First post here, but I'm not a troll. I've been looking for some advice on our Doberman and have read much on this site, and it seems that there are some knowledgeable people here that may be able to offer some advice. I think a little history is in order, so I apologize in advance for the length of my post, but here it goes.
Around May, 2016, we rescued a Doberman that had been placed five times previously. When I asked for the reasons, I was told that the dog (Max) had problems with large groups of people, that he had snapped at a cat, that he had snapped at a new owner who put his face in the dog's face, he had head bobbing seizures, and some other minor issues that I attributed to owners that did not know how to handle dogs. I spent some time with Max, and we bonded immediately. It was obvious that someone had spent some time with him, as he could catch, sit, and not jump on me.
I brought him home, and initially we had a little trouble as would be expected. He was aggressive at the vet, he growled at my daughter, and some other things that were easily corrected. He now shows no aggressiveness toward other dogs or people. I figured I just needed to make him know his place, and after working with him, he displays no alpha tendencies. When he messes up and gets corrected, he always bows his head. When he knows he's done wrong, he pouts without any correction. He is not allowed on the furniture (except my son's bed at night). He must give way when people need to pass. We've trained him to heel, down and shake. Other than what I'll get to in a minute, he's been one of the two best dogs I've ever owned. The head bobbing almost has completely gone away now that he's in a stable home.
He was initially terrified of guns. If I had one in my hand for cleaning, he would run to another room. With time, he seemed to realize that nothing bad was going to happen, and now he really doesn't seem to be concerned when I have one out. I mention this because I was initially concerned that he may have been shot at some point, but I suppose it's also possible that he was around the loud noise. Since we've had him, he has not been around any gun that was discharged.
I have never hit him. I don't hit my wife or kids. My house is relatively calm. Max is outside when no one is home, and inside when we are. If the weather is unfavorable and no one's home, he is in his large crate. Never for long periods of time.
We had two cats, now one, and he has never attacked them.
Now to the reason for my post.
Early in the adoption, my wife brought Max and out old Dachshund to the vet (this was after we thought his aggressive behavior was corrected). Max attacked the Dachshund, seemingly unprovoked, but didn't cause any serious damage. He did break the skin, however. Another time, when I was working in my home office, he did the same thing in my presence. Again, I saw no reason for him to do that. I intervened, scolded Max, he pouted and it hasn't happened since.
Also early in the adoption, we had a thunderstorm one night and a thunderclap woke Max and my son abruptly. Max bit my son in the face. Not an attack, but it was enough to draw blood. My son was terrified that we'd get rid of Max, but I agreed to keep him if he was crated during thunderstorms. There was another incident with my son, but I can't remember the specifics.
It has been months since having any problems, and I thought he was adjusted. Last night I was getting ready to wrestle with him like I've done many times before. This starts by me bending down to his level and pushing him at the shoulders. When I pushed him, I could see no evidence that he was irritated, and without any warning that I could perceive, he lunged at me biting my neck and face. I was able to push him off, then he got my shoulder. Eventually he latched on to my arm, and I was able to use it as leverage to twist his head around and get an advantage. In the process, his teeth went to the bone, but once I was able to get control of his head, he ran upstairs as soon as I gave him a chance to get away. He wouldn't come back to me when I called, so I followed him upstairs and told him to go downstairs and get in his crate, which he promptly did. He's been pouting since. I went to the Doc, and they looked at the bites in the waiting room and told me that if they admitted me, they'd have to notify animal control. I didn't want my son to see animal control come get his dog, so they advised me on how to treat things myself, and I left.
My dilemma is now this:
If this had happened to my wife or kids, the results would likely have been much worse, so I am concerned about them being alone with Max. I understand that there are situations where a dog will snap and retreat, and that's what the previous episodes seemed to be. However in this case, he didn't show any signs of retreating. I can't be sure if he let go of me because I was a better fighter than he was (I imagine he could have done much more damage if he had wanted to) or if he briefly lost his mind then came to his senses. I don't know how far he would have taken things if he had gotten hold of my wife or kids who wouldn't be able to fight back.
Obviously, we've learned to crate him during storms already. And now I've learned not to wrestle with him. I'm concerned about what other things might trigger an attack that we don't know about. He doesn't normally display any behavior problems that a behaviorist could help with (of course I may be wrong on that). It would be irresponsible for me to give him to a rescue, and I doubt they'd take him anyway. Are there any options for Max other than euthanasia? We recently had to euthanize a cat that got cancer, and good grief, I don't want to go through that again.
