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Is your dog unhinged?



Today’s topic is a hot one. Just in the last couple of weeks, I had several conversations with dogs and their peeps about dogs showing aggression when they see other dogs or strange people.


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Instead of calling a dog aggressive, I rather call them unhinged. Being aggressive sounds like a personality trait. It sounds like a label … s/he is aggressive as if there is no other way for the dog to be.

But if I say s/he is unhinged, that actually means s/he is a basketcase.

Unhinged means not being attached where it really counts, much like a door.

It means the animal is unbalanced.

And that means there are ways for us to help the animal to move from unhinged back to hinged. Come back from unbalanced to balance.


There can be many reasons why some dogs may become unhinged and then show aggressive behaviors. Let’s go through a few of them so I can share with you how you might help your dog or your client’s dogs.


1. Fear or Anxiety: Scared or anxious dogs may become aggressive as a form of self-defense.

Our dog Scout falls into this category. He came from the South and went into a foster home for a few days. The foster person went shopping and put him in a crate - he was accordingly crate trained - and Scout barked up a storm. The neighbor had a key to the house. She felt bad for the barking puppy, she said. Or was she annoyed? We will never know. Either way, the neighbor thought the best idea would be to let the puppy out of the crate, put a leash on him, and tie him to the dining room table. Maybe she thought he couldn’t chew stuff up while tied? We’ll never know. We do know that when the foster person returned, the pup had tangled himself up around the table to the point that he couldn’t move. The foster person’s cat and dog were sniffing the pup’s butt.


Can you see why this puppy initially didn’t like a leash or got claustrophobic if we tied him up for a moment? Can you see why this dog might not like other dogs or cats to come up to him because he was once stuck in a place under a table while other animals got to investigate him up and down? Front to back while he was immobile?

Being caught is traumatic. Being cornered is traumatic.

How many dogs who run loose in the woods, fields, or cities must be caught to be saved? How many need to be cornered to get a hold of them? In my experience, most dogs I speak with. 2. Territorial Behavior: Dogs that are very protective of their home or family members may display aggression towards strangers or other dogs.

Often when I chat with territorial dogs, I can feel their energy is generated from the second Chakra. The second Chakra is about creativity, desires, bonding, and purpose. And, so often, we forget that dogs are purposeful. If I bring a shepherd breed into my family, I can bet that s/he will want to look out over the land or the animals and people on the land. If I bring home any type of dog with ‘guard dog genes’ and which mutt doesn’t have some of the following DNA muddled in …

  • Rottweilers. ...

  • Doberman Pinscher. …

  • Belgian Malinois

  • German Shepherds. ...

  • Bullmastiff. ...

  • Giant Schnauzer. ...

  • Rhodesian Ridgeback.

Chances are that some of the guard dog bits might show up because your dog is meant to be a guard dog based on his lineage.


3. reason behind unhinged behaviors might be medical issues: Sometimes aggressive behavior can be caused by underlying medical problems such as pain, illness, or hormonal imbalances. Having worked with and learned from holistic veterinarians, I know that stress and overwhelm can lead to physical imbalances. Interestingly enough, disharmony in the liver might be the cause when sudden aggression or anxiety is displayed. Disharmony in the liver affects the liver meridian’s energy flow. These problems may include an energy excess, deficiency, or imbalance. If the liver meridian was affected, let’s say because the dog was put under anesthesia to get spayed or neutered, or if the dog has some type of surgery, maybe got their teeth cleaned, the anesthesia administered during the operation is processed and eliminated through the liver. And most dogs can “right” themselves after they have experienced this type of ‘assault’ to one of their organs, but not always.

And if the imbalance is not treated, a dog may begin to display symptoms associated with a liver imbalance, such as digestive problems or certain inappropriate behavioral responses to her environment. As you can see, suddenly acting unhinged can be caused by a physiological imbalance.


4. A fourth reason I want to mention today is that dogs that have been abused or experienced trauma may be more likely to display aggression. In that case, the energy in the dog generates more from the front end, the chest. While the guard dog feels empowered to fend for their home, land, and people, the defensive dog simply wants others to stay away from them. And its attempt to keep others away is often seen as aggression when it is really self-defense.

That’s why dogs like that often latch on to one person and one person only who they trust and feel safe with. Helping dogs overcome their fear can be a short-term job or a lifetime mission for you. This is one of the reasons why I beg you to book an animal communication session BEFORE committing to a new dog. Often your heart is in the right place to help an animal who has seen the dark side of life, but those animals come with a few suitcases of baggage that needs to be unpacked. And there will be times when you wonder if you got what it takes. I remember that well when we couldn't leave Scout home alone … after a year of David and me not going anywhere together because Scout would bite himself out of his crate and gnaw the dashboard if left in the car, we were on the verge of giving up or giving in. Patience and seeing the world through Scout’s eyes are what got us through it.


If you want to get to know the potential new dog before committing, book a session with me so we can chat with the prospect.


5. And then there is one more reason that a dog might come unhinged … because you are. Haha, don’t you love it? We are never NOT part of the equation.

