador dog.  A Maltipoo puppy will grow older, but they will always be puppy-like in their behavior. To be fair, that's why many of my clients who've chosen these little dogs made that choice.  They like that puppy attitude and are willing to put up with the housetraining mishaps.

So, while I do blame the breeder for not making all of this clearer to my client/her puppy buyer, I also know that breeders are in the business of selling dogs.  She probably figured that this client understood what she was getting into, particularly since they share that friend in common.  But you see, a Pug (what she had before) is very different from a Maltipoo.  Pugs are relatively easy to housetrain and mature into dogs with a low exercise requirement.  Good thing, too, given their breathing issues, but that's a separate issue altogether!  

I reviewed with the client a fairly rigorous schedule to help with the housetraining and suggested she crate or pen the pup when she couldn't watch him to limit where the accidents occur.  I also suggested consequences for the mouthy behavior that a puppy can understand, along with handling exercises to get him better and more patient with the things that were making him mouthy in the first place.  As far as training obedience skills goes, she needs to set realistic expectations. I taught the puppy to sit and come when called, using high value treats, clicking fingers, and a high pitched voice.  While her Pug was able to learn fetch and a handful of tricks, I told her she needed to remember that this new dog was a Maltipoo.  We can teach some tricks, but these dogs aren't bred for their obedience skills or their intellectual prowess.  They're bred to be constant companions and lapdogs. Period.  I don't think her friend steered her wrong, I just think there was some miscommunication.  When my client indicated she wanted another small dog, and couldn't bring herself to get another Pug, her friend suggested a happy-go-lucky Maltipoo pup to cheer her up and that's exactly what she got.  A happy-go-lucky, the world-is-my-oyster little ball of floof that likes sitting on laps, will love riding in a stroller, and will likely never be fully housetrained. I told her that if that's a dealbreaker for her, she should return the dog to the breeder to give him an opportunity to find an owner who is a better fit for him.  And, of course, we can find a dog that's a better fit for her too.

I appreciated that this client was okay with me sharing her story.  She'd never heard of neoteny or the pitfalls of owning a pup this small, and she felt others could benefit from her story.  She's not decided yet whether she will keep this puppy, but she is more patient with him now that she understands him better. I think he could end up being a nice companion for her IF she's willing to keep to that strict schedule with respect to housetraining.

As always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.

This little guy will probably be about 10-12 lbs. when he's full grown. 
 I think Henley's head weighs that much!

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

An Open Letter to Dog Owners

Hi, I'm your neighbor. You know, the one you see walking every day with my dogs on leash.  While I occasionally deal with them trying to sniff your free-roaming cats or chase a squirrel, they are under my control and we stick to the sidewalks as well as the trails of our local park.

I feel the need to write you this letter because I'm concerned and frankly a bit frustrated.  You see, despite the fact that our city and county have leash laws regarding dogs in public spaces, you are still allowing your dogs to charge off of your property and onto the sidewalk where we are walking.  Your dogs running at me with my leashed dogs is anxiety-provoking.  The fact that you can't get your dogs to come back to you when you call them, makes me even more concerned for my safety, the safety of my leashed dogs, and the safety of your dogs as well.

And when you say, "Don't worry, he's friendly!" that doesn't make it any better.  How do you know my dogs are friendly?  How do you know my dogs won't protect me?  In fact, how do you know I'm friendly? Just kidding! Sort of.  Anyway, your dog being friendly doesn't excuse the inappropriate behavior.  Your dog should not be outside of your house without a leash or tether.  Having them off leash in your garage or on your driveway or in your non-fenced front yard when you know they are territorial AND you know they won't come when you call them away from the city streets and sidewalks is not just un-neighborly, it's against the law.

