My boyfriend and I live together and we have 2 dogs. Both were adopted from separate shelters. Both are females, both are 35-40 pounds, both are just over 2 years old, both spayed.
Sable: blue heeler mix. She was adopted first, when she was about six months old (Fall of 2010)
Pixie: not sure of breed. Was adopted as a terrier mix (she does look a lot like a Basenji). She was adopted second, when she was about a year old (Spring of 2011)
We have about a half acre yard that the dogs run around in (only fencing is an electric fence). The dogs got along just fine for the first year. Played together all the time.
Actually, now that I think about it, it has been going on for a while that Sable would hard stare at Pixie on occasion. I'm not sure what would trigger the hard staring (no toys or food nearby), but Sable would be relentless with it. When this happens, Pixie pins her hears back, slinks down, tries not to look at Sable, and walks the other direction. Sable continues to follow Pixie and stares her down. We never liked this, but didn't know how to stop it and it never went any further than that.
About 2 months ago, Sable started attacking Pixie. We've been breaking up fights by grabbing Sable's collar and pulling her away. No blood has been drawn (except for maybe a bitten tongue), but we do see some of Pixie's fur left at the site of the fight.
When this started to happen, I got online and did some searching. Everything that was coming up was about sibling rivalry and dominance. Most articles agreed to treat the dominant dog accordingly (feeding it first, giving it attention first, letting it outside first, etc). So this is what we started doing and assumed that Sable was the dominant one.
That seemed to work up until about a week and a half ago (Sable still did the hard stares, but there was no fighting and we just thought this was part of the dominant role). Sable has started with the attacking again and there have been 3-4 fights in the last 10 days or so. No blood, but still the small tufts of Pixie's fur.
I searched around for dog trainers in our area and we took them both to a place nearby that did a free evaluation. The trainer asked us questions and talked to us for about an hour and a half. The conclusion was made that Sable is bullying Pixie and resource guarding owner attention. The trainer described to us their obedience classes and did a demonstration with one of their dogs. They said obedience classes would help so that if Sable starts to hard stare, we can command her to walk away and lay down in another area until she calms down. Their obedience classes use Dogtra 280 training collars.
Sable attacked Pixie tonight and here's how it went. I was on the couch, not paying attention. Alex (my boyfriend) was laying on the floor petting Sable. Sable was staring at Pixie (who was sitting a couple feet past Sable). Before I knew what was going on, Sable lunged at Pixie and the fight started but we quickly broke it up. Normally, as soon as we can grab Sable, Pixie doesn't try to continue the fight. The last 2 fights that have happened (including tonight), I have had to grab Pixie also because she continues to bite at Sable after the she has been restrained. So it seems the fights are getting worse.
We have been trying to figure out what exactly causes the fights. We have come to the conclusion that they've all happened when Alex was giving Sable attention (either petting or playing with a toy) and then Sable turned on Pixie who was in the vicinity bot not necessarily receiving the same attention. There are still other instances where Sable does the hard stare that doesn't lead to a fight and I'm not sure what causes that. It just seems like Sable gets in a mood and follows Pixie around staring her down. The whole while, Pixie is trying to avoid her (ears pinned, crouching down, whining, looking away from Sable).
So, I ended up typing way more that I originally intended. Thank you if you made it this far
. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, can these 2 live together peacefully? Will the obedience classes I described benefit them? If not, where do we need to go from here? Thank you!