Seeking experienced feedback on dog aggression within a pack

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Seeking experienced feedback on dog aggression within a pack

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Old 05-11-2019, 02:26 PM
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Seeking experienced feedback on dog aggression within a pack

Hi, I currently have 5 dogs, all rescues. Two are female Italian Maremmana Dogs (used by shephards for herding) aged 2,5 and 8, and 3 are mixed pups (aged 6,7 and 11). All my dogs are castrated/spade. The two Maremmana were the best of friends since the day the older dog arrived (Jan 2019) until they fought, about a month ago, over some food, and since then things have escalated to the point where we need to lock them FAR away from one another and rotate them in/out of the common spaces. It's very stressful for us humans, and also for the other dogs as the two are always "on alert" for the other.

I have a dog trainer coming in, and another, highly recommended, on standby (he was my n choice but is unavailable for a while).

My question : have any of you had the experience of two dogs visciously fighting (if i let them) but then managed to find an equilibrium within the pack? Both dogs are fine with the other dogs, it is just a thing between them (I think there is a territorial issue ; one is a puppy that is entering early adulthood at 2,5 years, and the other is about 8, and is the last new entry).

I am trying to understand if there is hope at the end of the tunnel ... I had a similar situation years ago, with two french bulldogs who fought and through advice given here by more experienced dog owners, after much patience and determination -- and changing homes -- things were solved and they lived together happily ever after. But those were small dogs.. In this case I am not moving house, and these two are huge and if they fight again, there is no way I can separate them on my own. I am also told that Maremmana dogs hold grudges, so although they loved one another passionately until they fought, once they aim at another dog, that is it... But is that heresay or truth??

I'd love to hear from those of you who have packs, and have had to manage aggression with the packs and if/how it was solved.

Thank you very much
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Old 05-13-2019, 03:12 PM
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My current dog is the one dog that holds a grudge lol. For years. There's a husky he's known for about three years now.

Way back when they first met they were playing tug over a toy or stick. Both were about a year and a half. I didn't know at the time how aggressive the husky could get over toys and food.

One minute they were playing happily then two seconds later they we're fighting over the toy. They were separated fine. Never one more incidents in three years and we see them daily. The dogs are loose together and always sniff politely.

However the husky usually tries to initiate play with my dog. He howls, play bows, barks and does everything he can think of that usually works. My dog sniffs him but refuses to play with him no matter what.

For three years another owner and I have given treats to my dog and a newfoundland he absolutely hates and has started several small skirmishes with. They've coexisted peacefully loose together with no incidents 4 at least a year or longer. We thought that at least they were ok and at least coexist.

I saw signs that my dog was jealous and stressed when the newf was there but he always stayed with .me and never did anything. I always praised him and gave him treats for being peaceful.

Then one day the newf ran into him hard and slammed his already sore hip onto a concrete tunnel.

He took that as an attack and atta he'd back. He didn't hurt or leave any marks on the other dog but he enraged the huge Newfoundland and got his face torn up pretty well. Even though that was the first incident in years, since he got hurt and so did the other owner trying to pull the angry Newfoundland off my dog (needed to get his arm sewed back together) I stopped thinking of trying to have them coexist in public.
He can with other dogs he's had issues with before but not this one.
But he absolutely remembers everything and holds grudges. Once he's had a squabble with another dog he never play with them again, fear, caution, anger, worry about getting in trouble, call it whatever you want. He just won't do it.
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Old 05-13-2019, 04:42 PM
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Not an expert opinion, but if they are even a bit related to Great Pyrenees, females usually don't get along well. Hopefully your trainer can help more.
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Old 05-14-2019, 06:07 AM
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Be careful with those two females.....females can and sometimes do hold grudges. Coming from personal experience here. Fights between females also tend to be more serious than between males. Two males fight fight, they get over it alot if not most of the time. Not saying they wont fight again, but with the females the fights tend to get worse every time it happens. Males squabble and work things out- females keep fighting and you can end up with one trying to literally kill the other. My experience with them is that they can get in a squabble, then be fine for months or even years. Then one does something to set the other off and its a serious fight- not just trying to work things out but going for damage. Not trying to scare you but you need to be aware of how the females can be compared to males. Males you can let work things out amongst themselves and its probably ok. Females not so much. I keep working/guarding breeds also- they tend to be more determined and it carries over into fighting.
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Old 05-18-2019, 06:37 PM
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Aggression between family dogs

Quote:
Originally Posted by Monster View Post

I have never met a dog that holds a grudge, just dogs that are kept from moving forward due to owners fears, frustrations, and worry about past interactions.

In a situation like this, as hard as it is, drop the past for the sake of the dogs.

