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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, I'm new here and looking for some advice with a difficult situation. I'll try to be brief. I have four dogs. A male and female lab, a male pug, and a female toy fox terrier (Jack and Lilly, Gizmo, Cassie). Jack is large and confident, he is the leader and hordes all the toys. Gizmo the pug just sits on laps and sleeps. Cassie is the oldest and the "mother". She grooms and bosses the boys. She is only 12lbs. Lilly is the youngest. She is 5yrs old, 75lbs and she has some issues.
She has a very high prey drive, she is scared of strangers, and fence fights with neighbor dogs. She puts her scruff up the instant she hits the yard. She is scared of construction noises which we've had all summer so she's a mess outside. Aggressive one minute, running for the door the next. She humps Gizmo, she snaps at Cassie, when I yell at her she gets very submissive and licky, tucking her tail and cringing, or running from me (I do not strike my dogs). She is very jealous, of everyone and everything. If you talk to another dog or cat she will get up and come to you and lay her body across you, blocking access to others.
So, the real problem is Cassie, the oldest, and the boss for many years. Lilly attacked her first when she was a puppy, it was an even fight at the time. Then about two years later again. I broke it up in about 4 seconds but Cassie recieved nasty punctures. The most recent was a couple days ago. I broke it up in maybe ten seconds but Cassie was wounded pretty bad. Twelve-hundred dollars later I find myself in a tough spot. She will pull through, we get her wound drain removed tonight. Needless to say Cassie is going to end up killed. Since the first attack, years ago, they are not allowed near each other, and I usually keep them in separate rooms. Cassie just happened to jump over Lilly's legs to go into the kitchen and she got attacked.
Now, I've considered the fact that Lilly wants to establish dominance over Cassie. The problem is Cassie is 12lbs, she's a lap dog, she's cold, she wants to be under your blanket with you. I don't see me keeping her on the floor with the big dogs and not letting her in bed or on the couch... I just don't know.
 

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So how do they act around each other in general? Do you notice signs of aggression and submission from them? Does Lilly get extremely focused on Cassie when she comes near? What do you do if/when she does? Does Cassie show any signs of aggression to Lilly?

I imagine Lilly is incredibly bored and her outlet is a negative one. Have you ever thought about engaging her mind and body in an activity? Agility training, hunter training, scent tracking, etc? How much physical exercise does she get a day? Ever thought about taking her to social dog training classes? You know her better than I so you could pick whichever of these you think fits best.

I have a great pyr, very independant and dominate dog breed, whom I have to be very careful around. As alpha of the house I do not show him too much attention. I do not allow him up on any furniture ever. I do not let him get away with anything. I just have to be a very strong leader or he'd take over in an instant and there would be fighting. So, I'm very aware of how he is behaving in the house. If I notice him trying to get between me or the other dogs I command him to leave the room. If I notice him getting hyper focused on another dog I redirect his attention. I take away anything he attempts to guard unless I've instructed him to guard it. Just a very firm leader with him. The other dogs not so much because they know their place and never try to leave it but this dog needs me to be strong.

For our family, we ended up rehoming a dog. We had a St Bernard and a great pyr that were just a couple months off in age. One day they were playing and the pyr mildly sprained his leg. He never forgot and he never forgave. Months and a few different trainers later we decided to rehome him rather than deal with his attacking our St every chance he got. It's a sad choice to make but it's much better than having complete pack upheaval imo.

No idea if any of this is helpful to you but I wish you luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I appreciate the quick reply. It's kind of sad actually. Cassie seems to really like Lilly, she loves to run with her and bark with her, basically imitating her. Lilly seems annoyed by this. In the house they mostly ignore each other. I don't let them interact or even look at each other, just because, as I found out again, one mistake and Cassie is dead. I've seen Lilly kill large possums in seconds. It's all very stressful.
Another problem, Lilly has a sore leg, which needs surgery I can't afford right now. She limps a little. Due to this I don't know how to exercise her, which you're absolutely right about. She is bored, and probably very frustrated, on top of the bad knee. I need to figure that situation out as well.
 