I, like you, love our neighborhood park.  It's so beautiful, lots of green grass and open space to enjoy.  When you let your dogs run off leash, however, you are making use of that park restricted for the rest of us. See that family with the young kids?  They wanted to throw the ball around but they can't as your dog is running around on that grassy field off leash trying to take their ball, despite the signs that say all dogs must be on leash.  Also, I hate to mention it, but your dogs have now pooped twice while they were running around and you were looking at your phone.  Maybe you missed it? But you need to pick up behind them as that's the law too and those little kids shouldn't have to try to play around the poop on their playground area.

Did I mention that I like to run every day to clear my head?  That's a problem too, I guess, as your off leash dogs have chased me more than once and one of them even bit me.  I know you said you're sorry and that it has never happened before, but I'm still going to carry pepper spray with me from now on.  Next time, I will spray your dogs if they charge at me.  I can't afford to miss work again for a dog bite.

I feel bad that I had to write you this letter, but I felt like it was the neighborly thing to do.  I don't want to have to contact Animal Control about your lack of respect for the law, but I will if it means one more runner isn't chased, one more dog isn't attacked, and one more child isn't bitten.  You are giving dog owners a bad name and making our neighborhood unsafe.


Your neighbor

P.S.  I really do love dogs.  They are my life and my livelihood.  I've spent the last 30 years helping pet owners.  So, if you are having a problem with your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.

These two good boys are always on leash and they are friendly with dogs, cats and people,
but they don't appreciate being bum-rushed and they get scared when your off leash dogs 
body slam them to the ground.  Collies are gentle spirits, but their owner (me)
 is not going to be gentle when this happens to them again.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Pats, Strokes, Cuddles, & Nudges!

I received a call last weekend from a client who was interested in pet assisted therapy for her puppy.  I let her know that while most pet assisted therapy organizations require a dog to be over a year of age to begin volunteering, she can certainly begin training her puppy now with that as a long term goal.  She wants to work together to get her puppy ready as he will be the first dog she's ever had with a temperament for the job!  I can appreciate her desire to "do this the right way" as after years of educating new volunteers in pet therapy, and evaluating animals for the job, I can tell you I've met numerous dogs who weren't ready, as well as many who would never be ready for the job, and tons who just needed direction to be really good pet therapists. 

One of the very basic things I look for is a dog who doesn't shy away from new humans approaching them and petting them on the head.  See, here's the thing:  I KNOW dogs absolutely don't like being patted/petted on the head, however, I also know that that's the first thing a person will do when meeting a new dog, particularly within the realm of pet assisted therapy. People who don't know dogs always reach for their head, nose, ears, etc.  Even people who profess to knowing about dogs will reach for their heads, ears, etc.  which is frustrating as well.  I know we've talked about dog body language many times here before, but I want to specifically address head pats today.

Dogs do not inherently enjoy being patted on the head.  Looming over them, hands coming at their faces, accompanied by direct eye contact are all threatening behaviors in a dog's world.  Among dogs, coming over the head or neck of another dog, direct eye contact, etc. are all provocative behaviors that may lead to aggression. For dogs, unfamiliar humans doing these behaviors is anxiety-provoking.  You will see dogs widen their eyes, turn their gaze away, lick their lips, dip their heads away from those hands, and physically try to turn away. If their humans force them into the interaction, you may even see them stiffen, yawn, and pull away the first chance they get.  While your dog may be fully accepting of you petting them on the head, ruffling their ears, and hugging them, there's no reason to believe that they will accept such invasive behaviors from someone they've just met, and you shouldn't force them into accepting these things either.  And, do you REALLY think your dog enjoys it when you do them? Yes, I know there are some dogs who do seem to enjoy this type of attention, but I've certainly encountered enough dogs over the years who don't enjoy it all and are merely tolerating their owners doing it because it makes the people happy when they do.

