Rage Syndrome in Dogs

Valuable training articles posted by Victoria and other Positively members.

Moderators: emmabeth, BoardHost

Post Reply
wvvdiup1
Posts: 3397
Joined: Tue Mar 17, 2009 2:31 am
Location: Pennsylvania

Rage Syndrome in Dogs

Post by wvvdiup1 » Wed Oct 16, 2013 11:39 pm

I was going to ask any of you if any of you knew anything about rage syndrome in dogs, however, I found this article and found it interesting and I thing you will too.
Rage Syndrome in Dogs
Idiopathic aggression is (thankfully) quite rare, but also quite dangerous.

by Pat Miller

The term “rage syndrome” conjures up mental images of Cujo, Stephen King’s fictional rabid dog, terroriz-ing the countryside. If you’re owner of a dog who suffers from it, it’s almost that bad – never knowing when your beloved pal is going to turn, without warning, into a biting, raging canine tornado.

The condition commonly known as rage syndrome is actually more appropriately called “idiopathic aggression.” The definition of idiopathic is: “Of, relating to, or designating a disease having no known cause.” It applies perfectly to this behavior, which has confounded behaviorists for decades. While most other types of aggression can be modified and reduced through desensitization and counter-conditioning, idiopathic aggression often can’t. It is an extremely difficult and heartbreaking condition to deal with.

The earmarks of idiopathic aggression include:

• No identifiable trigger stimulus/stimuli

• Intense, explosive aggression

• Onset most commonly reported in dogs 1-3 years old

• Some owners report that their dogs get a glazed, or “possessed” look in their eyes just prior to an idiopathic outburst, or act confused.

• Certain breeds seem more prone to suffer from this condition, including Cocker and Springer Spaniels (hence the once-common terms – Spaniel rage, Cocker rage, and Springer rage), Bernese Mountain Dogs, St. Bernards, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, and Lhasa Apsos. This would suggest a likely genetic component to the problem.

Glimmer of hope
The good news is that true idiopathic aggression is also a particularly uncommon condition. Discussed and studied widely in the 1970s and ’80s, it captured the imagination of the dog world, and soon every dog with episodes of sudden, explosive aggression was tagged with the unfortunate “rage syndrome” label, especially if it was a spaniel of any type. We have since come to our senses, and now investigate much more carefully before concluding that there is truly “no known cause” for a dog’s aggression.

A thorough exploration of the dog’s behavior history and owner’s observations often can ferret out explainable causes for the aggression. The appropriate diagnosis often turns out to be status-related aggression (once widely known as “dominance aggression”) and/or resource guarding – both of which can also generate very violent, explosive reactions. (See “Thanks for Sharing,” WDJ September 2001.)

An owner can easily miss her dog’s warning signs prior to a status-related attack, especially if the warning signs have been suppressed by prior physical or verbal punishment. While some dogs’ lists of guardable resources may be limited and precise, with others it can be difficult to identify and recognize a resource that a dog has determined to be valuable and worth guarding. The glazed look reported by some owners may also be their interpretation of the “hard stare” or “freeze” that many dogs give as a warning signal just prior to an attack.

Although the true cause of idiopathic aggression is still not understood, and behaviorists each tend to defend their favorite theories, there is universal agreement that it is a very rare condition, and one that is extremely difficult to treat.

Theories
A variety of studies and testing over the past 30 years have failed to produce a clear cause or a definitive diagnosis for idiopathic aggression. Behaviorists can’t even agree on what to call it! (See sidebar)

Given the failure to find a specific cause, it is quite possible that there are several different causes for unexplainable aggressive behaviors that are all grouped under the term “idiopathic aggression.” Some dogs in the midst of an episode may foam at the mouth and twitch, which could be an indication of epileptic seizures. The most common appearance of the behavior between 1-3 years of age also coincides with the appearance of most status-related aggression, as well as the development of idiopathic epilepsy, making it even impossible to use age of onset as a differential diagnosis.