Aggression is a symptom, an outcome of a problem, you need to understand why the dogs are showing aggression and work on the underlying causes.
With all due respect, @Monster, I have to disagree with you on some of these points, but totally agree with you as well on some.

I especially worry about advising folks to "drop the past" when it comes to cases involving dog aggression or aggressive displays.

I feel like it is always so much better to play it safe, go slow, and use lots of safety measures and precautions. I say "rather safe than sorry" especially when the dogs are big, strong and powerful and can cause a lot of damage to another dog or human! Seems the responsible thing to do to protect all the dogs. And I say this as someone who has both little dogs, and bigger dogs, males and females, old and young. And have personally experienced family dogs fighting, esp ones that had always gotten along well before the incident.

So that being said, @[email protected],

I am very, very sorry that you are having to deal with aggressive behavior between your dogs. So stressful for you and the rest of your family, whether two legged or four legged! It is very scary and I am so very glad you are being careful for your sake, as well as all your dogs!

Humans get bit all the time when trying to break up dog fights, I have a nice scar under my neck from a dog fight long, long ago that also happened over food, in this case one miserable piece of kibble! I didn't even know the piece of kibble was there. I had to go to the ER to get stitched up, blood was dripping down my neck, I could have died had the bite been in a slightly different spot. Hell I didn't even know I was bit or bleeding but I was screaming bloody murder trying to separate the three dogs esp bc one was tiny and I was trying to safe his life. The bite was unintentional, my neck just got in the crossfire, and the teeth got me.

I call my dog fight scar my "battle scar".... Lesson learned. Luckily in that case it was one fight, their only fight. None of my three dogs got hurt, thankfully. But it was damn scary.

Taught me to always show caution when feeding dogs. Even dogs that get along! Giving a bit of space is a good thing!

Fast forward---we too had a dog fight at my house last year, so I know how you feel to some extent. Little dog vs big dog. Young pup female vs older gentle natured male. The lil dog actually taught the newer pup how to play gently. They were great together originally. The fight was not good. Over food, like in your case.

Why did it happen in my case? Human error. Human stress. A lot of it. Continual stress. Stress stacking. Unwise human decisions. And....one dog (the big one) has resource guarding issues at times.

Did either dog hold a grudge
? I personally would not term in that way at all. Rather their trust was broken. Both dogs were extremely leery of each other after that for a long, long time.

I completely understood their feelings, I never pushed them at all. But, I did work very carefully and humanely and gently with them using lots of counter conditioning, yummy food, fun tricks and training together, and gentle calm quiet sessions together to restore their bond.
And I completely and carefully supervised ALL together time to ensure peaceful encounters.

This helped us all immensely!!!


Pack dymanics? Nahh, I wouldn't call it that either in our case. It was clearly due to one dog's insecurity that she came to us with at 3 months old. This causes her to resource guard (RG) esp at certain times, like when she is overtired or their is an abundance of stress in the home or in her environment.

DO we work with her on her RG issues?
Heck yes!!! Is she improving? Heck yes!! Is it all 100% resolved? Heck no. She Rg last nite in a big way, growls and all at me. Why? She was overtired, again lots of stress and schedule changes in our house due to my mom being in the hospital ICU, and she reverted back to her younger puppy days of guarding the dang special type of chewie, like she did when she was younger. She will not be getting those chewies for a bit to break that pattern.

This all makes us ULTRA cautious to make sure all our dogs and people are safe at all times!

I know that one of my other dogs could pass her on the way to going out to potty and she could "think" they want her precious chewie and then a fight could ensue. They don't care about her chewie, but this is her issue and her mind at times reverts. Even though we work on it.

So after a few minutes of me systematically working with her as per usual, giving her super high value food in exchange for the chewie, she immediately snapped out of it and actually handed it to me over and over again with no aggressive displays at all. Actually played our "leave it, give it" games together like usual.
Then we all went off to bed, and she snuggled up against my body so tight. Trust is so hard with RG dogs. Sigh.

Which brings me all the way around to my other point where I 100% agree with Monster about what she wrote here:

"Aggression is a symptom, an outcome of a problem, you need to understand why the dogs are showing aggression and work on the underlying causes."

Very well said, Monster, I say this to folks all the time!!! If only everyone could understand this concept, so much less aggression between dogs would occur.

Last edited by AthenaLove; 05-18-2019 at 06:46 PM.
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Old 05-18-2019, 09:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Monster View Post
This post has nothing to do with the op, just to clarify a few things.

I hate the word aggression AthenaLove, it's poorly understood and overly misdiagnosed.

