The Day My Dog Attacked Me

Photo by Patrick Danforth | www.clicktozen.com

Photo by Patrick Danforth | www.clicktozen.com

My dog has seizures. He is on medication but occasionally he has a “break through” seizure. They are violent. He starts with some vague disorientation. Most people would not recognize this phase. However, anyone who has a dog with epilepsy will recognize it. Then he convulses on the ground, mouth frothing, “paddling”, pupils dilated and muscles twitching and seizing uncontrollably. It is scary and painful to watch. I feel helpless. Then for the next 20 or so minutes he wanders, pacing and disoriented. I had been with him through his seizures before without incidence until the day the demon came.

He had been fine for a while. My guard was down. I had been out doing errands. It was a very cold day and I had borrowed my friend’s expedition down coat that did not smell like me. I came home. Usually this pup is the first one to greet me at the door but I could not find him. I called for him. No answer. Then I found him in the basement. He looked strange and afraid and ran away from me. If I had my dog trainer’s brain turned on, I would have recognized this as a signal that he wanted to be left alone. Instead, I had my “dog mom’s” brain turned on. I followed him. He ran upstairs away from me. I still followed.

He was my companion, my friend. He had never hurt me or any one else. That very morning we had cuddled in bed together. But now he ran away from me, and I followed him. I caught up to him and he froze. This is a huge warning. I ignored it. I was in “dog mom” brain and I completely trusted him. I noticed his throat was wet and I was worried. I got close to him. He froze again and growled. I did not pay attention and reached for his throat. Then he attacked me.

I have worked with thousands of dogs as a trainer. I have never been attacked by a dog… let alone with such violence… and by my own dog. Time went in slow motion. I could not believe what was happening. He bit me repeatedly on my face. I exclaimed, “What are you doing?” Then he stopped. I did not see where he went. I was in shock. I could not believe what just happened. I knew I was hurt but I was afraid to look at my face. I thought I was ok, but still, I called my daughter. A few minutes later my dog came back into the room acting normally, as if nothing had happened.

My daughter talked me into going to the local urgent care clinic. I received 40 stitches in my face.

Over the next few days, weeks and months I felt many emotions: shame, stupidity, profound grief, doubt. I wondered if I should even be a dog trainer at all. My dog had given me every warning possible and I ignored all of them! I mentally and emotionally flogged myself on a daily basis.

The bond I had with my pup had changed as well. I know disease caused my dog to act the way he did. I had found him post-seizure and he was disoriented and in an altered state of mind. I shudder to put myself in my dog’s brain at that moment. How scary and painful the world must have been to him! But the bond between us still needed to be rebuilt. Trust needed to be forged again.

I am more careful with him now. I am much more attentive to his body language. I am amazed that even in the horrible, disoriented post seizure state of mind he was in, he still gave clear body language to leave him alone. Now I will listen to him. Now I will listen even more to other dogs as well. I see more clearly.

“I am with you I am right here”, I tell him. I am with him all the way to help him with his disease; to find medication to keep him healthy; and to pay attention when the demon comes again. I will keep us both safe, and I will care for him forever. We are in this journey together.


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Positively Expert: Louisa Morrissey

Louisa is a member of Victoria Stilwell’s Positively Dog Training Team, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA), a member of the Pet Professional Guild of Non-Force Trainers and a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. She is the founder of High Country Dogs in Colorado.


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20 thoughts on “The Day My Dog Attacked Me

  1. Ally Gobi

    Wow, Louisa. Powerful story. And so honest. I appreciate that part the most. When we don't see the signs in our own life that the professional in us must instruct upon and notice daily in practice, it is so easy to be overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness. I applaud you for championing the energy that could easily destroy anybody. You are the trainer I would hire, without a doubt, if I needed assistance. To posses the humility to admit to and learn from mistakes is how a master is born. That you are a compassionate soul catalyzes the process even more. Thankyou for sharing so openly.

  2. Robin Rosner

    Wow...I can only imagine how horrible that must have been, especially feeling as a "professional" you should know it all and have all the answers. Not quite the same, but going through the same thing as a social worker with older adults and making mistakes in the caring of my own elder parents.
    I had a pup who developed seizures when she was older. The arrogant vet we had been seeing was quick to assume it was a brain tumor; eventually we were grateful to find a vet who listened to me and figured out the seizures were due to low blood sugar from an insulinoma.
    Her seizures would come in clusters...and through it all I would stay put, often wearing a familiar robe, and softly touching her and saying soothing things. Hearing your story makes me feel good to know that I was on the right track and did all I could for her.
    Wishing you all the best....love does conquer it all....

  3. Chris Trautner

    Thank you so much, my aussie is prone to seizures, and I was not aware of the signs post seizure, I am now thanks to you - I too will be more careful and watch his body language better. Thank you so much again.

  4. Rachel Hopple

    I totally know what you are talking about...and what a frightening time...for you, and your dog. No-one understands epilepsy completely unless you've lived with an epi dog; so unpredictable, so utterly exhausting for the both of you. (((HUGS))) to you. No combo of meds would help our dear Willis; we had to have him put to sleep when he was only 3. 🙁 The seizures came daily & unrelenting.

  5. Michelle Staggs

    Powerful and sad, and also full of insight. Many times we don't want to look at our own behavior and how it impacts how dogs react toward us. Im glad she didn't abandon him and to me, the person that can learn from their mistakes is far superior to someone who cannot. I hope you have fully recovered and I hope your pup is well.