I'm a firm believer in teaching every dog to accept brief contact with a new human that involves a head pat/stroke and ears being touched, I'm also a firm believer in teaching people the right way to engage a dog they've just met.  In pet therapy in particular, I try to train the new volunteers to make the greetings work for their dogs.  By bringing your dog toward a new person, telling them to say hi, for example, allowing a brief head pat and then turning them sideways or with their bottom toward that new person, thus diffusing any tension and encouraging the new person to scratch that bottom, stroke that side, etc. If your dog is good with face to to face approaches, then you can instruct those new people to pet your dog under their chin, across their chest, etc.  Those are non-confrontational face-to-face greetings that can be done with less looming and direct eye contact, so more acceptable to dogs.  And, again, dogs approach each other sideways, and tuck under each other's chins when behaving in a more affiliative manner.

It's also important to remember that people are less trainable than dogs...LOL.  You can tell people that your dog likes being petted under his chin, loves bootie scratches, and will shake a hand on command, yet they will, by and large, still reach over your dog's head, ruffle their ears, pet their face, and if they are really over the top, try to kiss or hug your dog! This is particularly true in the realm of pet assisted therapy, making it all that more important that your dog be accepting of poor human behavior if you are going to try to participate in this type of work together.  So, how can you prepare your dog?

As with so many behaviors, especially those in cooperative care, it's all about desensitization and counter-conditioning. You have to desensitize your dog to head pats, ear ruffles, eye contact, and looming and counter-condition them using high value rewards to view these human behaviors as desirable, or at a minimum, something they can tolerate without feeling anxious or overwhelmed.  You can even shape behaviors in your dog that encourage the people greeting them to do so in a more respectful way. For example, teaching your dog to put their head in someone's hand or on someone's lap or bed, allows you to position your dog in a way that gives them a choice.  They can choose to put their head in that position or not; if they choose not to, then you, as their handler, can move them into a position that they prefer, such as sideways, and have the person pet them there. If your dog will put their chin in someone's hand or on their lap, remind the person petting them to "go with the grain," that is, don't push their hair/fur or ears the wrong way.  Ruffling a dog's ears or fur often leads to excitement or them becoming over-stimulated, while petting them with the grain is more soothing and less stimulating. 

With my client's puppy, we are going to start with the basics.  We're going to work on sitting or standing calmly when people approach.  We're going to work on not pulling on the leash while walking in buildings and down hallways.  We are going to work on moving around in small spaces because this dog, when fully grown, will be about 90 lbs!  We will also work on shaping the head in a hand behavior and desensitizing her puppy to head pats, hugs, and kisses as this client really wants to work with children and teens on her pet therapy visits.  We will also be working on other cooperative care behaviors as this will ultimately be a big dog and we want trips to the veterinarian and groomer to go successfully as well. 

As always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.

Here's Henley!  He and I have big plans for him to be my next pet assisted therapy dog. He's not even close to ready yet, even though he's a year old now. He's still too bouncy and jumpy, but we're working on it every day.  My guess is he'll be ready to work by the time he's 2 years old.  I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Turn That Frown Upside Down: Part 2!

So many of you reached out to let me know how much you loved the idea of teaching a dog to pick up items and drop them into boxes or baskets from last week's blog post.  One of you actually told me that I was a genius to think of this and that really made me blush!  Not genius, just creative.  And the client with the resource guarding dog was desperate enough to try anything, including shaping an entirely new behavior, slowly, over time.  

There are other behaviors that your dogs might be doing that you find challenging enough to want to try shaping those behaviors into something more manageable for you.  For example: Does your dog bark and scratch at the door to get you to let them outside/inside your house?  How about teaching them to ring a string of bells on that door instead?  Basically, you just attach a single bell on a sturdy rope (you can buy them pre-made on Amazon, Chewy, Etsy, etc. or you can make your own with craft store finds) and tie that to the door handle of the door your dog goes in and out of the most. Every time you open that door, ring the bell yourself and say whatever you say when you open the door.  At my house, I say "Go potty!" when I open the door to let the dogs out and "Wait!" when I open the door to let them back in.  You can hang bells on both sides of the door so your dogs ring the bell to go out AND to come back inside. Timing is everything. You need to be there to respond quickly and open the door the first time your dog bumps those bells with a paw or their nose instead of pawing or nosing the door itself.  You definitely want to get there on the first ding so they don't escalate to barking!  You are trying to teach them that ringing the bell is enough to get the door opened, no scratching, pawing of the door, or barking is necessary.  