Taking your time means you're pulling back, not trusting the dog. .
I do not like the word aggression either for the same reasons, that is why I wrote aggressive displays.

Aggression is how dogs resolve a conflict or react to fear in a certain moment or situation. A dog that resource guards in specific situations or nips due to fear of being medicated, for example, is not an "aggressive dog", but people seem to label dogs so quickly and inaccurately most times.

And yes, so many people with reactive dogs think there dogs are aggressive, bossy, mean, dominant, etc when most of the aggressive looking/sounding displays actually come from fear, anxiety, stress, or frustration.

But---I differ from you on this one:
"Taking your time means you're pulling back, not trusting the dog"

I spend a lot of my time working with fearful dogs, including my own, and I firmly believe in taking time and being patient in order to build trust and a great relationship built on trust and respect--both between the dog and the human and vice versa.

Rushing a fearful dog, or pushing too fast past their comfort level is never a good thing in my opinion.

But--on the flip side, so many people never want to challenge the dog to grow and overcome their fears or anxieties, so the dog gets worse over time in so many cases.

And people think their dog will always be this way, when their dogs can be so much better, more confident, less stressed--and way happier in life.

I feel it is a fine line at times. To push or not to push. All dogs are different, just like humans. I like to really try to tune into the individual dog and then motivate them to overcome their fears and think in a different way.

Basically my goal is always to change the mindset of the owner AND the dog. This results in way more positive behavior and actions as the dog no longer has a reason to be fearful of something or reactive.... thus has no need to use aggression to solve his/her problems.

As far as using food/treats in training dogs or helping dogs overcome fears....

I have no problem whatsoever using treats/food as a motivator or fear reducer with counter conditioning. I have seen the positive results and progress.... over and over again.

My thinking and methods seems to work well for me, my dogs and the dogs I encounter. But everybody has their own methods and that is cool by me as long as they are training in a humane and pain free way.

Thanks for the interesting exchange, Monster. I hope this discussion helps lots of folks to understand their dogs better, no matter who's approach they take

Last edited by AthenaLove; 05-18-2019 at 09:08 PM.
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Old 05-19-2019, 01:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shadowmom View Post

But he absolutely remembers everything and holds grudges. Once he's had a squabble with another dog he never play with them again, fear, caution, anger, worry about getting in trouble, call it whatever you want. He just won't do it.
My behaviouralist-vet told me that when one of the dogs get injured, even if just by being "thrown" or falling badly, they can associate the pain with the other dog and hence it becomes more difficult to pacify them when they are together. It would make sense therefore that your dog refuses to play with the other dog ; even if his skin was not broken, he might be making the association "Newf = pain"...
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Old 05-19-2019, 01:37 AM
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Thank you for this. I am aware of this also and since their original fight they had a few more that just kept escalating... I was also out of town and their worst was when I was away, but no serious damage. Now that I am back they have all "chilled" somewhat but not to the point of getting them back together. I am still working on it (and waiting for the trainer who postponed)... but yes, I will stay cautious about this as I do believe that this COULD happen again...
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Old 05-19-2019, 02:04 AM
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Thank you Monster and AthenaLove for your precious insight. I agree with both of you : I do not consider my dogs aggressive, but they reacted to a particular situation which was my fault (It wasn't food per s, but organic fertilizer that I had left out in the garden as I was working that day, and they both went for it). Since then, their trust is indeed broken... The younger dog has trust issues, period. I have had her for a year but she is, by all means, a nervous, insecure dog and although she has (had) improved, she remains the most insecure of the pack. Infact, she is now the one who reacts when she sees the older dog, and I understand it as a manifestation of fear not a desire to harm.. The younger dog's confidence had improved, but then a couple of months ago, she was playing in the garden when, out of the blue, she had an epileptic attack (a single attack so far) and this scared her so much since then she has become very fearful again...I was there when it happened and was able to get to her and stay with her until it was over, she was aware that something had happened but obviously did not know what, but since then...

The older dog is a stray who has only now found a home after years roaming the countryside/streets, she is VERY sweet but, understandably, food (or what she perceives as food) is sacred to her. I have ALWAYS fed her separately, from day one, since I immediately saw that she had food guarding issues. Once her food is finished, I pick up all the dog bowls and she is then fine (about food). She has never displayed any aggressive behaviour towards any other dog or human, not even the vet. So yes, I need to resolve the underlying problem.

