Recently I had a discussion with good friends and colleagues about how to handle difficult cases in which two dogs have engaged in extremely serious fights in the home. We found ourselves sorting through what factors need to be considered if re-homing is on the table. This is a common problem brought to behaviorists; I must have seen hundreds of clients who had dogs who did not get along. At all. I don’t mean dogs who had minor tiffs, or dogs who were occasionally possessive-aggressive (“My couch! My human!), but dogs who had truly serious issues and were making life at home less than relaxing, if not downright dangerous. Sometimes they had serious, injurious fights, sometimes one dog lived in obvious terror of the other, even though actual fights were rare or non existent, and sometimes the owners managed the situation but the dogs could never, ever, be allowed to be in the same room with the risk of extreme stress or injury.
Some cases appear to be so serious that they call for the immediate re-homing of one dog, but that is a lot easier to do if you’re not the one who is in love with both dogs. Or can’t imagine either dog going to a good home if you decide to give it up. Or believe that it is never ethical to send one dog from one family into another. Cases like these can make the decision terribly difficult, which is why it is tremendously helpful to have a template of questions to consider when faced with a difficult decision: Continue to try to treat the problem, manage the problem, or rehome one of the dogs? Here is my list, with gratitude to colleagues Kelly, Meg and Jamie for the inclusion of their wisdom and experience:
Job one is risk assessment. That is always true when one is dealing with aggression, and it is equally true here. First and foremost, you need to ask: How dangerous are the fights to the dogs? Noisy skirmishes are unpleasant and upsetting, but don’t always lead to any damage, either physically or psychologically. Have there been 5 instances of growls and brief tiffs, or have the dogs engaged in several fights in which one dog or both dogs were badly injured? I’ve had numerous clients who told me, with clear confidence, that one of their dogs wants to kill the other. I’ve had many clients whose dogs injured the other horrifically, and could barely be pulled off before the other dog was killed. I would never say never, but once things have escalated to that point, the odds of either dog being safe again is small.
In addition, what about the risk to the owners? We all know that breaking up a dog fight can be dangerous. I’ve had plenty of owners bitten by dogs while doing so. I well remember, how could I forget?, holding two fighting female Border Collies up in the air, each grasped by the base of the tail and lifted off the ground as advised by the books. (“If you lift the hindquarters from the ground the dogs will stop fighting.”) These visiting bitches (don’t you love that I can say bitch here?) had not read that chapter and were going at it like food processors on WHIP when my Great Pyrenees, Tulip, ran around the corner, leapt into the air with a roaring bark, scared the crap out of all three of us, and ended the fight then and there. But most of us don’t have a Great Pyrenees in our pocket when a fight starts, and can be at great risk when trying to break up an altercation. I’ve had client who were badly bitten by their own dogs, some who were seriously injured in other ways (injured knees, bad backs, etc.) and some who had to be hospitalized. There are ways to break up a fight that decrease the chance of being injured (don’t grab collars, grab the base of the tail or try to use a door or board between the dogs, etc.) but the fact is that there is always a danger, and it’s important to ask what is the chance that someone could be injured by one of the dogs.
Risk assessment is all about probabilities and consequences, and how willing people are to play the odds when they aren’t in their favor. Because a decision about whether to treat, manage only or re-home has to be based on the probability of success, there is something important to keep in mind: whether one will bet on relatively bad odds is always dependent upon the consequences. In other words, what would happen if management broke down, and someone forgot to close a door? Or there was a regression during treatment? How serious would a mistake or setback be? If losing the bet meant that the two dogs get into a short scuffle, some people might say “Well, if the odds are 5-10% it might happen again, that would be acceptable.” But if the consequence of a fight is a serious injury, several serious injuries to multiple victims, or even death (and yes, that is definitely a possibility in some cases), most people wouldn’t accept 10% odds, perhaps not even 1%. A willingness to take risks is very personal, so each dog owner has to decide what level of risk they are willing, and comfortable, to take.
Management: Speaking of probability, what is the probability that management can be accomplished 100% correctly? If the dog isn’t re-homed, then management will be a key to safety, both during treatment or if the dogs are simply going to be kept separate for the rest of their life. Owners must realistically assess how likely it is that they can manage the dogs 100% of the time. That means no mistakes, no absent-minded forgetting to shut a door or drop food between the dogs. I’d estimate that a significant number of clients can manage things safely for a period of months during treatment, but very few for a the life time of the dogs. That is why one must ask: What does a regression look like? A horrific fight in which the two dogs both need medical care and the owner goes to the hospital? If things are that serious, the odds of of it happening again don’t have to be very high to suggest that re-homing should be high on the list of considerations.
Quality of Life for the Dogs: One very important question to ask relates to the dog’s quality of life. In many cases, the dogs have made it clear that they are extremely stressed in each others presence. In this situation, the dogs are absolutely aware that the other dog is living in the house, and that all it takes is an open door for one dog to attack the other. In other words, without needing the cognitive ability of a human, dogs can be well aware that they are living on the edge of serious injury or death at any given moment. I describe it to my clients as living in a house with a serial killer on the other side of the door, when you have no ability to control when the door is opened. A difficult way to live indeed.
Quality of Life for the Owners: And of course, an incredibly difficult way for the owners to live, too. I’ve had several hundred clients (over 25 years) in similar situations, and to a person they have told me that after they re-homed one of the dogs they had no idea, absolutely none, how exhausting it was to live with the stress of 2 dogs who wanted to kill one another until after one of the dogs left. I absolutely understand (been there, done that) how painful it is to re-home a dog you love. Truly, I absolutely get it. It needs to be acknowledged; it is like a death in a way. But if two dogs are truly hell bent on hurting each other, it is also giving life back to the dogs, and back to one’s self, given how stressful and exhausting it is to have one’s home the middle of a battlefield. One potential that has helped many clients is to board one dog, or send it to a friend (obviously this must be a safe scenario). Give it a 3 days, 5 days or a week, and see what life is like with just one dog. It is usually so very much easier to make a decision when the dogs are not sitting at your feet while you are talking.
It’s all about the dog. The toughest cases are the ones in which the owners adore both dogs, but the dogs truly despise one another. It happens, and it is heartbreaking, but in those cases, I would argue that love means putting the dogs first. I know, ouch. But better to make the tough decision and get it behind you than living every day in fear that something horrible is about to happen.
Remember here that I am talking about worst case scenarios. Many cases of dogs not getting along can be handled without having to consider re-homing. (See Feeling Outnumbered book and DVD for ideas about how to prevent and manage minor to moderate stress between dogs.) However, sometimes dogs dislike each other as much as some people do, and forcing them to live together can create serious problems to their and the owner’s safety. I hope you haven’t even been in that situation, but if you have, or have worked on this with clients, I’d love to hear from you.
MEANWHILE, BACK ON THE FARM: Several of my friends are at the sheep dog trial I’d be at if Willie hadn’t been recovering from an injury all summer. True confessions, I’m a little bummed that we’re not there ourselves. When the weather prediction was hot and humid it didn’t feel so bad, but today the weather is perfect and I’d love to be hanging out with friends watching great dogs work and–hope springs eternal–feeling good or inspired or educated–by our own run. But still, Willie got to move the sheep up into the pasture this morning, and maybe maybe, he’ll be healthy enough to go to a friends and work her sheep this afternoon. He worked the most ever (since early spring) on Friday, and he clearly needed a rest yesterday. So we are just taking it one day at a time. None of this bothers Willie of course, he is thrilled to be off leash and playing outside and romping with his rubber stick and getting to work sheep, even if not for very long. Right now he’s napping in his crate (door open, his choice, he loves it) and just looking at him makes me happy.
And then, of course, there’s food, always a way to make me happy. Yesterday was pretty much all about food. Not so much eating it, but processing the gazillion pounds of it that streams into the house this time of year from our CSA (Vermont Valley Community Farm), along with our yard and gardens of others. I made apple-pear-plum butter (plums from behind the farmhouse, apples and pears from a friend’s), put massive amounts of eggplant, broccoli and corn in the freezer, cooked up edamame beans and soaked black beans to make a bean/bean/corn salad today, cleaned and cooked up green beans with butter and bacon (I know, I know) for dinner last night with roast chicken and potatoes. What else…. ? Oh yes, I made Zucchini Yum again, which uses zucchini (thank god), tomatoes (praise be to heaven) and onions all at once, freezes really well and is, well, really yummy. Here it is before I popped it in the freezer:
The rest of the weekend has been about seeing good friends and gardening, (read: Trisha and Jim dig like field hands trying to re-establish gardens after major earth moving work done earlier in the summer), and processing food. I’ll spare you the photographs of ugly patches of dug up dirt and me looking like I crawled out of a ditch. Here’s something a bit better: A healthy bee in the garden.
Just one more thing. As much as I love having fresh, local, organic food, please do not mention the word “tomato,” “eggplant” or “zucchini” to me. I’m just saying.
I am looking at my two little dogs curled up at my feet after a happy walk across the fields, and thanking whatever Gods there be that they never have anything worse than the mildest of occasional spats. And that Sophy is back to running zoomies after her bout with a trapped nerve earlier in the summer. I will never take such things for granted again!
I giggled at your many vegetable gluts! I have planted a tiny vegetable garden for the first time this year – I had enough lettuce and chard to feed the neighbourhood, barely enough peas for one meal a week (and the dogs get most of those – Sophy in particular loves pea pods) and even fewer beans. The tomatoes are yet to ripen (obviously not the best variety for Lancashire), the winter broccoli and kale look like lacework after I missed a few caterpillars, and the courgettes (note clever use of synonym!) are just about right, with two plants picked very regularly while the fruits are tiny. Next year I will grow far more peas, and much less green stuff, and be much more proactive about netting everything!
We lived for several years managing 2 females that just didn’t get along. We sought the advice of a behaviorist who said they seemed to like each other sometimes and gave us hope things would work out. After fights escalated in intensity and frequency, we decided to manage them carefully and separately. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone and I hope to never experience it again.
Ann Dupuis says
This topic is timely for me, as I will be doing an initial assessment and consultation with a client whose two dogs cannot be in the same room together without fighting. This was precipitated by one dog getting sprayed in the face by a skunk and aggressing at the other dog who approached in the chaos.
There is some hope, as the dogs apparently got along quite well beforehand, and the fights have been “ferocious” but injuries have been relatively minor (scrapes and cuts with a little bleeding) and there hasn’t yet been any redirected aggression at the owners. For now, management is working.
I’ve already asked the clients to “think about” the idea of rehoming one of the dogs — but also to think about how they feel when they contemplate the idea of rehoming.
The idea of boarding one dog for a few days while making a decision like that is a good one, and one that I’ve recommended to clients in the past. Clients who can’t bring themselves to board one dog for even a little while have their answer: if at all possible, they would prefer to follow a treatment plan with management to try to solve the problem.
I don’t recommend management alone, because of the likelihood of it failing at some point, with potentially disastrous results. And quality of life is compromised for owners and dogs of even a well-managed household that feels like a powder keg ready to blow.
I plan to take my video camera with me so I can get video of each dog when they’re in separate rooms but also when they can see one another. (Obviously with management in place to prevent any contact.) I think that video could aid in risk assessment. I also plan to replay some of the video to help the owners learn to recognize and interpret their dogs’s body language.
One comment on the post (from someone whose internal editor /proofreader is always alert): “It is usually so very much easier to make a decision when the dogs are sitting at your feet while you are talking” should probably read “when the dogs are NOT sitting at your feet”….
We have two dogs that skirmished quite a bit. The little one, Mac, (Who was the cover dog for your Lost in Translation DVD!) became very sound reactive after a series of thunderstorms, and would start growling at something he heard, which would get the other male, Timber (Belgian Terv puppy) growling, then Mac would see Timber growling and start growling back, and then they would start fighting. Within a week or two that carried over to the back door, where Timber would dash in and quickly turn to block the way and Mac would growl and then BAM…and then it moved to before they even came in…
(The only one who ever got bit was me, BTW)
We ended up separating them so we could work on the sound sensitivity without any stresses for Mac, and so Timber could relearn calm in places that had become really highly charged (The back door, the bedroom).
My husband works from home, so Mac lives in the office, goes for a run every morning, gets to play outside…and Timber is pretty velcroed to me anyway, so if I go hang in the bedroom Mac can have time in the rest of the house.
We have baby gates (multiple, we call them doglocks) set up, and we do have them on either side getting jackpots of treats, and we are about to put up an x-pen so hubby can sit inside with Mac and we can all be in the living room together.
Timber will be exiting the teenage years soon, Mac is getting better with loud noises, and it’s just routine for us. If needed we could keep them from ever seeing each other for the rest of their lives, and give them both wonderful lives. I don’t think it’ll come to that at all, but we have found a way to make it really work for us.
I know everyone isn’t so lucky to have room to do that, or to have someone working from home to keep a dog company for hours at a time, and we’d maybe make different choices if that were the case.
I own two dogs who will attack each other on sight, and I’m one of those people who knows that they would kill each other given the chance. During our first two years of management, we failed on 3 occasions. This was incredibly stressful. It resulted in serious injury to one or both dogs each time, and a couple of trips to the ER for either my husband or myself.
The management tool that changed our lives was modification of two doors in our house, one for each room that is the primary living space for one of our dogs:
*We installed spring hinges, so both doors close automatically when released (just like a fire door).
*We put locking doorknobs on each door, with the lock facing OUTWARD.
*If a dog is in the room unattended, the door is locked.
*If we are moving one of the dogs, the other door is locked.
*After being locked into my own bedroom a few times due to a forgetful spouse, we also now have a key hanging inside each room for human escape purposes 🙂
Since installing these doors, we have not had any problems. The act of unlocking a door to get in reminds us that it is a potentially dangerous situation, and we never have to worry that the door is not completely closed since the springs take care of that.
So now our living situation is as safe as it can be, but it is still an undesirable circumstance to say the least. We spend a lot of time thinking about how to ensure that both dogs get attention and exercise, and we have to do everything twice. I love both dogs dearly, but I agree with your statement that it is sometimes better to bear the pain of rehoming. If I could rewind to 6 years ago when both dogs were younger and more adoptable, I would definitely have rehomed one of them and saved us all a lot of pain.
I am so sorry to be the first to write and to immediately violate your caution about mentioning that certain vegetable. Zucchini YUM sounds and looks so good that I did a google search of your blog to see if you had ever posted the recipe. Although you have mentioned this dish in several posts, I couldn’t find that you had ever given the recipe. Since I and I’m sure a lot of other readers have an abundance of the same vegetables, could you please post the recipe? See, I managed to mention the Vegetable That Must Not Be Named only once.
OK… two things:
1. What is that plant? I have them volunteering all over the place and haven’t a clue what it is. Pretty enough to keep.
2. Zuch Yum recipe required.
Oh, the dog fight thing … oy. My older, lame OES/Labx and housemate’s large younger GSD (both spayed females) decided they hated each other after a few years of hanging out and trail riding, but not living together. It was a nightmare. My girl always got the worst of it but would not back off. She didn’t have an issue with any other dog in her 12 years. Eventually they got latched on to each other’s faces under a stall wall and again through a dog door (I got bitten on that one). Management was vigilance, always knowing where the other was and securing one of them. With out fail. We were on a mountain acreage with garage, barn, tack room, feed room, stalls and secure pony paddock so there were places to secure one (usually the GSD) all around when working in the barn. Thankfully the GSD quickly learned “beat it” so if she was loose near the house it was easy to get her to go in the garage where the dog door could be locked. My dog was with me in the house most often. When I was at work she was in the shady former pony paddock with dog house and a disabled dachshund.
This was decades ago and I did call a dog behaviorist who suggested that if the GSD wanted to kill my dog she would have already. I wasn’t sure what to make of that.
What about when a dog is not a candidate for re-homing? What if euthanizing one of the dogs is the only way to solve the dog aggression in the home? If the dog aggression is due to a very fear reactive dog, it can make it almost impossible to find a new home for that dog. Twice in the last 35 years of a multi-dog home (4 to 5 dogs), I have re-homed a dog that would not get along with another dog in the home, both times bitches targeting another bitch in the home. It was hard, but the re-homed dogs were clearly happier in their new homes, and my other dogs (all of them) clearly were more relaxed when the tension left our home. But it is much harder with a fear aggressive dog. I have made it work for 5 years, (and there have been slip-ups and fights) but now that our daughter has left, leaving him alone in “their” room, trying to make it work for another 10 years is impossible. His home base in our home, once very special, with her IN it, adoring him, has now become an indoor dog run. He has no one to cuddle with at night, no one to give him that companionship with no effort, just being there, or to have him out with her in the house. It is a struggle to remember and make the time to go in there, and give him attention (one of the reasons I would never place a puppy in an outdoor home only – dog waiting all day for those few minutes when you enter it’s world) or to have him out with the dogs he does get along with – mainly his mother. On his own, he is extremely affection, loves to snuggle and is the most playful little dog I have ever had. It is so hard to consider ending his life, and yet, after 3 weeks of our daughter being gone, impossible to imagine 10 more years of this. He looks so sad and confused, waiting in his room. It is breaking my heart, and so is the alternative.
If I could re-home him, in my case, I would be thrilled with that solution.
I have worked considerably with him since he was 3 months old, desensitization, counter conditioning, and medication, working with the behavior department of UC Davis Veterinary program. So, he is who he is. Nothing is going to change with him.
Thank you for this article. I was in this situation last summer. My children moved back home; one with a very high energy, never exercised, totally neurotic Weimaraner, and the other with a young unaltered anxiety ridden, insecure 10mo old Pit Bull terrier. I already had 2 dogs, both very balanced and set in their routines. I have known both new dogs from puppyhood so they were not unfamiliar to me. We had instant issues and within a month, I had 3 dogs with punctures wounds from the pittie. I started in with intense obedience and conditioning exercises combined with plenty of physical exercise to try to release tension in both the Weim and the Pit. The problem that I faced was with consistency. I did not have a place to put the Pit where I could work with him and then put him back so that I could relax. We were always on our guard because we never knew when his anxiety would cause him to snap. And he was quick! He could not be crated, he would go thru anything. Meanwhile we were also dealing with a the neurotic Weim who absolutely could NOT stop moving. It was a mix of energy that just wasn’t going away despite my attempts to bring it together. I finally decided that the Pit needed to go. The Weim was trying hard to please, she was making strides. The Pit was getting better but not so that I could trust him. He was so uncomfortable in his own skin. (We did alter him immediately when he moved in with us but that did very little behaviorally.) He had definite issues with possession. He was good with his food dish and the other dogs at feeding time, but toys such as the chuck-it were a NO-GO if he was not locked up, out of sight. The Pit was very prey drive oriented and would go after my Westie when Frank started to do his little chase me dance. He began to claim my husband and would have to be closest to him, be first in the morning to get to the barn, just little things that I noticed. He finally took down my old lab because she got to the barn ahead of him one morning and there was fresh venison hanging in there. He didn’t draw blood but my husband had a very hard time getting him off her. I had worked with this dog for nearly 6mo by this point and I didn’t feel that we were getting anywhere. I could find NO rescue to help me, no trainer willing to do an emergency intervention, the Bullie rescue that is closest to me refused to help me due to being overwhelmed. I was on my way to the vet to have him put down when I tried one last time to call someone who I thought might be willing to take him. She owned his brother actually and had a couple other large breed rescues, no kids in the home and experience with Pitties. I got lucky. She took him and last I talked to her, he was doing amazingly well — ready to be placed in a forever home with the right family. She reported the same problems that I had initially but they were able to work thru it. This situation was so heartbreaking for me. I wanted so very badly to help this dog. He had so much potential!! But I was not in the right place in my home to help him the way he needed it right then. Very thankful that he’s in a good place now and happy. And I’m happy to report that the neurotic Weimaraner has settled into a pack atmosphere wonderfully. She is trustworthy off lead, except for the times when we are buzzed by swallows, dragonflies, or butterflies. She will race around like a dingbat but not get too far off and I can recall her. That’s all that matters. She is content in the house and will happily go to her bed when asked. She has quit chasing shadows to distraction and is much better at not surfing the counters. The spontaneous barking at nothing comes in spurts but I can tell her to knock it off and she will. That’s what’s important to me….I hear you, I understand, now stop!….and she does. Well, that’s my story. It was rough but I think we all had a happy ending. Thank you, Patricia, for these wonderful blog postings. I learn so much!!
Vicki Barnett says
Great blog subject! I have followed you and your wise advice since you were on Animal Planet……..Pet Line. The info you provided on that show changed how I train our family dogs and our dogs lives forever! Often wish that Pet Line was still on TV……..so much to learn from you yet!
Hope Willie is back to his normal active self soon and the squash dish looks wonderful!
Thanks again for the great blog article on rehoming aggressive dogs.
Maureen Dwyer says
Love this whole blog on dogs fighting in the home, lots of good advice. And your description of the two Border Collies fighting was hilarious! Probably not so fun for you (and them) though. Yay for Tulip, love stories about her.
Need recipe for Zucchini Yum…stat.
Margaret McLaughlin says
Tricia, I know your whole career focus has been on behavior management & training, but would you be willing to address the role of medication? A friend took her 2 pittie bitches (ages 10 & about 18 months) who had made several good-faith attempts to kill each other to Purdue when she no longer believed she would be able to manage the situation safely. She has told me the Prozac has been life-changing for her AND her dogs, & she no longer needs to use basket muzzles & gates, tho’ since she’s not stupid, they are never left alone together unsupervised.
Don Hudson says
Question? If two dogs are fighting, is throwing a glass of water on them a cruel way to break up the fight? Our Miniature Schnauzer and Yorkie are really best friends. But when they were younger they got into a snit a couple of times over a piece of food. Rightly or wrongly, I threw a glass of water on them. Immediately they stopped and looked at me for direction or explanation. They separated and came to me together when I called. I praised and rewarded each of them. I had to do that 2 times both in the second year we had them. They are both 9 now and no repeats in 7 years.
Yes, my husband are dealing with this situation right now. We have 3 dogs, 2 females and 1 male. The females can no longer be together. The fights became too unpredictable (they woke up fighting!), too intense (the male & I sent to the ER after their last 2 fights) and too frequent (the last 2 fights within a week of each other). We’d love to re-home one of our dogs to bring peace to everyone, dogs and people alike. But the chances of finding a suitable home are so slim that we’re left with managing the situation. We’ve been managing for 5 months now! Yes, euthanasia has been discussed because one of the dogs gives no warnings before an attack. But, at present moment it’s not something we can do.
As a trainer, it makes me feel so inadequate. But luckily I have many trainer friends who have been supportive and remind me that this in no way is reflective of my abilities; some personalities just aren’t meant to be together.
Thanks for your thoughtful post on this subject.
Oh dear, and here I was about to ask for the recipe for the word that shall not be used Yum. My ‘garden’ consists of a number of earthboxes meaning only one or two of each kind of plant and still I’m begging friends to take the vegetables which must not be named.
Joelle Morrison says
My issue is a dog who is a cat-killer and living in a two-story house with her downstairs and two cats upstairs. They both have to accept limits as do I — sigh. The dog, a Hurricane Katrina rescue, broke through a screened window to get to and kill my 11-year-old cat. She is otherwise the sweetest, most grateful-to-be-alive animal you have ever seen. I am so weary of animal politics, but I know this dog can’t be rehomed and have been unable to find a sanctuary placement for her, despite vigorous tries. The cats don’t get the space they need and I feel endlessly guilty about that too. I don’t know of a solution.
Wow… I would never had thought hostility between dogs that live together could get that bad, that is horrifying!
If one of my dogs had tried to kill the other dog, seriously injured it and been a danger in the house (in other words, on the “serious” level), then I think I would find rehoming of the attacking dog unethical. I would think that the only right thing to do is to have the seriously attacking dog put down, especially if it is a big dog. Rather than “passing on the monkey” and potentially cause injuries in a new home where they don’t know the history and “safety management strategies” … or alternatively live with a dog you know is not “safe” (I know… no dog is… but some dogs are too unsafe).
My 2 dogs are dog-aggressive as a pack, when I walk them together, to stranger dogs. That is a bit of a worry/inconvenience, and one of them has had luck to attack other dogs 4 times (in 2 cases, breaking her leash/collar!) It looked very dramatic and we got extremely worried but none of the dogs got any physical injuries (we followed up afterwards to b sure), partly because of their owners’ protection and partly because she seems to actually have a very good bite inhibition, even when she behaves like a mad monster.
