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Old 08-11-2006, 01:25 AM
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Rubylove Rubylove is offline
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Default The dogs have started fighting

Hi all,

It's been a long time since I've been here (for various reasons) and I hope that you guys won't mind me coming back to ask for advice.

Ruby and Chester have been having some issues lately with their obedience. It is purely because we have not been reinforcing ourselves as alpha enough, and it has been showing in their behaviour. Over the last six weeks we have gone back to our proper behaviour and their obedience issues are much better. In fact, they are better than they have ever been, which I put down to our increased efforts and the fact that they are older now.

However, over the past two to three weeks they have been starting to fight each other a lot. This has never been an issue with them - Ruby has always been the clear and absolute leader - and Chester has always seemed fine with that. BUT...there's been a lot of disruption in their lives recently for the following reasons:

1. We have moved house.
2. We no longer have our cats living with us (long story, don't want to go there...)
3. We have re-established ourselves as pack leaders
4. Our backyard has no lawn and is quite small, and quite boring, with high walls and no view of trees or anything that they have been used to.
5. We live further away from our respective places of work, so are consequently away from the house for longer periods of time during the day.
6. Ruby has developed colitis and their diets have changed subsequently - they are actually eating no meat and single-source protein biscuits only.

We have done a number of things to combat their new living situation. They are getting two walks a day, morning and evening. They have more interesting and interactive toys to keep them busy, they go to doggy daycare once a week, where they interact with up to ten other dogs all day. They are getting nightly training where they learn tricks etc, and they are going to an obedience class once per week for some more socialisation, and also some more learning for them.

However, their fighting has escalated from normal doggy tussling to more intense physical fighting - and they often go so far as to rip out tufts of one another's fur. Our neighbours have commented to us that they do this at least four times per day. It always happens after every meal, too.

Chester has just turned one, Ruby is nearly 16 months, they are both neutered. They love each other to bits and spend lots of time grooming, licking and cuddling, although I have noticed that Ruby is doing deliberate things to reinforce her role as alpha with Chester, such as pushing him off his bed, sitting in the middle of the seat in the car and not leaving him any room, and so on.

I don't know what to do now, it is becoming worrying. Does anyone have any advice? Sorry this is so long...
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Old 08-11-2006, 01:33 AM
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juliefurry juliefurry is offline
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I don't know what to say. Maybe they are just settling in? How long have you lived there, maybe Chester is trying to become alpha while you are not home. I know that we just moved and Hannah is acting fairly similar and we have been enforcing NILIF but also someone is always home with her and if not she is left with plenty of toys and she is usually ok. I think that what you are doing is great though and definetely a HUGE step in the right direction. I wish I could offer you more help other than to say you are doing the right thing.
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Old 08-11-2006, 01:39 AM
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Rubylove Rubylove is offline
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Thanks Julie - very kind words!

I'm sure the things I have listed are the root causes of this problem - however it seems to be worsening not getting better. I think its the same scenario as where doctors shouldn't treat their own families, I think trainers can still need advice on their own dogs! I am thinking of getting in a separate behaviourist to view our situation from a perspective that isn't so involved as mine.

However, a couple of things that Chester has been doing to annoy Ruby are eating out of her bowl while she's eating (which would annoy me, too!) and standing over her when she's trying to sleep. That's all we have seen but it could be worse when we're not around. He still lets her take his toys off him without a fight, and kick him off his bed, and go through doors before him. Although he has started getting in the car before she does, which he's never done before, to which she retaliates by taking up the whole back seat and squashing him up near the door, and preventing him from getting any room if he manages to find any! Clearly, there are dominance issues going on here which will no doubt sort themselves out, I just don't want one of them to get hurt in the process.

I think a big problem could be that now that she isn't allowed to push us around anymore (and has actually become very different with us) she's taking it out on him. She's being a bit of a bully, actually, and I'm sure its worse when we're not around.
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Old 08-11-2006, 11:26 AM
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Doberluv Doberluv is offline
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I think the move would tend to cause some stress. But it sounds like you're doing a lot with the dogs still. I don't know that that should have everything to do with this problem. Perhaps they've matured to the age where things can start happening where they didn't before.

I'll just tell you what has always worked for me...my thoughts...Of course, I've never actually had dogs who fought with eachother until just now...when I've aquired my son's dog. But they love eachother and play....get along most all the time except when there are goodies being handed out and all the dogs are together. She can get snappy at Lyric. She's pushy about certain things. Lyric, my Dobe has nailed her a couple of times...not biting through the skin but made a big show of it, a lot of noise, got her around the neck and on the ground. But she started it. I am actively training her to wait patiently for her treat and if she gets pushy, she doesn't get one. I distract her attention off the other dogs while I'm handing them a treat by holding a treat in the opposite direction of them....so her eyes are averted to the other side. After they're finished, she gets one as long as she doesn't get pushy. This is mostly where her problem lies. Sometimes with toys and occasionally with my son or me (as her possession) she gets snappy toward Lyric if he comes close. But that is very rare...maybe happened twice. Otherwise they play and kiss, cuddle and run together....have a great time.
So, she is learning that she doesn't provide herself or anyone with resources. Humans do. She doesn't get to make or enforce rules.

I would seperate them while I was gone. If you have a baby gate or something stronger.... something where they can see eachother but not get at eachother that would be great, since for the most part, they like eachother, rigth? (a kennel situation?)