That said, when I was away last week my dogs were being kept (at home) by petsitters who meant well but were not necessarily completely aware of how to manage in this case. That is when my dogs got into their worst fight despite being separated by a fence (I don't know what instigated it) -- what I learnt when I got back, was that the older dog had a strong skin inflammation which made her even more nervous. The sitters then further separated the dogs so that they could not even see one another, and this I noticed made things worse... I tend to agree with AthenaLove about going slowly, mostly to give the more fearful dog time to readjust. When I first got home the dogs saw each other through a window and went crazy, now, 7 days later, they see one another and, mostly, just ignore each other. The fearful dog used to immediately distance herself and watch the older dog from afar whereas now she stays near the window, whereas the older dog gave a few (unconvincing) barks (now not even those) then lay down or wandered off. They seem ok so long as they are behind glass : they can see one another, and their reaction to the other is softer with each passing day. However, if I take them out into the open (ie the garden), even though there is a fence there, the younger dog becomes very agitated and "reactive" which in turn makes the older dog react, and that is where I have to pull them back.

I am still waiting for the trainer (who postponed) but by and large, compared to 1 week ago, the level of tension has considerably reduced. The trainer, like you Monster, deals with cases of dog aggression far beyond this and came highly recommended as he has worked alot with this breed.

Someone told me that the fact that I am home (versus dog sitters) makes a huge difference to them as I am their point of reference. I don't know if that is true or not.

I have had my share of dog bites ; 2 years ago another stray I had attacked our largest dog and I had my nail bit off in breaking up the fight. Obviously, dog bites are no fun but they have never made me fearful of my dogs, they are just par for the course.

The other issue is that I am alone at home with the dogs, so things like taking them for a walk together etc is impossible should they fight. Things are calmer now, but I am still being very cautious and waiting for the trainer to teach ME how to interact with the dogs appropriately and, thus, hopefully and with whatever time it takes, diffuse this situation. At least, be able to manage it.

Thank you for your input, it really is appreciated and food for thought.
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Last edited by [email protected]; 05-19-2019 at 02:13 AM.
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Old 05-20-2019, 05:17 PM
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Sounds like Stress Stacking contributed to this dog fight...

Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
Thank you Monster and AthenaLove for your precious insight. I agree with both of you : I do not consider my dogs aggressive, but they reacted to a particular situation which was my fault

That said, when I was away last week my dogs were being kept (at home) by petsitters who meant well but were not necessarily completely aware of how to manage in this case. That is when my dogs got into their worst fight despite being separated by a fence (I don't know what instigated it) --

what I learnt when I got back, was that the older dog had a strong skin inflammation which made her even more nervous. .
Ahhh, good ole Stress Stacking!!

I have written many articles on this...I feel it is so important to our dogs behavior, but so many people don't ever think about it in regards to their dogs "acting out" or reacting.

Now that you have so kindly replied and given us even more good info about the events surrounding your dogs fighting, it seems (to me, at least) that a lot of this has to do with Stress Stacking, as I call it.

Hmmm, lets see if I have this right:

1)You were out of town which can be a huge stressor to your dogs in itself, esp if you have shy or sensitive dogs.
2) Some new person was in your home.
3)One dog had skin inflammation, possibly pain or discomfort
4)Resource guarding issues with one dog
5)One dog is shy/cautious/nervous or fearful
6)Scary epileptic attack not all that long ago--some fear issues have ensued
7) Maybe your dog's schedules changed bc you were away?Seems likely. Dogs love their patterns. Like eat dinner, watch tv and snuggle with you time, etc.
8)New interesting thing around both dogs (fertilizer) that one dog may have perceived as food or high value item. Resource guarding moment.

Makes sense to me that stress was a bit elevated at that time due to those reasons and maybe more?

Perhaps you were stressed, too, in advance of your going away and your dogs picked up on this a bit? I certainly would be stressed if I had to go. I hate packing. I worry about my dogs being ok with another person taking care of them. ETC.

With the fight between my dogs I absolutely KNOW that Stress Stacking contributed, if not caused my two dogs to fight. It sucks knowing that, but also is helpful and relieving in some odd way, because I can see how it happened, and why--- and try my best to prevent it from ever reoccurring again.

Anyway, you sound like you are on the right track completely!

Seems you have the right mindset to help your dogs. I think based on what you are writing, you will be able to reunite your dogs at some point and things will be soooo much better. May take time and some good solid work to bring them back together as one united family, but you sound like you have the patience, understanding and love to make it happen!

Please keep updating us as to how your dogs are doing. And how they are progressing. Can you share here what your trainer suggests to you?

I think cases like yours (similar to mine) happen more often than we think. So many people can benefit from these posts and help their dogs. So, any updates will be appreciated by me.... and probably a whole lot of other folks here who are going through these issues with their beloved dogs!

Thank you for your updates so far...best to you and your pups!!!

Last edited by AthenaLove; 05-20-2019 at 05:22 PM.
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