I once got my hand between her teeth trying to break up a dog fight where my other dog was repeatedly attacked by a staffy in a dog park and she joined in to defend her mate. Suddenly I had 2 dogs attacking the staffy (also still attacking) and I got my hand between her teeth as she bit the staffy in what looked like mad rage. It hurt in that second but I did not get any injury, and neither did the staffy. So while we don’t take any chances, it would seem that she has good inhibition, and the aggression has a part theatre in it.
Anyway, they are good with all neighbourhood dogs they already know, and with each other even though they are very different and on some points cautious with each other.
I can not imagine how it would be to live with 2 dogs that pose a death threat to each other and I can’t imagine how that happens… When and how does it become like that? I/we love our dogs very much but if I imagine one of them seriously injuring the other or killing it, then I don’t think I would ever trust that dog again. It would be such a tragedy, we would in reality loose both dogs if one got killed by the other. I would also find it wrong to rehome a dog that has proved to not have proper aggression inhibition and be able to turn on (canine) members of its own family that seriously… so having the aggressive dog put down would definitely be considered. Then again, I have never been in that situation. I find it shocking that it is apparently so common.
Rose C says
Our very first dog was Kim (my Mom named him not realizing that Kim was a girl’s name — this was in the far southeast Asia). We typically acquired dogs back there mostly to be our ‘guard dogs’. It can be anything from a medium mixed breed to a tiny Chihuahua, as long as it can bark loudly to strangers at the door or gate, it IS a guard dog to us. We later had another older female dog (Cindy) then later another male and female (by Kim and Cindy themselves), Chiclet and Bubbles. None of these dogs were spayed or neutered as we didn’t practice that back there either. Kim got along with the females but not with Chiclet. Chiclet (son) was sturdier in built than Kim (father) and they have fought twice, in both instances, some little blood drawn from Kim. Obvious to me now but not to us back then, there are plenty of factors we were ignorant about with the situation. Both males were intact, both didn’t receive ideal socialization, both were not trained/taught good dog behaviors, and we didn’t necessarily physically separate the two. We were totally clueless about any of these things. My Mom had been watching the two more closely and knew that the two will eventually have to be separated as evidently, it will come to a point where they will not stop a fight until one is dead. By the third incident where a good amount of blood was drawn from Kim, she decided to send Chiclet to my aunt’s, who always had 7-9 dogs at any given time. I loved Chiclet more as he was more playful and cuddly. My Mom chose to keep Kim as he was more ‘functional’ of a dog to us. I remember one of the times that an outdoor rat came into our house then went into the bathroom, my Mom sent Kim into the bathroom. Kim was an intense dog and knew what to do. We heard basins and pails flying in the air then dropping from inside the bathroom then 20 seconds later at the most, there was dead silence. Mom opened the bathroom door and Kim came out. Rat was laying dead on its side. Chiclet would not have been a dog to do anything similar to that. Sad thing was that in my aunt’s house, they really do not watch each of their dogs like my family does to ours. Chiclet died about 7 months later and they couldn’t exactly pinpoint why. I was very sad but there couldn’t have been a way to keep both dogs in our household and them not fight the way they did.
I know this incident isn’t a lot of help since everything in the situation was not ideal in the first place. But I just mentioned it to indicate how some of us come to a decision of who will stay with us and who will go. And then there’s the decision to make too of where to re-home the one going. Would the new home be vigilant about watching our dog as we were?
Difficult decisions to make for those who are in this situation. Hoping that you find the one you are least uncomfortable with given the options that you have.
Oh and, Trisha, just one more thing . . . tomato, eggplant, and zucchini. HA! 🙂
Hi, I saw the article and HAD to read it. I have rescued and had many loving companions over the last 40 years. As a family with three dogs, I had decided long ago that was “the limit” but after working a few years at a shelter I took in one more. The only dog I thought I might face a problem with was my large dog who had also been a shelter dog for two years prior to her adoption. So we did what we thought was the right thing we walked these two together, we had a family outing, we brought the newbie into our home for a few days and all went so well we then adopted dog number 4. 8 wonderful months passed and our family was PERFECT then it happened one growled at the other which set the newer one into a rage and end result was ugly, expensive medical treatment, many stitches to both dogs and the DECISION that came with it. Our home is a gated community. We split the dogs to have time with family and the other dogs meantime the one left out has a comfortable place toys and can wonder around. They can all see one another except outdoors in the play areas. They luckily for us will not or have not in three years gone after one another they simply cannot be in the same room. We have gotten to the point where we walk past one another on occasion and I see some rise in tails and some rise in hackles but do not give opportunity for contact and do not allow any aggression. Through the gates they can sniff, and watch one another but barring any mistakes we have managed for years. No vacations since we are afraid to leave someone else in charge because of the routine we have mastered. I pray we can make this work for many years to come but it is not easy! I can see why many people may choose to give one up. I know it could be worse. I know how lucky I am to be able to manage and I am ever grateful for the chance to love them both in our home. Of course I consulted professionals with differing opinions and had one come to the house a few times to get an opinion on how we are doing and see if we can do anything differently. One had the opinion to muzzle to allow them play time together but since they do not care for one another I thought why do it.
Ann Kenny says
An interesting post. At my house I have eight dogs – six are border collie or border collie mixes, one is a blue heeler/spaniel mix, and one is a fox terrier/spaniel/??? mix. Six of the dogs are male, two of whom are still entire. I have left these ones entire because they really have no problem with each other, and have lovely temperaments: my biggest problems seem to be between the neutered males or between a neuter/entire. The two girls are mother and daughter, and whilst it doesn’t always work out like this, these two happen to get along very well.
Cameron (5) is jealous of the newcomer Dart (16m0 rescue, entire), but this really only manifests when Cam is getting cuddles from me or is on my bed – never over food, toys or treats… and Dart is learning some respect and to think before he leaps (quite literally: he is a very high-energy, wired farm heading dog such as we have here in New Zealand and has absolutely no concept of the meaning of WALK… then again neither did Cameron until Dart came along, whereupon he grew up very quickly).
Hudson, the terrier mix (11) and Bran, a pedigree border collie (4, entire) really do posture about both inside and outside the house. Hudson has taken to marking the furniture since Kelly was born (Kelly is the offspring of Bran and Taragh, my other girl). Both of the bitches are desexed now. Bran did do some damage to Hudson once. He had a tiny hole in his throat and we took him to the vet. It wasn’t enough to stitch up so we came back home again, whereupon Hudson threw blood up on the carpet (yes, we still have the stain). The blood had to come from somewhere so it was straight back to the vet and a big operation and drain later – there was a tiny nick in his trachea. I believe that nick was more of an accident than an intention on Bran’s part to really do damage.
Ash (12.5) is a mostly border collie, with a bit of huntaway in him and has the most awesome temperament with all dogs and all people with the exception of Benji (nearly 13). Unfortunatley we had to keep Benji, who was originally my father’s dog, because Dad is still alive but now in a nursing home and just wouldn’t have understood if we had rehomed him at the time he was sick and went in there. Moreover my sister, who looked after Dad and is a totally non-dog person, really couldn’t understand why Benji needed to be rehomed somewhere else and you just don’t wanna mess with my sister! Poor Benji, he would have been so much better off with a fit retiree as an only dog pottering in the garden and being taken for walks, but it wasn’t to be. Now he sits at my feet and growls at everyone else, which upsets them and causes altercations. However, despite some horrific sounding scuffles between Ash and Benji (with others joining in, lately Kelly and Dart, along with Cameron and poor Benji on the bottom screaming as only Blue Heelers can) he has never had any more physical damage than a nicked ear – and neither have I breaking them all up, I have to say. But he is scared, poor little guy and I do feel sorry for him. I am sad that rehoming wasn’t an option because of people who didn’t live in my household: they were more inclined to say “rehome Ash” since he was always the instigator of any fights between them… Ash was my dog, not Benji. They wouldn’t rehome their own child if she didn’t get on with the foster, aye – however, evidently it’s not the same. (To me it is and was, but I couldn’t win that battle). Now I think Benji is too old to rehome, it is not fair to the new person, they’d be inheriting a vet bill.
Then of course we have Bran grovelling to Ash all the time – but he only does it when inside. Ash couldn’t care less except that having this dog grovelling all the time is a pain in the butt – nothing ever escalates from that: it’s just frustrating. I am inclined to think Bran does it to get my attention – good or bad – or when he wants something (i.e. into his crate, in or out of his cubby corner in my office, or past a doorway, etc): he’s my husband’s dog, but my husband does nothing with him and gives him very little extra attention.
It is certainly an interesting dynamic in my house! If you would like to know/use more of the information – please email me, I’d be happy to share: I especially would like to knock the territory marking thing off, which we THINK is done by Hudson – and not because he is scared to go outside… he can get in/out of the cat flap, like none of the others can and he only started doing it once all the last litter of puppies had been rehomed and we decided to keep Kelly. Having said that Bran was only 9mo when he fathered that litter (it was a planned mating, just not for that particular cycle) and so maybe Hudson didn’t feel threatened by an entire adult male dog until after that: the timing of keeping the girl pup and Bran’s maturity coincided.
Robin Jackson says
Since I live in the SF Bay Area, I’ve been able to hear Trish King speak on “different breeds have different needs” on more than one occasion. She has pointed out that in the US today where dogs are chosen for fun rather than work, there are probably more households with several different breeds, and that this in itself can lead to trouble.
She gives the classic example of border collies and labs, two breeds with very different natural play styles. Border Collies do a lot of “fly by’s”–run straight at the other dog, but veer off at the last moment with no actual physical contact.
The typical lab, however, is much less touch-sensitive, and usually enjoys bodyslam play and contact sports.
So a border collie flies by a lab, who thinks, “Great, playtime!” The lab bodyslams the bc–who responds by flying into a rage.
How often do you see differences in play style as a trigger for housemate aggression? Is this more of a dog park issue, or does it happen at home, too? And if it does occur, is it an unfixable problem?
I’ve had some serious dogfight issues before, and in one case, finally had to make the decision to euthanize the dog who had the issue. I spent almost three years, thousands of dollars, and a LOT of time and medications to see if we could figure it out, but as to the best the vets and I could figure, there was just something wrong in her brain, and it wasn’t fixable. We could medicate her into oblivion, but she was still stressed even then, and so was everybody around her. Her issue was also directed at other animals in general, not just dogs. Rehoming wasn’t an option because she had bitten two people in the process of splitting them up, and the liability of putting my problem onto somebody else just wasn’t in my scope. The hardest part of it was that with just me, she was the sweetest dog, and an absolute joy. I try very hard not to let guilt eat at me, because I really did try everything I had at my disposal, and my options had run out. It helps to know that her last day here on earth was spent doing all the things she loved so much, then having ice cream, onion rings, and all sorts of treats that I’d normally never give a dog, and then she passed with me cradling her head and telling her how much I loved her.
In some cases, management can work, and work well, I’ve seen that happen too. But it is certainly not easy, and can be a time bomb in waiting. In the experiences I’ve had with other situations, it seems to me that bitches that are determined to hate each other are more common than males or opposite gender pairs. That could just be my limited experience though, as a non-trainer.
Kaz Augustin says
We were forced to make the very difficult decision to rehome one of our female mini bull terriers, Cookie, when she began instigating fights with the older female mini bull, Sausage. Although Cookie started it, it got to the stage that Sausage would subsequently turn on her, especially around food. By noting their behaviour, we came to the conclusion that our presence exacerbated the issue, so not only did we have to deal with doggy adolescence, but also food guarding and attention seeking. The final straw was when our son got caught in the middle of a fight, and had to get several stitches to his arm. (He wasn’t trying to stop it, he was just There.)
It was with a heavy heart that we rehomed the younger dog, Cookie. What struck us almost immediately was how relaxed Sausage became. Maybe she saw Hubby as “Cookie’s” because, until the separation, Sausage would growl and nip at him. **The day after** Cookie left for her new home, Sausage became a different dog. Used to be I was the only one who could handle her; now, the entire family can. So yes, stress is a big factor. The problem is, you don’t realise how big until the rehoming is done.
Reading this makes me so thankful that my dogs, while they don’t always get on, only have moments of “get out of my face”. It is sad for me that my two oldest, 14.5 year old girls who have been together since 8 weeks old, are no longer friends, but the aggressor would never do more than growl at her sister, who calmly ignores it. The “victim” in the first relationship can be a bit inclined to growl at their younger brother, who returns the growl with interest, but that is really due to severe arthritis – she can no longer move out of the way quickly if he starts anything, and is slightly more reactive as a result. Thankfully for me, the answer is I sit on a 3 seat couch instead of an armchair – that way all dogs have access without the need for arguments (I can’t call them fights after reading your descriptions – they were noisy with air snaps but never made contact); the only other precaution I take is feeding separately.
Any chance of the Z*** Yum recipe? I have a friend with a vegetable garden who suffers similar gluts on occasion – having no access to real fresh vegetables (the local supermarkets are disgusting, green groceries from them go off in a few days), I envy you the food, but not the quantity all at once!
L. Joy says
Thank you for addressing this topic, Patricia. It’s such a sad situation when people have to decide what to do in cases like this. 🙁
Re. a managed household with potential for dog-dog aggression: I think people should consider that if they might add new people to their household at any time over the next xxx years (significant other, roommate, family member who stays with you for a while…), THOSE PEOPLE have to be 100% at management as well. And if pet-sitting come to the house to dog-sit the managed household, the PET-SITTER has to be 100%.
I knew a dog trainer & owner who was herself excellent at managing her reactive/fearful-aggressive dogs. But she repeatedly ran into problems because other people would not follow the simple rules of running a double-household. It set the dogs back in their rehabilitation multiple times, and it sent 2 dogs to the emergency vet more than once.
One day a couple of years ago, I got the phone call after the significant other didn’t carefully follow the rules when the owner was out-of-town. The significant other asked me “Where is XXXX’s emergency vet?” and was also trying to figure out how to transport 2 injured dogs who hate each other to the vet at the same time. I gave him directions and told him to take the more badly injured dog; I would immediately start driving to the house to pick up the other dog. One of the scariest moments of my life was opening the door to the mud room and seeing the blood and thinking poor Bert was gonna have to be a tripod.
(Good news: Bert’s injuries looked worse than they actually were. Both dogs healed ok. It was later determined that the more aggressive of the 2 dogs had some sort of mental disorder. After he started receiving Zoloft, his aggression & general nervousness significantly improved. But the 2 dogs always had to be managed. The more aggressive dog lived to an old age and has now crossed the rainbow bridge. The other dogs get along just fine now.)
L. Joy says
(My above comment applies when the “management” option will be in-play as long as both dogs are in the same house. E.g., when the dogs will always have to be in a “split-household”.) 🙁
Robin Jackson says
Kim, like Terry, can be either a boy’s name or a girl’s name. In the US in families of European descent, both are more typically a female name, but in England both are very commonly male names as well. Like Chris, which can be either.
Kim Hughes was a very famous Australian cricket player (male).
And of course Rudyard Kipling’s KIM is a novel about a young man, where Kim is short for Kimball.
Beth with the Corgis says
@Anna, dogs who want to kill the dog they live with can be perfectly safe, fine, and even dog-friendly outside the home. Living with someone is not the same as seeing them on the street. 🙂 Many of these dogs are perfectly ok with other dogs outside the home, can even play well with them.
Most people I know who have quite a few dogs (breeders, performance dog people, etc) have at one time had to rehome one dog because another dog hated it, and in a large group that can get contagious and one dog becomes the “target” of pack attacks. In most of these cases, all the dogs involved are dog-sociable, and many times all the parties can and do live with other dogs (even large numbers of other dogs) with no problems, and happily go to another home with other dogs where they are just fine.
But sometimes two just hate each other. In a natural situation, one would disperse, but that is not possible when the dogs are owned. MOST (but not all) of the time the two who hate each other so badly they want to kill each other tend to be females, it seems (though a few breeds are known for not living well with other dogs, regardless of sex).
Love apple, aubergine, courgette……. 😉
Don’t you just love synonyms?! another nice recipe is to layer the forbidden items with mature cheddar slices, dried herbs and cover with some breadcrumbs, garlic olive oil, fresh parsley and bake. Yum too!
This was a vey sobering post actually. Dogs can bring us great joy and unfortunately distress too. It must be so difficult also as a behaviourist in these scenarios.
Ellen Pepin says
After reading this, I feel better that the advice that we got was good. We had a male German Shepherd/Rottweiler/? mix who was not happy when we got a female collie. The male, Dakota, was a good 20 pounds heavier than the female, Tess. Most of the time, he just pushed her out of his way, but he became really aggressive around food. Trisha, as you say, I was convinced that Dakota wanted to kill her when he attacked. She was never injured thanks mostly to her thick hair, but he tried. We called in a behaviorist here in MD. She recommended complete separation around food. At first, my husband wasn’t 100% with the plan and we had a few scrapes. After that he got with the program and things improved. Tess was always a little afraid of Dakota, but gradually they began to relax around each other. They even got so that they could rest near each other, just not real close, and we had no more attacks.
We had to put Dakota down last month, and it is interesting to watch as Tess is beginning to blossom. She is more relaxed and seeks affection more often. I think she likes being an only.
To Ann: Thanks for the edit. I did indeed mean “…not at your feet..” And excellent idea about the video. Good luck with the case.
To doublenerds: Excellent work on your management plan. I tell clients that they need to have the kind of “double jeopardy” system that a nuclear power plant would have. In other words, when the first system fails, there needs to be a back up system, because it is inevitable that a machine will fail, or a person will forget. You have my sympathy for living with this situation, but my respect for dealing with it so well.
To Debby: The recipe for The Vegetable That Must Not Be Named was posted today. Whew.
To MJ: The flower is “Obedience Plant” or Physostegia. It is one of my favorite flowers of the summer. It’s called “obedience plant” because you can move each flower to the left or right and it stays put. Ah! No wonder it’s one of my favorite flowers. And I thought it was just because it is so pretty…
To Jennifer. Oh, ouch. I’m so sorry. Obviously I can’t say much about whether the dog might be better in another environment, or if other treatment techniques would be helpful. However, if the only choice for a dog is to live a sad and lonely life then I do think euthanasia is something to consider. It does strike me though that you say the dog “loves to cuddle and is affectionate and playful.” Why again couldn’t the dog be placed elsewhere? I’m not doubting you, just trying to fit the pieces together.
To Beth: How wonderful to hear such a heartening story. I know some of these dogs can be extremely hard to place, but sometimes miracles happen and the right person shows up. Thanks for the happy ending.
To Margaret, and re medication: You are right that it is a vet’s job to prescribe medication, but I have indeed worked with some client’s veterinarians who successfully used some kind of psychotropic drug to good effect. I remember a Bull Terrier who bit very badly, literally “out of the blue,” who went on Fluoxetine (Prozac) and was lovely ever after. I don’t want to send out false hope however, there are rarely any “magic pills” out there. But it is important to know about the options.
Regarding throwing water to break up a fight being cruel? Goodness no! Let’s see…. ‘ripping and tearing of flesh, or a wet head.’ An easy choice to me. And how lucky that it worked so well for so long.
To Kris and all trainers: I am so glad that your friends are reminding you that this isn’t about you! I know how easy it is to feel as a trainer that we should be able to “fix” anything, but the fact is, if two dogs hate each other (and it is usually females… there is a reason that “bitch” is a dirty word, right?) then management or rehoming is sometimes all one can do. I would not, however, give up on rehoming; I have seen some amazing new homes for dogs who seemed unable to be placed. To Joelle, is your sweet (cat killing) really impossible to re-home? She was re-homed with you, right? Just asking.
More comments to comments tomorrow, gotta go work on other things now, but thank you so much for all the stories and insights.
I have a response that is a bit off topic, but that I hope can be a future topic for your blog.
Darlene wrote: “…The little one,…became very sound reactive after a series of thunderstorms,…”
Other people have written here about problems that did not start out originally, but developed later.
I have an almost 10 year old Great Dane who I got at 3 years old. For the first 6 years, Duke was fine with thunder and lightening. Starting last December, he has developed a series of fears that seem to me to come out of nowhere:
* extreme distress in Vets office, (where as previously, only very mild distress)
* pure panic for days due to fireworks (which started to generalize to being afraid of dusk) – previously showed no concern for fireworks at all that I could tell
* noticeable (but not terror-level) distress at thunder, and
* most recently yet a new one: visibly shaking/afraid to walk over a bridge (don’t know if it was the height, the water rushing by or what – just knew that I can’t pick him up and if I couldn’t get him back over the bridge, I was in trouble…) We’ve been over this bridge several times over the years with my dog walking right along the edge, very happy and even looking light he might want to jump over. argh! This last time, he hugged the center, was shaking, tail down, head down, ears back, and too upset to take treats. Really???
I know that there are ways to manage these issues. I have been working on it and I am paying an expert to come and give me advice on the fireworks issue. What I am hoping might be a blog topic in the future is this idea of new fears developing after time – sometimes even years and years without any obvious (to me anyway) cause.
I always felt that if a new fear developed and you caught it in time and started working on it right away, you could relatively easily reverse it. But I feel pretty helpless in all this and my efforts aren’t doing much. Maybe if I understood what caused such a thing to happen in the first place, it might help me prevent more fears from developing or help a future dog.
Note: I have considered that there may be a medical issue. But I don’t have a vet I trust to help me figure it out and I’m super reluctant to bring my now terrified of vet offices dog in for testing if not absolutely necessary. In order to bring him into the vet for something like this, I would have to have an idea of what possible diagnosis there might be and that in knowing such a diagnosis, there would be something medicine do about it or that would affect how I try to fix things.
Just an idea for the future. Thanks.
Donna B. says
Having lived with a (mostly) peaceable pack of mostky intact Irish Wolfhounds, dogs and bitches, for forty years, the past few years have been a real eye-opener for me. I ventured out into a bloodline from another continent, and while there have been gains to my breeding program, I had not anticipated the increased level of inter- pack aggression, both amongst the males and the bitches, and some intersex as well.
These are fights between animals whose weight approaches 200 pounds, they are incredibly strong, sort of like I imagine fights between bears must be. Much of the action takes place six feet up off the ground, as they are up on their hind legs. I had a male break a gate latch and two snaps like they were not there to get to another male. In this case, it was a dog sitter who failed to have the mandatory two gates and spaces between the dogs, as Triah says, you need a double fail safe method of management.
I have been bitten trying to break up fights, I cannot seem to learn not to get involved, I have scars but have not been injured to the point of going to the ER. The dogs have had serious wounds that have required multiple stitches. Fortunately these fights not been lethal, but I can see how they could be so. Commonly used methods such as a water hose, banging buckets, air horns, etc., do not make a dent. The only thing that has worked is to try to insert something like a board or chair, and try to manuever one through a door or gate.
I would not feel safe re-homing these dogs to any but the most experienced wolfhound people, it would just not be fair, most people have no clue what they would be dealing with. Thes dogs could be very dangerous in the wrong hands. I have managed to cope, as we have a kennel as well as house dogs, and they all rotate (which is quite a production) but it is something I wish I did not have to deal with. I so miss my peacable pack! I hope someday I can have that again.
Kaz Augustin says
@Jennifer, I know exactly what you’re thinking. We went through the same thing with Cookie and Sausage. Sausage is very much a reactive dog with a strong distrust of humans after, we suspect, a horrible kennelling experience after a horrible vet experience. We came to the rehome decision but knew that if we tried to rehome Sausage, the new owner would have little choice but eventually have her killed. Cookie, although she hated Sausage, was the much better “sell”, eager to please and human-loving, and so she was the one to go. I still tear up when I think about it, and the rehoming happened 18 months ago. I will always love that dog.
If I had to kill one…I don’t even want to think of that option…. Maybe I would have tried to place the dog in a no-kill shelter instead.
Robin Jackson says
Just as with humans, normal aging processes can bring physical changes that in turn lead to behaviour changes. Most typical are hearing decline, vision decline, changes in nutritional needs, dental issues, change in balance, and arthritis. Any good vet will be able to do a senior wellness exam to check for these and give you advice on how to best support your dog’s health.
If the regular senior wellness exam doesn’t find anything, you may want to look for some rarer conditions like hypothyroidism.
