What went wrong with Buddy?
was the cutest puppy they had ever
He was curious and fun loving, and
the perfect buddy for their three
year old daughter, Julie. The family
wanted to do everything right and
follow everything their veterinarian
suggested. Since their veterinarian
didn't provide pet behavior
counseling, they just did what
Everyone shared table scraps when
Buddy asked for food. After all, he
was one of the family. Whatever
Buddy wanted, he got. He rested on
furniture, and slept on their beds.
To keep Buddy safe, they kept
him isolated from other dogs
and people. To keep him
entertained, they gave him
anything he wanted as a toy.
At four months of age, he began
He would paw at their legs or
nudge with his nose, and the
petted and talked to him in
response. At about five
months old, if he didn't want to
be touched, they respected his
wishes. They thought it was cute
that he growled when anyone went
near his food dish. At about six
months old, they considered
obedience school, but never got
around to it. They resisted
neutering Buddy after a friend
told them it might change his
five months, Mom tried to move
Buddy off the couch and he
snapped at her.
She figured Buddy’s feelings
were hurt, so she tried to
soothe him. After that, Buddy
became increasingly short
tempered. No matter how much
they petted and reassured him,
he still acted tense and became
more and more disobedient. It
seemed he was always shaking his
head, as if saying, “No, I won’t
When he began urine
marking and destroying
things, Buddy became an
Buddy was seven months old, he bit a neighbor
who came over for a visit.
The family assumed the neighbor
did something to deserve it. When Buddy attacked
a friendly dog on a walk, the family thought,
“Buddy is just that way.” They took him on
fewer walks after that.
One day, when Buddy was eight
months old, Julie gave Buddy a kiss.
She came toward him face first
while he was by his food dish. When the Doctor
told the family that Julie had permanent damage
to her face, they were shocked that Buddy would
“turn vicious.” That very day Buddy became
history and a bitter memory. Everyone in the
family was permanently scarred. They began to
warn everyone not to own a dog because dogs are
untrustworthy, and can cause such heartache.
What went wrong with Buddy?
Puppy selection testing might have shown a genetic
tendency toward dominance aggression.
When Buddy was young, he missed
Puppy Socialization and Training classes.
he didn't learn how to make
friends with other dogs and people when properly
introduced. He didn't learn manners that would
have allowed him to stay indoors with his pack.
Most importantly, he didn't learn to think of
all humans as higher ranking pack members.
Buddy got anything he wanted, he assumed he
could control everyone and owned everything.
Then he discovered that he could
paw or nudge anybody, anytime, and control them
to either touch or stop touching him. He could
demand food or attention and the family gave it
submissively. They also unintentionally gave
Buddy the wrong message about his status in the
pack by allowing him to sleep on the high status
places like on beds and furniture. Buddy could
go anywhere, but could tell them to stay away
from certain areas. Male hormones further
encouraged Buddy to take charge of the family.
Another early sign of future
aggression was Buddy’s disobedience.
It seemed each time Buddy displayed
his status, by ignoring their
commands or growling, they rewarded
him by petting and talking to him in
soothing subordinate tones. Buddy
interpreted these responses as
praise which further reinforced his
aggressive behavior. When the big
female (Mom) tried to move him from
his favorite resting spot, he put
her in her place with a warning
snap. Soon Buddy thought he
controlled the world. He assumed
both power and position. Since the
other dogs on the walk and the
neighbor didn't show sufficient
submissiveness to Buddy, it was his
job as higher ranking to put them in
their places. After all, Buddy was
put in charge by the big male and
female pack members.
From Buddy’s point of view,
attacking Julie was necessary to
control her actions.
When the child tried to kiss Buddy,
he interpreted this close approach
with eye contact as a challenge to
ownership of the food and his
dominant position in the pack.
Considering the previous messages
that he was given, it became Buddy’s
duty to take charge and attack any
Buddy’s family had
unintentionally selected a dog with
a predisposition for dominance aggression. In the litter, he was
the one that pushed other puppies
away to run up and jump all over
them. After selecting him as the
"friendliest" and one that "choose
them", with all the best intentions,
the family unwittingly molded Buddy
so he would predictably attack dogs,
adults, and children.
Separate from the emotional pain, how the legal liability of
aggression can financially destroy a
The veterinarian’s role could have included pet selection
counseling, puppy classes, daycare,
neutering, and prescribing a head
halter. Veterinary visits could have
provided behavioral information on
how to decrease aggression by
maintaining positive leadership, and
ruling out any medical contributions
to aggression (such as the
irritation of an unidentified
chronic ear, tooth, or other
infection). At the very least the DVM could have asked the client
during the exam visit, "Any concerns
about Buddy's behavior?" and then
referred the case to a qualified
animal behavior consultant.