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Aggressive or Possessive?

933 Views 3 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  mathilda
Hello, all!
I have a problem and would very much appreciate some tips and outside input.

To start, I used to live with me, my two cats and then I acquired a great dane puppy. He resulted from an accidental breeding of two harlequin parents resulting in a litter of predominantly white offspring and some coloured. The white ones were all mostly to completely deaf, as you may have guessed. I'd been wanting a puppy, and my good friend who worked at clinic mentioned the "accident" litter had happened and the owner was going to give the deaf puppies away. So, I picked a male, knowing that I personally, historically enjoy neutered males out of any dogs. I named him Moonshine.

Training has been... less than stellar. My life became unexpectedly chaotic in the midst of his puppyhood, and so training was difficult. He will sit with a hand command and lay down too (mostly with a treat), he will also sit and wait for his food. Beyond that, however, I haven't given him the time he needs for training, admittedly. I have spanked him many times (for getting into things he's not supposed to), but I am trying to lessen that because I don't like to hit, but it's very hard to get a deaf dog's attention. I stomp sometimes to get him to keep from doing something, as he can feel the vibrations. I am trying to implicate a spray bottle type of deterrent (squirting with water if I catch him doing something undesirable), but it is admittedly hard to remember.

Skipping along, Moonshine is just over a year now and few months prior (August, to be exact) I moved in with my father who has two dogs from my middle/high school years. One is a lab mix female who is not any trouble and is terrorized by Moonshine, mostly. But then enter Kash, a pit (mostly pit but a little dane) mix who has dominance issues to put it lightly.

We got Kash from a family friend about six years ago. To make a long story short, he was spoiled by my mother and disciplined too much by my dad. Kash listens when he wants (he'll listen the most to me, but I don't take any crap from any of the dogs), ignores when he wants. He's very bull-headed and stubborn like any bully-blooded dog. He has some fear issues, I think, with new people (I only say this because he's barked and growled in the past at strangers), and also the vet. So if he's to act out (at least concerning humans), it'd be more out of anxiety/fear than aggression, I am pretty sure. He is resource possessive, generally, and thus we can't really have toys/bones in the house for fear of Moonshine and him fighting over them, but this isn't really the issue.

I was told by Moonshine's breeder to keep him unaltered for at least two years, to ensure his hormones helped him fill out properly, least I wanted a lanky boy of a great dane. So I'd been abiding to that, keep in mind.

I first introduced them back at my old place so Kash wouldn't be on his turf and territory-aggressive. He was pretty nervous at first and would snap and growl at Moonshine, and Moonshine, being younger and very gentle and kindly, would simply submit to it. This kind of thing continued when I brought them together at my dad's place. Kash would simply "put him in his place" and they'd move on (Moonshine was a bit of a wimp and would just lay down and be like "okay"). But as he got older and began to realize his size (and I expect his growing testosterone), the scuffles became more evenly matched and didn't seem to be resolved as they had before (I.E. with a clear victor or whatever you want to call it).

They began to actually injure each other. Well, at first, it was only Kash drawing blood from Moonshine so I thought him the instigator. It seemed that they were only really fighting for dominance, but it recently became unbearable when my mother came to visit.

My father goes out of town frequently and this was an opportunity for my mom to come see me and the animals. My mom loves dogs very much. But you could say where I am maybe not enough affection, she is nothing but. She smothers dogs, with no discipline. They end up rotten and spoiled, consequently some of Kash's resulting behaviors. And so around her, dogs are CRAZY disobedient. She lets them crawl all over her and do whatever they want, much to my objection. She's always saying "Oh, it's fine, it's fine." And there is no reasoning with her otherwise.

Anyway, this incident occurred when he had come back from shopping, our hands full. I'd re-introduced them all earlier (we have two-part yard so I was able to separate Moonshine and Kash from each other), I had Moonshine watch as mom pet Kash and then had Kash watch as she pet Moonshine in some hopes that either dog would see that it was okay that she was giving the other attention. The rest of the time I instructed my mom to not excite the dogs in anyway as this would make energy levels high, and thus chance for a fight high. Back to the situation at hand, we come through the gate with bags in tow. My mom's through the door first with the two big dogs at her heels and me lagging behind, and I don't even SEE what happens, I just hear the fighting start.

They went at it for 3 - 4 solid minutes, my mom screaming hysterically. I tried to holler in a loud, commanding voice, tried to spray them with water, tried to shove a broom in between them, but ultimately we had to wait it out because they wouldn't stop. It was quite bloody, but luckily only because Kash had nicked Moonshine's ear good, causing it to bleed profusely (ears bleed like crazy). After cleaning everything up we kept them separate for the rest of my mom's visit (like I said, I didn't see what started the fight, but I imagine it was over my mom).

