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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 19590
Experience:  Behaviorist /Trainer and Dog breeder 18+ years
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I have a problem with my 14month old border collie x kelpie

Customer Question

I have a problem with my 14month old border collie x kelpie rescue, who is a lovely, well mannered female, and my 10 week old bernese mountain puppy.
They get along perfectly - playing, sleeping, etc, until food is involved, or they are playing, and all of a sudden the older dog turns on the puppy and becomes vicious.
I separate them at mealtime and prepare it away from them, but the older dog knows what I am doing and will attack the puppy even if they are not near me. She will also become aggressive occasionally when they are playing.
When this happens I put the puppy into a safe area, then get the border collie to sit, then lie down, and she calms down usually immediately. She also becomes good with the puppy almost immediately, although I usually leave her alone for a few minutes. I am concerned for both if them.
Any thoughts?
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.

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.

Is she drawing blood from the puppy?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
no she is not drawing any blood
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
when they are playing she just turns aggressive in a second and without warning
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
are you there?
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 1 year ago.

OK. I'm typing up your reply now. It will take about 20 minutes to type up.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Also, as I am trying to potty train the puppy, it is impossible to use a food reward due to the food issues with Kate (the border x).
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 1 year ago.

What you are seeing is all perfectly normal. The older dog may be a little rougher than if she was just a little older, but what you are seeing is exactly what older dogs are supposed to do.

Dogs teach puppies manners and the way they do that is to growl when a pup is doing something it shouldn't do like approach their food, etc, and when a pup fails to listen to the warning, they lunge sounding ferocious and usually will even snap their teeth together. They might even nip but usually do not do any real harm to the puppy. It is more of a scare tactic toward the puppy. All dogs will usually do this with puppies.

Often they will allow play behavior and rough housing but if a pup should bite too hard, they will turn and reprimand the pup with the growl, lunge or ferocious behavior. This is in the pup's best interest. A dog in the same household is going to be much gentler with them than a strange dog would be. In additon, pups get away with anything when with their mom and then around 4=6 weeks she starts teaching them not to bite hard and what some acceptable behavior is. However, they leave mom and still believe they can approach all dogs like they did their mom and can bite ears, scratch stomachs and even try and nurse off of them in some cases. So adult dogs reprimand unacceptable behavior but they do take age into account. Most will give a puppy lots of leeway in behavior but each successive day, that lessens and lessens as the pup has to learn acceptable manners around adult dogs.

So as long as blood isn't being drawn, it should be fine. Now if the pup is also female, you might with to get her spayed before her first heat cycle. The current adult might feel her place in the household as the top dog might be threatened and then you will see some aggression and more serious reprimands that might indeed draw blood. Spaying will help reduce the chance of that occurring.

You shouldn't have much of a problem with a male since there can be both a female and male boss and he'll likely see her as the main dog since he was raised around her.

You can help teach the pup as well by going ahead and starting obedience training. Obedience training will allow you to call him to you if you see him starting to do things to annoy the older dog. It will also keep him occupied for longer periods of time and give her a break from constantly reprimanding him for unacceptable behavior.

Structured classes are great, but you can do structured training at home long before a dog is able to be out in public around other dogs. 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.

It also sounds like Kate could use some refresher obedience training as well. You should feed Kate first and then the pup. Once both have some training done and are listening pretty well, you can feed them in the same room. However, start by isolating the pup, then fixing the food, and put Kate's down first before taking the puppy's food to him/her. Once you try together, keep a leash on the aggressor and slip it under your foot so Kate can't attack the pup. GIve her just enough room to eat her food and be sure the pup's bowl is across the room. I've had some owners put an eye bolt in the floor on one side near a wall so they can clip a dog's leash to it to hold them in one area of the house. However, even using these types of restraints, you need to be standing in the middle and if either dog moves toward the other for any reason, give a really low toned "NO" so both dog's know it is unacceptable. Eventually you have to remove the restraint but if you have keeping up on the obedience work, you should be able to have them lay down or sit in front of their bowls and stay even if they want to move toward the other one.

Obedience training can also show the older dog more attention and stop some of the jealousy issues we see from an owner spending so much time with a new puppy. We all do it since pups need so much care, older dogs can feel left out and will take that out on the puppy. So start obedience training with them and let Kate continue to help the pup learn manners, but if it gets out of hand, let me know and we will work on some other techniques. I do believe that obedience training will help a lot and prevent worse problems from developing as the pup matures.

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.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your advice, but this is not normal dog playing. They constantly play and rough house. I know the difference between playing and attacking. When they are playing and the puppy is annoying the older dog, they sort it out and it may be a little nip or growl. All normal. When Kate Turns on the puppy it is vicious and she intends to hurt her. Her look changes and her body language changes. It is not normal or safe for the puppy. If left, there would be blood for sure. As Kate is a rescue, we do not know what has happened to her, but she came to us very shy and afraid of strangers, but know is a much loved part of the family who is adored by us all, but we are strict with obedience and manners. We have had several dogs before and never had this problem, and this is our first rescue.
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 1 year ago.

From your description it does sound like relatively normal behavior but you are actually seeing it so let me give you some other techniques. Start strict obedience training with Kate. Keep a leash on her when she is with the pup, but if you can not keep a good eye on them, put a muzzle on her. It needs to be a basket style muzzle so she can still breath relatively normal and even drink and eat to a limited extent.

Additional training can also help. Kate should be leashed and if she even looks at the puppy, 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 her ignoring the pup. When that happens, you will want to reward her 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.

Of course, you have to establish yourself as the boss with the obedience training as well. The pup won't learn puppy manners as quickly this way and there won't be much playing since you have to discourage her from attacking the pup and the only effective way of doing this is to discourage interaction. There really isn't a way of only stopping the one behavior since it is irratic in nature.

Now it might not be quite as irratic a believed. She may be giving some clues with body language that might help you see when she starts getting into that mood. Read more on body language here:

It won't be long before your pup is pretty big and she won't be able to be assured of coming out on top of a fight situation so that should calm her if it is strictly behavioral.

Since you do think this is a more serious issue, then it might be medical since it is sudden aggression. Conditions such as hypothyroidism can cause sudden aggression. You can read more on medical cause of sudden aggression here:

Hypothyroidism is a common problem in some dogs as they age, so it is worth investigating.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks again, but it is not like they can't be together. Kate loves the puppy and runs to her if she is crying or if she yelps when she is hurt. They are very close. I do all of the feeding techniques that you advised and can control that. Kate is well socialised and is great at the dog park, off leash, and won't eat until she is given the command. I think I will have to get someone to help me in person.
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 1 year ago.

Here are some great people that should be able to help.

They can see the exact behavior you are seeing and advise you. Definitely get her checked for thyroid issues since that might explain a sudden aggression issue for no reason.

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