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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
First off we have 3 great danes, one Female (Storm), 6 years, and two males that are 3 (Tiberius) and 1 (Tommy). The two males are whom we are having issues with. The youngest dog, Thomas, is mine and since I am living with my parents it is a three dog household. This mostly only relates to how everyone is handling the situation which, frankly, is all over the place and a complete disaster. We've had all the dogs since they were pups, Tiberius and Tommy are from the same breeder but have different parents, and they've all got along really well until the last six months or so.

So for about the past six months Tommy has been showing signs of aggression towards Tiberius and I am unsure as to what is causing it. It started one night when we decided to feed the dogs on the back patio instead of in the living room where we normally feed them because we had people coming over. Now this isn't unusual, they had been fed out there before multiple times and been completely fine, but all of a sudden Tommy started lunging and snapping at Tiberius when the food was put down. I knew instantly it was resource guarding but couldn't for the life of me understand why because never in his life has anyone taken his food away from him. We instantly made loud noises and separated them until they calmed down and everything seemed to be fine after that. They are never aggressive when fed inside to this day and have mostly been kept under control when fed outside by us separating them by a distance and giving Tommy his food last so he doesn't have a chance to guard it before eating. I only mention this previous problem because I see it as a precursor to the aggression from Tommy now.

So the main issue comes into play when we take one of the boys with us for a walk/car ride/vet or whatever without the other. It does not matter who takes them, how long they are gone or if a person remains at home. The second Tiberius comes in if he was gone Tommy will come to the door and growl at him and raise his hackles and will follow him aggressively until Tiberius returns the aggression. If Tommy was the one to go out he does the same thing when he gets home whether or not Tiberius is at the door or outside and comes in 30 minutes after we get home. The thing is, if we take them anywhere together they are totally fine and will even lay on each other in the back seat with no issues at all. I really don't understand what is happening between them because I've never seen resource guarding like this (I used to work at a dog training facility) and think it might be territorial but really have no clue. Obviously, since both boys are very large, (Tommy isn't full grown yet but will likely be bigger than Tiberius) Tiberius at 165 lbs and Tommy at 140, there is the potential for the situation to get very nasty indeed.

One other thing, both Tiberius and Tommy are intact, Tiberius is going to be bread and I am not going to neuter Tommy just because I think he has behavioral issues. I know first hand that 99% of the time this solves no behavioral problems. Another reason is that Tommy is not a mean dog, he LOVES everybody. Including other dogs and has never shown any aggression toward any other dog, beside Tiberius, even other intact males that are bigger than him. Not to mention we've had intact males before and they never had any problems so neutering them is not a solution. If I had to tell you one more thing about him it would be that I think he is a little unsure of himself and needs a lot of confidence boosters from us and for a while I thought that this may have something to do with his aggression but am not sure because he is super playful with other dogs and people

I feel like the problem has mostly gone on unsolved because of everyone's varying reactions towards it and obviously I can't always be home whenever an incident happens. My mother will just yell and shout at them to stop but has never been able to assert herself over the dogs and my dad and I have pretty much done all the training. My father goes with the classic "I am alpha approach" which mostly just scares Tommy because Great Danes are VERY sensitive to that sort of thing if you didn't know, and then is just fearfully aggressive towards Tiberius until he can be by himself. I tell him no firmly, make it very clear that his behavior displeases me and then put him in a time-out for ten minutes and repeat until he is OK. I feel like my approach has yielded the best results but I'm not really sure. Also, I'm not entirely sure as to what is even happening in the first place between them, because, otherwise they get along fine. Any advice? It would be much appreciated! I don't want my dogs to hurt each other.
 

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First off we have 3 great danes, one Female (Storm), 6 years, and two males that are 3 (Tiberius) and 1 (Tommy). The two males are whom we are having issues with. The youngest dog, Thomas, is mine and since I am living with my parents it is a three dog household. This mostly only relates to how everyone is handling the situation which, frankly, is all over the place and a complete disaster. We've had all the dogs since they were pups, Tiberius and Tommy are from the same breeder but have different parents, and they've all got along really well until the last six months or so.
Do you know if this breeder has had any trouble with same sex aggression (especially male/male aggression) in the past at all? To my knowledge, Danes are a breed in which it can be a problem, and also to my knowledge it is one of the kinds of aggression that has an especially strong genetic component.