  6. starzowner

    Hi, thanks for sharing this. Do you know what has caused the seizures? Did your vet do blood work on the dog? My daughter's dog recently began having seizures and the blood work showed low glucose and a few other abnormalities. We bought human glucose tablets and give him one every morning and he has not had any more seizures since then. We skipped a few days once and he began seizing once again so we know it is the glucose working. The vet wanted us to put him on phenobarbital right away and said he would have to take them for the rest of his life, but we wanted to try to increase his blood levels of the nutrients and glucose he was lacking and it worked! Not saying the same would work for your dog, just wanted to let you know what worked for us. I, too, am a dog trainer and am guilty of treating my own babies differently than I do a clients dog. Thus, I learned from your story. Thanks again.

  7. Peggy Moran

    This is a very brave sharing, recounting an impossibly difficult experience. I would argue I read an excellent dog trainer between the lines, despite the dog-mom moments of concern causing a temporary lapse in trainer objectivity. You are systematically walking through the experience, bringing us along and allowing us to learn with you. Thank you for having the courage to share your story; I'm sorry you had to live it, but am thankful you have used your learning experience to improve your own relationship with your dog as well as to apply it, in a broader sense, to shed light on a gray area within our profession. Each of us who work with dogs for a living most likely also live with dogs who we relate with in feeling-based, caring ways. It's not easy to walk that line and keep it clear at all times; however it is very professional of you to revisit and analyze your entire process within that situation. I'm very impressed.

  8. AWM

    thank you for posting this... it's a good article for ALL dog (and cat!!) owners to read and THINK about. Ignoring dog body language is most likely the number one reason for bites... I am glad things worked out for you AND your dog. And, don't feel guilty... we ALL go down that road once in a while...

  9. Liverpool Lou

    What a powerful message this conveys and how very brave of Louisa to put it out there for all to read and learn from.

  10. Pauliina Laurila

    Thanks so much Louisa for sharing your experience! I'm a trainer too and have recently become a "mom" of a rescue dogo who is epileptic amongst many other issues. The disease is horrendous and I've been trying to study it as much as possible. It definitely isn't always easy to balance mom brain / trainer brain..! Your story made me cry. It's an article I really needed right now. I'm grateful that you talked about all the feelings you had and even of self doubt. I've felt it too and it should be treated as something natural. Especially when we are very conscious professionally and always willing to learn something new. All the best !

  11. ALison Barton

    I am not a dog trainer but one of my rescue dogs suffers seizures and has done so for the past 5yrs now. We have had him to two specialist the last being Liverpool vet collage. I know this sort of research is expensive, but as a 'Dog Mum' I know Max is worth every penny. The Liverpool clinic changed his meds to 2xEpiphen twice daily (9am and 9pm) and 4-5 Libromide once a day after food ( he has this at 4pm). We are rigorous with his routines as well and we have found this helps. This last lot of meds has worked wonders and although he still has seizures they are not very often and are of little consequence. We were told when a dog is in seizure is leave it alone in a quiet place with no stimulation of any kind and to cover him with a cold wet towel as seizures make them very hot.My husband even lost his shirt once when Max had a seizure while we were out walking. The shirt was taken to the lake and soaked in water to cover Max. It does help them come around quicker. Thus far this treatment is working for us. Max lives happy life is walk and fed twice a day, but due to the meds sleeps during the evening and at night...... This article is brilliant and just goes to show how easy and natural it is to go into 'Mum' mode instead of head on practical , thinking mode. My heart goes out to you. I am sure your bond will be rebuilt soon.

  12. Tressie Dutchyn

    I came across this article quite by accident. I too have a dog with epilepsy. I have shared your article with the on-line support group I belong to. Everyone who has read is grateful to you for sharing your story. While we may believe our dogs would never harm us, you have given us a powerful message to be cautious and know the demon this condition can create. Thank you!

  13. Leslie wine

    Thank you for sharing all the info it is so very helpful .. I am sure you will build your bond The epi monster was what caused this I am sure after your dog came out of seizure mode she was upset because that happened because this was not her it was the epi monster .. But now you will be more alert and not a mom mode so you both can understand everything .. I heard coconut oil helps too Thank you for sharing so everyone with pets with Epilepsy will no the warning signs so they will know when to just give there pets space when they need it so no one will get hurt But don't Beat yourself about it. I am sure you are amazing trainer I just lost my Baby Boy Red to a seizure 01/13/16 He had never had a seizure But I guess His time was up on earth so he went to rainbow Bridge and is a angel now .. so we just never know what could happen.. Just love your baby and build your trust up again they are family.

  14. Agata

    If not, you should! I have a dog with epilepsy too. Our life has changed tremendously since I started to give her CBD oli. Before it she had at least couple seizures per month. Now, with CDB oli, her last seizure was 5 month ago! We use CBD oil and phenobarbital.

  15. Carol Richardson-Sitzlar

    Good for you for recognizing what needs to be corrected and for NOT giving up on your dog. Many would. I can't imagine the emotional pain you went through, never mind the physical. You exemplify love and I'm so glad to read your story. I've had dogs with seizures and I know that awful feeling of helplessness. I've never (yet) had one turn on me, but I always knew it could happen. I like to believe I wouldn't have given up, either.

  16. Marian Figley

    Have you tried CBD oil? It helps with seizures in people, I'm going to try it with my horse. Just a thought. I have a husky who has had a couple seizures, but he hasn't had one for over a year. If they come back I'll probably try the CBD oil before I'd go to phenobarbital.

  17. Ripley Wolfwood

    I am also a dog bite "survivor" and a trainer. I was bit on the face when I was 12 by my uncle's Rottweiler. It's scary and embarrassing, you have post traumatic stress... I hope you're on the mend and wish you and your dog the best.

  18. Su French

    I have lived with my epileptic Collie for nearly 14 years (rescue) the first time he had a seizure I think he would have bitten, I closed the door on him and watched through the window until he was calm. all others he has not been like that.

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