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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 19765
Experience:  Behaviorist /Trainer and Dog breeder 18+ years
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Our 1 year old female non-spayed puppy has all of a sudden

Customer Question

Our 1 year old female non-spayed puppy has all of a sudden taken to attacking our 9 year old male neutered pit bull, with no provocation we can see. This is full out, I'm going to tear your throat out attacking. The puppy has been with us since she was 8 weeks old and other than some small fights over chew bones, the two dogs have gotten along fine.
We crate the puppy during the day when everyone is out of the house. This is not new to her, we've done this her whole life.
This attacking started on this past Wednesday when my daughter went back to school. Other than some food in the puppy's crate, there are no toys or bones around when the puppy attacks. The last attack took place half an hour ago while the pit bull was laying on a footstool. The puppy just jumped on him and got him caught on his back between the chair and the footstool. We had to drag the puppy off and put her in her crate. The pit bull is now afraid of the puppy.
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 many months old is your female?

When was her last heat cycle?

Does the male have any health issues?

Are both dogs allowed on the furniture routinely?

What obedience training has she had?

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
The puppy is just shy of 12 months by 13 days.Her heat cycle started around the beginning of July.The male pit bull has thyroid disease and is on medication and had problems with his back and with walking. He is on medication for that too. He's been having problems for the last 2-3 months and started on medication around July 23.Both dogs are allowed on the furniture.The puppy has only had training that my daughter and I have given her. Basic sit, stay, give, catch, drop it, etc. I haven't been able to afford professional training yet.
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 2 years ago.

Thanks for the additional information. It is helpful. Dogs are pack animals with a hierarchy. This usually has unfixed dominance animals at the top and neutered and weaker animals lower. The fact that your girl has now become sexually mature, she has likely decided that she is a better choice to be the top dog especially since the older dog has health issues that make him not as able to defend himself.

As a new "leader", the female is more likely to reprimand the older dog for any slight or even imagined slight. Of course, the older dog doesn't want to give up their perks such as sleeping where they want, getting affection from the humans first and even just walking where they want without having to wonder if the "boss" dog is ok with it. Former alpha dogs don't give up the position easily and often violent fights erupt until the status in the group is resolved and accepted by all member.

There are ways you can help them adjust which is acknowledging the change in status. Feed the female first, show her attention first, give treats first and even let her out the door first. This will show the older dog that you acknowledge the change in leadership of the dogs and support it. This actually does take away some of the possible triggers that she might reprimand him for.

I am glad you have done some obedience training, but you need to make it more structured and formal. It doesn't HAVE to be a class at this point, but you do need to regularly train her.

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.

This helps her see you as the boss and as the boss, it is your job to reprimand and not hers. Once you have her trained more, you will have more control over her. Additional training can also help. Both dogs should be leashed 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.

Getting her spayed may also help relieve the issues. She is pretty young for thyroid issues such as hypothyroidism but that can cause sudden aggression as well.

I'd not allow them on the furniture. Dogs that are allowed on furniture tend to feel that since they are elevated to your level, they mentally feel elevated as well in the pack order and thus are the boss. Keeping them on the floor can help lower them mentally back to a submissive position in the pack. So the first thing is to not allow them higher that the humans or even on the same level. Attach a leash and use it to remove him from the furniture. Give a correction in the form of a quick tug and firm "NO" when he attempts to get on and a treat when she starts not trying to get on the furniture. Thus you are providing negative reinforcement for the getting on the furniture and positive reinforcement for the desired behavior (not attempting to get on the furniture).{C}

These suggestions should help you control the fighting.

I hope this information is helpful to you. 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 .

Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 2 years ago.
I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?
Jane Lefler