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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Catch-up Blog #11--Misbehaving Rottie

Next to the last "catch-up" blog!  This one is from Rachelle...
Hello... I've just discovered your blog and enjoyed reading a page or two.
I read your post about humping, from 5/2012 I think. I have an 11 1/2 mos. old male Rottweiler; he is of excellent lineage, AKC fully registered, and not yet neutered (scheduled for June 2014, though).
He is my 5th Rottie, but the first I've not neutered by 6 mos. old. There are SO many CERTAIN opinions from SO many people about why he humps but I don't know which is right - or maybe it's a little of all. From "dominance" to "over-excitement" to "he doesn't know what proper play boundaries are" to sexual excitement. I tend to go with the over-excitement, because he's very energetic and just goes bonkers at the dog park. He just loves people, but he has gotten a short fuse lately at the dog park with dogs, going from excited greeting and butt-sniffing to humping anything that moves, including people, to losing his temper when the other dog expresses HIS displeasure at being humped. Earlier this week he even bit his own tongue or lip (I couldn't find the nick but there was plenty of blood) when a bullying dog - an Australian Shepherd with a bad attitude toward any dog - went after him. He has also gotten much more reactive to my senior dog, an 8 y.o. 25 lb. blue heeler/kelpie mix, who himself is the dominant one, and is an excitement humper - but not to the degree that Rufus is... unless it's Rufus he's humping during rough play. But that rough play turns around in about 1 second when they piss each other off. I wonder if Harley has taught him this, sometimes. Rufus also started urinating on people's legs at the dog park, and he now humps anyone that comes in my office to talk to me (I've taken him to work with me from 8 weeks old so he would get very people-social; it worked!). I had to stop taking him to work because he was just too active (unless I exercise him and he conks out for about 3 hours before he's up again). I know he's not getting enough exercise (I'm disabled) and that plays a roll, probably a big one. Incidentally (or not), before this behavior started, he HAD been attacked at the dog park by very dog-aggressive dogs who picked fights with other dogs, too.
I took him to a new groomer today, who had an 18 week old male Rottie puppy loose behind the counter. When they introduced them, Rufus' hackles went up and within about 45 seconds he lashed out. I didn't see the trigger, though. They kept them separated after that, and when I picked him up, the groomer said he loved playing fetch and tug with her, but wouldn't tolerate the puppy without losing his temper.
My vet recommended not neutering him until 18 mos. but I just can't deal with this behavior. He's been much harder to control on-leash as well... very stubborn, and I'm not always able to anticipate when he is going to yank me off balance. Will the neutering really help? or will it not make a difference if I wait til he's 18 mos.?
Rachelle, I think that this is a case to have seen by a local board-certified behavioral specialist.  Something like this shouldn't be handled over the internet.  And if your vet doesn't feel qualified in fielding a challenging behavioral case, try to find one who does (nothing against that vet, though....we get little behavioral training in vet school and many vets don't like these cases).  However, there are a few things that I'd recommend as a start.
First thing to do is to get him neutered!  The sudden increase in testosterone at puberty (around 8-9 months old for most dogs) can cause a slew of problems.  Territoriality and aggression are the biggest concerns we see, and it sounds like Rufus is starting to show some of these issues.  The "humping" may also be caused by the hormones, and with him not being neutered it becomes more difficult to separate this behavior into excitement, sexual, or dominance.  Two out of those three can be worsened by hormones so we need to eliminate the hormones to try and narrow down the possibilities.
Any behaviorist I've ever talked to or heard lecture has said that if you want to get a handle on behaviors along these lines the very first thing you do is to have him neutered right away.  With this definitely fix the problem?  Maybe or maybe not.  There isn't any guarantee as behaviors are usually more complext than purely hormonal.  But we need to decrease his testosterone levels and the only way to do that in his case is neutering.  I wouldn't wait until he is 18 months old, as the longer he acts like this the more it becomes a habit rather than hormones.  At that point it becomes more difficult to change his behavior even without the hormones, as he has established a behavioral pattern. 
Because of his breed, size, and the nature of his problems I would strongly recommend talking to a board-certified behaviorist.  This is a veterinarian who has done a residency in animal behavior and does nothing but practice in this field.  It's like the difference between a therapist, psychologist, and psychiatrist, with the behaviorist being the latter.  You can go to the website of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists to find someone local to you.
Good luck, Rachelle!