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SG Susan Garrett
SG Imagine if any behavior challenge you had with your dog, I could give you a pill and boom, it would go
away. I used to teach seminars and people would say, “What can I do for this?” like I had some magic
pixie dust that you’d sprinkle it on your dog's food and then boom, that would go away. How amazing
would that be?
But today, I'm going to share with you how, in some cases, there actually is a pill that could make
things go away. True story. Hi, I'm Susan Garrett. Welcome to Shaped by Dog. And if you're watching
this on YouTube, go ahead and hit the like button right now. And if you're not a subscriber to this
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So back in the mid nineties, I was at an agility trial with my Border Collie at the time, Stoni. And I could
do a whole podcast on how awesome Stoni was. She was just gifted athletically. She was the best at
everything she ever tried. It was just a joy to have as a dog. And she was very sweet. Actually, my
puppy This! reminds me a lot of Stoni. I believe that Stoni, who was born in 1990, I keep saying, I think
This! might be Stoni who’s come back to me, because they're the same sweet dog.
I was at an agility trial and Stoni at the time, would have been maybe six or seven years old. I can still
remember this incident. I was just warming her up to go in the ring. I was walking her, so I wasn't really
even deep into my warm-up. I was just walking her along the hill, away from the ring and one woman
went by with a puppy on a leash, minding her own business, and Stoni on a leash, and normally Stoni
didn't even notice dogs.
All of a sudden, she turned and sounded like a saber tooth tiger as she lunged at this little puppy. We
didn't get anywhere near her, scared the living bejeebers out of the lady who owned the puppy, and
scared me. Because in all of my lifetime of owning her, I'd never known her to do that. And I thought,
Holy smokes, are you possessed by the devil himself? What has gone on here?
And later that day, in that evening, I was sharing that bizarre incident to a friend of mine. And she said,
“Have you ever heard of Jean Dodds?” And at the time I think I'd kind of heard the name. Well Jean, a
fellow Canadian, a very famous Veterinarian who really has done a lot of great things in the name of
helping dogs and really get to the bottom of how we can keep our dogs at their healthiest. And she
said, “you should contact Jean Dodds and explain to her what happened.”
And so, the next Monday, I actually phoned Jean and she picked up the phone and I was like, oh my
gosh, I am star struck. Because by then I'd done a lot of research on the woman and realized what an
awesome human being she was.
And so, she told me that sudden onset fear, aggression or anxiety quite often, can be a sign of thyroid
deficiency or thyroid malfunction. And she said, go and get your dog’s blood tested, but be very
specific. You don't want the clinic to just take an in house test for T4.
You want a complete thyroid panel.
She was very specific. A complete thyroid panel with T4 circulating T4, T3, and TGAA.
And she went on to say, “if your dog rates below normal, or even if your dog is rating on the low
normal, you may want to consider, especially if you see these sort of incidents happening again, you
may want to consider putting her on the lower side dose for thyroid meds and see if the behavior
Well, lo and behold, I did see that behavior. She was unpredictable around the dogs in the house the
next week. And so, I'd gone to the Veterinarian, we got the blood profile back. She was normal, but on
the very low end of normal, we put her on thyroids, and boom, everything went away.
That little incident stuck in the back of my mind. And two more times with my own dogs, it has come up
and I've taken my dogs profiles, in each case behavior changes happen.
So Decaff, when she was about seven years old, she became suddenly terrified of thunder. And I
remember leading up to that she would be kind of shaking, at different times, which wasn't normal for
I wish I had remembered what Jean said, because I didn't think of thunder, I was thinking aggression.
But at the time Dr. Dodds did say to me, sudden onset fear, aggression, or anxiety. Now, if you go to
Dr. Dodds’ website and I'll put a link here in the show notes, she has a laundry list of things that might
already be affecting your dog.
It took me probably nine months before I put two and two together and went, “Wait a minute. This weird
behavior around thunder, maybe I should get her thyroid checked.” And sure enough, Decaff’s thyroid
was low, I put her on thyroid meds. It didn't happen as quickly as Stoni.
And here is my theory on that. Because the behavior of being afraid of thunder was allowed to be
repeated for almost a year before we put her on the meds, it would have taken her longer to have
changed the behavior.
And with Stoni, it was within a week or two that she was put on thyroid meds and her behavior changed
instantly. With Decaff, it did go away, but it took probably close to a year before I saw a behavior
And the last one was my dog Buzz, when he was close to being a teenager. And he had a geriatric
vestibular disorder. The same thing, tested his thyroid.
