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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 18795
Experience:  Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 18+ years
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Two weeks ago, I brought home 2 cocker-mix puppies who are

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Two weeks ago, I brought home 2 cocker-mix puppies who are 8 weeks old and litter-mates. They played and wrestled like all pupies do and did not hurt each other. Then, we went on vacation for a week and left the puppies in a run at our vets and they called us 3 days later that the puppies had gotten into a really vicious biting fight and hurt each other. ( one had to have a leg x-ray and antibiotics as she ran a fever and her leg swelled.) so the vet separated them of course and we brought them home today. We thought that they would be better back in their own environment, but as soon as they got near each other, they started biting (HARD!!) and we had a difficult time separating them. So now I'm terrified to bring them together or, heaven forbid, leave them alone together. So, what do I do? Can their aggressiveness toward each other be changed so they can stay together or do I need to place one of them with a new owner? Rebecca

Hi Rebecca,


My name isXXXXX have been working professionally with animals especially dogs in both health and behavioral issues for over 18 years. I have over 14,000 satisfied customers. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.


In order to supply you with the best information, I do need to ask for some additional information. Once I receive your answer, it will likely take me about 30-45 minutes to type up your response. I hope you can be patient.


Can you tell me what sex each dog is?

Does one seem to be the aggressor?

They are only 10 weeks old, correct?

Do you know what they are mixed with?

Is there food around when the fights start?

Do you notice any trigger to the fights?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Jane - thanks for responding.


Both pups are female.


It is difficult to tell which is the aggressor.


Yes, 10 weeks old.


We do not know the mix. These pups came from a stray pregnant dog that showed up at my step dad's a month before delivery. Delivery was a shock - we did not know that the mother was pregnant due to the mal-nutritioned state she arrived in. These were her only two pups and delivery was not complicated and the mother was a very good mother.


Food was not around in the one episode we witnessed when we brought them home from the kennel.


The trigger seemed to be each other.


Now that we have them separated, they are both sleeping very heavily. We will not allow them to have interaction with each other until they seem more normal in their behavior as before they were boarded.


They do not seem to be aggressive to any thing else.

Thanks for the additional information. We never recommend getting two puppies at the same time, though not because of aggression. It is usually twice as hard to train pups when there is more than one. House training is very difficult in that situation. It can be done but you really need to stay on top of the pups all the time in order to be successful with both obedience training and house training. In addition, you can have more dominance based problems since there is no older dog to be the boss. We also would have recommended getting pups of the opposite sex as well.
At 10 weeks old, I have rarely seen true aggression in a puppy. Occasionally you will see dominance aggression from one pup to another and since these pups are both from the same litter, that is likely what you are seeing. Cocker spaniels frequently are more aggressive as a breed. They are likely pretty evenly match and thus ithere is no clear alpha female. At your step father's place, mom was the clear alpha. Now they are here and there is no alpha so it will likely be part of the issue.
I imagine it was pretty difficult for the puppies being in a kennel situation after recently being taken away from their mom. In addition, dogs can experience what is called misdirected aggression. If there were housed next to another dog and became aggitated and couldn't get at the other dog, they sometimes will turn that aggression toward a dog with them. Dogs are often more aggressive toward a dog that is injured as well.
However, this behavior is very unusual in puppies this age. In some cases, if one dog bites too hard, the other will bite hard back and a fight will occur. You will sometimes have blood as their puppy teeth are very sharp. The sustained aggression though is not normal.
I would attach collars and leashes to them and then allow limited contact between them that is supervised. Try not to be too worried about it. You can keep them on leashes so you can easily control the interaction INITIALLY. If they become aggressive toward each other, you can give a little tug on the leash and a firm "NO" so they understand you will not tolerate this behavior. In addition, when they are not being aggressive toward one another, you can give them tasty treats like hot dog slices. This will help teach them the behavior you want to see and also to associate each other with treats.
I also strongly recommend that you start obedience training them immediately. They can not go to classes until a week after their last vaccination, but you can start training now. They learn quickly at this age. The following site is helpful for teaching you how to train your dog. Be sure and click on the link to the page on obedience at the bottom. and links on subsequent pages leading to detailed instructions.
Training works best if you train at least 30 minutes a day (two 15 minute sessions). I would start making your dog work via the Nothing in life is free program (NILF). It is outlined below.
At this age, training sessions might need to be about 5 minutes at a time, but you can work several more times a day. This is because their attention span is still pretty small. All that said, since they are the same sex, if you can not get this under control fairly quickly, you are likely to have more problems in the future. You might spay one fairly early so there is a clear alpha. Females able to reproduce are naturally higher in the pack order than fixed females, so that may help.
If you think you are likely to have to find her a new home, I would do it early rather than waiting. You will have an easier time finding a home at this age. If you then decide to get another puppy, I would recommend waiting until the pup you keep is at least 6 months of age and somewhat trained. Definitely do group classes though as soon as they are old enough to attend. This helps them socialize with other dogs and is very important especially with breeds know to be a bit more aggressive. They need to be socialized around people and other dogs and training classes offer a controlled environment. You can also meet other people with pups that might agree to puppy play dates that will help socialize the pups even more.
I hope this information is helpful to you and you are satisfied with my response. If you would like any additional information or have more questions please don’t hesitate to press the reply to expert or continue conversation button so I can address any issues you still have .
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