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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 19766
Experience:  Behaviorist /Trainer and Dog breeder 18+ years
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What causes one of my female dogs to go into attack mode

Customer Question

What causes one of my female dogs to go into attack mode when the other smaller female dog gets hurt and whines. Normally she is very proectve of her.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 1 year 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. I am working on your response. I was almost done but the system blinked and I lost part of it. I just wanted to let you know I am almost done.

Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 1 year ago.

I can give you some idea of why this happens and some ideas on how to stop it as well. Dogs are pack animals though you hear a lot of people now trying to say this isn't as relevant but I see the interactions regularly. As pack animals there is a boss or leader iof the dogs. Normally it is an older dog though it might also be a stronger or more strong willed younger animal.

The boss dog is in charge of the other dogs to a degree. They allow them to do certain things. They let them know when they are doing something that is not acceptable. If you watch a group of dogs interact, you might see one dog growl at the others if they start near food or some other high value object. This is the boss dog reprimanding the other dog for doing something they have not given permission for the other dog to do. It sounds like she is reprimanding the smaller dog for the whining and crying.

The older dog might feel the smaller dog is vocalizing as a way of getting attention from the humans. As a result, she would reprimanding the smaller dog for trying to get attention before the top dog. In other cases dogs display what is referred to as redirected aggression. It happens when a dog gets very excited or feels aggression toward another but has no outlet for that feeling so they redirect it at a close object like the little dog. She might feel like she should be aggressive toward whoeven hurt the dog but can not if it is a human so she reacts toward the small dog. Or she gets excited and attacks the closest acceptable (to her way of thinking) target.

In addition, when you use a calming voice on her when this happens, you are showing her positive reinforcement for the behavior. You are not reprimanding her. You need to keep a leash on her and when she displays this behavior give a short tug to break her concentration off the smaller dog and onto you where you will be reprimanding her with a low toned (growl like) NO. Try not to show the younger dog attention before the older dog. The older dog should get fed first, get treats first and affection first. You need to pay attention to the older dog first even if the younger dog gets to you first. This shows the older dog that you recognize her position and will help cut down on reprimands.

Obedience training both dogs will help as well. This will teach both dogs that you are the ultimate boss. You decide what happens and who gets to do what. In a lot of cases, dogs get along pretty good, but there may be little disagreements that happen. We usually recommend letting them sort it out on their own as long as no blood is drawn or you are not talking about a huge strong dog up against a small tiny breed like a pit bull against a chihuahua.

Obedience is always a plus. 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. 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.

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 . If you do find this helpful, please take this opportunity to rate my answer positively so I am compensated for my time.

Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 1 year ago.

Hi Again,

I just thought I'd check in to see how things are going for you and your dog. Let me know if my answer was helpful.