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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 16930
Experience:  Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 16+ years
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Dog 1 has been with us a couple of years. Dog 2 a few months.

Resolved Question:

Dog 1 has been with us a couple of years. Dog 2 a few months. Both are 3 year old neutered females.

They have been getting into fights for the last few weeks. The smaller Dog 2 tends to annoy the larger Dog 1 by pestering her, for example by standing in her way when she is trying to move, or standing over her when she's laying on the floor (often cocking a rear leg in Dog 1's face). This pestering is increasingly resulting in Dog 1 getting agitated and attacking Dog 2, who very actively engages with Dog 1, even though she generally comes out the worst from it.

When they are not engaging in this behaviour, Dog 2 appears worried by Dog 1 and avoids her, which confuses me no end! Why would you annoy someone you're scared of/worried about? Why does she always end up returning to her annoying activities which results in fighting, which then makes her more fearful (for a time) of Dog 1?

I'm responding by keeping them separated as much as possible and intervening when things seem to heading down the annoyance/agitation/fighting path, but I really need to get to the bottom of this behaviour and stop it, once and for all, if that's possible.
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 11 months ago.
Hi JaCustomer,
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My name is Jane. I 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.
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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.
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How much training have both dogs have as far as obedience goes?
Your cattle dogs sounds pretty laid back. Is that how you perceive her to be for the most part?
Is the terrier mix more active generally speaking?
How long ago did this behavior start?

Customer: replied 11 months ago.

Hi Jane

I'm happy to wait for your considered response. If you can solve our problem, any time spent waiting will have been worth it!

I have to admit that the two dogs are not particularly well-trained. When they are amenable, they will come when called, sit and stay etc, but it doesn't take much to get them excited and then all bets are off. Dog 1 (Bella) is a pet rescue dog, with a reported history of abuse. Dog 2 (Sasha) we "inherited" from our son when he realised keeping a dog was more work than he expected. The only reason we have Sasha is to save her from the pound, but the way things are going, she might be headed in that direction unless we fix this problem.

Bella is pretty laid-back. She generally cowers from other dogs and is certainly not agressive, until provoked by Sasha.

Sasha has lots of energy. She always wants to be playing and running around. At first we thought the two were butting heads simply because of this personality discrepancy; Sasha going "c'mon, let's play, c'mon let's go!" while Bella was "leave me alone, I'm not interested", but it seems to be more than that.

They've been together for about 3 months now, but the fighting (and sometimes it gets quite vicious and difficult to end) started just several weeks ago, and seems to be getting worse.

I should add that I believe at least an aspect of this problem is that it almost seems that I (a middle aged man who works from home and is therefore always around the dogs) have become the centre of a love triangle. If I pick up one dog for a cuddle, in the presence of the other, the other dog generally reacts by trying to jump up and bite the dog I'm holding, and bites her when I put her back down again. It's gotten to the point that I can't do this anymore. It's like they each regard me as "theirs" and go into a rage when I'm "being unfaithful".

As you can see, it's complicated (at least to me!) and we just can't see how to sort the problem out.

I look forward to hearing from you, and if you need more information, just let me know.

Regards,

Mark

Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 11 months ago.

Mark,

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Thanks for all that information. As you might be aware, dogs are pack animals. Packs have a male alpha and a female alpha. Usually the male is higher than the female but not always. Unfixed animals are higher in the pack than fixed animals as they can reproduce.

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When a dog is a puppy (under a year of age or so) any older dog in the house is the alpha dog. When a new dog is brought into a household there may not be immediate fighting as the new dog may just think they are visiting initially, but once they realize that they are there to stay, the fighting may start.

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With younger dogs, the older dog establishes her rank over the other dogs with minimal or no fighting involved. Since Sasha and Bella are about the same age and Bella is not by nature a real dominant dog, Sasha feels she has to put Bella in her place and establish herself as the alpha dog since she is a more dominant dog by nature. . An alpha dog will usually not just submit without some sort of altercation and this can be an ongoing issue.

