What is Dog Rage?
Dog rage or sudden onset idiopathic dog aggression, is when a dog goes from a placid relaxed mood to full out aggression at a human or another animal. This condition is considered relatively rare, and is not the same as aggression with other causes.
Owners will describe their dog as having a glazed look in their dog’s eyes (or crazy eye), the body stiffens and then the dog attacks. These attacks are sudden, very vicious, often resulting in much damage to the victim. The attacks can last seconds or minutes.
The attack can be over quickly on it’s own or might have to be stopped by any means necessary, especially if the aggressor is a large powerful dog. Afterwards, the dog usually acts as if nothing happened.
It sounds frightening right? It really is! I have not experienced this with any of my own dogs but I have seen a few videos that dog owners have made of their rage affected dogs.
In the list below are the types of dog aggression
- Owner Directed or “Dominance” Aggression- basically a power struggle between dog and human, when there is confusion on the part of the dog as to who is in charge.
- Fear Aggression- overly reactive self defense aggression from an insecure dog towards people.
- Territorial/Protective Aggression- aggression to protect territory that the dog perceives as his or hers.
- Dog-on-Dog Aggression—Related to Dominance, power struggle between dogs to assert his or her place in any situation that the dogs are part of.
- Dog-on-Dog Aggression— Related to Pack (Sibling), same as above but power struggle between dog family members for positions in the pack.
- Dog-on-Dog Aggression—Related to Fear aggression, insecurity leading to fear and often resulting in attacking another dog as a form of self defense.
- Predatory Aggression-aggression more related to the hunting instinct that many breeds have.
- Possessive Aggression-similiar to food related aggression, guarding toys in particular but can also be guarding anything or anyone that the dog views as his or her property.
- Aggression Towards Babies or Children-reacting violently to the sounds and movements of little humans
- Redirected Aggression-aggression towards another person or animal when the dog is excited by something else and is interrupted.
- Food-Related Aggression- protecting a food source
- Play Aggression- lacking bite inhibition and playing too rough
- Maternal Aggression- protecting her puppies
- Health Related Aggression (general)- illness, pain and or tumours can affect the dog’s behaviour towards aggression.
- Seizure Related Aggression- connected to epilepsy
- Aggression Influenced by Medications-many drugs change the chemicals in the brain, and can change the behaviour of the dog towards aggression.
The list above are common aggression behaviours with dogs. Most (except for the last three) are caused by people that simply do not understand how a dog’s mind works. A lack of knowledge. Not enough training, or bad training.
One of the worst things that a trainer
or dog owner can do, with a dog that has developed aggression, is to respond with aggression in kind. By aggression, I mean punishing the dog by kicking, punching, hitting etc. All you have taught that dog now (if you’ve done this), is that you are not to be trusted.
True dog rage or sudden onset idiopathic aggression, is completely different from other types of aggression. From my research into this syndrome, it appears that a dog that is afflicted with SOIA (sudden onset idiopathic aggression), will attack for no reason. There are no obvious triggers.
Since this syndrome is not common, there has been very little study done on this dangerous behaviour. Possible causes can be genetic, Springer Spanials, Cocker Spanials, Bull Terriers, Border collies are a few of the breeds that have a larger percentage of SOIA showing up in bloodlines.In fact, idiopathic aggression, used to be known as ‘Cocker Rage’, or ‘Springer Rage’.
Another cause might be underlying epilepsy, some vets think the attack is possibly a seizure going on in the brain. Sudden onset idiopathic aggression shows up between the age of 7 months and 3 years.
Stopping a dog fight (very useful to know)
In my many years of operating a dog boarding facility, and a few times with my own dogs, I have had to break up a dog fight from time to time. It is very frightening to be sure when the intensity of the fight seems to be a fight to the death!
I once threw myself on top of two large Labs to break them up, landing so that I had one iron grip on the back of one dog’s neck, and likewise with my other hand on the other dog! It’s amazing how strong you can be with adrenaline flowing!
Afterwards, I was shaking from the effort, but no harm was done to either dog. I was not a cool headed dog handler like you will see Cesar Milan is here in the following video.
Treating rage syndrome
The bad news about SOIA is that when a dog actually has it, the condition is rarely treatable. If your trainer suggests that your dog may have SOIA, then a trip to your veterinarian is in order. Some dogs will respond to different drug therapies, and there have been minor successes in treating individuals with phenobarbital (common for epilepsy or seizure disorders).
The nature of this disorder indicates that the cause or triggers of this rare type of aggressive outburst are generally not identifiable. Medical and behavioral intervention is extremely difficult and frequently unsuccessful.
Since true SOIA is truly violent and totally unpredictable; in many cases of dogs with diagnosed SOIA, the recommended solution is humane euthanasia. If you suspect that your dog has Sudden Onset Idiopathic Aggression, talk to your veterinarian immediately.
I would be more prone to try some natural therapies too, like changing the diet to a wholesome natural diet of either a balanced raw diet or a homemade cooked diet. Processed dogfoods might have ingredients and even chemicals in them that could make this condition more severe.
A muzzle, that prevents your dog from biting anyone or any other living creatures, yet allows him or her to drink from a water bowl, would be a must. This muzzle should be worn ALL the time, except for brief periods for meals. Since you cannot predict when your dog will have these aggressive episodes, the muzzle is absolutely necessary!
The most effective and safe muzzles are the cage types, not the soft fabric muzzles that are commonly used by groomers and vets. Make sure the muzzle will not slip off from behind the dogs ears. A loose muzzle is a useless muzzle.
A very good muzzle is this one from Cherrybrook, a cage muzzle by Baskerville
Safety is paramount, don’t take a chance.