Is that the only time they fight...after meals? Do you put away the food bowls after they're finished and are they seperated when they eat? What do you do when they get too rough? Is it that the play turns into the fight? Is there anything else that they fight over, that you can tell?

When you are around, I would not allow any scuffles to even begin. You get inbetween them when there is the slightest hint of body language that one is showing dominance over the other. You remind them that YOU are the one who makes the rules and there's no fighting of any kind allowed. Don't even let the thought in their heads develop. Interrupt that, change the subject, reward for a switch in their plans....when they begin to engage in something else.

I have a new addition here and she has not had the best in training or in learing to follow human's rules. She's not too bad but when something comes up where she gets a little snarky (usually around food or toys)...I mean, she can be PUSHY, I herd her over with my body and remind her...."Hellooooooo, we don't do that." When she is pushy about treats, when I'm giving them out, she's last. She gets everything after the other dogs. I do not reward pushiness.

So, this is unlike a lot of peoples' opinion that you should bolster up the "dominant" dog so they can figure out their own heirarchy. I do not believe in that. I don't allow my dogs to have a heirarchy. ROFLOL. I mean, they have to understand that I will handle these things and they can just sit back on their lounge chairs and wait for me to solve their problems. They are not allowed to take the law into their own paws. LOL.

I've had multiple dogs for a lot of years and never have had problems between my dogs. I may see one little speck of snarkiness, but I nip it in the bud and let them know firmly (but not roughly) that... "eh-eh.....you don't do that. Here, do this instead." (and reinforce) Now I just got my son's dog and she has to learn my rules. She's already improved a lot with what I described. Once in a while, she'll get pushy, but it's happening less frequently and with less intensity.

I don't know if any of that helps. It's not the same situation as you have but it's just kind of my basic philosophy about heirarchy between dogs vs. between human and dogs. Maybe your dogs need even more reiminding that in order to eat, play, have anything they like or need, they need to look to you for it. (I don't know if this is the way it already is, but maybe a little more deprivation of their good stuff so the value increases and they look to you even more)?
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Old 08-11-2006, 02:04 PM
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Angelique Angelique is offline
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It's good that you are addressing this situation before the dogs hit their two year mark. Letting them work it out between them has a slim chance of success which requires one dog to back down to the other one. Even if one dog backs down, this will not stop the dog who emerges as the dominant animal from asserting themselves towards other dogs they meet later on, or even people in some situations, depending on the dog. I'd nip this in the bud ASAP.

You must be seen as a leader who will not tolerate aggession or a power struggle between the dogs for the top dog position in your pack. The only Pack Leader(s) should be you and the other humans in the household.

I always start with social order and leadership before I impliment training when I work with a single dog in their relationship with their owner, or with a multiple dog household. I do this because it is also the first thing dogs do with each other before they can function as a united social group. Otherwise all you will end up doing is trying to manage the fighting, or trying to shape behaviors which should be addressed directly - and you will never know when or where it will crop up. I would never minimise any aggression or disciplinary action between two dogs. Simply the fact that they are doing it in your presence shows a flaw in the current social structure and indicates the dogs do not see you as their clear Pack Leader, but simply as a member of their social group, a pal, or a roommate.

The use of treats to try to shape behaviors in these moments, do not help calm the dogs down. Even if they supress their behavior to get the treat, their focus is on the treat - not on learning what you want them NOT to do. Distracting with a treat will not solve this problem in the long run. I have never seen a treat take the excitement level down in a dog or resolve dominance issues. These dog's need a clear communication from you as their leader that aggression in your pack is NOT allowed.

These dogs should be taken for long walks together where you are in the lead and they are both following you. One hour in the morning at a good pace with a few breaks for free time along the way, and then another walk in the evening of shorter duration. No feeding the dogs until after the walks. You should keep in between them at all times, keep them off of the furniture and bed, and correct them (mostly with body blocking, eye contact, and a correctional word) if they even think of going at it. At this point you might want to keep them leashed since their aggression towards each other is already escalating. Do not leave them alone together, unsupervised.

The only leader should be the human leader. All dogs within the household are followers. Aggression is not allowed simply because as leader, you said so.
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Last edited by Angelique; 08-11-2006 at 02:45 PM.
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Old 08-11-2006, 08:22 PM
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Rubylove Rubylove is offline
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Thanks Angelique - they don't actually ever fight when they are with us. Only when they are on their own together. And not leaving them together unsupervised is not an option - short of tying them up when they are alone together which I refuse to do. Their walks are long and they are always one on either side of us. They are not allowed on any of the furniture or bed already, and they most definitely do NOT get treats when they have been tussling!

I think a lot of it is for attention, too. They are bored out there (despite our efforts) and they do it to relieve their boredom. They also need to learn that when we are home that they cannot be with us 100% of the time, because then when we do leave and they are left alone, they get anxious.

Today we are going out to get some things to make the back yard more interesting for them - we are going to build a ramp and get some old tyres they can stand on, and get them a sandpit filled with dirt so its not just all paving out there and no `nature' so to speak. I am also going to get them some weave poles at some point in the future and teach them how to play in those.

Everything we do is geared toward us being leader, and when in our presence, that's how they behave. Its when we leave them alone that they fight. At the moment, they are lying at my feet, Chester is chewing on a toy, and Ruby is licking his ears. **sigh**

But thanks for your advice - I still think our own leadership has not been reinforced enough and this is where part of the problem lies.
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