Some researchers have found abnormal electroencephalogram readings in some dogs suspected of having idiopathic aggression, but not all such dogs they studied. Other researchers have been unable to reproduce even those inconclusive results.

Another theory is that the behavior is caused by damage to the area of the brain responsible for aggressive behavior. Yet another is that it is actually a manifestation of status-related aggression triggered by very subtle stimuli. Clearly, we just don’t know.

The fact that idiopathic aggression by definition cannot be induced also makes it difficult to study and even try to find answers to the question of cause. Unlike a behavior like resource guarding – which is easy to induce and therefore easy to study in a clinical setting – the very nature of idiopathic aggression dictates that it cannot be reproduced or studied at will.

Treatment
Without knowing the cause of idiopathic aggression, treatment is difficult and frequently unsuccessful. The condition is also virtually impossible to manage safely because of the sheer unpredictability of the outbursts. The prognosis, unfortunately, is very poor, and many dogs with true idiopathic aggression must be euthanized, for the safety of surrounding humans.

Don’t despair, however, if someone has told you your dog has “rage syndrome.” First of all, he probably doesn’t. Remember, the condition is extremely rare, and the label still gets applies all too often by uneducated dog folk to canines whose aggressive behaviors are perfectly explainable by a more knowledgeable observer.

Your first step is to find a skilled and positive trainer/behavior consultant who can give you a more educated analysis of your dog’s aggression. A good behavior modification program, applied by a committed owner in consultation with a capable behavior professional can succeed in decreasing and/or resolving many aggression cases, and help you devise appropriate management plans where necessary, to keep family members, friends, and visitors safe.

If your behavior professional also believes that you have a rare case of idiopathic aggression on your hands, then a trip to a veterinary behaviorist is in order. Some dogs will respond to drug therapies for this condition; many will not. Some minor success has been reported with the administration of phenobarbital, but it is unclear as to whether the results are from the sedative effect of the drug, or if there is an actual therapeutic effect.

In many cases of true idiopathic aggression, euthanasia is the only solution. Because the aggressive explosions are truly violent and totally unpredictable, it is neither safe nor fair to expose yourself or other friends and family to the potentially disfiguring, even deadly, results of such an attack. If this is the sad conclusion in the case of your dog, euthanasia is the only humane option. Comfort yourself with the knowledge you have done everything possible for him, hold him close as you say goodbye, and send him gently to a safer place. Then take good care of yourself.



Also With This Article
"What You Can Do"
"The Evolving Vocabulary of Aggression"

-Pat Miller, CPDT, is WDJ’s Training Editor. She is also author of "The Power of Positive Dog Training," and "Positive Perspectives: Love Your Dog, Train Your Dog." See “Resources" for more information.
__________________________________________________________
http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues ... 639-1.html
Image
Image
"Common sense is instinct. Enough of it is genius." -author unknown

User avatar
Nettle
Posts: 10723
Joined: Sun Apr 13, 2008 1:40 pm

Re: Rage Syndrome in Dogs

Post by Nettle » Thu Oct 17, 2013 3:24 am

I'd be interested in the date that was written. :)

Rage Syndrome was a popular diagnosis 15 years ago, but most cases on proper examination were found either to be due to physical reasons (some quite complex) or to immense frustration on the part of young dogs who were not having their needs met.

It doesn't get mentioned in the Behaviour world today. I suspect it was also another spin-off from pack rules and dominance, as in a high-energy unfulfilled dog being pushed around until it hides from its people then reacts violently when approached because it has been 'shown who is boss'.
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog

SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

jacksdad
Posts: 4879
Joined: Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:48 pm

Re: Rage Syndrome in Dogs

Post by jacksdad » Thu Oct 17, 2013 1:27 pm

Nettle wrote:I'd be interested in the date that was written. :)

Rage Syndrome was a popular diagnosis 15 years ago, but most cases on proper examination were found either to be due to physical reasons (some quite complex) or to immense frustration on the part of young dogs who were not having their needs met.

