Dog on dog attack and aggression

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Dog on dog attack and aggression

This is a discussion on Dog on dog attack and aggression within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; This is my first post, and it's a long one. I joined because of the problems I'm having with my boyfriend's dogs and everyone around ...

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Old 01-29-2018, 11:43 AM
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Dog on dog attack and aggression

This is my first post, and it's a long one. I joined because of the problems I'm having with my boyfriend's dogs and everyone around me is too biased to give any good advice.

I have two dogs. A 9 year old male (nuetered) king Charles that I took after my uncle died about a year ago, and a 3.5 month old female black lab. My Dogs get along fine for the most part. The king Charles guards food and bones, but only lashes out with nips and growling, and only when the lab puppy ignores all warning signs. The puppy is a typical lab puppy. Usually sweet with a touch of raging psychopath when over stimulated, though that is usually directed at the cat. I try to exercise it out of her when I sense it coming on.

My boyfriend has a 3 year old large male (nuetered) hound mix and a 4 year old female (spayed) pit bull. The pit bull has hip dysplasia, and is on medicine, but I think she is still in pain. She acts a lot worse at my house than his, but I also have an acre that she runs around on. This is a fairly new relationship, 3 or 4 months, so I don't have much historical background on the behavior of his dogs.

The pit bull has hated the puppy since the day I brought her home with absolutely no cause. She growls and snarls at the puppy anytime the puppy gets within 5 feet of her. She has bit my boyfriend twice while trying to get to the puppy, and he says that he was just in the wrong place and the pit bull was snapping at the puppy. She has only ever showed animosity toward the puppy, never the king charles.

I have also seen the pitbull growl and lunge at other dogs in the pet store. He says he takes her to the dog park all the time and she does great with other dogs. He also fostered puppies not long ago and says that the pit bull took a couple days to warm up but was great with them. I haven't really seen any of this warm and fuzzy behavior towards other dogs. Mostly indifference or outright hostility.

We went out to dinner one night, crated the puppy, and left the three older dogs free in the house (never had a problem before). We get home to find that they climbed and got into one of my bags and pulled out a Ziploc full of puppy bones and chews. (I know they shouldn't have had access, i didnt know they would be able to get them and will secure them better in future). Everyone is acting guilty, and I find poop flung all under my desk in the basement. My king Charles is the offender, and I quickly realize that one or both of my boyfriend's dogs have attacked the king charles. He has a large wound on his head that had to be stapled shut, a puncture wound on his neck, and bruising along his back. The poop being flung every which way makes think they actually bit down and shook him, and hurt or scared him so bad he pooped in the process.

My boyfriend swears it could never be the pitbull (I'm not buying it). I think the king charles may have gotten defensive over what may have been the last bone (it takes him forever to chew anything and the bigger dogs eat a bone in less than a minute) and both of the larger dogs attacked him. I have seen them gang up on him in play, and if one escalated, I think both would have participated.

I don't trust either of his dogs with my dogs now. I told him they are never, under any circumstances, to be left alone with my dogs. He thinks my dogs should just be locked up, since his hound will destroy a crate/room if locked up. I don't think this is very fair.

I also don't trust his dogs around children anymore. I figure if they will attack a dog, why wouldn't they attack a small, persistent, annoying, little human? I didn't really trust the pitbull to begin with. She gets in kids faces and aggressively licks and nibbles. Her behavior toward the puppy has made me actually afraid for my own safety before.

Is there anything that can be done with his dogs? I wasn't a particular fan of a 4 dog home to begin with, but now I am actually fearful for the safety of my dogs, and any visiting children. I have a large family and they are over frequently, oftentimes in large enough numbers that I can't physically supervise everyone directly.

We both have our own houses now, but if we should ever move into together, something needs to change. I haven't let him bring his dogs over since the incident about two weeks ago. I work from home, so I used to take my dogs to his house and work for a couple days, or he would bring his dogs over and stay for a couple days.

Basically, I don't trust his dogs, and I don't know that I ever will, because I don't know what is motivating them. Is their an explanation for the behavior? Either the pit bull towards the lab puppy or the attack on the king charles? I know the bones fanned the fire, but now that it has happened, it's more likely to happen again, even without the food drive, right?
Could training help? I know the worst case scenarios, but what am I looking at for best case scenario? Am I right to worry about the pitbull and hound being around children?