And some dogs, just like some people, do develop age related dementia, called Canine Cognitive Disfunction. But first rule out the more common aging issues.
Even mild hearing loss can cause a dog to lose self confidence or develop anxiety about unusual events.
Any good behaviorist should first recommend a though vet check anyway, so you might consider just moving ahead with that. You can still consult a behaviourist if problems continue after you implement the vet’s recommendations.
Perhaps Trisha could consider doing an article on how behaviourists work with vets to address changing behaviour in senior dogs.
Donna B. says
Just re-read my post, and realized any sane person would think, ” Why on earth would anyone keep dogs like that?”
They are absolute Teddy Bears with people. Gentle, devoted, incredibly intuitive and empathetic. Just the best companions you could possibly imagine.
But….they will also kill a deer at the slightest opportunity. We have had to put 8′ high fencing around the dogs’ acre, and though we have 17 acres perimeter fenced for the dogs, I can’t walk them in it when there might be fawns or young deer who can’t get away. There are a couple I do not trust around our horses without a fence or two between them.
These hounds are extremely predatory, as well as having the inter-pack aggression. They are a management challenge that I think most people would not be prepared for.
Beth with the Corgis says
JJ, I also would look towards age-related hearing/vision/scent loss as part of the problem. Hearing loss can make some sound-phobic dogs less reactive. But conversely, I have heard that for some people (so presumably for dogs) hearing loss can make certain sounds stand out more. I don’t know the science; one can imagine that as subtler ambient sounds are lost, sudden loud ones might stand out more. Or I can imagine a situation where a dog once heard softer warning sounds that prepared him for the loud sound (the sizzle of the fuse before the firework exploded, perhaps?), and now the loud sound comes out of the blue because the warning sound is lost, and it startles him. Startling begets more startling and a fear response can escalate.
Cataracts and other vision losses can cause shadows or blurring of outlines. Unable to see the edges of the bridge, but aware of the depth behind it, could cause legitimate terror.
I had an elderly cat who stopped jumping on the bed at night. She would jump up in daylight, but not darkness, so I suspect vision loss played a role. She would get off the bed at night, but then not want to get on, which led to night time wandering and crying. This could have been mistaken for senility, but since stairs to the bed solved the problem, it would seem it was a physical issue.
That said, dogs can develop new fears due to events that have nothing to do with aging. We had a dog when I was a child that was never afraid of thunderstorms. Then one year my dad was away, and my aunt invited my mom and myself to come stay with them out of town for a few days. We hurriedly packed just as a storm blew in, and forever after the dog was afraid of storms.
One of my own dogs was not afraid of storms the summer he was a puppy. The summer he was a year old, we had a freak year with no thunderstorms. When they returned the summer he was two, the first few (unfortunately) hit while we were at work in the day— an unusual time for storms in this area. And since then, he warning barks at thunder, the way he barks if he hears something threatening outside. He does not pace, drool, shiver, or refuse food, but he does seem to try to warn them to stay away…. an unusual response I’ve never seen often. The onset was brought about by circumstance, not by any changes in the dog himself.
So any number of things could be going on, but considering the age, if it were my dog I’d want a thorough exam first.
Nancy L. Fagin says
Whippet #1 and #2 got along famously and I thought all dogs were like this. When #3 came to join them, #1 knew how to avoid #3, but #2 still wanted to be top dog. First it was a nasty spat over a toy – all toys are gone, bones are given only in crates and then removed. Then #2 and #3 got tangled in our blankets and #3 torn #2’s leg down to the bone.
Now it’s #3 and #4 whippet. The last battle must have started with a staring match and then boom! I threw a chair at them. Now #3 wears a racing muzzle and he knows he’s at a disadvantage. It will always be – is #3 muzzled, or is #4 crated? It is a constant “NASA” check off, but have #3 destroyed? No. Rehoming at seven years old? No. This will work.
This is a very important article, on a heartbreaking topic, but one that does need to be addressed.
I lived with two feuding dogs for six years. It was nightmarish. I had two Shiba Inus who hated each other, and after many skirmishes, the female nearly killed the male. I wish I’d seen this article when it first started; perhaps I would have known what to do. (instead, back then, when I was only first learning about how positive training, I called in a so-called “behaviorist”–really just a self-taught aversive trainer–who told me it was “natural” for dogs to fight for pack order, and that I should let them “work it out”. Even then I knew that wasn’t the thing to do, but I wasted a lot of time not getting the help I needed.
But I didn’t know what to do then. There were plenty of warning signs–guarding space, lots of squabbles, and the female had plenty of inappropriate behavior–hanging on other dogs, etc. I just didn’t know what I was seeing, though, and then she nearly killed the male. I was alone, and had a hard time separating them. My male Shiba nearly died; he was at the vet for 6 weeks. I thought about euthanizing the female then, honestly. But I thought I was going to lose my male, and I couldn’t stand the thought of losing both of them. So I kept her.
I tried to rehome her, but in addition to the extreme aggression, she was hypothyroid (treating it did not help her aggression), and she was the worst case for rehoming as others note here: she was also an extremely fearful dog (she had come from a puppy mill). I tried, but no one wanted her, and who could blame them? Dog aggressive and so scared of strangers she’d hide when potential people came to meet her. After 6 months or so, while the male was in convalescence, I got used to keeping the dogs separate. So I kept her. She was 2. My male was 3.
We did that for six years, until I finally euthanized her this summer after she was bit by a rattlesnake (she also had many many other health issues by then: epilepsy, kidney disease, some liver problems, luxating patella, and on and on). But for six years, we lived with managing these two. I wish I’d had this list of assessing risks. I wish I’d known more: really, I know now, what I should have done was to rehome the male Shiba. No, he was not the problem but he was the dog who was likely to find another home. (But even if it is the right decision–to rehome a dog, and maybe in cases like this, rehoming the dog who was NOT the aggressor–it is often a decision that’s really too difficult to make). I didn’t. I kept them both. We tried working with a real (and good!) behaviorist, but as she noted, the female was so unstable she thought we needed medication for her. We tried prozac (made her more aggressive) and xanax and valium, none of which worked. Finally, we just lived with it. A couple of years later, she was diagnosed with epilepsy, and one side effect of the phenobarbital was it took a bit of the edge off her aggression, so she was slightly easier to manage.
In six years, there were several management failures. There always are. Each time, she immediately went after my male dog, and again, tried to kill him. I had no doubt she would have killed him if she could have. He was never, thankfully, hurt badly physically again–but he was terrified. It was much like Trisha described: he knew he was living with a killer, and he had no control over it. He had his own room, and he went outside by himself, but every time he left the safety of his room, he was frightened, looking around fearfully, and spending as little time outside as possible. At some point, I realized I was failing him, that he was stressed and scared, and though I tried to enrich his life by taking him places on his own, and working with him individually, he was not enjoying life. I thought, yes, I need to rehome him. But I was slow to come to that, blinded, perhaps, by my love for him. By then he was 9. And I loved him. Selfish, perhaps, but I couldn’t bear the thought of giving him up.
We also had two other dogs. Bel, the crazy girl, got along ok with the others. She was even a good foster mom to them as puppies. But she was unpredictable, and could turn from excitement to over arousal in a flash, and that over arousal always turned into fighting and displaced aggression. I began to be afraid that she’d get into a fight with our Akita. He is the most mellow of dogs, but he is an Akita, and it was clear he would fight if pushed too far by her. Our days were about management: always making sure our male Shiba was safely in his room before letting other dogs out. Making sure there was nothing for Bel to get overly excited about in the house. Making sure that she as crated even as we began preparing dinner, for just seeing us get out the dishes might be enough to get her to start picking at the Akita in a way that I could see was trouble.
We all lived in an atmosphere of stress. Except….I didn’t really know it, because I was used to it by then. It was just the ways things were, and some things that might make us look crazy seemed normal (like the way we’d covered the bottoms of the windows, so Bel couldn’t see Toby outside; if she did, she’d fling herself at the windows trying to get at him). In the last few months of her life, though, she’d become more and more of a problem. In addition to dealing with her constant health issues (often she was sick from her kidney problems, or she was in a state of confusion from a seizure), her temperament degraded more and more. She was fearful of many things: thunder, wind, then just dusk….each night as it got dark she became frightened and confused. Sometimes she didn’t recognize us. Sometimes she didn’t seem to know where she was. Always we were worried that her confusion would trigger aggression. I was trying to decide when the right time to euthanize her was, because it was becoming clear it was time. And then she was bit by a snake, and the vet didn’t think she was healthy enough to handle the treatment and recovery, and I made the decision.
And now? It’s been three months. I miss her–the sweet and charming girl she only rarely was able to be in the last year of her life. But…it is a huge relief for us all. My other dogs are much more relaxed and seem so much happier–even the two that got along with her seem more comfortable and confident, and it reminds me that even when a problem dog is not targeting some dogs in the household, everyone feels the stress of it. And my Shiba boy, who has lived on his own for six years? He’s coming out of his shell. He’s so relieved. he’s making friends with one of our other dogs, and it’s such a pleasure to see that a dog like him, 9 years old and who also has a problem with reactivity, learning slowly that some dogs might be ok after all. he spends more time out in the yard with our young Kai Ken, and while I wouldn’t say they are friends, they tolerate one another. It’s kind of a miracle; I never thought Toby would ever be able to be with another dog again. He’ll never likely be friends with the Akita, so we still have some management issues, but it is so much easier now.
My point is that living with dogs that have serious issues is very very difficult. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. If I knew then what I know now, I would have absolutely rehomed one of the dogs right away. Or, perhaps, the right choice would have been to euthanize the female earlier; I don’t know. I’m glad I got more time with her, but I also know it was very very stressful, and only now, that she’s gone, do I really understand how terribly difficult it was.
So I’ll be recommending this article to others, and linking it, and I hope people really do make an honest assessment of the risks when trying to decide what to do.
On age related behavioural change – I have been aware as I get older myself that there are sounds that are now physically uncomfortable – and I have a friend with partial hearing loss who will cover her ears with cushions to block out the noise of small dogs yapping or children shrieking. Is it possible that dogs, with their far more sensitive hearing, suffer even more from these changes? And I have been shortsighted all my life – like James Thurber this can be a source of wonder, seeing apparent unicorns and and giant butterflies, but were I prone to anxiety I am sure my eyes could turn every shadow into a monster and every blowing plastic bag into a ghost instead!
I do a lot or work with rescue organizations, and I really believe that for most dogs, there IS an ideal home. I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of times I have seen a very “difficult” dog find the right home and settle down to being balanced and happy. I think its fair to say that dog on dog aggression is not really abnormal for dogs…. some dogs really need space and need to be the only dog in the house. Fortunately, there are homes out there where people just want one dog and don’t want to hang out at the dog park. Those situations are great for dog aggressive dogs who can live a full and happy life as part of a family! Of course when re-homing a dog who can be aggressive to other dogs, it is important that the new family is aware of the issues and agrees that the dog will always be in the home, in a securely fenced yard, and with no doggie visitors. It takes patience and A LOT of networking, but I have been encouraged to find that there are really good homes out there for dogs who need to live alone!
My heart goes out to everyone who has been posting about managing this issue. How difficult and heartbreaking it must be to be faced with these kinds of decisions, as well as the everyday stress of management.
This has been such a valuable conversation for me to listen in on, though, and I feel as though I have a better handle on how to approach the situation if I ever found myself in this predicament.
Melissa L. says
My old dog has been selectively dog reactive since she was about 2 years old, so we have never introduced another dog into the home. My observations of her behavior over the years lead me to believe that same sex antagonism is probably more common than intersex, although there is always the personality factor and there have been some male dogs she hated on sight. I agree with Robin Jackson that breed differences can also play a role. My BC mix hated exuberant dogs (mostly labs) who would immediately get in her face instead of following the elaborate sniffing protocol that she considered polite dog behavior.
Also on age-related behavioral change: at 17 y.o., she has developed some new behaviors as well, which I think are probably due to cognition problems and poor hearing and vision. She has become afraid to go to the vet, something she didn’t have a problem with before. She has become afraid of people she doesn’t know when we are on a walk, but is quite confident when she’s in the house. She has to be leashed at all times, because she has on occasion just taken off down the driveway with no warning–was always a velcro dog before. I just attribute these changes to old age.
I would love to see an article on changing behavior in senior dogs!
My 11 year old dog has gotten more touchy with her younger housemate and I suspect arthritis. What used to be ok for him to do (like step over her or jump over her to find a place on the couch) now sometimes causes her to growl or snap at him. She has been showing other signs of stiffness and soreness. She will let me touch her anywhere without reacting, but she has no qualms about expressing her displeasure to another dog. Thankfully, my other dog is a gentle, mellow guy who is adores her and would roll over and die before fighting with her. I am so grateful for his sweet nature. With another type of dog, I could easily have a situation develop like many of those mentioned here.
Luckily (it really was luck rather than skill or knowledge) our dogs have gotten along well with each other. Most have been best friends and snuggle buddies. They were all spayed females, no relation to each other, and we would get the second dog after having the first for a few years. Many years ago, we did have to rehome one dog after she started displaying very aggressive behavior toward other dogs and some people but never to her doggie housemate. It was a very hard situation because as this behavior started to manifest, our other dog of 9+years had her leg amputated due to bone cancer, and I knew I didn’t have enough capacity to handle both situations. (The advice I got at the time was to put her down, which seemed an extreme response.) The breeder took her back, and she lived a long life with them.
These stories are making me twitch because now we have two DWI’s and one has a penchant for the possessive-aggressive behavior. I’d love to see a blog topic on that and others’ comments/responses/methods for handling dog-to-dog resource guarding.
Trish, you ask why Murphy, my very fear reactive Border Terrier, cannot be placed elsewhere. I would love to find him a new home, but, it is hard to do. There is also the concern of someone else truly understanding him, that his reaction is based in fear, and using punishment is worthless. I know how frustrated I can be after a slip up in management. I would hate to think of him living in fear of his people. Also, as someone else mentioned, there is the concern of putting my problem off on someone else.
I have had him since birth. His mother is my confident, social, multi-titled performance partner. Murphy was to be my next partner. No red flags in the litter, but by 12 weeks, it was clear he was struggling/extremely fearful out in the world. (I know how to carefully and gently socialize a puppy at the puppy’s pace.) When I was making no progress with DS/CC, I worked with Dr. Melissa Bain, head of the Behavior Department at UC Davis. Murphy reacted BADLY to fluoxetine, resource guarding me against his great grandmother, attacking her. Paroxetine had the same effect. I corresponded with Dr. Karen Overall (who convinced me to give meds one more try) while Dr. Bain consulted with her behavior colleagues. Next was amitriptyline, which he takes at ½ the normal dose. It helps him with his fears, but any more than half dose and he starts to get edgy. He also has a paradoxical reaction to alprazolam and diazepam, so even those for a short term need are out. With the amitriptyline, he was finally able to go for short (and now long) walks without freezing and listening/staring at things I could not hear/see. He was/still is reactive to all strange dogs, but responds to management, keeping him at a safe distance, doing “find it” or LAT or just watching me, all with treats, as we move by on the other side of the street. I did work at making him a fetchaholic, so he mainly gets his exercise with ball play in our big yard.
A year later, while attending Trish King’s Canine Behavior Academy, Murphy got to be one of the class consults. Trish said he was a tough case, as I had already done everything she would suggest. Her only suggestion was to just back off, and let him be and accept him for who he was.
Both Dr. Melissa Bain and Trish King suggested that he would be better in an only dog home. I AGREE totally! But, they both also agreed that finding such a home would be hard to do. Nobody in the auditorium that class day had any suggestions for a home.
In the home, he is okay with great-grandmother, now almost 16, and he has always respected him mother. His “fun police” grandmother does not like his energy, so they cannot be together. I waited 4 ½ years to add a new dog to our home, as Dreamer, his mother is going on 9 years, so it was time to start training my next performance dog. I had hoped in time Murphy would be okay with this, but after 7 months of very careful management, it is clear now that he never will be.
When he feels the slightest hint of fear, he goes from seemingly okay to full arousal in a nanosecond. I am sure you know what I mean. Interesting, he has, over time, come to accept that I will keep him safe out in the world. I can pick him up and cover his eyes, and it completely shuts down any reaction. He will stay quiet in my arms, even in a room full of strange dogs.
So, if you know of anyone that would enjoy Murphy, the cutest, most playful Border Terrier, as an only dog, in their adult only home, let me know!
Robin, Beth w/ Corgis, France: Thank you all for your responses. I didn’t want to hijack this threat, but I do greatly appreciate your thoughts. Robin, that was a nice link. I actually have an orthopedic bed for my dog. 🙂
FYI to anyone interested: Duke supposedly got a thorough senior exam last December, complete with lots of extra blood work, and it all came back looking like Duke was in really great health. I have considered medical issues as a cause and agree with you that it seems like something might be going on there. I find it hard to pinpoint what it might be though. For any example that might include say hearing issues, I could give another example or two that seems to indicate no hearing problems. (Reaction to police and firetrucks zooming by with full sirens cause no distress. And he seems to hear me even when I give quiet cues. …) So, I think that if the problem is medical, there might be multiple issues happening at once. Not something simple, but a complex set of issues. Fun, fun.
This post has really hit a heartstring with me. Mainly because I keep thinking that one of our dogs seeks a higher level of experience than we can provide. I have read more books than I can keep track of and consulted more professionals and online sources and instituted more protocols and new ideas than I thought possible, but the feeling that somewhere, out there, a home exists that would give Olive the light of her full potential is a constant nag. I don’t know if that exists, and I know we have helped her come a long, long, long way, but buried in these sad, painful stories is the underlying doubt of did we do enough, is there more we can/could have done?
We (by that I mean my own household) are not facing the same excruciating realities that many of the commentators are dealing with, but the underlying dilemma feels the same to me — are we doing the best we can and is it enough?
It may be an unanswerable question but I can’t help but ask.
I’m glad so many people are reading these comments and realizing how lucky they are! I used to go home to 4 dogs who got along beautifully, and every day I would thank them when I got back from my office where I’d hear story after story of people living complicated and stressful lives because their dogs didn’t get along. I was so grateful that for so many years I didn’t have to cope with that at home. Now, of course, I have Willie, who is not a dog who can get along with all other dogs. I’m grateful every day that he and Tootsie get along (although “get along” = tolerate each other), yet I still have to be very thoughtful about any other dog I would bring as a visitor into the house.
Several of you have replicated the comments of so many of my clients, who said they had no idea how stressful it was until one dog was gone. Afterward it is as if the entire house takes a deep breath and relaxes its shoulders. I had a female, Misty, who was well managed in that she went after another dog in the house only once or twice, and never harmed a one of them. But she was carefully managed, and when her eyes would go hard I’d know to tell her to back up and lie down. I’d keep her there until her eyes softened. When she died my other female, Lassie, behaved as though the Wicked Witch of the West had finally been dissolved by a bucket of water. “Ding dong, the witch is dead, the witch is dead, the witch is dead, Ding Dong, the wicked witch is dead!” She became much more playful and youthful, and taught me that although Misty was “managed,” she still had a profound effect on the other dogs, especially Lassie.
I feel such sympathy for Joelle, who has a Katrina rescue dog who wants to kill her cats. I can’t propose a solution either, not without knowing the house and dog and family much better, but I do direct your attention to comments later on from rescue folks who have been surprised at how well some dogs have done in other homes. That is my experience too; some dogs who seem too difficult to place end up doing really well in another environment. And let me agree with some comments that aggression in one environment doesn’t always lead to aggression in others. I had one client whose Aussie was really dangerous (to people and other dogs), but once we got her out of a small apartment in the city in the country with other dogs she did beautifully. Many of my cases included females who took an intense dislike of another female living in the household, but were find with all dogs that they met outside of the house. That’s not to say that we should be sending dogs to a “good home in the country” willie nillie; some dogs truly can’t be safely placed elsewhere. But it has been my experience that more of them can than one might predict at first.
To Ann Kenny: Oh, my what a tangled web we weave! Wish I could come visit the household! The only quick think I can say is that neutering might help the marking behavior (but if it’s a habit it might not unless you work on it). Benji might not be too old to rehome, again you never know. It does sound like a tough way to live for some of the dogs; I’d keep advocating in the household to do what you need to do to decrease the stress, including re-homing someone (often the youngest and easiest to find a home for is best.) Good luck!
Robin asked an interesting question re breeds, play styles and dogs getting along in the house. I absolutely agree that different individuals (often breed related) have different play styles. Willie likes to run, chase and compete for who is fastest, but would never do well with a dog who played more like an American football player. However, I have to say that much of the truly serious aggression I’ve seen seems to be more related to two personalities that just don’t get along, often about control over the house or resources within it. It’s often same sex dogs, but not always, and the truly serious aggression seems to be more “I hate your guts just because you’re you” than “You play like an idiot.” But that’s just my impression, would be lovely to have some research behind this.
To Donna B: You are a braver woman that I!
Re sound sensitivity and older dogs: I think this has been answered well by others (thanks Robin, Beth with Corgis & Frances), but I agree that physical, physiological and resultant psychological changes are common as dogs age. It is interesting that hearing problems, including partial deafness, can actually make individuals more sound sensitive, but that is the case. Some kinds of deafness make it impossible to focus on certain sounds and block others out, which is why cocktail parties are a nightmare for lots of people with hearing losses. I also suspect that as one ages one feels more vulnerable. I know I do in some ways… our bodies are less resilient, our senses are a tad bit slower and the idea of being physically challenged is just a lot more frightening than it was before. (And yes, this could be a great topic for another blog!)
Thanks to Jennifer answering my question about the potential of re-homing. Oh my, what a lucky dog you have… Kudos to you for trying so much and having so much stamina. Truly, you’ve done a remarkable job keeping this damaged dog whole. Only one thought, perhaps you’ve tried it already. Since covering his eyes seems to help, have you tried the eye coverings that Trish King developed? I can’t think of the name of them now, but they allow a dog to see a bit, but dampen down the visual input. Tried it already? (Readers, help, what is the name of it now? Can’t find it in my brain – See age related issues above…..)
Update from Judi: the caps are called Calming Caps. Thanks!
I couldn’t sleep last night, and was thinking more about issues I’ve had with dogs, and I remembered one of the oddest things I had happen with some of our dogs who were having issues. We had a Chow mix and a Husky, and they started having some scuffles, and it was slowly getting more and more serious, to the point where we were keep them apart quite a bit.
Against every bit of common sense in the world, I brought home a stray, fully intending to take her to a good shelter/rescue on the next business day, but we fell in love with her eyes and the husky adored her.. and the Chow seemed to be pretty good with her. Dog 3 was submissive to both for the most part, although she was a bit of the Fun Police at times. Over the next several years, we didn’t have any more problems, and the Chow improved notably. As in to the point where we were able to leave all three of them together without issues (The Mate was disabled and full time at home, and I was his caretaker, so it was very rare they were alone). The only theory I can come up with is that having another dog ‘under’ her so to speak gave the Chow more confidence in herself, and made her feel less like challenging the husky?
Oh, side note – dog 3 was intact when we brought her home in October (dunno if that affected the dynamic too), we scheduled her spay for January, and she came down with pyo on Dec 23rd… most expensive free dog I’ve ever had after a $900+ emergency spay. But she doesn’t hold the record on most vet bills even with that. Heh.
Robin Jackson says
I’m glad to hear that Duke had a clean bill of health back in December, but 9 months is a long time in dog years, and even moreso for a 10 year old Great Dane. Since you’ve been seeing significant new problems in the last few months, a new vet check may make sense. You might want to consider just calling and talking to the vet who did the check in December and see what he/she thinks. They may also have ideas for how to reduce the stress of a vet visit itself. Just a thought.
One of my cousins who has a working farm has taken in a couple of juvenile female border collies from our extended family members who were developing dog aggression towards other housemates, most often sisters. He’s found most of them have done really well once put into working roles, and seem to find a place on the team even when they don’t like the other dogs much.
In one case he took two sisters together who were getting into bloody fights when kept as pets in a suburban home who turned into first class herders and worked together very well. At the end of the day they pretty much ignored each other and by choice slept in separate rooms, but every morning, they lined up together when he called and went out and worked together without incident.
I’ve always wondered if that was just attributable to my cousin’s particular temperament, or if it’s a factor of having a common goal and real work to do. Or perhaps just luck. My other cousins on working farms don’t take in “problem dogs,” so I don’t know of any other cases.