Ready for another one?  Does your dog jump up on people who raise their hands up to avoid getting jumped on or who raise their arms up because they are afraid?  Well, teach your dog that those raised arms and the frightened high pitch voices that accompany that behavior are actually just a different way that some people ask them to sit!  Have treats at the ready and get really excited, squealing with delight and throwing your arms up in the air.  Jumping dogs can't resist and will try to jump. Tell them to sit while your hands are up in the air.  The moment they do, give them a treat and repeat again with the squealing excitement and hands in the air. This is one of my favorite alternate behaviors to teach novice therapy dogs as a way to help prevent jumping on people during therapy visits. And a special thank you and shout out to Trish Wamsat for this exercise and helping me teach it to Henley!

One final example of shaping you might like to try: Ever been in a tight space with your dog where getting them into the heel position was difficult as people were walking on both sides of you?  Instead of shortening their leash and forcing them to stand next to you/walk next to you, try having them walk under you or  reverse sit in front of you, and wait at your feet.  Basically, you teach your dog to walk in the heel position first.  Then stop and have your dog go around behind you (use your hand to direct them around your body) and poke themselves through your legs.  Keep your legs a comfortable distance apart so that your dog can squeeze through and have them sit immediately when the front half of their body is through your legs.  They should be sitting right in front of you, between your feet, with their heads facing out. It's okay if they look up at you initially, but the goal is to have them go around your body, position themselves between your legs, and then sit calmly in your body's space at your feet.  You can even train them to walk with you, between your legs, much as some trainers do who teach dogs in the art of protection. The bottom line is that now people can move around you on either or both sides and your dog and you are sharing the same exact space, making those people around you less worried about moving around you and your dog.  

I've been continuing to work on the "don't jump up when people get excited and raise their hands or clap" behavior with Henley. It's a work in progress as he REALLY wants to jump on people.  What I don't want to do is pull back on his leash as that teaches him that whatever he's approaching is bad.  I can stand on his leash, but he's really strong and he's been known to yank that leash right out from under me to get to someone to say hi!  So, we continue to work on the sitting politely for greetings, even if people get excited to see him too. No surprise, Ozzie is great at this exercise.  And Ozzie loves the through-the-legs-sit-at-my-feet exercise too.  And if I walk with him between my legs, he grins from ear to ear with joy, prancing with every step!  That will be the next behavior I teach Henley; he can walk around and then through my legs, but sitting quietly at my feet will take practice.

Let me know if you try any of these shaped behaviors with your dogs too.  And as always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.

Here's what I see when Ozzie does the "sitting at your feet, sharing your space" behavior. 
 He makes this look easy.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Turn That Frown Upside Down!

Just because a behavior seems bad doesn't mean you can't turn in into something that's less bad or even something that's actually good!  This was how I started a recent appointment with a new client whose dog is a resource guarder.  If he gets a sock, a kid's toy, etc., he's not giving it up and he's escalating to aggression in his efforts not to give up what he's found in their house.  The owners are terrified that they'll get bitten or that he'll swallow something he finds and get really sick.  So, here's an outline of what we're going to try with this dog. 

We set up laundry baskets and boxes all over their house, one in each room to begin with.  Using toys, I taught the dog to pick up a toy and hand it to me, and then I gave him a small bite of mozzarella cheese.  He'd never had cheese before, so he was definitely interested in what I was up to!  Once he was able to pick up any toy I dropped and hand it to me, I walked over to one of the baskets/boxes and put my hand over it as I asked the dog to give me the item.  Instead of taking it, I let it drop into the container and immediately rewarded the dog with cheese.  I repeated this until he'd readily just drop the toy into the container and look at me expectantly for his treat.  This was phase one. The owners will keep working on these basic behaviors (pick it up, give it to me, and drop it in the bin with dog toys) until we meet next week for phase two.