And I had another dog with a geriatric vestibular disorder. I'm not going to go into details of what that
looks like. You can Google it. So, I had his thyroid done. Now, typically this sort of episode could last
for a week or longer, and it might come back and sometimes a dog is left with permanent head tilt when
they go through this geriatric vestibular disorder. But Buzzy, his thyroid was very low, put him on meds,
he came out of it within 24 hours, had no permanent signs and it never came back again.
You might go, “Well, this is bizarre. Behavior problems and you can fix with a pill?” That's exactly what
I'm saying. A behavior problem that you can fix with a pill. Now for me, I have seen this in many dogs
over the decades of me teaching.
When I see people that tell me, “My dog suddenly is afraid. He used to tug in any environment. And
now he's looking around when I asked them to tug”. Thyroid. Complete panel, is really important.
They have to send that panel out because they can't just in-home test. Maybe in-home veterinary tests
have changed. A lot of Veterinarians may not be aware of the connection between thyroid and
behavior. Now there's a lot of Veterinarians who've been around the block and they’ve seen a lot of
things in their experience, and they'll be able to pick this up right away, but you know, some might not
be aware of this.
And so, think about hormones, like, have you heard of roid rage. Now it's definitely a different kind of
hormone, but hormones have effect on behavior. The people who decide to pump all the steroids into
their body to get faster or stronger, for performance events. Yeah, they definitely are a little bit angry.
And if you look at menopause, as I approach my 60th year on this planet, that 70% of people who
experienced any kind of symptoms of menopause say irritability is their number one symptom and
depression, rage, and anger, are high up there with it.
So, my point is, behavior isn't always a choice. Behavior is chemical. It absolutely is chemically
And with dogs, the number one endocrine problem is related to the thyroid. When I say endocrine, that
is, glands that produce hormones in the body.
The number one problem with dogs would be thyroid problems. That's the most common.
Now, Tufts University has been doing this ongoing study, looking at behavior abnormalities and testing
those dogs for a thyroid panel. And if you look at Dr. Dodds’ website, you'll find this study and at the
time there was 634 dogs that they had tested. And I think that's up to 1,500 dogs now.
Of the 634 dogs, they broke them into “is your dog's behavior challenge?”. And it was aggression that
was by far the number one behavior challenge. Seizuring was number two. Fearfulness was number
three, and hyperactivity was number four.
And when they tested these dogs, of the dogs showing aggression, 62% of them had below normal
levels, or acceptable range levels, of circulating thyroid hormone. That of the seizuring dogs, 77% had
a thyroid problem. And 47%, almost 50% of the fearful dogs had a problem, I think it was a third of all
the hyperactive dogs.
So, my point is, I saw it with my dogs, in the age range of I believe 6 to 13 years of age. However, as
soon as your dog goes through puberty, I mean, they could see this in puppies. Puppies that have
aggression towards people or aggression towards other dogs.
It could be that they have a thyroid problem. And so, you want to make sure that you check into this.
Now in that study, that Tufts University was looking at, not all of the cases immediately got better when
they were put on thyroid support. And again, my hallucination as to why that may happen is behavior
could be stimulated by hormones, but it could also then become a trigger by something.
Just like Decaff took longer for her to get over her fear of thunder, even though she was on supportive
thyroid. It did eventually get better, but it wasn't overnight the way it was for Stoni and Buzz.
And I think it's because I picked it up on Stoni and Buzz so much sooner. That's just a complete theory
on my part, but I am presenting really good solid science here.
You know, this podcast is about dog training but more importantly, it's about behavior. And I really
wanted to talk about this topic because you may never see it with your own dogs.
And depending on the breed, like there are some breeds that are more susceptible, like Goldens or
Sighthounds. In my case it was two Border Collies, completely unrelated like not even common dogs in
10 generation in the pedigree. And in Decaff, who was a Jack Russell and one quarter Border Collie
and that one quarter border Collie that was in her, wasn't related to either Stoni or Buzz. So, it could be
breed-specific. But it could happen in any breed.
And I just wanted you to know, even if it isn't your dog that may have this problem, if you hear of
somebody saying, “Wow, my dog was always such a nice dog. And then boom, it's like he had a brain
tumor or something. He suddenly just became aggressive towards other dogs, or aggressive towards
people, or suddenly he became really fearful of things and started shaking”. there's as I said, a list of
symptoms that your dog may show, but those were the four groups of the most common ones when
they’ve really been looking at this.
So, I thought that was super important for you to know. Behavior sometimes isn't as simple as a dog
choosing something you would rather they not do, but isn't it awesome to know that behavior can be
influenced by just giving your dog daily doses of hormones to balance them out?
That's it for today on Shaped by Dog, please leave me a comment. Let me know, and tuck this one
back in your memory bank. Bring that out whenever you are triggered by somebody saying, “Well, my
dog is being weird all of a sudden.” You're going to be able to help them. See you next time.