I refuse to sacrifice the safety or happiness of my dogs and any little humans that may get caught in the mix.
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Old 01-29-2018, 03:46 PM
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Dog on dog aggression and dog on human aggression are not necessarily related. My last dog could be dog aggressive his whole life although he never hurt another dog just warned them away. He never snapped at or but a child. He did give warning bites to a couple of people who he was protecting me or my mother from, but they were in defense so justified.
A dog that licks children's faces doesn't sound aggressive to children so I wouldn't be worried about the bfs dogs around visiting people unless there are other incidents around actual people.
If your spaniel is food aggressive and the three loose dogs all got to a bunch of bones, there's a good chance he started a fight with two larger stringer dogs that he couldn't win. I'm not saying the other dogs are angels but I've seen many aggressive small dogs take on and aggressively challenge much larger dogs at the park. The tolerant patient non aggressive large dogs walk away. The assertive large dogs fight back and the large dogs win. Your dog had a problem called resource guarding which is dangerous that was never fixed in nine years from his previous home. Your lab puppy is one day going to be bigger too and she could also decide to fight back and hurt or kill him.
Unless you're willing and able to train and fix this issue with your small dog, he should never be left alone with any dog but be left alone in a crate or his own room. He should also be fed in his own room completely away from all other dogs and people as my last dog had resource guarding issues and would bite at people if they interfered with his food.
Instead of blaming others, I recognized it as very dangerous and I both trained him very thoroughly and took no chances and his entire life never let anyone handle him or be near him when he ate. I never let another dog anywhere near him with food or treats or even a water bowl.
Yes training can help whatever your bfs dogs issues are. You haven't really said any clear issues with the hound. It sounds like you just don't like the pit bull who has hip dysplasia and is in pain. That could be making her cranky. Your puppy could be hurting her by climbing all over her and not responding to her social cues. Puppies do that. Or other puppies could have done that and are making her afraid your puppy will do that too. Some dogs just don't like puppies but she may like her just fine when she's older
If she's in constant pain she's going to be cranky. That needs to be addressed first and foremost.
It sounds like you should socialize your puppy to learn to respect social skills better and invest in a trainer for the resource guarding of the king Charles spaniel. Many dogs will fight back if attacked. Keep them all separated if left alone, especially as your dogs are not properly socialized and not safe to be around other dogs. Leaving a small aggressive dog and a puppy loose with two larger dogs, one of whom is in constant pain is a recipe for disaster.

I think the people are safe at this point unless the spaniel bites them if they get near his food too. Resource guarding can extend to people, especially children, so your family's children are more in danger from him than the pitbull, unless they inadvertently cause her pain, which is why it's important her hips be treated or managed better.
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Old 01-29-2018, 03:58 PM
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This is in kind of a complicated situation, as I'm sure you can sense. There are a lot of nuances to the solution that are definitely influenced by your boyfriend's dogs' pasts.

To me, this seems like pack aggression; the fact that your KC mildly resource guards and he may have done so to two larger, bonded dogs and ended up hurt sounds like your boyfriend's dogs see themselves as the leaders of their own little pack.

Now, in terms of a solution, I really think you'd need the hands-on help of a professional behaviorist (definitely can be costly, stressful, and time-consuming, totally get that). Particularly being that you strongly suspect that your boyfriend's dogs have already been successful in attacking your KC as well as that the pitt bull has definitely already been successful in attacking your boyfriend (whether the dog's aggression was aimed at him or not), these behaviors have already been reinforced. If your boyfriend's dogs have seen that violence towards your KC gets them what they want, they will likely continue to act that way unless you find a good way to intervene.

I think, having not been there to witness the dogs' interactions or the dogs' behaviors in general, we can't really say what would help. So many of those things are conditional and based on the individual dog.

Is your boyfriend open to seeking the help of a professional? Is he willing to discuss any pertinent history that he has on the dogs (they were removed from their mothers before weaning, abused in prior homes, have gone without food, water, have displayed aggression towards specific behavior in other dogs, etc)?

I think you're wise to suspend interaction between the dogs, as hard as it is on you not to be able to have that freedom of having them together, I think it's definitely best given what's already transpired.

One more follow-up, have you had the dogs meet on neutral ground or just in one of your homes? Do they react differently in your house versus his versus neutral territory?