For this next phase, I'll be using innocuous items that are too big for the dog to swallow, but also something he's likely to want to hang onto and not give up.  I'll start with a hard glasses case and a hair brush, dropping these items on the floor and asking the dog to pick them up. I'll start with having him hand them to me, rewarding with larger pieces of cheese when he does so.  Once he's handing them to me readily, I'll quickly move over to the container in the room and see if I can get him to drop it in the basket and step away for the treat.  Stepping away after he's relinquished the item is the key with this phase.  If he does, big rewards!  If all of this goes well, I'll have the owners start doing these same exercises for another week with innocuous items and we'll see how it goes from there.

What's the end goal?  My end goal for this dog is to let him pick up anything he wants IF he'll go and put it in one of the containers in the house. If he does, big rewards in the form of mozzarella cheese will be coming his way. Why do I want him dropping the items in the containers versus just handing them over?  Mostly because this dog has a history of dropping things in his owner's hands and then grabbing it back quickly before she can even get a hold of it, and he'll growl with a hard stare if she grabs for it again.  I want a completely different behavior to be trained so that we bypass that grabby business and get the dog into a working mindset.  Plus, as the client said, if she can get this dog picking up stuff around her house and putting it away in the baskets and boxes, he'll be better trained than her kids!

Yes, it's important to control defensible resources in a home with a resource guarding dog, but it's also possible that you can turn that behavior into something different IF the dog is willing to trade and IF you are willing to take the time to shape a different behavior.  And, yes, you can shape this same behavior in a dog who doesn't engage in resource guarding. When Ozzie was a puppy, I taught him to pick up laundry and help me stick it into my front loading washing machine! He loved this task and it kept him from racing around with socks and underwear. I no longer have that front loading washing machine, but he still stands at the ready when I'm doing laundry. I appreciate that about Ozzie.

As always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.

My ever present laundry assistant, Ozzie. If I drop something, he'll pick it up for me!


Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Make the Most of Every Moment!

A client called me over the weekend to share the sad news that her 5 year old, seemingly healthy dog, had passed away suddenly. Apparently, he'd become lethargic and she figured he just didn't feel well and would get over it on his own, only to find out that whatever had made him lethargic was some toxin he'd gotten into outdoors and his liver just couldn't beat it.  Really sad and all the more reason to watch your dogs when they are outdoors AND have a really good leave it/drop it in case they do pick something up they shouldn't.  But besides that, I think the thing that really broke my heart even more was when she said, "I wish I'd spent more time just hanging out with him.  He was so amazing!" She'd had this dog since he was an 8 week old puppy, so her feeling that they'd not spent enough time together, really hit me.

We all need to make the most of every moment we have with each other.  Savor the friendships and the time with loved ones as there really are no guarantees that any of us will be here tomorrow, next week, or next year.  And our pets' lives are already shorter to begin with.  Yes, I've known dogs and cats that live well into the double digits, but the truth of the matter is that the average dog lives about 10 years and the average cat about 12 years. That's not nearly long enough!  While I'm not advocating bubble wrapping them and never letting them do anything that could be challenging, I am saying enjoy them while you can. 

Take the walk even if you only have 15 minutes to do so.  Better to walk for 15 minutes with your canine friend than not at all. Grab that fishing pole lure toy and play with your cat every chance you get.  Just take the time, even if only a few minutes at a time, and enjoy them. Include them in what you are doing.  Take your dog to run errands with you and watch TV with your cat.  You know, dance like no one is watching! Better yet, dance with your dog!

For me, I really enjoy the "not really doing anything in particular" together moments with my dogs. They'll park themselves next to me while I'm working, reading my book, or watching a movie.  We love walking around in our garden together.  Sometimes we just sit outside and enjoy the sunshine, or even the rain. I want to remember these moments with them as much, if not more, than those moments where we were doing something specific together. 