Ever since then tensions have been high between the two. Even around me they occasionally do their dominant stand-offs (hackles raised, tail-wagging, going in circles like sizing each other up), but they mostly are at higher risk with high-priority people (my dad or mom or someone they really like). I don't know if I just command more respect so I'm nothing to fight over or what.

I just neutered Moonshine today and had to go about reintroducing them. There were some pretty tense moments, more tense because my dad is back from out of town so it's not just me here. I suspect they are both very possessive/protective over what they think is "theirs". Kash has a lot of dominance/authority problems, and then Moonshine was unaltered for so long that his testosterone likely is the culprit to his dominant behavior. Whilst Kash has a tendency to simply ignore if he wants, Moonshine can't hear me if I want to break his attention and sometimes touching him surprises him enough that it makes him MORE anxious about a potential situation between he and Kash.

I APOLOGIZE FOR THAT BLOCK OF WORDS BUT, what can I do to dissolve the tension between them? Will it get better now that Moonshine is neutered? Is there any training I can do for both dogs that will help them see that people aren't to be fought over? I don't want it to come to re-homing one of the dogs, and it is no way to live! It makes having people over exhausting.

Please help!
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I would enlist the help of a positive behaviorist, preferably one that has experience with deaf dogs. They'll often come to your house and help you there, which I think is really helpful.

Please stop hitting your dogs!! That does absolutely nothing to help!!

I also would say whatever level of exercise you're giving your dogs, you need to double it. Pit bulls especially are energetic dogs and can become frustrated if they don't get enough stimulation. I'd also suggest looking up positive dog training techniques for deaf dogs. I found this video which seems very helpful to teach your dog to associate interruption with a good thing and lessen their surprise.

I also have a friend who has a deaf aussie who uses a vibrating collar to get the dog's attention from a distance. It essentially takes the place of a call. Her dog is so well trained to it that she can recall it from anywhere, it's really cool.
Too bad you neutered Moonshine today, your breeder's recommendation was not for nothing, two years is really a minimum for desexing giant breed dogs. Neutering will likely not help the situation and his "dominance" is nothing to do with testosterone. In fact, dominance in dogs is a myth, the reason for his behavior is stress, and that is what you need to address, hitting is adding to his stress and squirting him is not going to help the situation, so please stop hitting and don't start squirting him.

Sexuality is vital to a dog's social nature and is an emotional transformer that moves an animal from prey/predator modality (instinct) to male/female modality (sexuality) into complex personality traits that translate into drive and social energy. You use this drive energy to manage stress and create new behaviors. Sexuality is how we (and dogs) mature.

I second you trying to locate a trainer/behaviorist that works with deaf dogs.
Well...most Molosser breeds have a little bit of protection drive and some are very selective about other dogs and people they don'T consider family.
per se, there's nothing wong with it when you know how to control and/or manage it.

first thing I'd do, is keep the dog separated and stop using aversive methods (hitting, stomping, spraying with water) to train your dog.
You most likely won't need violence to train Moonshine.
the majority of dogs are oportunists.
they do what is the most rewarding to them.
what's rewarding to them:
1) food (find something he really, really, really loves)
2) positive interaction (playing, training, exploring the world on walks)

instead of punishing your dog for unwanted behaviour, teach him a alternative behaviour (for example "sit", "touch my hand with your nose" or "go to mat") and reward when he's stopping the unwanted behaviour to do the alternative behaviour.
over time he'll very likely show the wanted behaviour more, because he learns that it is rewarding for him an show the unwanted behaviour less often.

since he can't hear, long distance commands could be difficult, so I think I'd keep him on the (long) leash for big periods of time inside and outside the house.
this makes it easier for you to keep him in your control.

for getting his attention...I read in a forum a while ago about a very easily distracted teenager dog that the owner started to throw threats at him to distract him.
like...she always had a bag with raw pieces of meat with her and when he was distracted she'd throw one with power on his butt, where it stayed stuck (he's a beautiful big Peruvian hairless dog) which of course feels annoying. I mean...who likes having raw meat stuck at their butt?
He then got distracted of what ever distracted him and she could regain his focus.
I don't say this method exactly will work for you, but try finding positive connotated interrupters instead of using punishment.
especially when the dog is in general a bit insecure, which I suppose is the case for Moonshine.

parallely I'd really think about getting in touch with a violence-free, reward-based working trainer/behaviourist that is knowlegeable about training handicapped dogs.

testosteron is not necessarily the source of "dominant behaviour".
I've met super nice and gentle intact dogs as well as awfully bratty castrati.
generally i think neutering a dog after they went through the whole process of growing up ( that's around the age of 3 years with the big breeds) instead of early castration.
it's healthier for the body and I just know a lot of insecure early-neutered dogs, which sadly often shows in them trying desperatly trying to have control about's often misunderstood as "dominance" even though they just try to make themself feel safe.
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