Robin: Thanks for your follow up. You are right that 9 months is a long time. Given the timing of the way events happened, it is hard to say if Duke has a series of new fears or if I just noticed them / they more recently had an opportunity to appear.
I so wish I had a vet I could trust to have this conversation with. I won’t bore you with all the particulars. I’ll just say that Duke’s current life-long vet wouldn’t work and my efforts to find a replacement have not fared well either.
I will definitely be bringing Duke back for a full checkup. It’s just a question of whether I will do so before December or not. While I think some of Duke’s problems *may* have a physical component, Duke just doesn’t appear to have anything wrong with him that could actually be fixed by a vet. That’s what my gut says. But here’s the key: when the fireworks aren’t going and we are not trying to cross a tall bridge, etc., which is the *vast* majority of the time, Duke is doing super-great. Duke plays well, bounces at the dog park, eats well, drinks well, listens to me as much as ever (which means not as much as I would like but better than most dogs we meet), and seems super happy and calm. I’m reluctant to do anything with drugs that might mess up that formula.
Thanks again for your thoughts. I’m going to give your points some serious consideration. For example, I might try harder to find another vet that we could go to. (The one previous time I tried it was a big disappointment. I sort of decided then that it would be best to at least stick with a vet who had all of Duke’s records. But maybe that was the wrong attitude.) Or I might bite the bullet and see what our current vet has to say.
thanks so much for all the great article, and especially for this one. The article, helpful assessment tips AND the comments are making it possible for me to more clearly see what is happening with my dogs.
Older dog: neutered male, seems to be a flat coat/aussie mix, wonderful disposition, smart, high energy. He was about a year old when I adopted him from a rescue group – he’d been running with a feral pack. Two solid years of obedience training, he passed his CGC and has been a wonderful companion/helper. He does have recall issues off leash in uncontrolled environments, this can be difficult but is understandable given his background and mix.
A year ago, when he was 4, a friend broke my heart with a story of a BC pup who had, at 4 months been re-homed multiple times. Sap that I am, said I’d foster her, get her started and then when she was ready, find an appropriate home.
My older male fell in love with her and adopted her immediately.
It’s been a year now. The male and the pup, spayed female, get along wonderfully. He will occasionally correct her when she gets too annoying but there’s nothing fierce or nasty about it, just standard dog stuff.
The issue is when we are in a situation with other, unknown dogs and the pup is playing with another dog. My male will sometimes take issue and tear into the stranger. He sounds nasty and fierce, but it isn’t a fight, just a noisy, ”keep away from my sister” skirmish. I call him off asap but I can never predict when this will happen and am aware of how the other two leggeds usually respond: “that dog attacked my dog”. (teeth bared but no biting, ever)
My way of handling/managing this is to keep my male leashed at all times when we are in multi dog environments, but mostly to avoid those situations. I cannot predict when he will take issue.
Seeing that he is being protective and possessive does not help me with the 2 leggeds at all.
I have considered re-homing the pup, as planned, but love her, as does the older dog – and it is not a problem in my home or at the very well managed dog day care they sometimes go to.
Robin and Melissa both commented on the different styles across breeds. This rings a bell. For whatever reason, there are SOME adolescent to mature labs my older dog does not tolerate playing with the pup. Others – no problem. Other breeds: no problem, ever. It is always a lab, never a puppy and I can never tell when he’s going to be reactive. By the time he bristles it’s too late.
There is a now mature female lab that he lit into once, now he ignores her. There are several that he bristles at whenever they are around…
FWIW, for the most part, I can expect the male to sit or lay down at my feet while I visit with other people whose dogs are also in a sit-stay. Mr.Mellow.
Both dogs are super high energy and smart. The BC could go full tilt all day long. She is confident, and sweet as a rule. We have daily outings to areas where they can run, chase, play and our yard is quite large and safe and generally we are together 24/7.
I know that if they don’t get enough work/play, they go slightly crazed, so that’s not the issue.
As the pup matures will the older male get less protective? Is there a good way or is it even possible to train this out?
I know it’s my job to manage things, to avoid situations where there are too many unknown other dogs, to keep the dogs well exercised and well socialized but any helpful hints are appreciated.
p.s.outside of the specific situations described above, the male is not dog aggressive. Until we adopted the BC, he had no run-ins with other dogs at all. He was never dominant or pushy.
The only other factor is that he does not like other dogs jumping on me or charging our space and will either body block them or growl them off. I do not see this as a problem. Should I?
@JJ, not to derail or anything but is there a dane meetup group, breeder, or rescue group in your area? I know that finding a practice that has the facilities and expertise to do a good job handling giants is a little extra challenging, but maybe fellow dane owners in your area can give you some leads?
Rose C says
Robin J, thanks for the info on names. I myself have had European male co-workers named Leslie and Marian which in the US are typically girls’ names. My Mom based our first dog’s name, though, from a typhoon that hit Guam where my father was working at that time (we didn’t realize too that all typhoons are named with female names). It was a fierce storm and my Mom named the dog Kim so he will grow up to be fierce. Well, he sort of did, in many aspects. But this shows how we really don’t understand nor study dog behaviors back there.
Em: Great idea. I would love to find a Dane group like that! Sadly, I live in a smallish city where I believe no such group exists. The only dog group in the area that I am aware of is for Huskies. If I wasn’t already in charge of (and spending all free time on) a nutrition community group, I would think of starting a Giant Breed group in my area myself. I think it is a fantastic idea in general, no matter what goes on with Duke right now.
The problem I have with my vet is not breed specific, but … I don’t know: general philosophy about medical care? Just to give you one example of a (serious for me) philosophical difference, I once brought my dog in for a skin tag. This is a harmless little (like a skinny raisin attached on its end) growth of floppy skin. At the time, I had never heard of skin tags, and I though that Duke had a tic. (I’m quite the ignorant city girl.) When the vet explained that Duke just had a skin tag, I gave a happy sigh of relief and was ready to walk out.
The vet offered to remove the tag. I paused, then ignored the offer and changed the conversation. Next the vet pushed harder to have the tag removed. I said, “Does the tag harm him in any way?” She said “no.” After another significant pause from me, she dropped it, without explaining her position.
For me, it is the opposite of responsible medicine to do an unnecessary surgical procedure, no matter how minor the procedure. I would have had at least some respect and retained some trust if she had said, “If you really want the tag removed, I could do that for you, but it isn’t necessary for the health of your dog.” Instead, she pushed twice (you had to be there) to do a useless minor surgery on my dog. If I had been my less knowledgeable and less assertive younger self, I would have assumed that the vet was telling me that a good owner would get the tag removed. I would have said ‘yes’.
That story is just one example of a philosophical area of difference between me and Duke’s vet. I just can’t trust that the vet will tell me all that I need to know to make responsible decisions in the care of my dog. I think she is competent and knowledgeable in other areas and genuinely cares for dogs and cats, which along with not finding an alternative, is why I stay with her. It’s the devil I know kind of thing. But with Robin’s comments, I’m thinking I might try one more time to find someone else. One problem is that I won’t have the time to build up trust with someone new. So, I don’t know how successful I will be.
Thanks for your interest / suggestion. Much appreciated.
Trisha, Murphy is a worried guy. At 8 months, a plastic grocery bag moving slightly on the counter had him alarm barking and shaking. At 18 months, a load of towels jiggling slightly on the dryer as it ran set him off. Recently, a rolled up bag in the pantry, that was slightly unfolding, got the same response. Anything that moves, that he cannot understand, frightens him. I tried the Calming Cap several years ago. He was petrified, frozen in place, unable to take treats from my hand, yet alone from the floor as treats rained down on him. Curious, I tried the Calming Cap on his mother. She was very happy to play this fun new game, finding tossed treats with just her ears and nose. Murphy has learned, over time, to be secure in my arms, with his eyes covered. Down on the ground, facing his demons on his own, he needs to be able to see.
Getting him used to a head collar was difficult. With it on, in the house, again he was frozen, unable to take treats. I tried for days. Finally worked it out that we started our walk (with a Sensation Harness), and then after a block I but the head collar on, attached to nothing. We walked that way for 2 weeks. Then I attached a thin leash, but kept it loose. After a week, I started using it gently, like a curb rein on a horse bridle. Now, I often walk him with just the harness, using the head collar only if needed, but I always use a second leash with the head collar. Although I have always used treats with collar, harness, halti, whenever you go to put “equipment” on him, he is still very worried. He NEVER forgets anything, good, bad or neutral.
When Murphy explodes aggressively, it looks and sounds awful, but I know his reaction is truly based in fear.
Jennifer: Oh my. I have little to say except that Murphy is an amazingly lucky dog to have you. Kudos to you for doing so much and trying so hard. I’m so sorry that the Calming Cap didn’t work, poor Murphy. I so wish we could get inside of his brain, surely there is something terribly wrong with his wiring (or his eyes?) I’m sure that’s old news to you, but my admiration again for your stamina and commitment.
To JJ: I so sympathize about finding the right veterinarian (and the right physician). A relative of mine just told the family an infuriating story about being disregarded and condescended to by a specialist, this when she was extremely needy and ill. Grrrr. I get that his vet is polite, but you can’t trust her opinion about what is medically necessary and what will fill her coffers. If you are strapped for the time and ability to find a better vet, might it work to ask her each time: Is this procedure medically necessary, and if so, why? I’m not sure that is a great solution, just a thought, because it seems as though you think she is truly competent. Could you even have a honest conversation with her and say something like “I value your knowledge and would like to continue working together. However, sometimes I think we are not on the same page about the value of a particular procedure. My philosophy is somewhat like that of a physician’s: First, do no harm. It bothers me to do a procedure on my dogs that isn’t medically necessary. Would you be comfortable with having a discussion about the necessity of each procedure before you recommend it?” Or something to that effect…. One might argue that her reaction to an honest and respectful conversation might tell you whether you should stay with her or not. I know that the vets I work with would all respond well. Just a thought.
@Jennifer, I too live with a seriously damaged dog. Fortunately, over the 20 months we’ve had her she has been making slow (very very slow sometimes) but steady progress so I realize that Murphy is much more seriously damaged than Finna. I remember you’d tried medications with poor results but have you tried Chinese herbs? The Shen Calmer herbs that Finna takes help to blunt the sharp edges of her fear. They are not a cure but have given her enough support that not everything is instantly terrifying. It might be worth exploring. It breaks your heart when they are so frightened by everything that you honestly wonder if their life is a burden to them. Best of luck and all respect from someone who knows.
@JJ, at the practice we go to there are two vets one male, one female. After totally ignoring everything I told her about handling my fearful Finna at an initial well doggy check up and delivering a collar jerk to Finna when Finna snapped at her (what part of this dog is afraid to be touched, she does better if you narrate what you’re going to do and where you are going to put your hands, seemed like a good idea to ignore? Instead, the vet asked to hold the leash, not unreasonable since Finna was velcroed to me and reluctant to move, and immediately started trying to handle her–no wonder Finna said, “no, back off lady”). That vet no longer gets to see any of my animals. The male vet, by contrast, listens to what I tell him and respects me as a partner in the health care of my animals. When I raised concerns about continuing to vaccinate seven year old Ranger in light of everything I’ve been reading we had a frank discussion about the subject and how to maintain his health and meet our obligations to Therapy Dog International; we decided to do titres. I think Trisha is exactly right, initiating a frank discussion can tell you whether this vet is one that can be a trusted partner in Duke’s health care. In you story about the skin tag it occurred to me that the vet might have been expecting you to want to remove it for cosmetic reasons. I remember one lady at the dog park talking about the fatty lump on her golden’s ear and how her vet after the biopsy came back offered to remove it so it wouldn’t look so bad. Finding a good vet is a lot like finding a good pediatrician. Talk to everyone you know with animals about who they see and if they like them and once you find a good one never let them go. I drove two hours round trip to see our vet to get Finna’s stitches out since he was subbing in a clinic an hour away. I could have taken Finna to see the woman vet at our usual clinic five minutes away but despite my belief that she is medically competent her “bedside” manner is so deficient I wouldn’t even let her remove stitches.
Trisha: All good points. I haven’t had quite that frank a conversation with my current vet, but I do (now) question everything–and at least she is fine with that. The one other vet I tried to use got upset when I tried to make sure that antibiotics were really needed for the situation.
(FYI: I’m fine using them when needed, but I am very cognizant of the over-use of antibiotics in our society and want to be part of the solution, not the problem. Plus I know how much antibiotics can mess with good tummy bacteria and lead to negative consequences. To me, it is not only reasonable, but part of being a good citizen to question their use. To that vet, I was asking bizarre questions. At least my current vet doesn’t mind lots of pointed questions and I do trust her answers if I can think of the right questions.)
To clarify: It’s not that I personally don’t want to take the time to find another vet: it’s that I think my dog is old and that I only have so much more time in order to find someone and build up a trust. Trust takes years since one doesn’t see a vet very often (hopefully). And after being burned with a highly recommended second vet that I had tried, I’m “gun-shy”.
I really appreciate your support. While I don’t think it was your intention, you actually helped me to see how bad it is that I put up with the current situation. I really need to just “bite the bullet” and try someone else. Thanks!
JJ: I think it’s often true that it is not until we write something down or explain it in detail to a friend that we see what we’ve truly been dealing with. And I so understand about having an older dog and a vet who knows the history of it. All paws crossed for you.
JJ: Sorry to hear about your frustration with your vet. I’m fortunate to have found a vet that explains what the options are. She tells me the minimum that I really should do, plus all the other things I could do, plus what she would do if it were her pet. And she seems to understand if I do the minimum at that time, none of the pushing or guilt that I’ve felt with other vets. Off topic, your story reminds me of my visit to my family doctor. I had a skin tag that was bugging me, just because of it’s position. He confirmed that it was indeed just a skin tag and said he could remove it for me when it bothered me. Uhh…it’s bothering me now. That’s why I brought it up. I had to mention it three times before he finally removed it. It took less than 3 minutes to do it. Ugh!! Good luck with Duke and with finding a vet you like and trust. I second Trisha’s recommendation of having a discussion with your current vet and seeing how that goes.
Trisha: I’d love to see a blog post about dogs that have issues similar to Jennifer’s Murphy. Plastic grocery bags moving in the breeze, garbage bags moving as things settle inside, a ceiling fan that has been on all day that I just turned off and the blades are moving very slowly now, papers on the table blowing in the wind, the garbage can next door in a different position, etc. My dog doesn’t have a severe reaction like Murphy (lucky boy to have someone in his corner like you, Jennifer), but he does notice and react. I’d love to get some more info on this. I want to sign up for a frightened fido class to see if that gives me some insight into it, but the days haven’t matched up for me yet. Anyway, just another idea for a future blog post! 🙂
Angela: Thanks for your kind thoughts! I have some good news to report. I met with the trainer/behavior specialist. In addition to a plan that she helped me work out for the fireworks fear that I think is fantastic!, she also told me the name of her vet. I’m so excited to try someone who comes so highly recommended. I’m going to give it a try.
JJ: I’m so glad to hear that you are finding some good help! Keep us posted.
To clarify with Murphy, generally, he is fine, and a very playful, silly, toy driven dog who can be very cuddly. I don’t think he is fearful 99% of the time here. Overtime, with the help of the low dose of amitriptyline, he does okay on carefully controlled walks, and seems to like getting out once or twice a week. (Walking him daily keeps his arousal level up, so we don’t do that.) I just gave the examples to show/explain that I understand that his dog reactivity is truly based in general fear. He does not react aggressively to fearful objects, only to strange dogs out in the world, (or on TV – his vision actually seems to be excellent, too good!) and now also, to my new dog, if there is not a barrier between them. Yes, I have given him my all for 5 years, but 10+ more years is looking very difficult.
I would appreciate Trish sharing any info she might have come across about vaccination reactions and fear. Is there any information or thoughts on that? There were no red flags in this litter, Murphy was my pick pup at 8 weeks, and all of his 5 siblings are fine, totally normal. It was shortly after his second vaccination at 11 weeks, that he started to show real fear out in the world. I am sure he was predisposed to be more fearful, but I will always wonder if something else, like a vaccination reaction caused his brain to be wired so differently. Yes, I would give anything to get inside his brain for just a day. I did chose not to breed his mother again, a real lose for me, as she is my highly titled performance buddy.
nicole gustavsson says
After reading “serious dog fighting, what’s next”, I feel much better about the decisions that my husband and I have had to make with our two dogs. You summed up all of our feelings about what it is like in our home with the two dogs. And how hard it was coming to the decision of having to rehome one of the dogs. It has been over a year since we have been trying to find a home for one of our dogs. Unfortunately she has some human issues to deal with which has made it more difficult to re-home her. But we are still trying to find the right home for her.
Our dog trainers basically told us that it’s about managment. Try not to put the dogs in the senerio that would cause a problem, use your commands to control them. But it’s soo stressful living this way. Always being on guard, not trusting anyone else to be able to deal with the two of them together. It controls our lives.
Our breeder is helping to find another home for her, Cheyenne. If you happen to know anyone that could be interested please have them contact the breeder for us. We can then talk about her issues and they can decide if they are interested. We are not willing to rehome her to just anyone.
I enjoyed reading your article and made me feel not soo alone in going through this.
Gloria Lewis says
Almost two years ago I had to rehome a dog due to my older dog refusing to live with the new dog. She was fine with the puppy to a point then after a relatively early spaying it was dangerous. I was heartbroken and it was difficult to find a home for the dog. Thanks to a wonderful rescue group (and a bunch of money) I was able to say goodbye and my older dog and I have moved on. I have since learned many things
1) Plan ahead – if you plan on adopting more than one you can’t let certain behaviors exist with the first one
2) Emotional Climate – If your human emotional climate is rough – expect worse maybe – reconsider! (I would)
3) Train Train Train – Consistency
4) Have a fall back option.
5) sounds crazy but I would attend some dog training sessions before you have a dog… observe and think about things BEFORE .
Wow this hits home! My husband had found a female Catahula mix, Tesla, almost a year ago. She was completely wild! Of corse he fell in love with her so we decided she could stay. Right off the bat she went after my senior Westie. She has sent him to the vet several times for patching up. We decided to send her to doggie boot camp for almost 2 months. I was ready to get rid of her but my husband wanted to give her a chance. This says a lot, I have worked as a Tech and in rescue as well as run agility. She was more than I could handle. When we picked her up from “camp” she was like a civil form of herself. She now has manners and for the most part can restrain herself. I never leave her unattended with the Westie. They are only out together if I am home. She is the most responsive to me, not my husband. He is not home as much and she doesn’t see him as an authority figure.
Your Murphy sounds exactly like my Fiona, a schnauzer/border terrier cross. Our very experienced trainer who specializes in reactive dogs told me after a year of private training that Fiona was “the most reactive dog she had ever experienced”. At least we weren’t crazy when we told the rescue group their supposed great family dog was a disaster!
Prozac helped (amitryptaline did not, but glad it works for you). She was supposed to be my new agility dog and we had always planned on getting a second dog (our old dogs #1 and #2 passed within a month of each other). We are still grieving the fact that we will never own a second dog until Fiona is gone.
There are not many of us out there who can commit to fear aggressive dogs. Great at home with my husband and I, and with a few very select people like our trainer (though it took a long time) and horrible with everything else. I don’t think I could in good consicence pass her on to another person if something happened to either of us and for whatever reason she had to be re-homed.
I’d come over and walk him for you, but I have a feeling that would require a plane ride. We people with dogs like this need a respite relief network of like-minded owners.
This is a great article, and every word of it is 100% spot on. I have three dogs, two males and a female. The smaller male hates the bigger male, for all kinds of reasons. If he goes after the bigger male, the girl piles on too (she goes after weak and scared dogs). So I separated the two males, and then the smaller male started in on the female, only that’s a stupid idea because she’s no one to mess with. So now the smaller male is separate 100% of the time and the other two are also often separate, because the big guy is getting old and frail and I can’t risk her attacking him for that. It is no way to live, I can tell you that. I would have never dreamed we’d end up in this situation.
The problem is that re-homing isn’t always the answer either. The smaller male also has myriad medical and behavior issues which we have worked on for years. There aren’t a lot of homes out there for an adult black dog with medical and behavior issues, doesn’t get along with most other animals and may get a little snarky with his humans too. We feel like euthanasia is the only other option for him, but being unwilling to do that, we just live with gates and pens and a very carefully orchestrated doggie carousel.
Thanks for writing this article.
This article hits close to home. We had 2 dogs and decided we had room for another in 2005. We wanted a puppy so that we were guaranteed everyone would get along (ridiculous, right?). We found a 14 week old rescue and adopted her. All was well for 16 months, idyllic actually, and then all h#$% broke loose. After 6 months of training, behaviorists, muzzles, etc. we went to separation. They could see each other but one had to be crated. Then our male passed and everything changed. He had brought some semblance of boundaries in the house just with his presence. We weren’t prepared for this change even though we should have been, we just didn’t expect it.
Fast forward to now, we live 100% gated. We have managed to only have 3 meets in 6.5 years but each one excalates. We have not vacationed together since our honeymoon in 2005. There is no one we would ask to take this on, it is not about trust, it is about not wanting to put someone through it. We have a pack of 3 and a girl on her own. I am lucky enough to work from home so our rotations get a great deal of time “out” and interaction BUT it is what your life centers around. These girls will kill on sight. It is a life and death situation and one we do not take lightly. I know that if they get to each other and I am alone, I will never get them apart and will come back from the vet with one less dog. This is a sobering realization. Please note, neither of our girls are aggressive outside of each other. I competed in agility with one of them and she has been around hundreds of dogs.
The thing I struggle with as the years pass and they age (9.5 & 8) is the guilt over knowing that one of them passing will result in my relief. I can’t help the guilt and I can’t fight the impending relief. This road has taught my husband and I a lot. It has taught us where we failed and why, it forced us to evaluate our skills as owners, it forced us to come to terms with what we will accept and what we won’t. We recently adopted #4 and we were brutally honest with the rescue that her not meshing with our pack of 2 was not an option. If she didn’t get along (something severe) we would not be able to keep her. Thankfully all is well and we have a house with 2 rotations and it works.
One thing I know for sure is that we will never do this again. In the beginning I told my husband that if he made me give my girl up, I would leave and I meant it. I love her and I thought this was definitely workable. Now, looking back, sheesh. I struggle with our role of keeping them happy, healthy and SAFE. As long as we are perfect, they are safe but we are human and error exists.
Henry P says
It’s always very sad and can be frightening when two of your pets start to fight for whatever reason. The usual cause is that the ‘natural order’ has not been established. Owners can sometimes make this worse by not sticking to strict order of feeding or even something very simple as allowing a dog to go out of a door first. Both, a couple of things that can confuse a dog of where he stands in the pecking order. The best way to resolve these and other issues is watch what a professional dog trainer does. You can do this through video these days; just watch and learn and then impart that learning into everyday life with your pets.
Sorry Henry P, but I couldn’t disagree more. What evidence do you have that “pack order” is the most common cause of dog fighting, or that feeding order can help to solve the problem? When I first began seeing clients, a million years ago, I followed that advice and found that it helped a small percentage of dogs, had no effect on others, and made things worse.. much worse… in others. I strongly advise people not to use such a method, given that it can cause an increase in aggression and injury in some cases, and is not backed up by any research or scientific knowledge about dog behavior.
Ok I had to rehome my dog because she was getting into fights with my mother in laws dog they have been separated for two years and the owner does not want her anymore and asked if I could take her back what are the chances that they would start fighting again?
I cried while reading this because I can truly relate. My two pitbulls seem fine most of the time and then something sets one off and IT IS ON. I can’t physically pull them apart by myself so I do not allow them to be out together when I’m home alone. Even if they are snuggling together one minute it could turn ugly the next. I just don’t get it. The female is very strong willed and was in the house first. She is 3 years old. The male is a pup, about 9 months old and we just got him in September. Sometimes I don’t even see what triggers it. It is never over food, or a bone or affection. It seems like it is out of nowhere! That’s what makes me live in fear. That at any second they could go at it. We do try to prevent fights and have successfully in the past, using crate training and squirt bottles of water has helped stop it before it starts. However, we cannot stop every single fight before it happens. And these fights are “for blood.” Neither one will let go and it usually takes 3 adutls to pull them apart. One almost lost an ear the other almost lost an eye. Both have been the aggressor. I can’t even blame just one dog. And they are almost evenly matched, the male is now 56 lbs and the female is 61 lbs.