When my stress level rises, so does the reactivity of my sweet Scoot-Matoot.

The same is true for you. If you are worried, concerned, stressed out, and overwhelmed without regulating. Well, then, sooner or later, the lid will pop. Yours or that of your doggy.


So, maybe you recognize your dog or self in these situations.

Let’s summarize and see what you can do for your dog if you are in one of these situations.


1. Fear or Anxiety: Scared or anxious dogs may become aggressive as a form of self-defense.

What can you do to help a dog like this …

Take a deep breath and verbally explain to the dog. “This is your home. You are safe, and I will care for you for the rest of your life.” As you tell your dog this, you can swipe across the dog's forehead, from right to left, five to seven times. Right to left, swipe, swipe, swipe. It will bring the anxious, reactive part of the mind across the way to the logical part of the mind. As you speak about safety and move your fingers across her or his forehead, you also connect the message to the somatic body.


2. Territorial Behavior: Dogs that are very protective of their home or family members may display aggression towards strangers or other dogs.

First and foremost, you must acknowledge that your dog is doing something good. You might not like the barking or the charging of the UPS guy or the growl your dog puts up whenever someone enters the house … if the guard dog gene runs in your dog’s blood, you got to face the truth and acknowledge it.

“Thank you for alerting me to the UPS guy.”

“Thank you for making sure no one walks into our house unnoticed.”

“Thank you for speaking up when a fox enters our livestock pen.“


Honestly, often that little acknowledgment takes the heat out of the bark, lunge, and growl.

Asking your dog to sit is a beautiful way to help your dog ground. The moment your dog sits on the tush, the root chakra, the grounder, gets activated. It can be challenging to get an adrenaline-charged dog to sit down. Therefore catching the dog before the adrenaline spikes would be even better. Also, dogs are smart. You can teach your dog that the UPS guy “is a friend!” Whenever the brown truck rolls into our yard, I say, ‘Ohhhh, it's our friend. He brings all the good things,” in my singsongy voice, and that calms Scout down between barks.


At this point, I wonder if you're already thinking of friends or family who need to hear this podcast. That’s how my brain works. When I hear a tip or solution in a podcast or read about it, my mind goes to all the people and animals who can benefit from it. So please, please share the podcast, and write a review so that this podcast goes far and wide.


3. The third reason behind unhinged behaviors might be medical issues. When I get the sense that a physical imbalance causes certain behaviors, aggression, lethargy, and anxiety, I test if the animal needs holistic support. Often acupuncture or herbal remedies can help restore the internal organs to harmony. I will put a link in the show notes that gets you to a directory of holistic veterinarians.


And number 4. We are returning to dogs that have been abused or experienced trauma and therefore display defensive aggression.

In this case, I also highly recommend the swipe across the forehead. I have seen amazing results using this technique. Recently, a dog trainer asked for help with her highly activated dog. When walking in her neighborhood, the dog would see things before they came around the corner and react before the human was even aware of an intruder in the dog's personal space. This dog’s bubble was so big it was hard to keep dogs and people out of her orbit.


My prescription was for the woman to offer the swipe across the forehead the moment they woke up in the morning. I suggested doing it again before leaving the house and then again as the dog got activated on their walk. Here is what the client wrote back a few days later.

My girl has been doing very, very, very well. When we wake up, I swish her 5-7 times, and the yawns start coming. Because she has always loved her eyes rubbed, she also loves the swishing!

On our walks, if she starts to alert when she sees someone coming toward us, I turn and go the other way, stop and swish 5-7 times, then turn back, walking toward the person. We walk past the person without her locking on them.YAY!

My girl had started to be nervous on car rides and had skin flakes when we arrived at our destination from being nervous. Now I swish 5-7 before we take off, and she calmly sits or lays down in her kennel, and no skin flakes when we reach our destination. Thank you soooooo much Nicole! What a beautiful gift you have


As you see, the swipe across the forehead can go a loooong way.


And it is also the answer to reason number 5 … can my stress affect my dog?

We already determined that it can be because dogs are highly perceptive and can pick up on their owner's mood and behavior, which can impact their own emotional state. If you experience high levels of stress or anxiety, it is for your highest and best and for your dog’s highest and best to breathe deeply … and swipe.

You might be so caught and cornered with appointments and commitments that you need to put post-its on door frames, mirrors, and dashboards that say breathe & swipe.


Swipe across your forehead from right to left while you have your morning coffee or tea. Swipe before you leave the house and before you enter any other house. Give yourself some peace of the mind … it is good for you and the rest of the world around you.


I am so grateful for your lending me your ear. I know time is precious, and your listening will make a huuuuuge difference in the life of dogs. This podcast is full of insights and suggestions that can educate and support dog lovers. If you help me help them by sharing this episode, I’d be thrilled. In this day and age, there is so much information available we must forage through. But I bet your friends listen when you recommend something that matters to you.


Thank you for the love. Let’s continue our chat next time with new insights and perspectives from the animal’s point of view.

Ciao, ciao, and auf Wiedersehen.


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