Case Study: A Dog’s Personality Changes After a Bad Accident

A traumatic, painful experience, such as being badly hurt in a car accident, can change a dog’s behavior. Learn how to help a traumatized dog recover as much as possible.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA,
July 16, 2013
Episode #205

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This week, a listener question about behavior changes in a dog after a terrible accident. Lisa writes that her Chihuahua, Daffy, “bolted from the house and was hit by a car. The driver got out and picked Daffy up; Daffy bit her. Daffy required 2 surgeries, as her bottom half was fairly shattered, and is now physically healthy."

“However,” Lisa says, “we worry about her mental health. She has since bitten a relative, she barks constantly, and we lock her in one of our bedrooms when company is over for fear that she will bite again. She is very protective of our family, including our 3 children, and loving with everyone she knew before the accident (our immediate family and 4 other relatives). She seems to hate anyone else.”

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This week, I’ll talk about how and why a dog’s behavior might go to pieces after a traumatic event, and what Lisa and her family can do to help Daffy.

I’m sure Lisa and her family already feel awful about Daffy’s accident, so I don’t want to add any more guilt to the mix, but for everybody else: please take this sad story as a perfect example of why you should teach your dog to wait for permission before going out an open door. In an earlier episode, I explained how to teach this life-saving skill.

A Bite That Doesn’t Count

What’s done is done, though, so I’ll move on to Daffy’s subsequent behavior. In case there was any doubt, she gets a total free pass on the bite to the woman who picked her up after the accident. With her “bottom half” “shattered,” Daffy must have been in excruciating pain. Picking her up was necessary but must have hurt even more. It’s completely normal and expectable that an injured, suffering animal might lash out. If you find yourself in a position to rescue an injured dog, try improvising a muzzle with a scarf, a T-shirt, or even a shoelace. There’s no sense in both of you needing emergency care.


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