I adore them both so much that it breaks my heart to have to choose to re-home one. Please help me!!!
Brittany in NJ
Oh dear Brittany, I’m so sorry. But I’m afraid you have few alternatives beside re-homing one of them. I can’t say definitely from afar, but given the severity of the fights, it is clear that you are living on a powder keg. As the male gets older the fights might intensify, and that puts every one at great risk. Both dogs are now at serious risk of extreme injury, and there is always the possibility that a person could be badly injured too. I sympathize with how hard it is to consider re-homing, but sometimes loving animals means that we have to do what is best for them, not for us. All I can say is that the worst part seems to be where you are now: Knowing what you need to do (you already know I’ll bet, hard as it is), but grieving over the loss. Once you have made the decision and found one dog a new home it is much, much easier. Honest. But still, I’m so sorry.
Jayne McQ says
We actually visited Dr. McConnell years ago to get help for two of our dogs who had issues, well we took 1 dog who was the problem and discovered it was really the two dogs who were the root of the problem. We were able to carefully manage the situation for many years until the dog died. We LOVED all our dogs, but the management required was something that was ever-present in our lives while the two were alive. When the first of the problem dogs died of cancer, we were of course devastated, but life at home became so much easier it was a HUGE RELIEF to us, and our other dogs. That felt terrible, we’d just lost a wonderful dog, but yet felt relief on one level. These were HIGHLY trained dogs, who competed in dog sports, we worked out tails off to put extra obedience skills on our whole pack to be able to use a command to get the two to move around in the house & avoid each other. Trisha taught us to look for the amazingly subtle body language that showed all the nearly silent communication between the dogs. Before that we saw, “No sign at all.” It was a huge undertaking & we had to be constantly vigilant. After the first dog died, I realized that we should have just rehomed that dog to a single dog home. She would have been happier, we would have been happier. We gave her a great life, but I feel it was short sighted to only see keeping her as an option. When people ask me for advice about dealing with pack issues, I tell them about my experience. I tell them about my huge REGRET that we didn’t rehome the first dog into a home better suited to her. We also don’t think about the stress those dogs are under in the situation. That is what I regret the most. I sure don’t regret getting help from Dr. McConnell…she gave us tools to manage them while they lived. We made our decision at the time & accept that. I just definitely would NOT make the same decision again. Lived, learned…I hope 🙂
This thread breaks my heart. We managed a dog with age related dementia that contributed to a severe case of separation anxiety. That alone was so much more stressful than we realized until she passed. I can’t even imagine how it would be if there was true bodily harm involved (instead of just property damage). You all are so brave and I have so much admiration for your dedication and love for your pets. I wish you all comfort and peace – you’ve earned it.
Thanks for a wonderful post! My issue is slightly different, in that I believe my two girls really, really like each other 99% of the time. They play like there’s no tomorrow, explore the pasture side-by-side, pair up on walks, etc. Yes, there are little signs of tension on occasion (stress yawning and sneezing, play sessions that get a little too vertical, etc.), but all in all they come off like best buddies. The past year and a half has brought six huge blow-ups, though, with the latest, last night, taking me 15 minutes and a garden hose on full blast to stop. I think they’d have fought until death or mutual exhaustion (being pretty evenly matched, they do damage each other but can’t gain major advantages in a short time).
Chloe was a our first dog and came with quite a few issues–spay incontinence, severe separation anxiety, fear aggression when leashed being the main ones in addition to a generally anxious temperament. When Chloe was about 2 years old, we adopted Abby, who was about 1 year old at the time. She’s the polar opposite–happy, highly sociable with humans, confident, etc. We were specifically trying to find a good match for Chloe, and the meet and greet at the shelter seemed to be a great sign. Chloe loved playing with other dogs at daycare, and we thought she’d do much better on the days home alone with a friend. Then about 10 days after Abby came home was the first fight, over one of Chloe’s favorite toys. Anyway, we hired a couple of behaviorists (who are fans of Trisha’s) for an in-home consult, and they concluded, as we thought, that these were dogs who really liked each other–just had some resource guarding issues to work out and were still a bit immature in their emotional control.
Long story short, we’re now about a year and a half into their relationship and have had six significant fights. We’re removed treasured toys, feed separately, etc. to avoid resource issues as much as we can. However, the last two fights have been about position from which to smell something interesting. That’s a fight-starter I unfortunately can’t remove! The penultimate fight was because they both tried to smell my hand at the same time (I went into labor about 3 hours later, so I wonder if my hormonal changes led to a particularly interesting smell). Last night’s fight was over the perfect spot to stand to smell a baby bird in the grass outside the fence.
At this point, I’m wondering if we’ll have to rehome Abby (she being the one who would more easily find a home and also cope with the process better), but the fact that they get along nearly all of the time has me feeling like I should keep trying.
(For what it’s worth, they fought again later last night when we tried to reintroduce them, in contrast to previous reintroductions in which Abby was very submissive and exaggeratedly apologetic–licking, deep bowing, etc.)
P.S. Tonight’s reintroduction, though tense at moments, was successful.
Thanks for the informative post. I am about to foster/adopt a friend’s Belgian Malinois that is being rehomed because she attacked the other dog in the home, a small female terrier mix. My friend adopted the Mal from a shelter three years ago, not realizing she was a purebred Mal with the classic high-energy, high-prey drive personality. There were issues almost immediately with the (older and smaller) terrier, and as a result, she has been keeping them apart and playing the ‘rotation’ game ever since (which is no game, actually).
Last week, she found a stray (a third female) and brought it home tentatively. She was thrilled to see that the stray and the Mal got along well and played endlessly. Two days later, the Mal and stray came in from playing outside. The terrier was standing at the top of the stairs as she usually does (baby gate at the bottom of stairs), and proceeded to come down a few steps. The Mal fixated on her, leapt up and pulled her from between the staircase railings and shook her like a ragdoll. My friend had to pry the Mal’s jaws open to release the terrier. Rushed her to the vet; she had several puncture wounds around her neck. Vet said it was sheer luck that she survived.
My friend is heartbroken and guilt-ridden, but realizes the only option is to rehome the Mal, who needs much more exercise and mental stimulation than she and her husband can offer (though they do try). We both believe this was a contributing factor, and probably the introduction of a third dog, as well.
I am committed to helping my friend out of this situation in the short run, and helping the dog find a better home in the long run, which may or may not be with me at this point. One of my concerns is that my family often gets together with all of our dogs, including two Shih Tzus – friendly and submissive, but also small and energetic. I’m not sure I want a dog that has to be kept separate in these situations. Reading through some of the comments, though, I am somewhat hopeful that the Mal’s aggression could be very specific to the terrier. Am I kidding myself?
I am willing to invest considerable time and effort in training and exercising her, and am committed to being consistent in that. I understand high-energy/demanding breeds, having had a GSD and a Weimaraner in the past. Just not sure it will be enough for this dog… wish me luck.
Tonya Silver says
Hi. I lived with 2 dogs who hated each other for many years. I rescued a pit bull mix puppy when she was about 5 weeks old. Already aggressive, and no socialization in a litter whatsoever. She was dropped into a night drop box at about 2 weeks old. I got her from a foster, fed her formula, pulled worms out of her butt, gave her fluids SQ into her neck so she wouldn’t die of dehydration…Riley, We bonded deeply, very early on. She was a pit bull mix with who knows what… ridgeback, lab… don’t know. She grew up as a puppy with a neutered male husky, and that was all good. When she was about a year old, I rescued a Rott/Chow mix from the ‘hood. Great dog. Brenda. About 8 mos old. So they were very close in age, size.. both spayed females with sketchy backgrounds. Brenda had some serious scars and old healed injuries, femur fracture I found out later that had never actually been treated, just healed on it’s own.. Once Brenda arrived, Riley suddenly started resource guarding (she ate all my dildos that I kept by the bed…sorry if that is TMI, but it’s how it started). But I was naive to all this at the time. Hindsight is 20/20. I have always had dogs and animals, but in a farm situation, and always only one dog. They got along though and were pretty social at large dog parks, etc, until they were about 3-1/2 years old. Then they really started getting serious about hoarding the toys, bones, whatever. And play fighting started getting a little rougher, but it still seemed like play. Then one night while I was at work, my husband had some friends over. I came home to a group of friends, and there was a couple who got rowdy when drunk. They did just that, and broke out into wrestling on the floor. My girls were overstimulated and got into a real fight this time. We broke it up. Luckily I had already crate trained them and had crates in the room. The rest of that week, the got into real fights about 3 times a day, whenever any kind of stim happened, like mailman, etc.. I can’t even remember the details it was so long ago, but it was awful and traumatic. I think me coming home from work was a trigger. They both wanted to say hi immediately and then would fight over it. I became a trigger. My ex-husband and I would each grab a dog and pull. Riley would not let go for anything…the pit mix. She acted like a pit in most ways. Such a lover, but had her quirks. Not letting go was one of them. But Brenda was a Rott mix and would chew the shit out of Riley. After a week of this, I put up baby gates to separate them. I consulted several trainers and behaviorists. No help. Again, part of the problem was that I was the trigger. Most of the trainers were clueless how to deal with it. I found one who was good with them. Youngblood Harris. He is kind of like the SF dog whisperer,. But they were good when he was there, but things regressed when he left. Maybe because I was a trigger. Maybe because I had seen them try to kill each other so many times, I couldn’t relax. I don’t know. But I work too much to be able to deal with that sort of problem. I would have had to take at least 2 months off work to do nothing but deal with my dogs to make it happen, and that was still a big IF, and sadly, I just couldn’t do that. So…I kept them separated by baby gates for 7 years. It was awful. But I loved them both so much and felt so obligated to both of them… I didn’t see any other option. Unfortunately, after that, Riley became aggressive toward all dogs (she previously was fine at dog parks, etc. ). Brenda remained social with other dogs, except Riley. My husband and I eventually split up. I kept both dogs in this baby gated situation. Stressful! I had only one dog sitter I trusted, and he took a job that meant he couldn’t sit for me anymore. He was training a new sitter and the gate accidentally opened, the dogs got together, of course tried to kill each other, and the new dog sitter got bitten by accident about 17 times. Luckily he didn’t sue me. After that, I never trusted anyone but my ex husband with them. So, my life was determined by his schedule. Luckily we love each other still. But still, a bad situation. Eventually, after years of emotional trauma, and the divorce, and an abusive rebound… I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I also had a cat. It was like each dog had a room, and the cat had the kitchen, and I had to try to split my time and affection between them all while they were very actively competing for me. I had to go on separate walks. Give separate alone time. etc… It was crazy. Finally, I told my ex I was going to poison all the animals, because I couldn’t handle it anymore. I was going to kill them all because I would feel too guilty for choosing one over the other, although I knew, everyone knew, I would choose Riley over anyone any day. She was my love, my life dog. He stopped me. He talked to his landlord, and took Brenda. Saved my life. All of our lives. Suddenly all of our lives quality improved. Amazing. That’s all that had to happen. Eventually Brenda died of a heart tumor. She was 13. Mulder, the cat, died at 16+. Riley died at 14-1/2. Turned out she had bone cancer. It was a terrible year and a half for me. Just happened. I was a mess. And then this pit bull needed rescuing as badly as I did. That is how I found you. My sister trains dogs in Florida. I am in San Francisco. This Pittie is very smart. About a year old. Attacked the dominant male in his previous adoptive home. They rescued him and had him about 5 weeks before this happened. So now I want to train him and socialize him, but I don’t want to use aversive methods, as has obviously been used on him to train so far. He is fairly well trained though. I have to admit. But he is very smart and sensitive. He is leash reactive, and now he has a fight history. I just got him neutered. They didn’t do it sooner because he had such a bad case of mange with skin infections on top of that. I was originally responding to your post about living with dogs who wanted to kill each other. That is what I did for 7 years. It was horrible, but I adapted because i committed to them as family. Done deal. Until I couldn’t anymore. But it turned out for the best in the end when we separated them. Riley remained dog aggressive and I could only take her to Lake Merced to swim for the tennis ball solo. Brenda was very social, but when she got older, she did resource guard at small dog parks, and was dominant / aggressive if there was food involved. She was easily redirected though. Riley was never redirectable. And, she never liked most of my friends. I think she was jealous of the attention I gave to them. She was ok with men though. Not women. But generally liked humans. Sorry for the lack of paragraphs. It’s late.
11 months ago my daughter and I found a half grown puppy in a local department store parking lot. Per the employees there, she had been outside in the cold and dark for several hours laying beside first one truck then another when people came back and were not her family she would move to another truck. Pretty obvious she had been booted from one. We couldn’t really get near her as she had a low growl, but, we lured her anyway into the back of my daughter’s rented car (she was visiting from SoCal) and took her to my vet as neither animal control or the sheriff answered when we called the animal “hot lines”.
I have three older dogs that have a delicate balance between them. The female is an aussie shepherd and she sees the two males, one a pit/lab mix the other a hound/retriver/corgi mix as her babies–licks them and bosses them around. The aussie is 10, the pit/lab is 7 and the hound/corgi etc is about 8. I only know the prior history of the aussie, given to me by a neighbor who lost his house. The other two were pound dog rescues so breeds and ages are approximate. All are neuters.
I had been taking the dogs outside on leash only and individually to do their doggie business as my yard was unfenced with no topsoil and huge underground boulders. When I found the pup, a Catahoula (according to my vet and people who know the breed), I started trying to find someone to drill down into the boulders to place a fence. “Lilly” was boarded from December until May when I introduced her to my other dogs. She took positively to the corgi mix first, then to the aussie and lastly to the pit mix and all seemed pretty good for about 8 months. No nipping, no growling to me or even my male friend though she was initially terrified of men. She actually adores Alan now and has bonded strongly with me.
Unfortunately, I must work out of county about a 2.5 hour drive away and I work 12 hour shifts so I stay on site for three days on, four days off. Alan does come and let the dogs out in the mornings as he stays overnight on those days, and again in the evenings but the entire time in between they are all four kept in their kennel crates. This was just supposed to be a temporary thing as I was looking for a place to rent or buy near where I work. Its been a year and I’ve not found a rental that will allow dogs and I can not qualify for a purchase.
About two months ago, the corgie mix went after the Catahoula in the yard, I broke them up with a water hose though the pit/lab mix got in a few licks on the corgi too. The two originators got cut ears, nothing more though I noticed that the corgi and the pit mix were now a little strained.
In the last few weeks, the Catahoula has been snapping at the aussie anytime she gets to near me, she also has snapped at the pit mix for the same reason. When she does this she gets a firm “no” and then is put in her kennel for doggie time out. Last night the pit mix hopped up on the bed and the Catahoula drove him off. The aussie also left though she was not being snapped at. I put the Catahoula in time out again and got the other dogs to go back on the bed (i’ve since learned not a good idea to have dogs sleeping with you but I am 61 and have done this with my dogs all of my life). WhenI brought the Catahoula back in to sleep. the aussie and the pit mix left. Thru the whole thing the corgi mix did not leave the bed, did not seem affected in the least.
This morning when I was placing them in their respective kennels to be fed, the pit and the Catahoula had a skuffle–they stopped when I told them to back down but then the corgi sailed right into it with unbelievable visciousness and attacked the pit mix. The Catahoula also started back in on the pit. None of the dogs responded to water on their faces or being called off. In desperation I ran outside, grabbed the garden house and soaked them inside my house. This only made the corgi run off outside, the other two were still at it. No idea how I had a leaf rake in my hand but I put it between the two dogs and pushed the Catahoula off of the pit and kept backing her up till she went into her kennel crate. The pit mix was a mess, massive lacerations on head, legs, ears and he was trembling. The Catahoula was bleeding also from her ears and puncture wounds in the neck. The corgi had their blood on him but no cuts or bites on him.
I’ve just brought the Catahoula female and the male pitmix home from the vet–his kidneys are bleeding and we do not know why. Even after anesthesia he is trembling and whimpering. I placed all four dogs in their kennel crates and took each outside individually. When she came back inside the Catahoula went to the pit’s wire crate and whimpered with her tail wagging, she was trying to get into the crate and he understanably growled.
I don’t know what to do. i’ve no one to do treatments or give meds to two battered dogs (Alan said no, he had to work offsite himself). I’ve no dog runs to place them in, just the crates and a huge back yard and they are are crying/whimpering despite pain medications. I called off sick for the next two days. This was so odd, yesterday during the day, the Catahoula, pitmix and the aussie were all three splashing around and laying down in the wading pool i use to trap rainwater and now I have two severely injured dogs. I don’t think that this can be fixed and even if it can be, I am still stuck with the job that I have out of county and can’t imagine how to do any behaviour modifications under these circumstances. I contacted a Catahoula rescue, sent pics, wrote a bio about her, but this will take sometime to rehome her and my main concern is the here and now. She is the sweetest little ball chasing, intelligent goof and I’ve been told even with some scaring, she would be easy to rehome but what to do in the meantime.
Also, I had Lilly neutered immediately after I found her.
Oct 2, 2014: my 100 lb Plott Hound/Mnt Cur & my 45 lbs Golden/Collie got into a huge fight. I couldn’t separate them. I didn’t realize I was getting hurt myself. I finally dragged my little boy by the collar across the lawn to the gate. I used the gate door to get my big boy to let go. My little one was hurt very bad and required several stitches. I had several puncture wounds in the head, hand and inner thigh. There was more blood every where then I wanted to see. I wasn’t thinking. I just wanted my babies to stop. I never had experienced anything like this, I didn’t know what to do. My little boy had to be re-homed. I knew deep down that I could not offer him a safe home anymore. The intensity of the fight was extreme. I could have lost my little one if he hadn’t gone to the vets immediately. It felt like a death when he left. A death, yet you know he’s still out there, recovering in someone else’s home. No good byes, no I love you, no I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you, no I will never forget you, no closure. It’s been 3 mos since the fight. My leg is still bruised & sore, but getting better. My heart will take longer to heal. My little boy has recovered nicely and has found another furever home. I’m happy for him, but I still miss him a lot. I miss his smile, his hugs, his child like play, his spunk, digging holes in the backyard when he thinks I’m not looking, his morning wake up kisses and bringing me my slippers in the morning. I’m down to 2 dogs now. My home is so much quieter, but there’s a void. I hope he doesn’t forget me.
Since this incident, I’ve been told that had I had sprayed them with a garden hose, I could have separated them. Is this true?
How does one rehome an 11 year old lumpy corgi or a 7 year old, anxious, weird mixed breed (cattle dog) that has injured both of the other dogs in the home? it is clear to me that we are all living in an unfair, dangerous situation. The good, easy dog (Corgi) is living in a bathroom, while the troubled dog gets more attention because she barks nonstop if confined. I tried a gate and they either fought through it or she went over it. I can’t break up the fights alone. I am terrified that my daughter will slip up and she could never seperate them. To make matters worse, the toy poodle joined in the last fight and started attacking Troubled dog while the bigger two fought.
How do you find a home for a dog like this?
I benefited greatly from reading all of the comments on this post when making my own decision regarding Chloe and Abby (see original posts above – June 5, 2014) and thought I’d post the conclusion of my story in hopes that it might help someone else who, like me, came here hoping to develop some clarity with regard to what decision is best.
We ultimately opted to re-home Abby (the more adoptable of the two and also the later addition to our family), but with control of the process being on my end if possible. That is, I decided to try to find a home using my own networking rather than a shelter. A flyer e-mailed to my co-workers was the golden ticket, with one of them actually having just been online that morning looking at shelter dogs. The timing couldn’t have been better, nor could the family, which is dog-savvy and dedicated. Long story short, Abby is now in a home with one parent who is home part time and with three girls who absolutely worship her. She couldn’t have gone to a better place, and I was so happy to get to meet the family and have them meet her beforehand to make sure I was comfortable with the fit. The girls didn’t realize they were at our house to meet the dog, since the parents didn’t want to unduly raise anyone’s hopes, but one of them on the ride home innocently commented that they should get a dog like Abby. It was perfect.
What’s more interesting, though, is how much happier Chloe is. She’s always been a stressed, anxious dog (as noted in the original post, we actually had hopes when we got Abby that having confident friend would help Chloe, particularly when we were away from home); but she’s infinitely better now. The initial reaction was somewhat gleeful–running around freely, playing with toys, etc. The long-term change is more important, though, and includes her exuding a general sense of well-being that I hadn’t seen before in her. Part of that is related to some changes we made to where she can and can’t go in the house (more freedom and access to us made her much happier); and part of it is that our little one, now that he’s older and absolutely dog-obsessed, leads to her getting a lot of attention. Still, the absence of Abby is a big part of it. For instance, I thought Chloe didn’t want to be on/didn’t like her bed by the living room. Now I believe she was resting far away in the basement or off in the utility room b/c of Abby. I thought she was slinking around b/c of her apprehensive nature. Now I believe she was nervous primarily b/c of Abby’s presence. I thought she didn’t enjoy petting and cuddles the way she used to. Now I believe she was avoiding too much closeness b/c Abby would move her aside.
Rehoming Abby is the best thing we could have done for Chloe; and it was probably better for Abby, too, since she no longer has to share resources (which was obviously a stressor, even if she wasn’t the oppressed party) and is in an equally loving new home. What worked in our situation may not be right for everyone–and certainly, our good luck in finding such a perfect home for Abby is a major factor making this such a success–but I hope this helps someone else facing a tough decision and the guilt that inevitably weighs you down as you consider your options.
Maria Sorrentino says
I have been reading this article and all the comments all morning. I have two wonderful rescue dogs 9 and 10. They are a golden chow mix and and a husky collie mix i got both of them within two months of each other. The golden chow was about 18 months and out of the puppy stage the husky was 8 months and was not out of the puppy stage. They fought at the beginning and my golden chow quickly established domninance and that was it they have lived together perfectly. About a month ago we decided to adopt a puppy. We were going through some sad times in our house my 84 yr old dad had moved in a year ago and we had to place my mom into a home for alzhiemers and she was soon in hospice care. We came across this adorable cute pittie/shar pei 4 month old puppy and with all the sadness going on mom died recently we thought a puppy would bring some joy into our lives. He is a wonderful little guy and the other two dogs at first were pretty indifferent but the little puppy started to establish dominance over the husky male mix who is extremly attached to me. There were some sqirmishes and one episode where the husky had him cornered under the deck so from that moment i made sure to never leave them unattended. Things seemed to be fine i made sure all three of them were getting the proper exercise and attention. Then the last two weeks as the puppy is getting bigger he was starting in again with the husky mix trying to establish dominance. Me and my husband would be outside with them and never allowed the play to get too much and the puppy would always submit when the husky would growl. This morning i got side tracked briefly attending to my dad and had to come into the house and left all three dogs outside for no more than two minutes to help me dad down the stairs i suddenly heard the golden chow bark and then to my horror i ran outside and my puppy was a bloody mess and i had to pull with all my might and got bit in the process off the husky from the puppy who was on his back submitting. The husky was in full fight mode and if i did not pull him off he could have killed him. I got the puppy to the vet. He was pretty banged up but fotuntately no breaks just soft tissue damage and a ton of stitches. The husky was not hurt at all. I love all my dogs and this puppy is really sweet and loving with my daughter it just keeps trying to dominant the husky by nipping at him and trying to sit on him. The vet stated that the husky has now declared his dominance and just keep them separate until the puppy gets bigger which according to the vet the puppy is going to be a tank. I dont want to rehome the puppy but what if that is my only option to insure his safety. The golden chow will just be motherly and snap at him if she doesnt want to play so there is no issued there but now with the horrific fight and seeing my sweet husky in a state of total fight mode i am so afraid to keep them both in the house. The good thing is the puppy will be coming home today with a cone on his head to prevent him from pulling out the stitches and drain as the vet needed to place a drain in by his shoulder due to a compression so he will not be able to nip at the husky for awhile. Is there any coming back from this or will the husky now always want to fight him. I am desparate i dont want to rehome any of them. They are my babies and my 7 yr old daughter would be devastated and we have already gone through enough with the passing of my mom. Any suggestions would be helpful.
