Media – Snapping at Mom


Whose Fault? Rehome? Worse?

Dogs are man’s and woman’s best friends but there are species differences. They walk on all 4s and they’re a bit hairier but like us, dogs are genetically programmed to look after their comrades. They’re always on duty; it’s our job to set them up for success.

Kipper was brought to me because of aggression toward the mother of his human family. He was a 2 year old Catahoula mix, a robust 65#. He was well-loved but he was not well-adjusted. He had lunged and growled and snapped at his female owner in the presence of her 5 year old son – often. Serious changes were needed. Punishment would have no place in his management.

I’ve treated thousands of cats and dogs for illnesses and injuries. Their people wanted their pets to feel better. Now, I’m residency trained in disorders of the brains of animals. These pets struggle with unhealthy behaviors. They need to feel better and so do their families. Everybody benefits if we prescribe kindness in large doses.

Kipper, along with his family of 4 humans, crowded into my consulting room. They vibrated with intensity. Dad, in particular, was dead serious about reaching an abrupt end to this dog’s aggression toward his wife. Not surprisingly, Kipper was all business too. In the back yard he attacked the trampoline if the kids squealed or screamed while jumping. His anxiety disorder was clear but why was he trying to hurt his boy’s mother?

The children were strongly bonded to Kipper but their parents believed he might be dangerous. If this dog was going to survive, he would need appropriate behavior modification. The adults’ hard line on his aggression needed a compassionate shift.

When things go wrong in an animal’s behavior it is their brain that needs treatment. Understanding and managing all factors is fundamental to lasting improvement but it’s the inability of these nonhuman creatures to speak in complete sentences that makes veterinary medicine so challenging. The collective angst of this family needed help too. Next week: the cause and reconciliation.
For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website,

Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.