So sorry your dogs got caught in the crosshairs of a big dog with a complex, that is never fun, especially when you're fond of the person those dogs belong to.
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Old 01-29-2018, 05:38 PM
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Definitely a trainer or behaviorist is the best idea, and effectively treating the pain issue for the pit bull. My current dog suddenly started getting aggressive in the dog park and attacking other dogs for no clearly visible reason.
I took him to the vet and he had Lyme disease. Vet insisted Lyme doesn't cause aggression in dogs. No more aggression after only a week of doxycycline, I treated him the whole recommended month. Maybe the vet was wrong or maybe he was in pain from the Lyme and normal play was hurting him. Pain especially chronic pain, can make anyone aggressive.
Can't comment on the hound since no description is given except you don't trust it. Resource guarding is dangerous and can escalate, so is still a good place to start while waiting for the behaviorist appointment.
On any kind of fight or scuffle between dogs if a person sticks their hands between two dogs it's easy to accidentally get bitten. That doesn't necessarily mean the dog is aggressive, it depends on the situations where she bit the bf. If she was going to give a warning snap at the puppy who was ignoring her signals and cues as it ignores the spaniels body language and your bf stuck his hand between them she could have accidentally bitten the bf. My dog has been in scuffles and another owner stuck their hand in between him and the other dog and got bitten. Not the smartest way to break up two dogs. Either use an object or I grab him by the collar at the back of his neck by his scruff area and say his name so he knows it's me and won't turn on me. Worked so far.
If they're better at his house then yours then go to his house and supervise them don't leave them alone together and only let the spaniel have any food or treats when completely alone on a crate or room closed in to avoid issues.
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Old 01-29-2018, 10:23 PM
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As you're experiencing, dog-dog relationships are not always harmonious and easy. Sometimes they require training and behavior modification work, sometimes they require management. I agree that this situation- in order to reach the highest degree of success- really needs in-person assistance (and evaluation) of someone well-versed in dog behavior, whether that be a dog trainer with behavioral knowledge and experience or an actual behaviorist (ie, someone with an actual graduate level- M.S. or PhD- degree in the behavior sciences or belonging to an organization like IAABC). Expect the both your and your boyfriend's behavior would have to change, and some level of management wuld be involved (and with a resource guarder and a dog that meets aggression with aggression, and given the size difference, I'd expect that management to be lifelong).

Honestly, it sounds like you have three personalities creating friction between each other. A young puppy with little manners and not enough sense (expected to interact with two very intolerant older dogs). A small, older dog with resource guarding and what sounds like a somewhat grumpy disposition towards other dogs. A larger breed dog capable of doing real damage with what sounds like an intolerance towards rudeness (the puppy) and any kind of challenge over resources (the CKCS), as well as with physical issues and pain that compound what seems to be an already somewhat short personality. Add to that a second large breed dog who seems to follow the behavior set forth by his grumpy housemate. And an owner who sees no issue with any of the behaviors.

Out of curiosity, what does the "bite(s)" to your boyfriend actually look like? Did they break skin or require medical care of some kind, or were they just tooth-to-skin contact? What do the altercations between the pit and the other dogs look like that you've actually seen- does she chase them off and relent, or keep chasing? Try to make contact, and in what part of the body? Is she pinning and holding down?

As I said, it's very hard to gleam any kind of prognosis through a text post, and someone working with these behaviors really needs to see some of the body language themselves. Sometimes, what looks like intense fighting to the untrained eye is just escalated play or slightly elevated threat displays without any real intent. Not at all implying that is the case here, just illustrating the unreliability of this specific medium of conveying behavioral information- if that makes sense.

I agree it's a good idea to separate, although structured interactions without direct contact (on leash obedience around each other, for example) is a very good idea in trying to keep the dogs from forming strong negative associations with each other after a fight. Again, though, this is best done under the instruction of a professional.

In terms of whether to worry that the dog's behavior applies to kids... As was said, dog-dog and dog-human interactions exist in very different contexts. A dog with little patience for rudeness in dogs may be much more tolerant with humans. A dog that has strong tendencies towards resource guarding from other dogs may let any human take anything away from them. That said, a dog whose behavior stems from physical discomfort or pain (ex: short temper in physical interactions with dogs because of sensitivity due to hip dysplasia) is probably still going to be in pain when humans do the same things to her. My solution, honestly, is to make sure the kids understand how to properly interact with a dog, educate yourself on dog body language to be able to see what your dog is saying before they are shouting it and biting someone, and practice good management by separating problems dogs out (which may be an over-enthusiastic greeter like the pit or a resource guarder like your spaniel, or even a frantically excited puppy that you're not able to teach good manners in the moment).

Again, it's really a situation that would be best addressed by a professional.
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