Case Report: Conflict Aggression

Vivian is a six-year old spayed female Pekingese. Vivian’s foster family brought her to see Dr. Amy Pike of the Behavior Medicine Division of the Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia because she was aggressive when people handled her, including when petting her if she didn’t solicit it on her own. In addition, Vivian was very aloof with the other dogs and chose to spend a lot of her time by herself in another area of the house.

Vivian was diagnosed with Conflict Aggression (CA) which is a condition in which the desires of the pet are in conflict with the intentions of the people. It is a fear-based behavior. The dog uses aggression as a behavioral strategy to indicate their discomfort with the interaction. CA often manifests itself when the dog is three-years old. This is the age at which dogs reach behavioral maturity.

One common scenario that we see in CA is aggression directed at people when the dog is lying down or resting and people interact with them. There is a reason why the saying “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie” exists—some dogs do not enjoy interaction if they are resting or sleeping.

Vivian was started on Fluoxetine and the initial behavior modification training plan was implemented. Vivian has improved significantly. She is allowing much more body handling and is playing with the other dogs. She even enjoys an occasional cuddle from her family.