So for about the past six months Tommy has been showing signs of aggression towards Tiberius and I am unsure as to what is causing it. It started one night when we decided to feed the dogs on the back patio instead of in the living room where we normally feed them because we had people coming over. Now this isn't unusual, they had been fed out there before multiple times and been completely fine, but all of a sudden Tommy started lunging and snapping at Tiberius when the food was put down.I knew instantly it was resource guarding but couldn't for the life of me understand why because never in his life has anyone taken his food away from him. We instantly made loud noises and separated them until they calmed down and everything seemed to be fine after that. They are never aggressive when fed inside to this day and have mostly been kept under control when fed outside by us separating them by a distance and giving Tommy his food last so he doesn't have a chance to guard it before eating. I only mention this previous problem because I see it as a precursor to the aggression from Tommy now.
One thing that is important to keep in mind with resource guarding is a dog doesn't have to have had experienced being hungry/malnourished/having their food taken away from them in order to feel the need to do it. Resource guarding is not in and of itself a problem behavior, IMO, but can escalate to such if the dog decides to back up a threat display with a bite and/or feels they need an unreasonably large area around them.

Most often, the situations in which it becomes a real problem are ones where the dog in question is under a great deal of stress (many dogs will resource guard while in a shelter environment and then stop when placed in homes, for example), or when the dog in question is a nervous and/or insecure dog.

In this instance: did you see what provoked the initial reaction in the younger male? Did the older one get close to his food or provoke the reaction in some way? Or were they unattended and no one saw?

Does the younger one actively guard anything from either the older male or the female in the home? Or do you just never let him have the chance to do so on the assumption he would?

So the main issue comes into play when we take one of the boys with us for a walk/car ride/vet or whatever without the other. It does not matter who takes them, how long they are gone or if a person remains at home. The second Tiberius comes in if he was gone Tommy will come to the door and growl at him and raise his hackles and will follow him aggressively until Tiberius returns the aggression. If Tommy was the one to go out he does the same thing when he gets home whether or not Tiberius is at the door or outside and comes in 30 minutes after we get home. The thing is, if we take them anywhere together they are totally fine and will even lay on each other in the back seat with no issues at all. I really don't understand what is happening between them because I've never seen resource guarding like this (I used to work at a dog training facility) and think it might be territorial but really have no clue. Obviously, since both boys are very large, (Tommy isn't full grown yet but will likely be bigger than Tiberius) Tiberius at 165 lbs and Tommy at 140, there is the potential for the situation to get very nasty indeed.
So, it doesn't matter which male leaves and comes back, the younger one will react with hackles, growling, and threatening posture either way?
So the relationship between the two males is peaceful except for when one leaves and comes back, in which case the younger will posture, hackle up, and follow the older around?

How does the older dog handle this?

Have you ever interrupted the younger dog very early on in this? As in, stop him from being able to follow the older one around/redirect him to another activity/remove him/whatever? Or do you tend to wait for the older male to aggress back before stepping in?

As to why the younger dog is doing this... This doesn't scream resource guarding to me. My first thought is that maybe the older dog smells different when he comes home and the younger dog is made anxious by this and so gets aggressive, but it sounds like he does this in all situations regardless of who leaves and comes back, correct? I would be willing to be there is an aspect of territorial aggression to it. Possibly there might be some same sex aggression as well.

During these episodes, does the young dog have any concern for the environment? For where the humans are? Or is he concerned only about the older dog?

Video would be helpful in examining the behavior, if you can get it safely.
On neutering: If you're not willing to neuter him, you're not willing to neuter him. I think it might be worth a try (better than nothing) and isn't likely to exacerbate the problem, but I also agree it isn't necessarily going to fix it. I have heard of it helping aggression in some cases- my feeling is these are the ones in which testosterone plays a role, which given your description it could be here, but not definitely, and like I said- if you're not willing to do it, you're not willing to do it.

I feel like the problem has mostly gone on unsolved because of everyone's varying reactions towards it and obviously I can't always be home whenever an incident happens. My mother will just yell and shout at them to stop but has never been able to assert herself over the dogs and my dad and I have pretty much done all the training. My father goes with the classic "I am alpha approach" which mostly just scares Tommy because Great Danes are VERY sensitive to that sort of thing if you didn't know, and then is just fearfully aggressive towards Tiberius until he can be by himself. I tell him no firmly, make it very clear that his behavior displeases me and then put him in a time-out for ten minutes and repeat until he is OK. I feel like my approach has yielded the best results but I'm not really sure. Also, I'm not entirely sure as to what is even happening in the first place between them, because, otherwise they get along fine. Any advice? It would be much appreciated! I don't want my dogs to hurt each other.
At this point, it sounds like this has become, or is well on its way to becoming, a rehearsed behavior. That means this is the knee-jerk reaction the young dog will have every time this situation comes up. Now, at a year old, he is just coming into his adult temperament. This is the time I'd start to expect fear to move from avoidance to aggression if it was going to do so.

