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Ask Jane Lefler Your Own Question
Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 19600
Experience:  Behaviorist /Trainer and Dog breeder 18+ years
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I own a German shepherd who is normally a great dog but recently

Customer Question

I own a German shepherd who is normally a great dog but recently she has become aggressive to my other dogs. I don't know how to stop it, and something needs to be done.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 2 years ago.
Hi JaCustomer,
My name is ***** ***** I’ve been involved professionally with dogs in the health and behavioral fields for over 18 years. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.
In order to supply you with an informed answer, it is necessary for me to collect some additional information from you. When I receive your response or reply, it will likely take me between 30-45 minutes to type up my reply if I am still online when I receive notice that you replied. I hope you can be patient.
How long have you owned Onyx?
Is Onxy spayed?
what other dogs do you have?
Please include their breeds, age, sex and reproductive status?
What obedience training has she had?
Can you describe the circumstances surrounding the aggression including what lead up to it and how it was ended?
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 2 years ago.
I just found out I have to leave for about an hour or so. I'll type up my answer to your responses when I return.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
What have had her for about 3 years. We got her as a puppy. She is not spayed. We have 2 blue heelers, a beagle, a boxer, a yorkie/teacup poodle mix, and two more in not sure of the breeds, they are all femalw except 1 and hea neutered. We just gor the boxer amd yorkie mix amd they are anoit 3 months old the rest are various ages. We have never breed onxy. We are looking into obedience classes but she hasnt had and training other that what we have taught her. Sometimes its the heelers that are the problem but recently im not sure. She just seems to want to fight with all the older dogs and i feel if we arent out there when the fighting starts then it could end badly. It seems to happen when everyone is outside and under a picnic table we have. She doesnt seem to have a problem with the puppies.
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 2 years ago.
Thanks for the additional information. It is helpful.
Dogs are pack animals so there are dogs in any group of dogs who are the bosses. There is usually one female that bosses the others around even though it might not be apparent to you and one male that does the same. You may only know because the other dogs will move away from something if she come up to it, or she is the one that comes through the door first or pushes past everyone to get your attention. But the alpha dog or boss is entitled to these things. They eat first normally.
This dog is usually an older dominant femaleand unspayed. However, the GSD was raised with this alpha female and thus probably didn't feel any need to challenge the boss when she was a pup and a young adult. But now she is a mature adult and stronger and more dominant then the other dogs. As a result she may be feeling like she is the best choice to be the boss of the dogs. Adding additional dogs can trigger a dog to seek a higher status in the pack as well.
Of course, rarely does an alpha dog just give up their spot and fights occur then. Even if the top female does give up their spot, the GSD would still need to show the remaining dogs that she was the boss and thus would be inclined to reprimand them for real or imagined disobedience. These actions that would be reprimanded would be much like the privileges of the alpha. If they tried to play with a toy the GSD thought was hers or sleep in a place that she wanted to or even push past her to get attention from you. These would trigger reprimands in most cases.
Changes in the leadership of a pack are normal and happen pretty often. If no blood is being drawn and no one is injured , you can probably just monitor the situation, but if it escalates then you definitely need to stop it.
Your GSD definitely needs some training though. They are a strong willed breed and need a strong willed owner. You will eventually need her to be in a group training class so you can assure she will obey even with distractions like other dogs and strangers. However, you can definitely start structured training at home. If it was me, I'd train all of them, but start with her. By structured training, I do mean setting aside specific time each day for this purpose. It helps if it is the same time each day.
The following site is helpful in helping owners train their 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.
Additional training can also help. If there is a specific other dog that seems to be involved more then the others, leash both dogs and if one dog even looks at the other dog, a correction should be done. Any sign of aggression including a prolonged look, hair raised on the shoulders, a growl or even a stiff legged walk, should be corrected. A correction is a quick tug of the leash and a firm low toned "NO". Once you have done this couple of times, you should notice the dogs ignoring each other. When that happens, you will want to reward them for the desired behavior. Again, use tasty treats like the hot dog slices. This teaches the dogs that you WILL not tolerate fighting in YOUR pack.
You probably know a lot about the body language of dogs since you have so many but the following sites still might be helpful.
I think that the obedience training and additional training will help get her back under control and help lessen the incidents of fighting. Also start showing the other dogs that she is the boss by feeding her first, giving treats and affection to her before the other dogs. This acknowledgement from you will help them accept the change in leadership in a smoother fashion.
I hope this information is helpful to you. If you need more information or clarification, please reply and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. If you are satisfied, please take the opportunity to rate.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Since all of our dogs are outside dog and we leave them alone most of the day. I never notice signs of fighting. Its normally when we are all outside in the evenings when the fighting starts. Is there any reason for that? should we be worried about leaving her out with the other dogs during the day when no one is there?
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 2 years ago.
This sounds like the other dog's interactions with you are the ones that are setting off the fights. They are likely fine when you are not there. However, if you are seeing wounds on the dogs, then you might want to separate the smallest to ensure nothing happens. You should have a few months before there is any problems with pups. Get the pups fixed as soon as possible.
Many owners report fighting only when they are around. This is because often dogs will push the boundaries when the owners are around thinking that the "leader" won't do anything when the human is around. At other times it is the owner who reaches out to pet a lower ranking dog first or gives affection or a treat to a dog other than the alpha that starts the altercation. That is why I suggested you start treating her as the boss. If another dog approaches you first, ignore them until you have shown her affection.
Obedience work will help as you can have them all sit and treat in order.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Will this end after the puppies know who is boss? Because we have never really had a problem untill we got them. We love her and normally she is a good dog. We dont want to have to get rid of her.
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 2 years ago.
Once every dog recognizes her position as the boss, the problems should stop. The issues are if the other dogs don't immediately accept her as the boss.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
So with obedience training classes and attention from us expecially first before the other dogs and once everyone reconizes her as boss the fight should stop and things should go back to normal.
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 2 years ago.
Usually things settle back down into a calmer environment once a new leader is recognized and accepted. Training and your actions just help speed the process along with minimal altercations.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
What should i do if i would rather her look to me as leader?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
What should we do if we want her to look at me as leader rather than herself?
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 2 years ago.
The obedience training helps her recognize you as the ultimate boss as does the NILF program.
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 2 years ago.
Hi Lexie,

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

Jane Lefler

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