It doesn't get mentioned in the Behaviour world today. I suspect it was also another spin-off from pack rules and dominance, as in a high-energy unfulfilled dog being pushed around until it hides from its people then reacts violently when approached because it has been 'shown who is boss'.

the article is from 2004. Pat does touch on your spin-off comments.

everything I am reading/hearing today is that true idiopathic aggression (aka what used to be called rage syndrome) is EXTREMELY rare to the point it is almost never discussed in any of the current aggressive dog seminars, books, literature I have come across so far.

WufWuf
Posts: 1371
Joined: Thu May 12, 2011 7:53 am

Re: Rage Syndrome in Dogs

Post by WufWuf » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:19 pm

wvvdiup1 wrote:The appropriate diagnosis often turns out to be status-related aggression (once widely known as “dominance aggression”) and/or resource guarding – both of which can also generate very violent, explosive reactions. (See “Thanks for Sharing,” WDJ September 2001.)
wvvdiup1 wrote:An owner can easily miss her dog’s warning signs prior to a status-related attack, especially if the warning signs have been suppressed by prior physical or verbal punishment
I really want to do this justice but I have a feeling I'm going to lack the ability to write what I want say with sufficent clairty. I'm going to give it a shot though as I feel that it's an important subject.

I've seen what people call status related aggression but to me the word "status" implies that you wish to prove you are of a "higher" rank and this doesn't in any way ring true to me. So I tried to puzzle it out and did some digging/observing of the dogs. To me it comes down to survival tactics and doing what works. All the dogs I've seen who would be described as status aggressive were dogs who'd been bullied by humans and I think they at some point realise that they are pretty well equipped and that the world operates on a "who's strongest wins" rules system so they will have to fight to get their message across (whatever their message is). Even tiny dogs come with a set of bone crushers in their mouths.

To me these dogs are very very risky as, ok lets say a Big Burly Guy gets a dog who has the potential to become one of these dogs. BBG has a boomy voice and a stiff walk and is scary without even trying that hard. He interacts with his dog by forcing him to sumbit to his will no matter how unhappy Dog is. Dog also lives with smaller people, small people are not very scary, ok well they are a bit scary but Dog thinks he could win in a fight. Dog is also on a hair trigger as he has no sense of control in his life - he can't stop people doing horrible things to him and when he tries to tell them he's not happy they punish him or ignore him.

One day Dog has had enough and blows up at the stress of his life and maybe he does it to one of the small people because they are weaker than him and not as risky a target.

Other dogs will just go down the learned helplessness route and you see a massive suppression of behaviour. They exhibit a limited number of behaviours, lots of them will be appeasing behaviours as these are "punished" less often. I still think that these dogs are ticking time bombs - though it might not be until the are 7 or 8 or 15 they may still blow up as no body listens to what they say and they are powerless in an incomprehensible world.

These dogs are in part responsible for me not using old skool methods of training and for helping me understand that you get out what you put in. I thank them for it and of course my heart hurts for them.
Operant conditioning rocks but classical conditioning rules

User avatar
Nettle
Posts: 10723
Joined: Sun Apr 13, 2008 1:40 pm

Re: Rage Syndrome in Dogs

Post by Nettle » Sat Oct 19, 2013 5:01 am

I agree - a lot of aggression is 'redirected'. In human lives too.
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog

SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

WufWuf
Posts: 1371
Joined: Thu May 12, 2011 7:53 am

Re: Rage Syndrome in Dogs

Post by WufWuf » Sat Oct 19, 2013 6:14 am

It's true Nettle and I saw a similar situation with my male friends growing up. Those who had fathers who used intimidation and physical violence on their sons would usually reach an age where their sons were physically more capable than them. This would result in the moment where they both realise the tables had turned. The son would often threaten the father that if they came near them again they would fight them and win (in not so nice language). It was always a huge traumatic event for these guys who had horribly mixed up feelings about what had happened but none of them were trying to take over their family or raise their status.
Operant conditioning rocks but classical conditioning rules

Post Reply