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Now this can also happen if a dog senses some weakness (illness perhaps) in the alpha dog. Sometimes it will look like one dog started a fight, but with dogs a wrong look or movement by a submissive dog can trigger a fight. For instance, Sash getting in Bella's way and cocking a leg in her face are all challenges to Bella's alpha status. It doesn't seem like Bella wants to fight but that Sasha is pushing the issue.

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There are two things that can happen here. Sasha can take over the house hold and will make life a bit miserable for Bella for a little while since she will need to continually remind Bella that she (Sasha) is the alpha now. The second thing is that Bella becomes more dominant and shows Sasha that she is not going to give up the alpha position without a fight, so it may be an ongoing issue.

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There are some things that you can do to help correct the situation. One thing is to get them started on obedience training. If you have control over them via verbal commands you might be able to head off a fight before it starts. Obedience training also establishes you as the ultimate boss. If you are the ultimate boss, you make the decisions and not the dogs. It is your job to reprimand the dog that is not listening or being unruly. Of course, you actually do have to do those things. For instance, if you see Sasha bothering Bella, you have to reprimand her and have her go sit away from Bella. If you decide to pet Sasha, then Bella should not try and reprimand Sasha because YOU made the decision to pet her.

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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.

http://www.schutzhund-training.com/training_theory.html

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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.

http://www.pets.ca/articles/article-dog_nilf.htm

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Now a group class should be done once your dogs seem to be listening to commands on a regular basis. This teaches them to obey you despite distractions. Another thing you can do is put leashes on them to trail around. You can use the leashes to give them reprimands if you see one bothering the other or if a fight gets out of hand. I'm going to give you sites that go over dog body language. It should help you determine what is being communicated between the dogs.

http://www.apdt.com/petowners/park/body-language/

http://www.pawsacrossamerica.com/interpret.html

http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/canine-body-language

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You should also determine which dog is going to be the boss. That dog should be fed first, given treats first, get attention first and even be let in and out first. By doing this, you acknowledge one dog as boss which helps the other dog accept their position as a lower ranking member.

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It can be difficult having multiple females especially when brought in as full grown dogs. My choice would have been a younger neutered male dog (under a year) for a companion to Bella. Unfortunately, you didn't have that choice. Usually my methods work to help control aggression between family dogs. A good treat to use when training and rewarding desired behavior is hot dog slices or liver slivers.

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In addition, if the situation is not improving using the techniques have suggested, you may have to consult a professional behaviorist. You can usually find a behaviorist by asking your Vet for a recommendation or you may be able to find one using the following site.

http://www.apdt.com

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Living in a household with multiple females can be an issue. You may eventually need to keep the two separate to avoid these problems if one refuses to submit to the other You can read about this issue here:

http://www.canismajor.com/dog/feisty.html

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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 .

Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 16930
Experience: Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 16+ years
Jane Lefler and other Dog Training Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 11 months ago.
Hi Mark,

I'm just following up on our conversation about Sasha. How is everything going?

Jane Lefler
Customer: replied 11 months ago.

Hi Jane


 


Yes, your advice pretty much confirmed what we were thinking, but it's nice to know what an expert makes of the situation.


 


We're trying to reinforce 2 things at the moment:


 



  1. I'm the boss, and they both must listen to and obey me.

  2. Bella is the top dog, and Sasha must acknowledge that.


 


I think we're slowly seeing some improvement from this. For example, Sasha now waits for her dinner until Bella has been given hers. I was previously (unintentionally) giving Sasha hers first because she gets hers inside while Bella gets hers outside, to avoid fights over food.


 


And we're intervening early whenever we see the familiar pattern of Sasha being provocative, Bella reacting, starting to happen.


 


Thanks for your help and your interest.


 


Regards,


 


Mark

Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 11 months ago.
Mark,.Thanks for getting back to me. Often we have a general idea but it does help to have an outside opinion. An expert can also help pinpoint things that may need tweaking like who gets fed first. I'm glad things seem to be a little better.

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