I am in tears reading this post, because although I have spent the past week reading posts on your site, they have all been regarding the guilt of putting a much loved dog down. Today we put my 13.5 year old, much loved Bichon down after a year of trying to prevent fights between him and our new GSD puppy. And no, it wasn’t the GSD who initiated the fights.
The Bichon has been aggressive since I brought him home at 8 weeks. As a matter of fact, when I moved him when he was sleeping at 8 weeks old, he viciously bit me. A behaviorist told me that was not right and to return him to the “breeder” (backyard breeder), but our vet at the time told me that is normal small dog behavior- that he was trying to be a big dog in a small body.
He continued to bite and be aggressive throughout his life- with no identifiable trigger. He would bite me, family members, our other Bichon which we got when he was three. The aggressive Bichon terrorized the puppy Bichon and would not accept him for three years- he bit him, growled at him and lunged at him constantly. The puppy was and is extremely submissive.
When our much loved Bichon was 12 we got the GSD. And they got along fine at first. Bichon would occasionally growl, but nothing too severe. It should be noted that at the same time, Bichon, named Cotton, by the way, was also in early to mid dementia. He also was suffering some hearing loss and his eyesight had diminished. Early this year he bit the groomer so severely that it took two people to pull him off of her.
Last July when the puppy was about 4-5 months old, Cotton (Bichon) growled, showed his teeth, bit and lunged at the shepherd. The shepherd picked him up by the neck and shook him causing significant damage. We fixed Cotton up and decided to seperate the two bichons from the shepherd. Please know that the shepherd does get along fine with other dogs and our other Bichon.
Because of human error (ours and our childrens), there have been three other incidents in the 9 months since the first attack. None have been as severe as the first attack- the last time it was just scratches on the bichon. But…the vet at the ER told me she would report Cotton to Animal Control because he had bitten so many vet techs, she overheard me telling my son to wash out the wound where he had bitten my son’s hand after the fight between the dogs, etc. and she wanted him put down and did not want to treat him.
Long story short, we treated him, but 2 1/2 weeks later, because of the stress of the situation in not being able to keep them seperate and him safe, plus his diminished cognitive capacity and our regular vet’s recommendation, we decided to put him down today. I am absolutely wracked with guilt and regret. I see in the retelling of the story the MANY areas I failed as a pet owner. I see all the things I did wrong. I failed him. I didn’t protect him. I loved him, despite his aggression, he was such a wonderful dog. Please let me know your thoughts….
Deena Schelsky says
I have been reading all the comments on dog fighting as I am now waiting on the call to pick up one of my Aussies from the vet. We have three Aussies, two males, one female. They all have the same father. Ninety percent of the time the males get along great, playing, running, etc. The other 10% of the time they start fighting over what seems like position to smell something, or get out a door, or once to get to me. While I do have the option to return one or both to the breeder and they will have a forever home, I love both dogs and would like to find a solution. The minute I separate them by the gate, they are both nosing, licking and whining to get back together. We are in transition right now, getting our house ready to sell. Both boys are super sweet with my husband, a quad, and myself, and their sister. I really want to keep both boys in the home, but cannot do the shifting and moving dogs around all day routine. I need to find a way to break this or I will have to let one go. The question then is .. which one?
Sherry Troutwine says
I have seven dogs and they all have issues with at least one or more of the other dogs in the house. I have a GSD and a Staffie (neutered males) who hate my Am. Bulldog (intact) and I have four scars, one wrist to elbow from Staffie/A.B. fight. Two lab/pit mix sisters (spayed) who stuck to each other like glue until a fight over nothing, they hate each other except through the cage door. Both hate my Blue Heeler (spayed) and attack her for no reason, she only wants to play and is submissive to everyone. My female bully mix hates both lab/pit sisters and the heeler after this last time of coming in heat, she’s turned from a sweet, chill dog into a bitch with them and even had an attitude with me. My staffie got involved and got into a fight with her when she turned on him after not being able to grab one lab/pit girl because I snatched her up into the air to avoid a fight, after avoiding each other a few days they are fine with each other. All the girls get along with all the males and I am very aware of all the girls body posture and do not leave them in a room alone. I have seven crates and everyone is on a crate/rotate schedule to try to avoid any more fights. It’s just me dealing with all of them, they are my furkids and I can’t imagine how I could ever choose who to re-home so this is my life and theirs for the foreseeable future. They aren’t tense or stressed after the first few minutes of being out of the cage, they play with me or go to sleep and basically avoid each other. I have had multiple dogs all my life and never had any issues like this until this group of dogs.
My heart is so stressed and sad now ever since we brought the 4th dog in my 70 lb aussie stalks her and attacks her causing serious injury the other dog both girls is part aussie and always in fear there is no reason for her to attack her she stays to herself I just don’t understand I live in fear and stress for the other dog who only ways 40 lbs the aggressive one has no reason to attack her she is always stalking her then the schnauzer joins in the attack my husband thinks I should get rid of the aggressive one says she will keep doing it I keep them apart and they can be so lovable and sweet but the fear I have knows she will attack her again until death she has also attacked my older mellow dog too it has cost me a lot of money and arguing with my spouse because my love for all them is so deep please tell me what I should do I am so stressed all the time wondering when it will happen again either way I know my heart will be broken I cry all the time not knowing what to do but I can’t keep going on like this please someone tell me what would be the best thing to do for all involved I don’t want her put down she’s needs to be with someone with no other dog she us a great protector stays in the yard and guards the house sleeps with me and has never hurt a human she is a great house dog and loves to be loved on go for walks and rides. So do I rehome the aggressive dog or the quiet passive dog I need your help
In my house we have two male pitbulls(one blue nose One red nose) , one female Pitbull, and one female chihuahua. The chihuahua went into heat and drove the two males crazy, to the point where one night the bigger of the two (the blue) almost killed the other one(the red) . After an overnight stay getting stitches we brought the rednose back home and he ran straight into the cage with his brother (the blue), at which point the blue nose tried to attack again. We kept them apart for about a week after that and then tried to bring them together again; this time its the rednose who is starting to growl at the blue nose, who then reacts accordingly. We know that if we let them loose near each other they Will kill each other. We have our two other dogs And three little children in the house… Is there any way of getting them to like each other again, or are we going to gave to regime One? Any response would be extremely helpful, we are at our wits ends
@Pat – I completely understand your situation and wished I had an answer. We are in a similar situation ourselves with two 75lbs boxer (male and female). We had a few really rough years with them after my female was attacked by a dog I was fostering. I was keeping them separated but the door didn’t latch when I shut it. From that point on, she would randomly attack my male who would then be terrified for days. Breaking up the fights was easy because he ran the minute I got her off. However, she held a grudge for days. We went to a trainer, put up some boundaries for them – basically managed the problem. Things have been great for a year. They are best buddies. Then out of the blue, my male decided he was food aggressive one day. The first fight we were able to prevent because my husband was home. The second fight happened at the deer lease while he was hunting this past weekend. I am not 100% sure who actually started it. I picked up on my females body language and grabbed her, but my male growled and decided he wanted to fight. There was nothing I could do. It was absolutely awful. I threw water on them, made loud noises, grabbed their back legs…nothing worked because they were both engaged in the fight. My husband came back and we were able to break them up. They are both very sore and have multiple wounds. They were licking and sniffing each other that afternoon and the next day, but I am back to walking on eggshells. My husband works out of town during the week, so I am keeping them separated which males everyone sad. But it also keeps them from killing each other. Our plan is to have someone evaluate them. My question is the same as yours, which one do I rehome…I feel like rehoming the more aggressive of the two is just passing on the problem. I am not sure the other one would adjust to being rehomed. Plus, he has been the aggressor for the past two incidents….so maybe they both need to be put to sleep. It is so hard because they are truly the sweetest dogs. They listen and are obedient – everyone always compliments on their behavior. They snuggle together on the floor in the living room and seem to prefer being together…except when they want to kill each other. We are at a loss and I have been in tears the past two days. We don’t have kids, so they are our babies. It is sad that the best option may be putting them to sleep. Any suggestions are appreciated. It is just nice to know we aren’t alone in our situation. We aren’t dog trainers, but we are pretty dog savvy…if anyone could make it work, it would be us 🙁
I have two rescue huskies. The first I got almost a year ago and the second just about two months ago. I did everything I read trying to introduce them on neutral ground but they do not seem to get along. But after reading some of these, I’m not sure how bad it is. I haven’t left them together much after their first fight which we broke up almost immediately, one dog drew a little blood on the chin of the other, but I thought that was bad at the time. Another fight was at the dog park but they were good with each other for awhile even laying back to back at one point but then a fight broke out seemingly out of nowhere and again a little blood was drawn. The worst was when were were keeping them separated but one got out when my girlfriend didn’t know it and when she was bringing the other inside my girlfriend got bit pretty badly on the arm breaking them up. I’m just not sure how to see how serious their fights are without risking one of them getting hurt badly. I don’t want either of them hurt. I was thinking about putting muzzles on them both so they can’t hurt each other and seeing how they interact, but also thought that might end up hurting their relationship to each other if they associate the muzzle with the other dog. I’m just currently at a loss.
Dayna – that is almost exactly our situation. These dogs are the best buddies, except during a fight. We’ve lost count now on how many there have been. The little, older female is always the aggressor; however, last week the larger, younger male fought back. The female was the one hurt along with my husband, who was bitten breaking it up. We might go months and months with no problems and then we hear the snarling. There is no guarding over food, toys, us…….they eat out of the same bowl at the same time, they lay in the same bed. The female has a bite history of several of our neighbors so she has to be watched all the time. She cannot be rehomed with the bite history and we love the big male so much, but I didn’t save him from a rescue to be hurt, and frankly, I’m seeing signs that he’s learning the really awful things from her. We’ve had her six years – she was found on the street by the police. She’s always been really high maintenance. We have been crying all week trying to make a decision whether she should be put down. If we get rid of the male, that would solve the problem, but not her aggression towards other dogs and strangers – who is anyone who comes into the house. We’re so sad and at a loss.
Elizabeth Klein says
I am in a rehoming situation right now. I love my dogs. All six of them. And the difficult part for me is that 5 of my six are biologically related. But the stress is getting to me. Originally I owned two dogs, a female chiweenie and a male pitbull mix. I was homeless, living by a river and my female dog became pregnant and gave birth to a litter of 7. I was able to find a good home for 5 of the puppies, but kept two, a male and a female. I contacted an animal program which provides free spaying/neutering, but before I was taken off the waiting list, the female was pregnant. Not to mention I had discovered I was pregnant also. To make an incredibly long story short, I found housing, had a bouncing baby girl and after the birth if the puppies I ended up with another male and female. All of my females have been fixed, and i am on another waiting list to fix the boys. Unfortunately my pitbull mix is aggressive to the other male dogs and I have to keep then separated at all times. The youngest male has become a terrified canine that marks the whole house, urinates on the sofa and bed, and barks constantly. I am at my wits end, and I am surrendering him to a rescue sanctuary in the hopes that he find a good home. However it is breaking my heart to do so. I love him with all my heart, and removing him from his family after almost two years of knowing nothing else is going to be incredibly difficult. All I can think of is how scared and alone he is going to be without us, and how he’ll never recover from the trauma. U know it is necessary but it doesn’t make it any easier
i have to female dogs one is 3 and the other is a 1 year old pup they did get along just fine they would play together eat together and now they just fight as soon as they see each other and the 1 year old pup always get hurt more then my other female dog what can I do to stop this from happening ????
I read the article about dogs fighting with one another. I have four dogs who use to get along for the most part two of them have been on and off. Recently one of our mellow dogs has been going after our pitbull. So now we have a bitpull boxer fight and once a fight breaks out then our other two get involved. I am not sure what to do. We also have an aggressive dog that does not like human males at all because of what previous owner did to him so we cannot have company over at all. and this is the dog that normally fights with the pitbull. I am at wits end and not so sure what to do. The vet has no issue putting the pitbull down but will not put the shepherd/lab down and he is the more aggressive one towards humans and dogs he is the instigator most of the time. I don’t feel that the pitbull needs to be put down at all. I just want a normal household and feel safe at home. Is there help?
Patricia Violante says
I am so sorry, I meant thank you Dr. McConnell, not Ms. Campbell, although there may be a Ms. Campbell out there who deserves my thanks as well.
I needed this article right now. We have multiple dogs with no issues. Our one dog has bad anxiety and is medicated for it. Today he tried to kill one of the dogs. The vet confirmed this was not just a normal fight that he wanted him dead. I feel so horrible not knowing why this happened or what to do 🙁
I have 2 female pits they got along great but one of them got pregnant so I put the other one out of my room they faught after she had the puppies and then they was fine they both stayed in My room and then once again they are fighting and it’s bad where one of them gets hurt bad it’s so bad know they try and fight threw my door I don’t know what to do I had the one since she was 12 weeks the other I got when she was like 4 5 months
Dr. Karen L. Maloney says
April 29, 2016
July 2015, I agreed to take in our deceased friends dog. This dog is the unneutered father of my unneutered dog. My dog was not quite two years old and the father Choo Choo was a little over two years; Choo Choo was 8 months old, when Casper was born. Casper and one of his sisters was born 99% white and over time developed some black markings, their noses turned black and the rim of their eyes also turned black, which was good and they have green/brown eyes. As a baby, my neutered male dog Tippi attempted to kill Casper. Tippi had a long history of injuring his sister Tazz and attacking our horses. I finally told my husband, if Tippi hurts one more animal, as he attacked Casper, I will be putting him down. Tippi attacked my husband’s horse and I had him put down. Casper and Choo Choo got along very well. They played together, they and my other two dogs waited their turn for treats, etc. There were times that I would hear a growl and not sure which dog it was from, made sure that I verbally reprimanded for the growl. Casper, my dog and the younger of the two didn’t mark, but Choo Choo marked everything outside!!! I would verbally reprimand for this act and bought a lot of Nature’s Miracle to try and get rid of any scent, didn’t stop Choo Choo from re-marking. September I took all 4 dogs to irrigate. Casper and Choo Choo got into it over a gopher. I did get them a part and they all seemed to be OK and everything went back to normal or so I thought?
April 16, 2016, I took all 4 dogs with me to irrigate. Casper likes to play fetch and Choo Choo doesn’t, but he is constantly running after Casper and bothering him. I try to constantly keep an eye on Casper and Choo Choo and tell them to be good. I threw Casper’s stick and yelled at him and Choo Choo to be nice; they appeared to be OK. I turned away and heard a fight ensue. I turned back around and started yelling at them!!! OMG!! I thought Choo Choo was going to kill Casper. Casper was screaming and whimpering and Choo Choo had him on the ground trying to get the back of Casper’s neck!!! I ended up using my irrigation shovel to get them apart. I immediately took Choo Choo and put him in my livestock trailer, as it was too hot to put him in the truck. I called my husband to come and pick up Choo Choo and recounted what happened and that I had gotten bit trying to get them apart.
That night my husband stated that he didn’t want to find a new home for Choo Choo and we would have to find a way to make it work. Several nights later, I walked Choo Choo outside to have him sleep in the barn office, where our bedroom is until the addition is completed. Casper was outside and started to run away, when he saw Choo Choo. Choo Choo got away from me and the fight was on. I got knocked down and bitten pretty good on my left leg, left ring finger to the bone and my right hand. We could’t get the dogs apart, I got a long 2×4 and tried to get between them, Choo Choo grabbed Casper by the middle of his back and was trying to snap his back; Casper was screaming, whimpering and crying. I begged my husband to shoot Choo Choo as he was going to kill Casper. We finally got Choo Choo off of Casper. My husband stated that he now understands how dangerous it is to keep Choo Choo and that we will look to re-home him. I found a home for Choo Choo with a young man, who played with him when he was a puppy. April 27th, Choo Choo was neutered and will be going to his new home April 30th. Casper’s wounds almost required vet care they were so bad. Mean while, I have a very tall gate in my kitchen doorway, so that Choo Choo can be in the living room during the day and Casper can have the kitchen and our unfinished addition and has access to our side yard through the French doors in our addition. Choo Choo no longer accompanies me, Casper and Hooper to irrigate as he stays home with Tazz. I make sure I keep an eye on Choo Choo regarding him giving Casper the evil eye. Choo Choo’s re-homing can’t come soon enough and my husband for once, understands that it isn’t good to keep dogs that do not like each other, especially when one of them wants to kill the other one.
AMANDA WONG says
Hi, I stumbled upon your blog when I was googling for answers on dog aggression. See I have a golden retriever who will be turning 2 in 4 months, and we have other dogs as well. One of them is of course the alpha, a medium sized mix breed who is 6 years old. Normally the GR would be submissive to the alpha when he decides to show his dominance at random times. Until recently, the GR decided to fight back. He lunged at the alpha’s neck and wouldn’t let go. He is double the size of the alpha, fyi. If I hadn’t thrown a basin of water on him, I’m pretty sure he would’ve killed the alpha, seeing the alpha’s tongue going blue already. Now I have them separated. I am afraid if I let meet face to face, the alpha would try to assert his dominance on him again and the GR would just kill him off. Is there a possibility he would want to kill him, or is he just trying to assert his dominance towards the alpha? Can neutering the GR fix his aggression? The alpha has been neutered, fyi. How can I make them get along again? I hate separating them as I fear their aggression would get worse. Thanks in advance!
I am in this situation right now, i have to c age my dogs, take them outside at different times, hide one in a bedroom so i can let the other one out of his cage to go outside..these dogs are both from shelters that i rescued and used to get along great! they have both been neutered and its breaking my heart to think about re-homing one of them. i have even went so far as to divide my yard and have a second chain link fence built to hopefully separate them so they could both have outside time. the first time i let them outside on their own sides of the yard separated by the fence, the aggressor dog actually came away with a bloody mouth from biting the chain link trying to get to the other dog. What amazes me the most is they are both Yorkie mixes..The aggressor is mostly Yorkie and his fighting partner is Schnauzer and Yorkie ( much bigger). They have gotten to the point that they do severely hurt each other and if there is ever a fight that I am not around for, one will surly kill the other. How do i decide which one to keep and which one to let go? Its like choosing between children for me. I don’t know how this all came about but I do know if i get rid of the little one who is the aggressor, he will have to be an only dog or live with a female and never any males.
I have 2 dog that have recently been fighting a lot lately. Ones younger than the other, and the older one is the aggressor. The younger one is too friendly to fight but he’s much stronger than the other, and any dog once pushed hard enough will fight back. There have been a few non too aggressive fights but one recently left the older one very hurt, and this all for dominance. I can’t go put the older dog for adoption because he won’t be able to adjust sense he is already to old so it would be much harder, but at the same time he’s the aggressor so putting the younger one for adoption won’t be in the right either. They don’t even hate each other. It’s extremely random when they fight. One moment they can be playing and licking each other and the next the older one just attacks for no reason at all and I’ve seen it happen. I can’t keep both of the dogs separated either sense they are both outside dogs who have always preferred it sense we have the space but they choose to be near each other like a pack hence why the older one is trying to keep his dominance. I’m he’s willing to die too and I don’t want that what can I possibly do to keep this from happening.
Heartbroken in NC says
I have a situation that just had a terrible ending. We have three pitbulls that we kept out on a fenced dog lot together. A father dog age 7, mother age 6 and daughter age 3. Up until recently they have all lived as one big happy family. The daughter has always been a rather skiddish dog, that is why we chose to keep her with her parents, as she does not let them out of her sight, and barks nonstop if you take one out for a walk or a bath without her. About a year and a half ago I bought them all new toys, and the next day I found the father dog had been injured. The girls had roughed him up over the toys and he required a trip to the vet. He has never been aggressive towards them before but has been towards other male dogs. I had noticed that he had a cough so I had him tested for heartworms and he tested positive. It was at that point we decided to move him to our daughters outside kennel for over a year while he was being treated for the heartworms so that he could remain calm. We recently brought him back home and they have all gotten along great, not even so much as a growl between them and seemed very happy to be back together. Last week we went out to feed them and found the mother and father both dying. The father was bleeding profusely from his mouth and nose and had a cut on his leg, he was falling when he tried to walk. The Mother could not stand and had a cut on her leg and chest and seemed to be going in shock. They both had very labored breathing and died within 10 minutes of each other. At first we thought maybe they were snake bite, or shot, or possible attacked by something. We took them to the vet to be cremated and expressed our concerned of not knowing what happened. After we left a technician x-rayed and looked at the dogs and said they are convinced the dogs killed each other. They said pit bulls will turn on each other no matter how long they have lived together and just snap one day and kill each other. We are having a very hard time accepting this to be the truth and wonder is this true? The Mother dog was spayed so she was not in season nor was the daughter. They were in a fenced kennel so it is possible something could have come over the fence. The poor daughter dog doesn’t have a scratch on her. Do you think this is what happened, they had been together for 6 years. The vet tech said they had a lot of bite marks, we did not see that many, only a couple of puncture wounds. This has made me so sick I can hardly stand to think about it, it literally makes me nauseous. We loved them so much and would have never predicted this happening.
Debra Jefferson says
I couldn’t help but laugh when you mentioned having the 2 border collies in the air because my border collie and staffie have been fighting quite a bit over the past few months and during one of them I had my collie in one hand and my Staffie in the other and it was a case of “Now what do I do” lol. Unfortunately I didn’t have a pyrenees on hand to help and my male staffie had taken himself into the kitchen out of the way. Eventually I got them apart and threw my collie across the floor (which was swimming after I had thrown water over them which only resulted in my house smelling of wet dog) and managed to get my other dog into the crate.
Before mopping the floor or cleaning my hand which was bleeding I sat on the couch and cried then poured myself a large drink.
Hopefully if there is a next time I can get them split up quicker and come away uninjured.
We are in one of those situations and not sure what to do. I have 2 old english bulldogs, One male and the other female. They started great together but ended up hating each other. I had to bring my female to the vet last night for stitches. We have been separating them for so long now and one slip up and bang they are at it again. Now we are considering re-homing one of them but it is very hard as we love em both…It’s harder for us as well to separate them since we are both in wheelchairs as well. We are having a hard time but now as the article mentioned, we need to think for the dogs…It is either having them both with electric collars to suppress an attack and also dog muzzles or re-homing…Hard to do.
I have two male blue pits…one is 5 one is 4…they have been together since the younger was 6wks and older was a year old…I have had two really bad fights with some pretty serious puncture wounds to each…I have to keep them separated at all times…never the same trigger…will I ever be able to merge them back together? Neither are aggressive towards people or other animals only each other.
Tabitha Topp says
I have 4 dogs 2 pit mixes, one female and one male the female is 5 the male is 2…then I have a 12 yr old female jack Russell and a 4 yr old male German Shepherd hound mix and that’s the problem dog! We got him from a shelter I volunteer at when he was six months old and he was great (we had 4 dogs then and they all got along) then we got our youngest male pit mix and the German Shepherd hound turned into a real jerk! He has taken over one of our recliners that’s literally HIS chair, if any dog gets within 20 ft of it he growls lunges at them and just freaks out…he won’t let ppl sit with him without snapping at them! Then there’s my bed…when he’s laying in there and the other dogs even come to the door he jumps up growl won’t let them up on the bed…and recently he’s been snipping at us if we try to move him while he’s laying down! I don’t know what to do he has all the other dogs terrified and they are bigger than him. How can I get him to chill out? Someone please give me some advice…any will help. I’m heart broken my babies don’t get along 🙁
my current situation, I adopted a blue heeled mix about 3 months ago now..hes about 2 -2 1/2..the 2nd week I had him, a dog in my apartment complex and him got into it at the dog Park and the dog bit the top of his ear off..now we did get them apart safely and all that..and I assume some kind of left over aggression is still there…because every time he aeea the other dog he starts barking and whining and growling and trying to go at him..now each time he’s wither on my balcony or in the car or in the dog Park (alone with me) so I’ve been able to attempt to redirect his attention..but his focus is so intense that I feel like I’m failing each time and I hate thinking of getting a shock collar but I’m not sure what else to do. iI do walk him 2-3 miles a day giving he is a hyper breed..amd Its arilm happens after when he’s wore out.. now I’m not sure of the other mix he is…if he’s not fu’ll blood..but any suggestions would be so great!!
I am truly at a loss as to what to do. Let’s start with a backstory :
We purchased a Shiba inu male puppy. We then adopted A female shins I used that was 2years older. our male Sheba showed signs of aggression. They worked it out in a few days and haven’t had a problem sense. We threw a one year birthday party for our male Sheba. And invited friends with other dogs. Cooper our male Shiba attacked the tiny puppy and almost and/or tried to kill him.
