two beloved dogs suddenly fighting- help needed

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two beloved dogs suddenly fighting- help needed

This is a discussion on two beloved dogs suddenly fighting- help needed within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; I am the owner of a female pitbull (11 years old) and male pitbull/great dane mix (about 18 months old). My husband and I adopted ...

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Old 06-12-2013, 08:56 PM
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two beloved dogs suddenly fighting- help needed

I am the owner of a female pitbull (11 years old) and male pitbull/great dane mix (about 18 months old). My husband and I adopted Jack, the pitbull/dane mix in Sept 2012. He and our other pit, Mamie, have gotten along famously since we adopted him. In the past month, Jack, has been attacking Mamie. There is no obvious triggers. I thought at first it was resource guarding but there are no resources involved. When my husband is home, there have been no fights. The one variable is me. It seems these behaviors only occur when I am the only one around. The dogs are still predominantly playing and getting along well, but there are now these isolated incidents of fighting which are terrifying. I have been intervening when I see the posturing indicative of aggression, but sometimes it is too late. In the end, I am squirting them with water bottles, and trying everything else until I have to pry them off each other. In my gut, I know this is a dominance issue among the pack and I will need to assert myself as alpha. I am trying, but it does not seem to be working out...

These are two dogs who are otherwise getting along great, which is making this even more confusing for me. Jack has many other behaviors under his resume that need help as well, but as for now this is priority. We are currently seeking a dog behaviorist but for the mean time, I need some urgent help, creative ideas welcomed! Thank you.
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Old 06-12-2013, 09:35 PM
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Welcome to the forum

No dominance, pack leader mumbo jumbo...yada yada.

How is Mamie medically?

It has nothing to do with you dominating or showing them you are boss. I bet you have some fear when they are together. They can sense that and can be set off by it. Since Jack is attacking Mamie and has other issues then I would start working with Jack on "Leave It." Is Jack lead broke? On lead when Jack goes toward something you do not want him to..say "Jack leave it" and turn away from what ever it is. As soon as he looks away from it praise him...Be sure to praise everything good that he does. Show him that doing good things brings nice happy mom. You may also want to make or buy a flirt pole (toy on a string) to work off some of his energy. Does he get plenty of exercise?
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Old 06-12-2013, 10:29 PM
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Thanks, LynneMarie. Interesting you ask, yes, we suspect Mamie is going through some medical issues. She is getting older and acting it- we say she is 11-12, but she could be even older (she's a rescue too). She is increasingly lethargic, and looking more bloated through midsection(possibly tumors?) Other than her lethargy, she is going about her normal business. She is due for a vet visit in July.
I would say Jack is definitely NOT lead broke, since I do not feel comfortable taking him out alone. My husband can control him on the lead and I cannot. We go back and forth with this issue. We've tried some different leads. The latest lead we used was the gentle leader. He hates it but tolerates it if my husband takes him out. When I take him out alone, before we hit the concrete, he is already pulling me. When he pulls excessively, I just turn around immediately. As an alternative, I walk him around the yard and then do some ball toss with lots of direction so it is more structured for him. Sadly,this is as far he and I go for exercise.
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Old 06-12-2013, 11:11 PM
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Can you keep them separated while your husband is gone? Maybe implement a crate and rotate system?

You don't need to be a pack leader or assert dominance over them. The pack and alpha theories have been debunked. See the link in my signature for more about that.

Please make sure that the behaviorist uses Positive Reinforcement!
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Old 06-13-2013, 12:51 AM
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Just started today in this forum, and the first thing I see is:
"No dominance, pack leader mumbo jumbo...yada yada."
Together with some reasonable advice and limited speculation on details we don't have. After browsing many other dog behavior forums, it's nice to find a reasonable and scientific approach.
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Old 06-13-2013, 02:19 AM
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Here are some more links for you :

Dominance in domestic dogs - useful construct or bad habit? Bradshaw, Blackwell and Casey | Blog | AVSAB

Debunking Dominance Theory | Karen Pryor Clicker Training

(Scroll down for the "Are Dogs Pack Animals?" article in this awesome blog):

| Blog by Jean Donaldson


Dominance and Dog Training

Jean Donaldson - BEYOND CESAR MILLAN

Scienceline - BEYOND CESAR MILLAN

Paul Owens - Dog Whisperer - BEYOND CESAR MILLAN

To those who defend CM - BEYOND CESAR MILLAN

Kathy Sdao - BEYOND CESAR MILLAN

I think you should really factor in your dogs' breed here, and realize that crating and rotating or baby gates may be in your future. (And literal hypervigilance when they're not separated, supervising at all times).