I am sorry to hear about Max's problems. We had a very similar experience several years ago with one of our beloved dobies, 2 yr. old Franklin, and sadly, our story did not end well. We had purchased Franklin as an 8 wk. old pup from a very reputable breeder and were delighted to bring him home to join our 6 yr. old dobe, Mitchell. All went well, and the "boys" got along great and both were wonderful with our small grandchildren. When Franklin was about 18 mos. old we began to notice the head-bobbing, seizure-like activity occasionally, but it was not severe enough to require treatment. One evening, when Franklin had just turned 2 yrs, I had brought home two new (identical) dog chew toys and gave each dog a toy. We had never seen any possessive behaviors between the two, and as usual, they were delighted and each went their separate way to play. A few minutes later, I suddenly heard Mitchell cry out in pain and I ran into the room to find Mitchell with a huge laceration on his side where Franklin had just bitten him. Mitch didn't appear to have provoked him, and Franklin didn't seem to notice as he continued to happily play with his toy. Mitchell went in for 12 sutures, and we were left perplexed.
Just two weeks after this incidence, Franklin was laying on the couch with a toy. i approached him and leaned down slightly to give him a hug and without warning or provocation, he suddenly bit me on the head. It was a single bite, and again, it didn't seem to phase him as he wagged his tail and continued to enjoy his toy. It required 16 sutures to close the wound. We were determined to give him the benefit of the doubt.... "I must have just surprised him when he wasn't expecting it. Surely this was an isolated incident."
Exactly two months later, I was laying on the couch one evening watching TV. Franklin came over to me wagging his tail, and layed down on the floor beneath me, propped his head up on the couch, and waited for "a scratch" ~ something he had done every evening since he was a pup. i leaned over just slightly to scratch his head, and without warning, he suddenly bit me on the top of the head. Again, a single bite, not an "attack" ~ he wagged his tail and brought me his ball and seemed oblivious. I was stunned and knew i had been badly hurt. I sat up and felt my forehead "slide down". I was bleeding profusely and ran to the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and to my horror, there was 2 inch by 2 inch area of my my skull that was visible on my forehead. My husband, a nurse, was on duty at the hospital and I was home alone. I am also a nurse, and I wrapped my head with in turban, phoned my husband and told him what happened and that I was on my way to the E.R. and I was going to need a plastic surgeon when I got there . I was shocked, but drove myself 14 miles to the hospital, (something I never should have done.) An x-ray revealed a hairline skull fracture in addition to the laceration. I underwent surgery that evening and the repair to my skull required 128 stitches, and a lengthy regimen of antibiotics. This was a wake-up call, and could have easily been a life-changing event. I felt so fortunate and relieved that it had happened to me, and not one of our grandchildren.
It was obvious that something was seriously wrong with Franklin and we took him to our vet the following day. He was given a thorough examination, and our very experienced vet determined that Franklin was suffering from "Jeckyl and Hyde Syndrome". We were not familiar with this condition. We learned that it is a condition that is not breed-specific and that it goes relatively undetected until the symptoms begin to appear at age 2. At that age, the dog's brain begins to have a significant growth spurt and the skull does not have the same growth. The brain soon becomes crowded in the skull and becomes compressed. The symptoms include but are not limited to sudden unprovoked flashes of aggression, (usually a single bite) and without warning (no growl). It is not a sustained attack, and prevalent is the tendency to quickly return to their normal behavior. The vet explained that there is no cure, and the behaviors are so unpredictable and are very likely to continue or worsen. He felt strongly that there is really no safe alternative other than to euthanize Franklin as someone will undoubtedly get hurt again. Reluctantly, and through tears, we realized that the situation was too dangerous to take any further risks. We scheduled "the appointment" for three days later~ we wanted to spoil him and spend just a couple more days with our wonderful boy. The day came and we took him to the vet, crying. They sedated him first, and then it was over. He was cremated and we have his ashes some sprinkled in the garden that he loved so much. Having to euthanize him was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Rest in peace, Frank...
I hope that you will find answers for Max, I know how much he means to you. I would recommend a thorough exam by a vet with neuro experience. Good luck to you