Fast forward to three almost 4 years later I was pregnant with our first child and Cooper always demonstrated an almost new nurturing tendency towards me when I was pregnant. But one night when I was living on him scratching his ears he growled and aggressively bit my face and gave me a blackeye did not break skin but with the aggressive.
Fast forward again. Both dogs tolerate our now two children. But growel and kind run away. Our girls love the dogs and can’t understand why they don’t want anything to do with them. So We introduced a kitten thinking cooper wouldn’t be so dominant on it, we were wrong, Cooper attacked him and wehad to have a front tooth removed.
I / we have been so tired
Of the dogs taking and not loving us back. The girls want to love on them and they growel and snip but never really bite.
We decided to get them an Aussie doodle. We got the least domenant of the pack.
First time meeting it was controlled and as soon as keeper knew we were not watching him he attacked the 15.6 pound puppy pinned him down the new puppy incomplete dominance took it and blood out of his paw and had two bites on his head. Cooper legitimately tried to kill him. Since them they are not allowed near each other unless were around if cooper even knows we are not around he goes after the new pup. He hasn’t gotten him because we are always looking.
So ethically I am in a crossroads. I don’t know what to do I don’t know how to deal with it. I know that maybe he wasn’t fair to introduce a new dog into our family with their aggressive dog but is it fair to live with an aggressive dog.
Just got sheep with a sheep dog. We have had a couple of coon dogs for years. Do we need to worry about the sheep dog hurting the coon dogs?
Dianne keller says
I have two dogs, a lab that we raised from 12 weeks old and a rescue dog that was introduced to our home when the lab was 3 and the rescue dog was 5. There were skirmishes that eventually came to a head with both dogs hurting each other, but established dominance and life was good for two years. Tonight they got into a fight where it appeared that the lab would have killed the rescue dog who would not submit. We saw the issue was a soup bone that they both wanted- even though they were both given their own bone. The rescue dog (Lucy) is a thief and will claim anything she likes while the lab (Sadie) usually tolerates this except for tonight. I fear there will be a repeat performance in our future. Both dogs are bloody and will be taken to the vets in the morning, individually. I fear the best course of action is euthanization as this scene tonight was a marked escalation from the last scene 2 years ago. I fear the next performance will be brutally fatal. I have had the rescue dog to a trainer, but as you can read, there are still behavioral issues. Any other ideas would be very helpful.
Dianne: First, I am so sorry. It’s hard to say much without actually knowing you and the dogs, but I do advise waiting before doing euthanizing a dog. Lots of alternatives to consider, especially re-homing one dog. I can tell you that my clients are almost always extremely resistant to this idea, but it often works out very, very well. For now, management and prevention–you are right that this might happen again, and be even more serious. I hope you can find a local trainer/behaviorist who can help you sort this out; it’s such a tough place to be but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
This article helped but I’m still stuck on what to do with my girls. I have a Great Pyrenees golden retriever mix who is 5 and a sheltie dachshund mix who is 6. We got the Pyrenees when she was 10 months and I had the other one since she was just six weeks old. Both are sweet girls but do not stand down when there is a scuffle. Sasha (Pyrenees) used to attack Zoey (sheltie mix) all the time over food and any other possession. We started separating them when we fed them and never let scraps fall between them. For two years they stopped fighting. Maybe the occasional spat but nothing too bad. Then Sasha attacked zoey over a toy. To the point Zoey had bad puncture wounds that had to be treated by the vet. Since then we have moved and have lived in our new house for about a month and a half. Fights now have been multiple a week. All of them are started by Sasha. Always when we are around. Usually it’s food, treats that kind of stuff. But it has started with water now too. One time Zoey just walked in front of Sasha and Sasha attacked. Sasha is so much bigger than Zoey but Zoey does not back down. Zoey still has scabs on her neck from the last big fight from Sasha attacking. We’ve tried yelling and making loud noises but it does nothing. We love both of these dogs so much that rehoming is not an option. I really need strategies to help prevent these fights and to break them up quickly without hurting myself or the dogs. I can usually tell when Sasha is about to attack, her body stiffens and she gives Zoey side eye. If I resch to grab her when I notice it is on, Sasha attacks. Like I said Zoey does not back down. I understand this could be a dominance thing but I really need advice on how to handle these girls the right way. When they are outside together they never fight. Just run around together and then go their separate ways. Most of the time it’s fine they will share the couch or bed but Sasha can be unpredictable. I’m scared Sasha is going to really hurt Zoey. Any advice is appreciated.
I hope you read this, but I don’t have much hope as it was posted in 2013. I have worked with over 300 dogs (not professionally) and had them through my home and I have never seen or heard of issues like we have. Until a few months ago, I had 3 males around 100lbs each that want to kill each other. The oldest died several months ago and since then the aggression in our other 2 has only increased. I know I messed up somewhere and I know most dog issues are people issues and that devastates me as we go through this dance ever day. They cannot so much as smell the other or they are red zoned. Most recently, one picked up the shadow of the other through a closed door and ended up tearing up the neck of his most helpless and defenseless best friend. They have had surgery, I have had surgery. It’s been 3 years of this. I cannot rehome as I would never be able to trust that another family could handle these dogs due to behavioral issues. One is absolute perfection (except when he sees/smells his brother) and was my very first dog that I have now owned for 6 years. The other I rescued 3 years ago and only kept because the 2 boys seemed to get along so well and he was so strikingly petrified that rehoming him would be cruel. They were best friends for several months before the first fight. One had his side ripped open and the other was pretty much untouched. Reintroduced them and then 2 weeks later one has his neck torn to shreds and needs surgery. From then on crate and rotate has become the only option. Both dogs are incredibly happy and get lots of exercise and attention, but one mistake will lead to death of one of them or to the other 2 dogs that they live with (and love). They fight through crates, doors, anything and everything. We have spent thousands on training and have gotten nowhere. We desperately want a family, but thinking of a child accidentally opening the wrong door or stealing a key to let kennels open puts me into a panic. We have been doing this for years and I am so so tired. I love my boys more than anything in the world, but our mistake is not just a mistake…it means one of our babies is dead. Please help us
I am so so sorry. And, from outside looking in, you can not keep living like this. And if you think about it, neither can they. They know as well as you do that one open door means a fight to the death. You have done nothing wrong, this is about them, not you. I’ve been in untenable positions myself, and know that we do know what to do, we just can’t face doing it yet. But the pain of either rehoming or euthanizing, tho it will be awful, is finite. You are living in an endless nightmare. Please get yourself out. I can’t advise you about which alternative to take, but I can tell you that many dogs do much better in new homes than people think. Talk to trusted people… the trainer you felt most comfortable with, your vet, pastor, best friends who understand how hard this is. And then make your best decision, do it, and grieve. It will be so hard at first, but then you’ll be amazed at how different life is. Again, I am so so sorry you are going through this. Get to the other side, you and your dogs both deserve it.
I just stumbled upon your article while searching “how to decide which dog to rehome” and I just want to say thank you. I’m struggling with my 2 male boxers, both of which I love dearly. In the past 2 months I’ve spent over $2500 in vet, doctor (got bit myself) and trainer bills, treating for injuries in fights and trying to “treat the behavior” as you say but alas I’m afraid they are in the category of those who will never again get along. Reading through your matter-of-fact assessment has really helped me see things more objectively. I’ve been sick thinking of how I could possibly part with one of them but you’re right love means putting them first. Thanks again.
We have two dogs that do not get along, sometimes. 85% of the time they lick each other, play and lay on top of each other. However there have been several incidents where they get in very serious fights. Our male is 130 lb boxer mix and is now 8 years old. The female is about 4 or 5 and is a pit bull/boxer mix and 70 lbs.
Their fighting has become worse each time with one that occurred with me being the only one home and was over the neighbors dog. He began barking at the fence so our dogs ran over to the fence to bark. I tried to get them both to come inside when they started fighting each other. This quickly escalated to be a fight to the death with me pleading them to stop and intervening to no success. They finally tired and I was able to get the female back inside but not after she had an enormous hole in her chest – both dogs went to the emergency vet and $1,000!!! Not to mention my visit to the UTC the following day for a bite that got infected.
We had kept them separate anytime outside after this that occurred 4-5 months ago.
Just a few days ago they started fighting again only this time there was no obvious trigger. My husband was able to tackle the 130 lb male as I dragged the female to the other room. They now stay in separate rooms ALWAYS. Our house is small so this has become an issue but I do not see any other solution. One stays in an extra room while the other “visits” with us in the house then we rotate them. The alpha stays out more than the other – like times when we are gone or asleep.
I don’t feel like this is a long term solution but what else can we do? To re-home sounds awful as I would constantly wonder where she was and how she was doing! I have never been one to give up once I have adopted a pet! Not to mention who will take an aggressive pit bull mix?
I can ‘t live in a constant state of fear but nor can I give up one of our dogs!?
This is a struggle like no other for me. 1 red nose 1 Stratfordshire and another mutt girl. The two boys who used to be best friends try to kill each other on sight. They were fine before i had my son, and befor she came (roughly around the same time.) Its hard because one male is my husbands one is mine and even if we got rid of the female i thinkits too late for them. :-/
These are such heartbreaking situations. All of us love our dogs and many of us have rescues/shelter dogs and have ended up with multiple dog homes. For 10 years we had 3 large mixed breed shelter dogs who got along very well. However, as the dogs changed, we are facing escalating tension/aggression between our two dogs. The resident dog, an approx. 9 year old female pit bull who lived quite peacefully with our other two male dogs for years (minor scrapes with food/toys being the trigger). The two males passed on from age related issues and my husband desperately missed “his” hound. About a month after the last hound passed (old age) we adopted a 2 year old rescue hound. Very sweet but unsocialized with people and not house trained. The introduction went fine and they played fairly well together despite different play styles for the past two years. We have been careful to feed them in separate spaces, watch toys, etc. There have been some fights over the past two years but we regarded them as “spats”. However this weekend, while we had my sister and BIL visiting a big fight broke out in which the pit went after the hound without any recognizable triggers or provocation. Previously, there had been two or three serious fights but either my husband or I could break them up. Now it appears the pit bull, who is dominant will suddenly lunge for the hound. My husband was injured breaking up this last fight. Both dogs were in the red zone as I came to assist the break up and the hound, who is extremely gentle, was actually trying to bite me (he did not). Neither dog sustained serious injuries but the hound has had puncture wounds in his ears from a previous fight. So we are now crating and rotating. During the day while we are at work we have always separated them anyway – one gets the living room and kitchen area and the other gets the den, mudroom area. During the past two years we have had him, the hound has become a really nice dog, gentle, fully house trained we have decided to contact the rescue and explain the situation. The pit bull girl is not a candidate to rehome – although she is very sweet with people, she is extremely dog reactive while walking her and now I fear she has become dog aggressive. She is also a terror to walk – very strong and despite thousands of dollars spent on training, harnesses, etc. she still pulls with all her might. I considered PTS for her but that does not seem fair since she is fine with people and we are extremely careful while walking her and, have a fenced yard. After volunteering at shelters in urban areas of NJ I fell in love with pit bulls and do not want to be “part of the problem in perpetuating the reputation of them being vicious.” We love the hound – he is a sweet gentle dog that we invested a lot of time in training since his adoption. I guess as hard as it is to consider rehoming him, he is young and as long as he has a fenced yard (not a jumper) an easy dog for anyone who knows that hounds can be vocal so will eventually be adopted. He is also a beautiful dog and although that sounds shallow, I know from experience that attractive dogs are adopted first and feel confident that his gentle disposition will make him an easy adoption. I am heartbroken that we will be returning the hound but also do not want to have him victimized. On the other hand if the pit bull girl has become aggressive perhaps PTS should be considered. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Grateful to find this discussion but feeling more upset than I was before 🙁 My situation doesn’t quite match others and I’m feeling lost.
Have owned many bitches over last 30 years, occasional fights between them, but no injuries, friendships were always resumed (with careful management initially), and they could be trusted together again.
I now have 11yo neutered male foxie ‘Jack’, & 4yo speyed Lab ‘Chloe’ – both since they were 8 weeks. Both have great natures. Have fostered several dogs, no problems.
Added new foxie bitch ‘Poppet’ to family 18 months ago. She was a year old at the time. Very laid back for a terrier. Sweet personality, easy to train. Very good with people and dogs. Her previous home used brutal (ie literally beating dog up) training methods and they had another bitch who “hated other bitches” so I was surprised at how good this girl’s temperament was.
First 10 months was great. All 3 dogs played beautifully together. No hint of problems with resource guarding or anything else.
Poppet is entire as is co-owned and will be bred from. After her 2nd heat here she started to attack Chloe – seemingly at random times but always at home. Very little of the usual warning body language. Chloe got minor puncture wounds. Poppet not injured.
I consulted vet behaviourist who said it’s the common bitch to bitch aggression, and that Poppet is resource guarding the house and the family members. He said unlikely to be fixable – he mentioned he has 2 bitches of his own that can never be together. Based on my past experience I was more optimistic but knew that I needed to prevent more negative interactions, while facilitating relaxed/positive ones.
I bought muzzle for Poppet and trained her to accept it – she will sit and wear it, but won’t move around in it so not helpful. Also set up large pen in living room, and kept them apart unless closely supervising. Despite the ‘controlled’ environment, interactions were positive with relaxed body language on both sides 99% of the time – eg Poppet wagging tail at Chloe, and licking her chin. Chloe seemingly oblivious to any issue and wanted to engage in play. They could cuddle beside each other on the couch in the evenings.
My son and the dog sitter have slipped up a few times and let them out together and there have been several fights (perhaps 6 in total over 8 months) – the seriousness escalated a little and they got a bit harder to break up, but nothing too scary.
The last fight was at the park a month ago (all others had been in the home) and it was very scary. 🙁
Poppet started the fight as always. This time Jack joined in to defend Chloe, and Chloe would not obey my commands to stop when I got them briefly disengaged (both new developments). Had major problems breaking fight up as it would keep restarting even though I had Poppet up in the air. They would have killed Poppet if I hadn’t been there as she would not submit. Poppet & Chloe had many puncture wounds but no stitches – pure luck it wasn’t more serious.
Management more careful now. Chloe still shows positive responses to Poppet but Jack now shows tense body language towards her so he is also kept separate from her while we work on positive interactions (walks together). Poppet also showing slightly more tense body language towards Chloe from other side of pen, but mostly relaxed and still offers tail wag etc regularly.
But this is no way to live. I feel like I’m sitting on a time bomb. If they are let out together by accident, and Poppet starts another fight, she may die a horrible death, or she may seriously injure one of the other dogs.
I feel like I should rehome but can’t bring myself to do that. I love them and they are very bonded to me – I can’t handle the idea of parting with any of them. The risk level is a concern, but the quality of life for the dogs is not …. currently. Will it inevitably deteriorate though? – the escalation in the fights makes me think it might 🙁
I feel this is my failure and that I should be able to fix it. It’s not a case of 2 dogs hating each other – Chloe adores Poppet and there are still signs of affection from Poppet too. So why can’t I help Poppet to feel secure enough to understand that she doesn’t need to attack Chloe?!
And is my selfish love for my dogs going to end up killing or maiming one?!
Cassie Foster says
Hi so I have a fairly serious situation we have a male German Shepherd who is 15 months old we recently took in and I mean recently as of yesterday took in another male German Shepherd of the same age they are in mediately going for each other’s throats we have done them in separate crates and let them sleep in the same room at night while locked in their crates are German Shepherd seems totally fine with the new one coming up to his crate and sniffing around however when the new one is in his crate if our German Shepherd gets near him he goes berserk please please I would hate to have to rehome the new one he is a Czechoslovakia beautiful sweet dog wonderful of our children he just doesn’t seem to want to get along with our German Shepherd based on the fact that they are both male and the same age so there’s a territory and dominance issue
My 80 lb lb bitch got into a couple fight’s with my 45lb pit bull, our pit was injured and taken to the vet’s for puncture wounds. My daughter’s dog Alexa (pit) has passed away from cancer and Several months later my daughter bring’s home a little Shi-poo weighting presently 10lbs (male) I was agent’s it but let her keep it. After a year with no problems Zuki decided to act out. I was outside gardening, came inside to fill the container with water walked to the front door as well as the dogs told them to stay, as soon as I shut the door I heard shep screaming(10lb) ran into the house to find Zuki 80lb all over him and didn’t want to stop. Finally my husband came up from downstairs just as I got ahold of Zuki’s neck and off the little guy and was able to put her in another room. Both my heart and sheppy’s were pounding. All I can think about is getting rid of Zuki. My husband say’s sheppy was probably jumping all over her wanting to get out.. but the dog wouldn’t stop had I not pulled her away and if my husband wasn’t there God only knows.
Julie Jordan says
I have a 6 year old neutered Pit Bull, and a one year old unaltered male Chow/Lab mix. These two have slept in our room together since we got Bo last May. We’ve never had a problem between the two of them before. That is until this past weekend. We had our 21 year old daughter come to our home and pet sit while we took a mini vacation to Florida and Alabama. All went well until late Monday afternoon. When the two fur kids decided that they wanted to square off and then commenced to fight each other. No life threatening injuries, and no children where present.
But in my heartbroken state that they would do this. I’m confused as to what even happened and concerned if it will happen again.
Everyone says to separate them, keeping them completely apart. When we do that they whine for each other and sit by the door of the other room or the kennel. Am I reading to far in to this situation because of the shock of the incident. Or is there reason for my concern. We did seek medical treatment for our pitbull as he has a gash in his mouth from the other dogs foot (at least that’s what we believe it’s from).
Any suggestions or ideas? Anything that will help ease our minds?
I found this read extremely helpful.
We adopted a boxer bully 3 weeks ago and she gets along well with 2 of our 3 other dogs (beagle & Aussie shep mix). Our senior pittie however has not been so lucky as to make friends with her. They fought seriously just days after adoption even with slow intro, and both needed medical attn. Hubs was badly injured in process.
Today, boxer bully snapped and went in for the kill. EMS for me, Animal Control for bully & a possible burial for our senior pittie if she doesn’t make it through the night.
I needed closure knowing I did the right thing by handing her over to the county. I feel awful about it, but the thing that scared me most, even more than being bitten, was during the 15 minute fight (not exaggerating, time checked from emergency call), as my pittie lay there almost lifeless and no longer fighting back, boxer bully would pause, walk away and then go right back to trying to tear pittie apart. It was terrifying. But boxer bully “wasn’t in there,” like she blacked out from the adrenaline, she had no idea afterward that she had inflicted so much trauma. We are sad for both dogs involved.
Anyway, thx for the article.
I am so sorry Kris for what you’ve gone through. Did you do the right thing? I would say yes, unequivocally. What you describe is exceptionally dangerous behavior, both for humans and other dogs, and I honestly don’t see that you had a choice. Please take care of yourself, this takes a toll on anyone, and you need to treat yourself as if you’ve had surgery.
I have a story similar to Kris above. My husband and I have owned an Irish Setter since he was 6 weeks old. He is now almost 7. For the past 6 of those 7 years he has been our only pet. A month ago we decided to rescue a whippet/lab mix, a female almost 3 years old. Her previous owners were also a family, with two smaller dogs (Boston Terrier and dachsund). They were re-homing her because she “didn’t get along” with the dachsund. They had been keeping her in their basement, I don’t know how long. I should have thought to ask what they meant by “didn’t get along” with the dachsund. But since she was part Whippet, I thought it was probably because the dachsund was so small. And so we assumed she would have no problem at all with our Setter, who is 35lbs heavier and 6 inches taller than she was.
For a solid month, things went really well. Then one morning as we were getting ready to leave the house, my son fed both dogs in separate bowls, about 8 feet apart, on our back patio. We have a fenced in yard where the dogs would spend the days together unsupervised when we weren’t home. Our setter began to eat his food. The whippet/lab mix approached him and apparently got too close because he growled a warning at her. Suddenly, she attacked him and a fight ensued. By the time my husband and I made it outside, the lab mix had our setter pinned to the ground on his back, and he was howling a terrible cry. I have no doubt she would have killed him if we hadn’t been home. My husband punched her to get her off the setter but she was not phased. He finally pulled her by the skin behind her neck and got her off the setter. Our setter limped into the house and made it to the hallway outside our bedroom (where his bed was). Then the lab mix ran after him again and attacked him a second time. My husband got her off him again, but our setter was bleeding badly – on the floor and the walls. He got to his bed and I discovered he was gushing blood out of one wound on his front leg near his chest. Just before we rushed him to the emergency vet, I looked into the backyard where the lab mix was, and saw her standing about 30 feet from the house, completely still, just staring at the back door. She looked like a completely different dog from the one I knew. Our setter was given stitches to 7 different wounds all over his body. One required stitches to muscle and then the skin over top of that. There may be nerve damage but the vet says that is unlikely.
After discussing it with the vet, we agreed that euthanasia was the best option for the lab mix. She was an incredibly loyal and sweet dog, but this was her second home where she couldn’t get along with another dog. And knowing she was able to nearly kill a dog so much bigger than her, unprovoked (according to my daughter who saw the whole thing), made it impossible to rehome her where another animal was present. I had thought of surrendering her to the Humane Society but the vet suggested they might just euthanize her themselves given her history.
The emergency vet offered to euthanize her if we chose not to take her to the Humane Society. She in no way told us that was our only option, but she did believe it was the best, though hardest choice. And I agree. Our setter is doing okay, recovering under sedation. But I have struggled over the loss of the lab mix we rescued, who had been such a sweet and good dog except for that final morning. This article has helped me process that and come to terms with our decision to put her to sleep. We couldn’t keep her at our home a minute longer once our setter returned from the vet. And I couldn’t give her up to be put into a shelter or possibly risk the life/safety of a third dog or family if we had been able to find a good home that was willing to take her with her history.