This is extremely common in multi-Pit/Pit mix households. I defer to Mjjean on this one. (Paging Mjjean!)

Does your husband physically correct or punish their posturing? If so, it could be the reason they do not fight as much with him around, but are avoiding the correction, and obviously are not being helped to learn how to behave around each other.

Punishing or correcting can also cause worsening symptoms of aggression, as it creates a new negative association with the dog they're posturing towards. ("I don't like this dog right now, or how it's acting toward me, and when I voiced my opinion about that, I got corrected, this dog means bad things!") I certainly am not inferring that you are in fact using corrections, but as a just-in-case-you-are.

Spraying water will usually not be of any effect on this breed while in a fight. Does Jack get his teeth stuck on Mamie? If so, (if it were me), I'd use something to quickly, safely and effectively open his jaw. Something like a tent stake.

Although, a much better piece of advice I believe is to do as suggested and implement a crate and rotate system. At Mamie's age and health, she shouldn't have to worry about this. And if they get along just fine with your husband there, then at least they will be able to be around each other some of the time.

Btw, as i'm sure you're gathering, your dogs' behavior has absolutely nothing to do with you 'not asserting your dominance and establishing yourself as pack leader'.

Not only can you attribute this to genetics, but that there is a reason behind Jack's behavior, which has nothing to do with you, as the human, or your lack of strong-willed confidence in the presence of aggressive behavior. It also has nothing to do with any sort of hierarchy, or Jack seeing himself as 'the pack leader'. He's simply acting like a dog of this particular breed, and possibly picking up on Mamie's health issues. Can't say for sure.

If it were me, and there had been any sign of blood from any of these squabbles, they'd never be in the same room again, unless I was watching their every move, and rewarding the behavior I like. But that's just me.

Read this, on loose-leash walking:

http://www.dogforum.com/dog-training...-walking-1683/

Considering their breed and the issues you're having, one or both of them needs to be exercised more (Jack moreso, obviously). Mental stimulation is also extremely important. Do you have any mentally stimulating toys for Jack?

Amazon.com: puzzle dog toys Amazon.com: puzzle dog toys

Amazon.com: treat dispensing dog toys Amazon.com: treat dispensing dog toys

Have you ever tried training him? Clicker training would be of great benefit to you, is a lot of fun, and will build your bond with your dogs.
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Old 06-13-2013, 03:40 AM
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I'm just wondering if your dogs are desexed? I didn't see any mention of it, but maybe I missed it?
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Old 06-13-2013, 08:16 AM
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Thank you all for the thoughtful responses and behavior/training links. Yes, both dogs are neutered/ spayed. I am going to have to do a lot of unlearning of the "pack leader" theories that I was getting myself immersed in for some time. I tried baby gates last night while I was cooking because I realize food ,of course, is a trigger for them. It seemed to work, but they both have negative experiences with fences, and they both were posturing to each other at the gate. Their first fight of the night followed about 30 mins after I took the gate down.

Mamie and Jack historically get along. Jack generally plays with Mamie while he is completely rolled over on his back. He will lick and paw at her from this angle. From what I've seen he is completely submissive to her while they are playing... During the fights he looks to be the aggressor/ asserting himself ( Completely curled on top of her, neck to neck, snarling and snapping). Jack drew a very small amount of blood last night from Mamie's paw. This was the first time I've seen that. Generally, there is no blood.

Jack wears a harness around the house so I can easily pull him off of her. This works, but I also don't want him to start associating his harness to me prying him off another dog. His jaws are never locked down on Mamie from what I see. They never are "stuck" biting each other.