The bottom line?  Take care that your pets stay out of trouble and don't shorten their already abbreviated lives with risky behaviors.  Help them understand what's safe to pick up/eat and what they need to avoid.  Keep them on leash unless their recall is near perfect amid distractions. Buckle them in or secure them in crates when they ride in your car. And most importantly remind them every single day that you appreciate the joy they bring to your life.

And as always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.

Shadow with me, circa 1995. She's just hanging out while I carve a pumpkin. Nothing fancy, nothing mentally taxing, but definitely enjoyable. I don't remember this day specifically, but I fondly remember all of the times that she was there with me doing something, doing nothing, but nonetheless together.  She was here for 16 years and it still wasn't long enough.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

When it Hurts

I started working with a new client this week.  She has a dog who has suddenly begun displaying aggressive behavior.  This dog went from being friendly, outgoing, and sociable to snappy, avoidant, and biting anyone who touches her. She had emailed me photos of her dog out in public, receiving pets and love from strangers, children, etc. Now, she's afraid to even walk her dog as the dog lunges at anyone who gets within range of them. I asked, of course, if she'd talked to her vet about this and she said, yes, the vet prescribed Prozac and gave the client my card.  I felt bad about doing it, but I told her she has to return to see her veterinarian. I didn't want her to feel like she was being ping-ponged back and forth without getting any help, but I have major concerns about this dog's physical health.

For a dog to suddenly go from friendly and approachable to one that can't be handled, even by the owner, is a red flag for some sort of medical issue.  Pain mediated aggression, that is, aggression as a result of physical pain, is a very real thing. The aggression can be an appropriate or inappropriate response to pain. The highest number of bites occur in veterinary clinics and emergency clinics treating canine patients who have been injured or who have orthopedic issues. Yes, even arthritis can stimulate an aggressive response from a dog. While it is true that exhibiting pain mediated aggression toward someone who has barely touched the dog is absolutely inappropriate, and snapping or biting at that person should be a last resort not the the first line of defense, not every dog deals with pain in the same way. Some breeds are more sensitive to handling to begin with and many dogs are wary of handling because they were never accustomed to it when they were younger (cooperative care, something we've talked about many times before). But if this dog is a bite risk for the veterinarian and the staff at the veterinary hospital, how will this dog get the care it needs?

First and foremost safety has to be a priority. I advised this client to reach out to her vet and set up the agenda for the appointment in advance.  She should fast her dog and have it wearing a muzzle when they arrive for the appointment, that way the dog is prohibited from biting and ready to be sedated or anesthetized for care. This dog will need blood work, x-rays, and a full physical exam including exploration of the ears and mouth to rule out ear infections, cracked teeth, or oral abscesses, for example. That blood work should tell us if there are underlying issues with the dog's thyroid function, liver, etc.  And those x-rays are critical for telling us if something is broken, torn, or if this dog has something brewing with her internal organs.  If all of this is inconclusive, it might be worth the expense to do either a spinal tap or brain MRI, or both.  If this dog's body is healthy, there may be something very wrong with her brain causing the sudden and abrupt change in behavior.

This client felt relieved to have a game plan so that she can return to her vet's office and start getting answers on why her formerly sweet, compliant dog, is no longer approachable or touchable.  While I never want to hope that a dog has medical issues, in this case I truly do.  If this dog's behavior changed this rapidly with no underlying medical reason for it, then we are likely dealing with a case of idiopathic aggression; that is, aggressive behavior that is unprovoked, unpredictable, and uncontrolled.  There isn't a lot that can be done with idiopathic aggressors as their care is about safe management rather than a solution.

I hope the veterinary appointment goes well and my client gets the answers she so desperately needs, both for her sake, and for her dog's.

As always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.

Sudden changes in behavior must be investigated from a medical point of view first. 
Then, if medical reasons for the behavioral changes aren't found, 
you can pursue treatment in the form of behavioral modification.