Jennifer Kettenacker says
WOW. I dont even know what to say as to how much this helped. We have two males- Akbash and a mix (husky, collie, Bermesse). They have been together since 10 weeks old- same age 1 week apart. They love each other- lick and care for each other- they are three. Both not neutered. Two severe fights once a year- and now the third this week- and they cant seem to bounce back. They are officially separated and nothing is helping. Bought muzzles- they tore it off. I lost my son last year- so I learn to live with loss daily- i dont have an issue getting rid or one or the other or even both. HOWEVER- my partner is a different story. It is sheer insanity and i know the two dogs will allways be a risk together and its not fair to them. We humans can get over it- the animal kingdon is a different breed and as much as we think they are like us- that is a LIE. So yeah i cant tell my partner to get over it- it also wasnt his son that died last year and I dont think he struggles (only knew him for 5 yrs) but either way- how the heck do I get him to let go.? the one dog- mix- is a risk. he escapes, chew through walls, chewed out of doggy jail- ate the lock off and ripped the door frame- bylaw was shocked to say the least. He is high anxiety. I wouldnt even re-home him for that fact. The Akbash is laid back- feed me- let me gaurd the yard and thats about it. So i say goodbye to Akbash but again- my partner says NO. help 🙁
I write this reply as our two beagle boys lie sleeping, too exhausted from the afternoon’s fight to even get up for a sip of water. No serious injuries I can identify, but I’m worried about TrashCan (yes, that’s his name, long story) and may require a Saturday visit to the vet if he doesn’t get up and move around by morning. Jingles seems a little bit better, but I am on alert for both. I am frustrated and deeply saddened by their repeated viciousness towards each other. Eight years of trying to manage this has me considering more extreme options – rehoming, medication, or euthanasia. If not for one or both of the boys, then for me. First, I have to admit I have NO training whatsoever in dog behavior problems. I can potty-train dogs with moderate success and manage some very basic obedience training, but that’s it. I have not yet seriously consulted a vet about their fighting. I was just searching for some answers tonight, and stumbled across your blog. Thank you for posting! We (my husband and I) acquired these beautiful little beagle pups at about 6-8 weeks of age. At the time, I did not recognize the obvious signs that they were from a puppy mill, until repeated failed attempts to reach the seller after we brought them home and noticing they were not socialized at all. Almost immediately we had problems. I got distracted one afternoon (shame on me, poor supervision!) and found the tiny little puppies embroiled in one of the most vicious-looking dog fights I have ever witnessed. They were no more than 8-10 weeks old!!! I carried both tiny mutts by the scruffs of their necks to the bathtub, coated in copious drool and bits of blood (theirs) along the way, still snarling and struggling to get at each other. No serious injuries, just shredded ears and punctured snouts. I do believe TrashCan suffers from some sort of psychological illness, perhaps due to their experience at the puppy mill. He obsesses with his plush toys and the corner of a dog bed, sucking or ‘nursing’ on the thing. Never chews it, just sucks. He gets testy if Jingles wants to play. Jingles wants to play, but doesn’t know how. TrashCan doesn’t play at all – he just thinks it’s a fight and responds likewise. Once the fight starts, they can’t *can’t* stop it themselves. They don’t know how. Since puppyhood, they jump into fights with each other every few months or so (once breaking the routine for two years) with absolutely no warning – no posturing, no growling, no nothing. Just getting along fine, and then BAM! Somebody triggers the other, and the fight is on. Once it was over Jingles nosing into TrashCan’s dinner bowl. Another time over getting too close to the plush toy. I’ve seen TrashCan snap towards one of the cats as a warning, and it’s fine – but if he snaps towards Jingles, the fight is ON. If Jingles growls at TrashCan, the fight is ON. Neither has any bite inhibition. They are both neutered (TrashCan at about 7-8 months with undescended testicles, and Jingles a couple of years later due to marking behavior). For the first seven years, we had a third beagle, female-fixed, much older, with them. Popcorn broke up most of their fights by charging into the fray and sending one or both running for cover. Injuries have never been more than punctured ears and snouts. Until last summer, when I raced into the middle of a fight not thinking, just reacting and pumping adrenaline, and one of them snagged my forearm. I had a trip to the ER to stop the bleeding from a severed vein then came home to mop up the blood splattered all over the kitchen. Now two more fights in two days, ended by kicking them apart. Pulling up on the hindquarters of one doesn’t work, water doesn’t work, yelling commands, banging on pans, covering their faces with a towel, nothing has stopped a fight except forcing them apart somehow with feet, legs, or a broomstick. Usually, it ends once my husband gets involved to kick them apart. (Not kicking AT them, just kicking between them to break contact.) Neither is the usual attacker and the other a victim – oh no, both of these boys are attackers and both are victims. Today’s was the worst they’ve had since that first puppy fight. I don’t know what to do – other than keeping them separated at all times. We have a planned vet visit in two weeks for booster shots and general welfare check – so I hope to get some answers and direction. This cannot go on any longer. Just can’t.
Leta: You are right. This can’t go on. Not for your sake, nor for the sake of your dogs. It’s reasonable to be anthropomorphic here–how would you like to live beside someone who might try to kill you at any moment? What a nightmare. From what you describe the dogs have been substantially damaged by their horrific start in life, and simply cannot be
living together. You could talk to a vet beh’ist about medication, but honestly after 8 years of triggering each other, it is hard to imagine that being successful. (I wouldn’t say impossible, that would never be wise, but improbable at the very least.) What’s important is to get yourself and the dogs out of this situation. Options: Rehome one? Is one super reliable around other people (not just you)? I’d say that is the best option IF the new home is trustable to keep him away from other dogs. Keep separate the rest of their lives? I’ve known a few people (in thirty years) who have pulled this off, but far, far more who have tried and ended up in tragedy. (And guilt–“If ONLY we had closed that door, Jazz wouldn’t have died that terrible death…”.) Euthanize? Painful to even consider, but right now your dogs are suffering terribly and living in a nightmare scenario that they have no control over. If living wild, one would be dead, or far more likely would have simply left the territory. Right now they are trapped, and you’re the one who can release them. I am so sorry you are going through this, but again, you are right. This can’t go on.
I’m facing this right now. I help with a pit bull rescue. I have 3 resident and 2 fosters . One was pretty much a foster fail, until the newest (10mths) came into the picture. Honestly I don’t get it. The 2 females were so tight, slept together every night and day in same crate by their own doing, never a fight. Then one day the 10mth tried to hump one of them she snapped at him and the other female went into attack. I have had 6 fights in about 2 weeks, with trips to the ER. ( I can fix minor stuff, but 1 needed her entire ear stapled back together); 2 attacks have been through the crate. Just today one almost had her nose taken off, then the others want to jump in because of all the noise/excitement. The 1% was one pulling out of collar , slip lead on way to her crate. The rescue is planning on putting them ( 2 foster) back into boarding. Is there a possibility of the girls getting along again after the 10 month leaves or is it now a forever hatred? I wish I knew. I do feel that one is going to kill the other at this point. But geeze they were sleeping together 3 weeks ago. This is heartbreaking, they were all pulled from horrible situations and now I feel like a failure as she is curled up on me
lucie LaBounty says
I know this is an old post, but if you’d still like to hear about cases of extreme in house dog to dog aggression that ended badly ( ours tragic), let me know, I will happily share my story 🙂
Lucie LaBounty, yes please share your story for I am going thru this exact issue with our 2 dogs…..right at this very moment. Both dogs were rescued from shelters. Our first dog we rescued 3 years ago & our more recent rescue 1 year ago. They’re both females. First dog, Gemma is 4 years old now & the 2nd dog, Kenzie is 2 years old. There have been 3 Violent fights in this first year together. All 3 fights it was very difficult to pull them apart. There was blood drawn & serious injury to both dogs. The younger dog Kenzie with more damage done…due to being younger & smaller. Along with these 3 violent & terrifying fights there has been countless growls, hair raised on their backs & snarls at each other with the fear of a knock down drag out fight about to happen. How do you decide which one leaves the home?
Who does your heart tell you to keep? (So sorry you are going through this!)
My two Australian Shepherds (both fixed, female 2.5 years, male 10) have recently started fighting. It’s only around my husband or I. It began when our adult sons were home for college break. My older dog has increasing weakness/arthritis in his back legs and anxiety. (He was attacked at a dog park last year and now whines when he sees other dogs on our nightly walks.) One month ago the female began to randomly attack him.
The fights seem to be increasing and yesterday’s fight resulted in the male needing stitches on his front leg. (My husband also got a bite on his arm breaking up a fight two days prior. ) Today the older dog was prescribed Galaprant ( and tramadal and cephalex for one week for the bite/stitches). The vet suggested Prozac for the female. Currently, they don’t fight when they are outdoors alone. After 25 years of owning dog pairs this has never been an issue. We exercise them daily and they follow commands sit, stay, come, etc. I’m at a loss… I thought I was a responsible dog owner but my faith has been shaken. I don’t trust my instincts on how to resolve this issue. My younger female seems to feel that we are “hers”, is there a way to correct that possessiveness? Based on what I’ve read the fights will not stop. Are there any successful Prozac stories? I feel like my only hope at this point is keeping them separate.
Sorry I can’t help, but see if you can find a Certified Beh’ist, a Vet Beh’ist or a good progressive trainer who has worked with aggression. Definitely time for a coach! Good luck (and you ARE a responsible dog owner, good for you for reaching out!) Also, check out MINE! by Jean Donaldson about resource guarding. Just substitute yourself for the food!
I’m going through the whole 2 dog’s fighting thing right now. Just got home and my 2 female’s got in a fight and both are going to need to be taken to the vet for serious injuries. I’ve had these 2 since they were babies they are now 4. I love them both tremendously but I can’t let this keep happening its their 4 fight with serious injuries. I don’t want to put one to sleep in or rehome but it is looking like I have no choice. Who can I turn to for help?
Nancy, please consider rehoming one (I know, it is soooo hard.) But if one is okay around males or can live as an only dog, with owners who know to keep her away from other females, it’s a very reasonable option. I’ve had so many clients who rejected rehoming for months or years, and yet were so happy once they finally did it.
I had to put my dog down from her wounds from my other dog. Sad thing is, we managed the fights for over a year. I cannot forgive myself.
We have two hearding dogs. Females. They got along for 3 years. Now, they are spontaneously trying to slaughter each other. We’ve tried walks. Meds. Separation (which is always stressful since people are constantly coming and going in the house and it’s 100 degrees outside, so we have to switch them in and out of house so one gets some AC, visa versa.) A total nightmare. Not at all my picture of a pet family. We are seriously looking at rehoming the most vulnerable dog (older) since she’s the one who is being injured the worst, though she starts most of the fights. Ironically, these two dogs tried to kill our two rescue cats when we got them and we spent weeks socializing the dogs with muzzle training and now they get along with the cats, but we’re afraid if, by accident they get to each other again when someone opens the door too fast, etc…the cats too could be hurt. It’s just not worth it anymore. One dog has to go to a home that has just her. Sadly, we will NEVER EVER EVER get two females dogs again. I wish to God someone, at least the Vets we’ve seen for God’s sakes!!! Would’ve warned us. So disappointing and maddening.
I have two rescues , one is a 10 year old male Labrador and the other is a female collie cross lurcher (I think) . My lab is sweet and dopey and my collie mix has always had issues with anxiety etc. My female Lola and male max can be fine together and as long as I’m around they’re mostly okay … but there have been a fair few times where Lola has just attacked max … it started with food so I made sure they were shut away when any food is around wether that be theirs or mine and my kids food … but now lola just randomly attacks him and I can’t say why … there seems to be no reason … but when Lola attacks she means it ! Max does NOT fight back at all … he cowers on the floor and squeals and she goes for his face and neck only ! She literally try’s to shake and Tare whilst he makes the most horrific sound which is heart breaking ! The most recent was last weekend where she punctured his jaw (I didn’t realise) and I came down in the morning and his face and neck were fat and massively infected ! He’s still on antibiotics now although the infection seems to have gone …. she doesn’t care where she is when she does this and too many times she’s started next to my daughter and I have to fling her out the way so she’s not bitten ! Then I have to get Lola off max ! 😭 someone please tell me what to do 🙏🏼 I just don’t know what’s best anymore . Thanks
Oh dear, poor thing. The dogs absolutely have to be kept separate, and baring you working with a trainer (which is a great idea), I’d strongly suggest considering rehoming one of the dogs. So sorry, I know that’s hard to hear but… think of the life of your ‘victim’ dog. Max is living in a home in which someone wants to kill him. Not a good life, and I worry too about your daughter. So sorry, good luck.
Marlene DeLisio says
I am in the situation now of living in a home for the last three years with a foster who hates my Chocolate Lab. Dusty wants to kill Missy. We have lived in fear of forgetting to close the door. Well my husband forgot and the fight was vicious. I tried to tear them apart and got injured, bitten, fell and fractured my wrist( Plate and four screws) . I have to call today with the decision to put Dusty down. My heart hurts. I love her. She is sweet and loving with me , my husband and two little dogs but hates my Lab. I keep blaming myself that I shouldn’t have tried to stop the fight and I am now responsible for the death of Dusty . The door and the life she led for three years was better than what she had. I am crying as I write this.
You poor thing. I’m so sorry. First question… is Dusty good with people? Absolutely! Could she be in a home without another pet? Aggression to dogs doesn’t mean aggression to others. Hoping you can find a solution (and heal up).
Thanks for the info. The hard part is that my dogs are both the most sweetest loving dogs. I know one needs to be re-homed with someone who probably just wants one dog to give all her attention because she’s super jealous. But the actual fight started when I wasn’t home. I dont know how to find her a good home. I don’t trust people because so many people are not good to animals. It’s really a horrible situation To be in. They are my kids and I never want them to have to suffer whether in a fight or a bad home. 🙁
Misty, all I can tell you that I’ve had a couple of hundred clients who felt like you did, and yet found their dog a wonderful, wonderful home. It’s easy for us to believe that we’re the only home that is safe for our dogs, but the fact is that millions of people love dogs, would be fantastic homes for your dog, and both your dogs will be better for it. I’d call you local humane society about their best advice regarding how to look for a good home, as well as your vet and local dog trainers. Trust yourself Misty, you can find your dear sweet dog a good home, you can.
Amy Lloyd says
My 2 sister dogs can’t agree who is top dog since their parents died – previously the top dogs. This happened when they are 3 and before that they got on most of the time. Now as soon as they have access to each other they fight without stopping. We try break it up with varying success but have spent thousands on vet treatments. I tried to rehome the most aggressive one but she turned on the dog at her new home too. So she’s back and the other dog is being fostered temporarily with someone she knows well. We need to find a way to get them to get along again if it is possible. It’s very upsetting and unsettling and the rest. My only idea is separate fenced areas then muzzle and harness them if they may have contact. I don’t know much about dogs…HELP!
Sometimes to love is to give up what you love. My two Border Collie girls fight terribly. We’ve tried everything for almost a year and a half with training and behaviourists but with no success. We live with gates and doors and locks but it takes such a toll on my 3 boys in the house also. All visitors have to be drilled in the gate and door protocols before entering. For the good of my two beloved girls and all the other dogs we decided to rehome the youngest girl. It breaks my heart utterly. She is going to the loveliest home with a couple who adore her and she adores who will give her everything she could ever want, need and beyond. But if you have any advice I could do with it. They have read all the training I do including most of your books, they are utterly prepared. But I will drop her off to their house in 4 days time and I don’t know the best way I should exit. She is a sweet and loving girl and I am so close to her. Should I just slip away without her noticing when she’s playing with them? Or say goodbye and walk out the door? All ways will break my heart but what’s the best way for her? I want the best for her. In 20 years of a multi dog home I’ve never had to rehome before. It’s a pain like no other. We’ve prepared and planned every detail except I just don’t know how to leave their house in a good way. I do hope you read this.
Oh, Aoife, my heart goes out to you. I too rehomed a beloved dog for his sake, and it was so very hard to do. And so very right. In your case, I wouldn’t disappear, I would say goodbye, tell her you love her and and to be good. Try to do your crying after you leave, but don’t worry if that’s not possible. Just do your best. You are doing exactly the right thing, and I give you lots of credit for it. Hang in there; it will get better. Your strength and bravery deserves rewards–please take care of yourself in the next few weeks.
Trisha, thank you so much for replying to me. It really means a huge amount to me. My head knows what I should do but my heart plays catch up. I got stuck in a loop trying to think what to do when I leave the new owners house. Thank you for helping. I respect you and your work so much and to have your advice helps with the guilt, panic and sorrow that seems to come in equal measures. Thank you so much for replying to messages on older posts. I was reading this article in a panic to see if I had really made the right choice or if I had just totally failed my girls. A panic comes near the end where you question all your decisions and wonder what you did wrong, what you can do now and how to make things right for your dog in the future. I hope you know your help and response has meant the world to me at this hard time. I will always appreciate it when I think of my girlie. Thank you.
So kind of you to say Aoife. And I’m so glad I could help in some small way during such a difficult time. Believe me, I’ve been there and it sucks. No way around it. But you are doing 100% the right thing. The last minute panic seems to be part and parcel of the whole experience, so know you are right on track and that it WILL GET BETTER.
Lisa Francis says
We live in a home with 4 dogs, and they are managed very carefully so that the 2 female Elkhounds and the 2 Corgis are NEVER out together. It is a long, sad story – and it wasn’t always this way. I wish I knew what happened to cause the elder Elkhound (who was only 7 months when the problem began) to decide that the Corgis were her ultimate enemies. Our PW Corgis were 3 (male) and 2 (female) at that time. Their fights have never resulted in the need for medical care – slight puncture wounds to one another, accidental bites, scratches, and bruising to us – but I have NO doubt Alia would kill/seriously injure either of the Corgis if given the chance.
Sadie, and Elkhound/husky mix, joined us earlier this year on a very trial basis as a playmate for Alia, and so long as no food is available to them outside of their crates, they have occasional disagreements, but otherwise are best of friends. It was a very difficult thing to bring another animal into this dysfunctional mess, but we do manage everything with the greatest of care for their and our sakes.
What people have to understand about management of pets in this situation – no vacations, no long evenings out, no one allowed to ‘tend’ the animals because of the very real threat to them if someone very innocently provides the right opportunity. It is making certain each of them receives individual attention, gets enough exercise, and stimulation, and time outdoors while being kept ‘safe’ from the other. I have dealt with (and still do deal with) tons of guilt over the entire situation. It is exhausting. It can be stressful. It means my husband and I haven’t gone to bed at the same time – or even been in the same room with one another past 8:00 – in going on 2 years. It is a 3 am start time for me each day to make certain they are fed, walked, and taken care of before my day begins. My husband then gives them care and outside time again before he goes to work. I am typically home first, and the routine begins again in the evening – rotating dogs… and The normal lifespan of each of our dogs is 12-15. Your comment about quality of life for them and us strikes a chord that I have deliberately tuned out.
I could have rehomed Alia when it first became obvious the problem wasn’t going to resolve, but she and my husband had truly bonded, and he couldn’t imagine trying to find her another home. When you have a pet who is aggressive – the worry is that the next owner won’t be as understanding, will give up, and then God only knows the outcome. So we manage.
We love each of our dogs – very, very much. They are our family. They each have such wonderful personalities and dispositions – as long as they are not together.
Don’t get me wrong – we love them all, and they do all have great lives – we provide all they need, and then some: Toys, enrichment, love, vet care, endless hours of play – but I know that it would have been better for them all if we had chosen to make the difficult decision to rehome rather than manage.
I love your articles, stories, photos, and passion. Thank you for all you share and contribute.
Cynthia B Miller says
Hello – I have a dogfighting problem. I have a 2-year old mini-rottweiler and a six-year-old beagle. They are both very loving and the rotti wants me all to herself for affection. Sometimes she will initiate a fight when she doesn’t get her affection first and foremost. I have also had only two little treat fights during their time together. They are both crated in my kitchen (where I am most of the time) and often just relax in their kennels. They are very attentive with each other and the rotti loves to lick the beagle’s ear! Fortunately, the fights have not brought either of the serious harm but the beagle does get her ears scratched most of the time. When I break up a fight, I put the rotti in the bathroom for 11/2 to 1 hour. The beagle lies outside the door waiting for her release. They are both good with other dogs. I am at a loss for what to do to stop this fighting! I am 75 years old and love them dearly, but the fighting needs to stop. Can you give me any suggestions that I would be able to follow to help me with this? Which of your books might be the best for me to read. I sincerely appreciate any advice you can give me. Thank you
A little follow up and I hope it brings you some joy in these crazy times. I brought my little girl to her new home. I brought my eldest and most confident dog with us also. We spent the day with the new owners and played all over the house and garden. I said goodbye to her and honestly she barely noticed as we left because she was so engrossed in playing with her new parents. They’re such fantastic owners. She pined a little the first weeks. I gave them a book with all her little baby puppy training and they went through each thing like it was her first time and she settled right in. Today she received a Halloween gift from me. Before this I sent toys or treat gifts direct from the shop. I sent this one from my home. I’m sure it stank of me and the dogs. But in the unboxing video I got she didn’t even bat an eyelid. She went straight to murdering the squeaky toy and trying to eat all the treats. I’ve never been so happy not to be recognised! She’s so happy in her new home, her new owners are so great and I know that I did the right thing for her. It was hard but it is absolutely a better life for her. With lockdown and difficult times they can’t train with her at dog club much so we’re doing frisbee training online. I’m learning how to throw a frisbee for demo, try to film it and not get hit in the face by a dog because I’m distracted! It’s been hilarious and bruise filled. Thank you for your help and advice. You were so so right. It does get better. Nothing is worse than the apprehension and self doubt and nothing is better than seeing your pup absolutely thrive and see their confidence returning. In my home also my eldest girl has let go of her stress and is becoming her sweet self again. She much more relaxed and she has focus again. I was so focused on the victim of the aggression I had failed to see the huge impact on my eldest girl also. I think the drama skewed all our brains. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You gave me advice at my lowest when I really needed it. It meant the world to me.
PS: I lent them all the books of yours I had and they loved them so much I let them keep them. Your books helped me lot with a difficult rescue a million years ago so I thought it was fitting that your words help again. Thank you!
Aoife you made my day! Best news ever. I’m thrilled for you, and both happy families.👏
Thanks for this article. Wild that the comments keep coming 7 years later but this topic is a tough one. We’ve had a small male Schnauzer mix for about 10 years. We adopted him from our daughter because our grandson had allergies. He’s always been a good dog, not super affectionate but loyal and easy to have. We adopted another female dog last year (mix of pit bull, German shepherd, Chow and Terrier at least that’s what the DNA test said) and the 2 got along reasonably well. The older dog has never really liked the new dog I’d guess but has tolerated her with no issue. Early this year the older dog started having health issues. He has diabetes which we finally got under control for the most part with our vet and his eyesight rapidly deteriorated from cataracts to the point of blindness. Older dog started growling at young dog anytime they made contact usually when older dog walked into young dog since he can’t see her. To her credit, young dog took the hint and avoided him as much as possible. In August this came to a head when older dog growled at new dog and then she attacked him. We started trying to keep them separate but it has been very difficult to manage. I’ve been bitten several time breaking these fights up all of the bites by old dog. My wife can’t handle this at all and refuses to be left alone with both dogs. I am now paying a boarder to house old dog anytime I have to be away more than a few hours but like everyone else we can’t imagine living like this for much longer. I’m thinking euthanasia for the old dog even though he really didn’t do anything wrong, it just seems like the only logical choice. I hate it but don’t know what the other options are given his point in life. I’m sure our daughters will give us a hard time about this but they aren’t living here and don’t have to endure this stress. Thoughts and comments welcomed. Appreciate your work.
Oh Tom, I’m so sorry. What a difficult situation. We don’t know how old the Schnauzer is, and how serious his health concerns, so it’s difficult to know what any of us would do in your situation. If the old dog truly isn’t suffering (although I do wonder if he growls any time contact was made by the younger dog… can you pet the dog, touch him when he’s asleep?), it’s rough to put him down. Can you keep the dogs separate in your house? But it does sound like the older dog is mostly blind, and that’s a tough road for many to take for a long period of time with another dog in the house. Do you have any dear friends who would take the old guy, knowing it would only be, what, for a year…?
Thanks for responding. No we don’t know anyone to take him unfortunately. He sometimes growls when we pick him up and that will now set the other dog off as well. I believe he is 13 now. We’ll just keep trying to separate them for as long as possible I guess. I know now we can’t let our guard down. This isn’t going to fix itself.
Barbara sutton says
I have 2 female great danes. They have been getting into fights for 2 years now. Started by my younger female (winter). At this point I don’t know what to do. About 10 minutes ago I took a piece of wood away from winter, an as soon as I took it, she went over to scoobie (my older female) an started lashing out on scoobie. The only thing I could do to get winter off of scoobie was to push a chair gently into them to get their focus away from fighting. I have winter on trazadone but she still randomly attacks scoobie. I don’t want to re-home winter I want both of my girls, but it’s looking like winter won’t stop lashing out at scoobie. Has anyone else had this issue an if so how did you fix it. I’m in tears an my heart hurts to know my girls can’t get along.
Scoobie is 4 an winter is 3 both female
The fight they got into tonight; I found tooth marks on scoobies lower neck. (They aren’t harendous but they aren’t subtle either) , from what I’ve read I’m assuming that was winters “killshot” on scoobie?
Winter started acting out on scoobie about 2 years ago. An it always comes out of no where.
Winter does seem to always be in a scared state since the day I got her at only 13 weeks old, which is why the vet put her on trazadone. In hopes it would work.
It started with winter just randomly pushing scoobie against the wall in the middle of the night, like pinning scoobie against the wall. To full on just losing her mind on scoobie.
I have done a lot of redirecting training with her. So anytime I see her body language saying she’s getting over stimulated, I tell her to get a good girl toy. Sometimes she does exactly that without me having to tell her. But tonight’s fight was absolutely scary.
But, there’s also the factor that you had mention. I love the crap out of both of them. They’re both my kids. But I also have to think about what’s best for them as well.
Could scoobie be living on edge, worried about winter coming at her? Because in tonight’s brawl winter got ontop of scoobie, held scoobies neck an would not let go. The only thing that stopped them was putting a chair slowly in between them.
But, this fight came out of no where. Literally, I took a stick winter couldn’t have from her, (mind me an winter are like 8 feet away from scoobie) as I go to take the stick , winter runs up at scoobie, I didn’t actually see who started it, but then she’s ontop of scoobie an wont let go.
I hope you read this. Thank you.
Wess Staats says
Is this thread still active? I would love to start a support group for those of us who are “living” with multiple dogs and aggression issues.