A note on training styles: I would try very hard to have your father stop being harsh with the younger dog. It sounds like it has already caused some escalation of the aggression in some situations, and I agree Danes are not a breed that is well suited to a heavy hand in training, especially the more nervy ones (which are the most sensitive of an already sensitive breed).

For management: it may be a good idea to have both dogs muzzled when one has been gone and the other comes in. Alternatively, have a baby gate for separating them until the younger dog has calmed down.

For training:
- One idea I have is to try taking them for a parallel walk every time one leaves and comes back. Bring both around the block or something- it doesn't have to be super long. I'd have one handler per dog, though, given their size- so a family member would have to help you.
- If you have the dogs separated by a baby gate, help the younger dog calm down by distracting him with some training. Play a calm game, like "find it" with a toy or treats.
- Generally work on making the younger dog less anxious and more confident. Trick training can help build confidence and tire them out. Making sure he is well exercised will help as well. Nose work can also be a great idea, as can agility type stuff/work over obstacles.

I'll post if I think of anything else after mulling it over for a day or two. I do think this would be well worth bringing in a professional trainer to help with, though, given the size of the dogs and risks involved if a fight broke out for real.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
To my knowledge the breeder has never had any problems with either Tiberius' parents or Tommy's regarding aggression. Having met the dogs I've found them all to be very laid back and friendly, even Tiberius's father and Tommy's dad were totally fine being around him when we took him back when we got Tommy. As far as I am aware Tiberius has never initiated aggression with Tommy, it's always the pup that starts it as the older dog is pretty passive about these things, he never seems eager for a fight. Tiberius always behaves normally towards Tommy's aggression by backing off and just walking away, he gives him his space. The problem is that Tommy usually follows him and harasses him which is the typical 'fight' started when he won't back off after Tiberius gives him his 'give me my space' warning.

The first time he lunged with the food was especially odd because he didn't even look at Stormy who was closest and just lunged at Tiberius as soon as we put his food down (we put Tommy's food down first that time) and Tiberius was about 20 feet away on the other side of our outdoor farm table. It was just so strange because it seemed completely unwarranted because like I said Tiberius was pretty far away and focused on my dad who had his food in hand. Now we have come to find that if we give Tiberius his food first Tommy does not get aggressive. I did notice that for awhile outside he was still very nervous, however. He is fine with it now both indoor and out but I definitely think it has to do with his self-confidence.

They are both very easy to break up so far, though. We've always interrupted them and have never had a full on dog fight before, just concerned that it may escalate. For the most part, their reactions have become pretty routine. They've never redirected on a person or even Stormy when she is present and tries to walk between them to ease tensions. We've been just saying their names to get their attention and pulling them apart. If it's just me at home when it happens I'll grab Tommy's collar and tell Tiberius to go lay down to get him away from the puppy. Tommy will always give me his instant attention and is fine as soon as Tiberius is around ten feet away. Tiberius is alway eager to move away, he never willingly picks a fight with Tommy. That being said, of the two Tiberius is more dominant for now, when they play Tommy always submits to him and doesn't challenge him for toys or anything. It's only if nobody intervenes will he follow the older dog which causes the actual snapping and barking but even then they break up very easily when a person gets there. It's only been allowed to happen twice to my knowledge, every other time we break it up instantly and if I'm home Tommy goes into time out for ten minutes until he can calm down.
 

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One other thing that may be relevant. Recently the puppy has been having some allergy problems, like in the past four months or so he has broken out in severe hives twice and we don't know what from. The vet's best guess is that he got into something outside (we live on 10 acres) or got stung by something. I'm taking him to a dermatologist and a canine allergy specialist in a few days to see if he may be allergic to something in his food as well. I'm now starting to wonder if maybe any of this is contributing to his aggressive behavior or if perhaps he has a thyroid condition. Do you know if diet can affect their behavior if they have poor reactions to something in their food?
 
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