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Rebecca, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 14916
Experience:  More than 30 years of companion animal practice.
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We have a mixed terrier that we have had years.

Customer Question

We have a mixed terrier that we have had for three years. She has energy level. We got another dog that is bigger than her and more laid back. My terrier won't let her alone as she wants to play all the time. The bigger dog does not want anything to do with it. They really had a fight when I was gone for a few hours and my little dog had teeth marks allover her face. I had to take her to the vets. Came close to poking her eye. The big one didn't like her picking and trying to play to begin with but now after the fight we have them separated. Whenever we try to get them together the little goes over to sniff and want to play and the big dog starts growling and I am afraid she might attack again. I don't want to take her back to the shelter because she is a nice dog if we didn't have michelle who is so full of energy. Is there anything we can do to help alleviate this problem between them. I just can't let my little one be attacked again.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Rebecca replied 2 years ago.
I am sorry to hear about your problem with your dogs. I am a veterinarian and will do my best to help.
Are both dogs spayed? Are they both female?
Two female dogs that fight is one of the most difficult behavior problems to treat. If one of the dogs decides she does not want to live or tolerate the other, and starts a fight, in my experience it will happen again, and the next time will be worse.
If you want to keep them both, they have to be separated most of the time. You can have them together when you are there to supervise, but when you are there, I would have head collars, like Gentle Leader or Haltis on both dogs, attached to long light leads. That way if they approach each other, you can call one away and if the dog does not come to you, you can guide her to you with the lead.
WIth behavior problems, you have to be proactive, to reward them for good behavior. Being reactive, and responding once a fight has started or happened does not teach them to change their behavior.
In this case, that means rewarding the big dog for not reacting aggressively to Michelle, and for rewarding Michelle for leaving the big dog alone. Every time Michelle approaches the big dog to play, you have to call her away, reward her from coming, use the lead attached to the head collar to make her come if she does not, and then offer her an alternative to trying to play with the big dog, like going for a walk, a favorite toy, a treat, etc.
If the big dog approaches Michelle in an unfriendly manner, you can do the same thing; call her to you, give her a treat for obeying, and give her special attention.
They must never be together unless someone is supervising.
I am sure you were looking for a quick easy answer, but this is a difficult and possibly dangerous situation, and there is no quick easy answer. I sure wish there was; it would make my job easier! However, in my 30 years experience, aggression between 2 females that live together is one of the hardest behavior problems, and often ends in one dog being seriously hurt or rehomed or both.
At the shelter where I work, we don't let you adopt a new dog until it has been introduced to the dog you already have, and they have some time to see how they react to each other. Not all dogs are going to live together happily.
Please let me know what else I can answer or help with. I am sorry you are trying to give this bigger dog a nice new home and that it is not working out for you and your terrier.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

They are both spayed females. When they spent some time together they played a little bit and seemed ok. Anything else please...

Expert:  Rebecca replied 2 years ago.
Good they are spayed.
I would let them play together, but I would use the head collars so you can separate them if either of them gets aggressive or too playful. The idea is to get them apart the moment the bigger dog looks like she has had enough.
If these were my own dogs, and I was determined to keep them both, I would start doing 5 to 10 minutes of obedience with each one, twice daily, practicing Sit, Stay, Down, and Come for treats. This will remind and reinforce them to listen to you, so if a fight starts, you can call one or both of them away from each other.
I might consider a visit to a veterinarian or trainer who specializes in behavior problems, if these were my dogs.
You can start by letting them together to play like you just saw, but only when a person is actively watching and supervising. If they are left alone, even with someone in the house but not really watching them, there is a chance there will be another fight.
I have a breeder friend who does a lot of obedience and training work with hundreds of dogs and asked her what she does when two females living together fight, and she said female on female dog aggression is the worst problem she deals with.
Even if they seem fine 99% of the time, we know there has been one fight already, so another is possible, even likely. I would start practicing obedience with them daily, or better yet work with a trainer or specialist.
I know you want to do one or two simple things and know these two will be safe together, and if there were such a thing I would tell you. Be proactive, watch them closely when they are together, never leave them alone together for a minute.
Let me know how they are doing, and what else I can answer.

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