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Monday, May 11, 2009

Fighting Females Under One Roof

You don't know me, but we've taken classes at your training center in Yakima. We have 3 dogs and we started having issues late last summer.

I've talked with Jane and others and watched Cesar Millan. The advice is always a bit different so any guidance would be helpful.

A bit of history on the situation: We have a 12 year old sheppard mix and a 4 year old lab mix who have been together since the lab was 8 weeks old. They've eaten together, played, slept bottom to bottom, etc. for all these years. Both are females and fixed. Late last summer (when the lab came in to what we now know to be "full maturity") we noticed a couple scuffles between them. Nothing major, but I'm sure it laid the groundwork for our current issues. In the fall, there were a couple other times, but we never really saw a common trigger or situation. Usually they just "got over it" and life continued. We didn't really realize any of this until we added a 3rd dog (a male lab mix puppy at 8 weeks) to the mix just before Christmas. The fights escalated to bloody battles between the 2 females just out of the blue. Now I realize that with dogs, it's never "out of the blue" and that we humans are clueless, but we didn't notice any triggers. One time one of the dogs would simply attack the other. The next situation, the alternate dog seemed to be the aggressor. We literally have to pull them apart as neither will stop. We've gotten hysterical (I'm trying to be real and honest) and know that this probably isn't the best response, but we did it and have to take responsibility for it.

I called Jane and both females re-took the leadership classes. We thought that the lab was probably the instigator so we took her through first alone and then with both of them together on opposite sides of the room. Jane has told me to expect that these dogs may never be able to be together again. Cesar says that MOST dogs can be rehabilitated. We've resolved ourselves to the more drastic outcome, but are hopeful for something else.

The puppy is now 6 months old and fixed and outweighs both the females. The oldest female was removed from our home for several weeks (as we were out of town and didn't think it fair to put the house sitter in this type of situation). He spends most of his time with the lab as he's still a puppy and the sheppard doesn't really have patience for him. We would have simply placed him in another home when this all began, but were told that removing him wouldn't change the dynamics between the older females.

We brought the older dog home last night, muzzled both and walked them next to each other with chain collars and leashes. The lab lashed out twice, but was muzzled and I corrected her immediately and put her on the floor in a submissive position. She also went to smell the sheppard which is how we understand dogs to greet one another. They both shake horribly when they're together and I believe that this is fear driven more than simple dominance--not to say that any of this is simple! We're hoping to bring them together with muzzles for quite a while just to re-introduce them to each other and are hoping that over time things will change. I just don't know.

Most of the attacks have been from the lab toward the sheppard and the lab will go after the sheppard from the rear--no notice. She'll just bite the sheppard where the tail connects to her body and not let go! No eye contact, no growling warning--just an attack.

Is there any hope to reunite our family? If so, can you suggest any steps that we should take or things to be aware of in the process. I understand that this is a process and that we may never be able to have them together again. I also know that the humans have caused this, but I'm not certain how that's all happened.

Anything that you could suggest would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you,

First, don't beat yourself up over this. Humans didn't cause it. You just happened to provide the right circumstances for things to blow up.

Prioritize the situation first. Obviously the 12-year-old dog deserves a happy and stress-free life since she doesn't have much left. Assuming she's a good girl and you love her to pieces, what you decide to do with the other two dogs should be designed to protect her.

If it hadn't been the introduction of the male puppy, these two females probably would have eventually gone after each other anyway...over something else. The Lab would have started it, and the shepherd would have to take measures to defend herself...thus, escalation.

Re-homing the puppy wouldn't help the situation any either, since these two females have already set the precedent. They don't like each other.

The fact that the Lab attacks the shepherd, unprovoked, violently, and from the rear, tells me the Lab is the most unbalanced of the three...very insecure about her place in the pecking order, and trigger-happy. She is probably also extremely bright (unlike a lot of Labs) and the type who would really bond to one of two people, much more comfortably than to a big family with kids and commotion.

Have you tried a shock collar to deter the Lab from advancing on the shepherd? It may work very well for a while, but it won't dissolve the grudge between the two...and there's always a chance that a fight will still happen when the dogs are in high drive and the Lab isn't wearing the collar or you're not standing there to push the button on the controller.

My vote, to make EVERYONE happy and as stress-free as possible, would be to re-home the Lab where she won't have competition from another female (although she'd probably get along fine with a very SUBMISSIVE, easy-going female). In the meantime, I would also send her to Doggy Daycare if you haven't already, so she can learn the PROPER way to socialize with other dogs. The beauty of Doggy Daycare is that the dogs teach each other the
pack rules. Someone (another dog) will probably put her in her place very quickly if she acts unbalanced.

It's heartbreaking to have to split up a family...but you can find comfort in the fact that there is probably a happier, calmer environment for your Lab to live in than the one she's now in...and that makes it a good thing for you to do. Remember, it's not your fault.
Best of luck,

1 comment: said...

Remote Shock Collars are one of the most effective, simplest and most humane training aids available. Remote Shock Collars are placed on a dog's neck, allowing a trainer to deliver small static corrections of varying strength by remote control. The correction the dog gets from the remote dog training collar is no different than static from walking on carpet. The benefits of working with a remote dog training collar is the trainer can immediately correct a dog's mistakes at a distance far greater than leash training allows. A Shock Collar is a safe, effective and humane way to train your dog.
A Dog Training Collar is a safe, effective and humane way to train your dog.