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I appreciate the quick reply. It's kind of sad actually. Cassie seems to really like Lilly, she loves to run with her and bark with her, basically imitating her. Lilly seems annoyed by this. In the house they mostly ignore each other. I don't let them interact or even look at each other, just because, as I found out again, one mistake and Cassie is dead. I've seen Lilly kill large possums in seconds. It's all very stressful.
Another problem, Lilly has a sore leg, which needs surgery I can't afford right now. She limps a little. Due to this I don't know how to exercise her, which you're absolutely right about. She is bored, and probably very frustrated, on top of the bad knee. I need to figure that situation out as well.
This isn't about balance or dominance or anything else. You have a dog in pain, unable to exercise, bored out of its mind, yeah, it's going to attack other dogs. Until you can "figure out the situation", you need to keep the dogs separated. Cassie's death is not inevitable. If she dies at Lilly's hands, it will be your fault. Keep them separated until you can get Lilly the care she needs.
 

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Swimming is the only exercise I can think of that wouldn't be harmful to her injured leg. I'm not sure if that is an option for you. Otherwise mental stimulation can be acheived without a whole lot of exercise. Hiding toys and treats and seeing if she can find them.

I'm trying to think of anything that might change her behavior unless she's always been like this toward Cassie. Have you had thyroid levels checked? Did she only get aggressive after being injured?

Hopefully it's just pain and boredom and when her leg is fixed she'll stop behaving badly. Otherwise you just have to keep track and be vigilant. Stop fights before they start. Let them know who is in charge.

**So being new to this forum myself I noticed I used a "dirty" word in my reply to you. I use the term alpha to pretty much refer to me all the time. I'm just that type of in charge personality. I treat my dogs like kids and I'm the parent though so if the term alpha offends you you can change it with parent.
I appreciate the quick reply. It's kind of sad actually. Cassie seems to really like Lilly, she loves to run with her and bark with her, basically imitating her. Lilly seems annoyed by this. In the house they mostly ignore each other. I don't let them interact or even look at each other, just because, as I found out again, one mistake and Cassie is dead. I've seen Lilly kill large possums in seconds. It's all very stressful.
Another problem, Lilly has a sore leg, which needs surgery I can't afford right now. She limps a little. Due to this I don't know how to exercise her, which you're absolutely right about. She is bored, and probably very frustrated, on top of the bad knee. I need to figure that situation out as well.
 
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I certainly agree with you. If she was killed it would be all my fault. I currently have them separated and I will continue to do so. This however creates a "quality of life" problem, for them, and for me. I've been doing pairs the last couple days. Little dogs come out for two hours, big dogs come out for two hours, etc. I put all the dogs away to bring out the kittens in the evening. The big dogs have to sleep in their crates. Meanwhile, I have been getting nothing done, not school work, not work work(self employed) or house work. I'm just switching pets, pottying, training, visiting vets, repeat. I guess I'm trying to figure out a win/win strategy for my household. I've payed thousands in vet bills this year, trust me, it kills me that Lilly is in pain, I just don't have it.
 

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Lilly sounds quite insecure. I would honestly take a gentler approach with this dog. All of the "submissive" behavior you describe (licking, tucked tail, cringing, etc.) is typical of a stressed and even frightened dog. I understand that you don't physically punish your dogs, but for many soft dogs yelling or scolding is highly punishing and even scary.

Continuing to yell at her really isn't going to help much. Because Lilly is always getting yelled at or punished when Cassie is around she could very well associate it with Cassie's presence. This is only going to cause more stress and anxiety around Cassie (Lilly will dislike Cassie's presence more and more).
You'll also want to make sure that Cassie doesn't pester Lilly. I know you're currently rotating dogs. Even though it's a pain, it's important IMO to continue this while you get things under control.

FWIW I wouldn't worry so much about dominance and pack order...
The latest fight occured when Cassie jumped over Lilly's legs correct?
Really considering that Lily has been under chronic stress, is in pain, and is not very comfortable with Cassie, it makes sense that she reacted this way.

I highly suggest that you work on reducing her stress levels, really work on pain management while you gather the funds for surgery, and consult a great trainer or behaviorist. And I would make paying for the surgery a major priority! I don't think you'll be able to make much progress with training until both pain and stress are under control.;)

For pain management, talk to your vet about Lilly's options.

For stress reduction you might want to consider trying out a DAP diffuser, calming collar, and other aids. If Lilly is on meds then talk to your vet before trying anything she would take orally just to be sure that they are OK to give in combination with her meds.

And as for a trainer or behaviorist...
You'll want to find someone to help you work on the aggression towards Cassie. Also ask that they help you with Lilly's barrier aggression and help you to Counter Condition Lilly to construction noises (will also reduce her overall stress).