The fighting and playing are distinctly different and never occur simultaneously or in sequence. I have never feared their encounters together because all I've known between them is complete harmony until these recent outbursts.

My husband is corrective and firm with Jack and has been since we got him, but it appears that Jack responds in fear/ total submission to my husband. Jack is obsessive with both of us- follows me everywhere, even sits at the bathroom door. He has significant separation anxiety and will chew, bark til he is hoarse, and much more. Since this behavior happens following one of us leaving, I wonder if that is also a trigger for him obsessing towards Mamie.

Jack listens to me give commands most of the time, but once he is fixated I am unable to deter him. His common obsessions include the dogs on the other side of the fence (He can almost clear the 6 foot fence we put up), squirrels, birds, people walking/ running, bicycles. My only resolution when he is fixated is to physically pull him away. When not fixated on something, he listens to his name and will come when called, he does the commands of sit and lay down...He wont do "stay" though. He knows stop, treat, outside. He does paw. When I whistle, he knows to come in from outside. He's got some beautiful and sweet traits about him. He plays hours on end with the kitten, who also loves spending time with him (with monitoring of course). He does not have any mentally stimulating toys other than chewy toys.

This is a whole other story but I might as well throw it in...Jack also has stranger anxiety. He loves our family members and friends as he has gotten to know them all now, but has anxiety towards new people, namely men. He has bitten two men who walked into the house unannounced. One was a distant relative who was visiting, and the other was a carpenter, both entered the house without us around. We now take extreme caution when introducing him to anyone.
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Old 06-13-2013, 09:15 AM
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some other useful info regarding Mamie: She historically is a big resource guarder. She will guard just about anything she finds interesting. The more I am reading on this forum, the more I am thinking that she may have taught Jack similar behavior. Mamie would usually guard things, and Jack would back down. No fight would be involved just posturing.
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Old 06-13-2013, 10:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pitbullsmiles View Post
. I tried baby gates last night while I was cooking because I realize food ,of course, is a trigger for them. It seemed to work, but they both have negative experiences with fences, and they both were posturing to each other at the gate. Their first fight of the night followed about 30 mins after I took the gate down.
This is barrier frustration. Try throwing a towel or something opaque over the gate to block visual access so they can't fixate on one another.

If they are still wound up, you can always try turning "unsupervised separate time so mom can get things done" into "separate awesome chewy time," meaning that they get their favourite chews (which should but out of reach if there is a resource issue) and some time to relax with them.
Chewing is a great stress reliever, the actual act releasing endorphins and other calming neurochemicals in the brain.
You'll have to gauge by watching them whether they can relax with their toy/bone if they can hear the nearby dog. If that's the case, you can separate them in more distant rooms from one another.

On the subject of neurochemicals, one thing that I feel isn't stressed enough (pun intended ) about negative experiences is how they effect brain chemistry.
When something frightening or highly stressful happens to you (minor car crash, a fight with a stranger etc.) you don't -or at least most people don't- simply experience these and go on your merry way. Likely, you feel "shaken up" for the rest of your day, maybe even a couple days afterward. This is because your body's response to stress is to protect you by kicking in your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) which is the release of a host of hormones and neurotransmitters to make you capable of physically avoiding danger. Problem is, these stay active in your system long after the stressful event is over (presumably for your brain, where there is one "threat" there are likely many more, so it's in your best interest to stay primed for a while) and they have a cumulative effect.
For your dog who is nervouse to begin with, this means that fights or harsh/misunderstood corrections will build this buffer of stress hormones in his system and create a vicious cycle, where the stress generated by getting into fights makes him much more likely to start a fight over something minor.

One solution to this is to try to give them both separate structured time with something pleasurable (chewing, games, training exercises they have already mastered, down time somewhere comfortable) and to also start to pair interacting around each other with good things (e.g. training easy stuff in the same room together where they are both getting rewarded) to bring down their stress levels and build up a buffer of positive neurochemicals associated with each other. Here, though, is where you need a pro to walk you through things. Counter-conditioning is not something to try if you aren't sure about your timing or your grasp of body language.

Also, as to the above, pain and illness ramp up an animals idling stress level as well. I second (third? fouth?) that vet visit for your older girl.
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