Upsetting behavior

by Misty

Hi Sue and fellow rottie lovers, I am in need of some advice. My 18 month old unspayed female rottie, Kota, had an incident last week while we were on our camping vacation that has me very upset.

The day we got to the campgrounds after a 3 hour drive, she did not seem like herself. She would not eat dinner and barked at everything that moved. After dinner we took her for a walk and the family at the next campsite over stopped us to talk.

There 3 kids came over and started to pet her, which she tolerated and i wasn't concerned about as she is used to my 3 kids. But when their 2 yr old walked up to her( towards her face) she lunged barking at her and knocked her down and her front teeth caught her in the forehead breaking the skin. I do not think she actually bit her but the whole incident has made me doubt her around my(and other) children.

I know we are partially at fault for putting her in that situation but at the same time i don't think this should ever be excused and do i now need to worry every time my kids get near her. She has never growled or shown ANY aggression toward anyone in our family and is submissive to us all.

I love my girl so much but i also can't be anxious all the time and i have to feel my kids are safe. Any advice or comments would be appreciated. Since we've been home she has been normal.

Not sure if she is coming into heat, was anxious in new place, sick, etc. She has been to obedience class, dog park and beach with no problems.

Thank You, Misty

Hi Misty,
I'm sorry to hear about this incident, it definitely sounds totally out of character for Koda and I totally understand you now feeling a bit unnerved and anxious!

It's almost impossible to be sure about what caused the incident, especially as there seem to be a lot of different aspects to it and without actually being there and observing Koda's behavior before, during and after the issue.

But it sounds to me as though she was quite stressed and anxious when you arrived (not eating, unsettled, barking at everything). Perhaps she's not used to such a long car journey? Or maybe she picked up on all the excitement and probably tension going on as you got ready to leave and on your way... vacations aren't always restful for us, especially the preparation part and the car ride with kids bouncing around!

Whatever caused it I would say she was on edge right off the bat, and then she was approached by strangers and in her anxious, hypersensitive state she over-reacted. I know you have kids, but I don't remember how old they are. It's possible that this toddler was scary to Koda because she's usually around older children? Many dogs are nervous around toddlers because they're small and on the dog's eye level, plus they're unpredictable in the way they move, make high pitched sounds and generally seem more like 'prey' than humans.

But, from what you describe, it doesn't sound as though Koda was trying to bite this little one. She was scared and reacted by getting on the offence yes, but by barking and trying to scare off the child, her teeth catching her was likely coincidence because Koda's mouth was open.

HOWEVER, just because her reaction was somewhat understandable it doesn't mean it was okay, it's definitely not. I'm sure you corrected her firmly and let her know in no uncertain terms that her behavior was not acceptable and that's a start.

I'd suggest that she maybe would benefit from more socialization around children, perhaps friends or family who have little ones to begin with. Don't allow them to 'crowd' her if she's nervous, or to pet her at least at first, but just let her spend more time with them to get used to the sounds, smells, movements etc. This will desensitize her. But always supervise her closely and make sure that she doesn't get scared or have a chance to scare them!

As Koda behaves perfectly with your family and can visit the dog park, beach etc. and has been properly trained, I honestly don't think you need to worry about your own children being 'safe'. Koda isn't a dangerous dog, or aggressive, and she's never done anything to make you think that she's anything other than totally loving and devoted to her family.

This incident is most likely a one-off, triggered by stress and anxiety-overload. Now you're aware of the signs that she's feeling worried or stressed, and with some extra socialization and supervision, chances are it won't ever happen again. It came out of the blue and because she's so even-tempered and loving it took you totally by surprise, but looking back you can see the warning signs were there. Next time you'll recognize them right away.

If this incident had happened with a smaller dog, or a breed that didn't have the 'reputation' that Rotties do, you probably wouldn't be nearly so concerned and wouldn't be taking it so seriously. This is both good and bad.

No dog should bark, growl or snap at a child, ever, (but many, many do and it's most often the smaller, highly strung breeds but as they don't seem dangerous people often don't take them seriously). But the flip side of the coin is that a Rottweiler, or any other breed with a negative public profile such as a Pitbull, Doberman etc., shouldn't be immediately condemned, mistrusted or considered to be 'dangerous' or 'aggressive' and cause their family to doubt their basic nature, because of an incident like this.

It's a common over-reaction, and with all the scare stories and media hysteria over certain breeds this reaction is understandable, but it's not right.

Your girl is the same loving, sweet, loyal dog she's always been.... She got scared and over-stimulated and acted out.... You corrected her and will now take a few extra steps to make sure it doesn't happen again.... You all move on and put it behind you.

Hopefully this is how it will play out, and I'm 99% certain it is. BUT, should she act this way again, become more defensive or reactive, or give you cause to worry about her behavior then I'd recommend getting her some one-on-one time with a professional trainer so you can get to the bottom of what's causing her to act that way so that you can put an end to it right away.

She's still young, not quite an adult, and this stage is always a bit challenging. For guardian breeds they're struggling with their natural instincts to protect their families, and often don't know exactly what they're supposed to do. A little extra professional help at this time can make a lot of difference.

Routine, training, love, loving discipline and patience will all see her through :)

Good luck, let me know how it goes.

Hopefully some other Rottie owners will also add their thoughts, suggestions and experiences to help you ~ Sue at

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Jul 20, 2012
Kota NEW
by: Misty

Thank you so much for your explaination and advice. We plan on continuing her training and following the advice you've given. The situation was a bad one which we will be sure to not put either of us in again.

Jul 20, 2012
Sue covered all the bases NEW
by: Christopher Bayhi

Sue has pretty much covered all the bases in her answer. In the past I had two of my Rotties, who are highly trained and usually pretty laid back, growl or lunge at strangers after a long trip.

As in your case, mine were stressed from a long drive, and showed warning signs. To decrease stress we took them on short drives and then took them out to exercise at a park or walk through a flea market. The drives got longer and the dogs got more used to traveling. Now they enjoy the drive, enjoy the people they meet, and don't stress as much when we take them on a trip.

Don't give up. Try to understand the behavior, destress the dog through progressive exposure, retrain, and try to relax yourself. Dogs pick up on the stress of their handler and they act accordingly.

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