And here are a few links that might help you out!
A few sticky threads that might help you out:
http://www.dogforum.com/dog-behavior/reactivity-leash-aggression-barrier-frustration-12538/
http://www.dogforum.com/dog-behavior/resource-guarding-causes-prevention-modification-7511/
http://www.dogforum.com/dog-behavior/calming-signals-10084/

Help in finding a trainer:
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Help in finding a behaviorist:
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Lewis, I kind of don't know where to start with this. :) If you can hire a behaviorist or trainer that uses positive training techniques, that is the best advice I can offer. I will put my responses in bold below. You have a lot of work cut out ahead of you and it sounds like every dog has an issue (except maybe Gizmo?).

First, you really need to forget everything you ever learned about dominance. Read: http://www.dogforum.com/dog-training/dominance-dogs-4076/ . 4pawsu.com also has some great articles on why the dominance theory is all wrong and when applied like some "trainers" apply it, creates bigger/worse issues. http://www.dogforum.com/dog-training/suppression-modification-shutdown-fallout-4776/

Hi, I'm new here and looking for some advice with
a difficult situation. I'll try to be brief. I have four dogs. A male and female lab, a male pug, and a female toy fox terrier (Jack and Lilly, Gizmo, Cassie).

Jack is large and confident, he is the leader and hordes all the toys. Gizmo the pug just sits on laps and sleeps.

Hoarding: sounds like Resource Guarding: Read this: http://www.dogforum.com/dog-behavior/resource-guarding-causes-prevention-modification-7511/
Also, here's a recent thread that addresses RG: http://www.dogforum.com/dog-behavior/agression-issues-25719/
KMES listed reputable links for a dog trainer search, I'd use it! :) You can also search on iaabc.org. I also posted various articles and books that you should take a look at. If you do a search for resource guarding on this forum, you will find a lot of other information.


Cassie is the oldest and the "mother". She grooms and bosses the boys. She is only 12lbs.
What kind of bossing? Is she being a resource guarder, too? ie with toys, beds, you, furniture, food/treats, etc?


Lilly is the youngest. She is 5yrs old, 75lbs and she has some issues.
She has a very high prey drive, she is scared of strangers, and fence fights with neighbor dogs. She puts her scruff up the instant she hits the yard. She is scared of construction noises which we've had all summer so she's a mess outside. Aggressive one minute, running for the door the next. She humps Gizmo, she snaps at Cassie, when I yell at her she gets very submissive and licky, tucking her tail and cringing, or running from me (I do not strike my dogs). She is very jealous, of everyone and everything. If you talk to another dog or cat she will get up and come to you and lay her body across you, blocking access to others.

Also has a bad knee. Lilly has a lot of things that need addressed and I agree that the pain should be top of the list. Is she on any meds? So long as she hurts, she is going to be cranky, and if she can't get adequate exercise then she's got too much energy stored up. Puzzle toys, treat dispensers, more training sessions, swimming should all help.

For the fence fighting, read this sticky: http://www.dogforum.com/dog-behavior/reactivity-leash-aggression-barrier-frustration-12538/ Working on impulse control in other areas of her life can also be beneficial.

Her jealousy also sounds like RG. One of the lower level warnings to other dogs to back off is stare and cover/block the object--here, you.

For the fear, those sites that I linked to in the Aggression Issues thread above have some links to behaviorists/trainers. If you search their sites, you'll find info on how to change her emotional response through counter conditioning and desensitization. (There's also this great sticky: http://www.dogforum.com/dog-training/4-quadrants-operant-conditioning-23702/ ) You need to learn how to do this with positive reinforcement (ie reward the good, ignore the bad) because anything unpleasant you do (including the yelling) is going to reinforce the idea that whatever she is afraid of creates bad things. So no scolding, no grabbing by the collar, no jerking on the leash. Positive based training can really build confidence, too, so that might decrease her fear in general. Cautious Canine by Pat McConnell addresses fearful dogs.

Some links: Patricia McConnell | Dog Training | Fear of Dogs and New People | McConnell Publishing Inc.
and Patricia McConnell | Dog Training | Fear of New Things | McConnell Publishing Inc.

So, the real problem is Cassie, the oldest, and the boss for many years. Lilly attacked her first when she was a puppy, it was an even fight at the time. Then about two years later again. I broke it up in about 4 seconds but Cassie recieved nasty punctures. The most recent was a couple days ago. I broke it up in maybe ten seconds but Cassie was wounded pretty bad.

Since RG seems to be a recurring theme in your household, I'd strongly suggest picking up the book Mine! by Jean Donaldson and also Fight! by her as well, since it addresses how to prevent and handle dog fights.

Other books that may help, are Do Over Dogs by Pat Miller, How to Right a Dog Gone Wrong by Pam Dennison, Click to Calm by Emma Parsons, and Feeling Outnumbered by Pat McConnell.

Twelve-hundred dollars later I find myself in a tough spot. She will pull through, we get her wound drain removed tonight. Needless to say Cassie is going to end up killed. Since the first attack, years ago, they are not allowed near each other, and I usually keep them in separate rooms. Cassie just happened to jump over Lilly's legs to go into the kitchen and she got attacked.

Lilly's legs are an issue with the pain. She also may have a space/proximity issue (plus, a lot of dogs don't like an animal jumping over them while they are laying down, resting). Plus, a lot of dogs have an increased proximity issue (I don't know what the real term is) when they are in pain--I have a dog like that--and it makes sense. If you have a bad knee, you are going to make sure nobody gets close enough to increase any pain and growling gets the reaction--moving away--they want. BTW, never punish growling--respect what they are trying to communicate with you. Finally, if you eliminate the pain issue, you may still have to counter condition her to be OK with other dogs near her.

Until you get professional help or have a game plan after reading lots of the material provided, you need to focus on management and prevention. Crate, gate, and/or rotate. IF you mess up and you encounter early fight warnings (tensing, staring, low growl), do NOT panic, sound panicked, sound angry, yell, etc--try to distract them with the highest value reward you can--outside! or treats!--whatever you can get to as fast as possible.

Now, I've considered the fact that Lilly wants to establish dominance over Cassie. The problem is Cassie is 12lbs, she's a lap dog, she's cold, she wants to be under your blanket with you. I don't see me keeping her on the floor with the big dogs and not letting her in bed or on the couch... I just don't know.
Okay, I gave you a lot to look over, and I'm sure some others will chime in with other advice. If you have time to do a search on this forum for things like resource guarding, reactivity, impulse control, you'll find a lot of info, too.

Good luck. You have a lot of work to do, and it isn't going to be an overnight change. Again, if you can find a trainer, with this many dogs and issues, I'd strongly recommend it, not just for the training help, but for the support. And the bad leg really needs to be addressed--can you do CareCredit? Lastly, remember prevention and management!
 

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Kmes and I were writing at the same time :) But we're on the same page!

And Ditto on addressing the overall stress! Dr. Sophia Yin's site has should have some good diagrams on body language to help you id signs, and there is a sticky to Calming Signals that might help you as well in seeing stress signs before they escalate.
 

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This isn't about balance or dominance or anything else. You have a dog in pain, unable to exercise, bored out of its mind, yeah, it's going to attack other dogs. Until you can "figure out the situation", you need to keep the dogs separated. Cassie's death is not inevitable. If she dies at Lilly's hands, it will be your fault. Keep them separated until you can get Lilly the care she needs.
The bolded is a stretch. A big stretch.

Sounds like Lilly is a fearful dog with resource guarding issues. You most certainly can and should do what you can to get expert help here, but rotate and crate is probably your life for the rest of their lives. The only alternative I can see to rotate/crate is a muzzle for Lilly, introduced properly.

The road ahead is long but certainly it can be improved... but personally, I would never again trust Lilly with Cassie. Cassie is just too little & too old to risk a big dog bite again. Crate/rotate or muzzle, IMHO.

Good luck, you're in a tough spot.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I really appreciate the wonderful advice here. This is exactly the type of info I was hoping to collect. I love my dogs and I will put in the effort to make everyone as happy and safe as possible. I'll be doing my reading and training daily. I may never be able to trust the girls together again but I can try to make them the best dogs they can be. For the record Cassie is doing good today. She got her bandages off and she's all fired up. Luckily for her she's a tough old broad, more muscle than anything. She'll be back to herself in no time.
 

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I would not trust the two dogs being in the same house together, it is only a matter of time before they figure out how to go at each other again, and probably a short time. Do you have a relative or friend that could foster one of them until you re-home to someone who then will only have one dog??? I would hate for you to take a shower and then discover something awful had happened. There is just too much going on your home with this many dogs for Lilly ever to feel secure and unafraid.
 
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