Dog on Dog agression after discipline

Posted by Latitude-Llamas
May 28, 2011
Help! I got bit this morning breaking up a fight and have an escalating problem that somehow I have created. This is long but needed some background to tell you how we got to where we are.

I have 2 spayed female Rottweilers, ages 1 1/2 and almost 6 years old. The older girl, Roxie, is a rescue. I got her at about 4 months old from a home were she was starved, kicked, and attacked by fighting cocks. The sight of a feather still makes her start shaking. She is quite at ease with my husband and me but won't let anyone else touch her. She will approach and even lick their hand or take treats but just can't bring herself to allow them to pet her. She vocalizes (talking, not barking or growling) in a non threatening way and hides between my legs wagging her whole rear end if they reach out or are petting the other girl. She did snap at one person who just would not stop bothering her. At first she would growl and try to attack over food. Now she brings bones to me to hold while she chews on them. She is generally not dog agressive and ignores them unless they threaten her. She is a great trail dog and stays right by my side. However she feels it is her place to intervene any time our llamas act up or I yell at the cat for scratching furniture, tell another dog NO, etc. A simple its Ok or leave it always called her off.

The pup, Riley, is a well socialized, non dominant, happy go lucky dog who loves people and other dogs. These 2 play together constantly, sleep together, have no food issues, and will even lay face to face with their front legs crossing over and chew on the same bone or toy.

About 6 weeks ago I gave the pup a firm No for starting to dig and before I could react Roxie was violently attacking her. Neither one would back down and both sustained pretty bad bites by the time we got them seperated. The pup was meek for a few days and then everything went back to normal. Then a few days ago it happened again- same trigger. This morning my husband told the pup NO as she started to chase our cat, which she instantly stopped but Roxie was on her. I grabbed Roxie but the pup had her by the neck and wouldn't let go. I got bit out of her frustration at not being able to fight Riley off. We are all nursing our wounds and I have shock collars on both of them. Riley responds to just a warning beep but Roxie needs a really good jolt to break her concentration. I do not want my dogs to wear these collars or muzzles but I need help fixing this.
Posted by KOPCaroline
May 28, 2011
Hi there!

Its hard to say if this behaviour is from Roxies past or not, it could be that she had a bad encounter with stern discipline so she doesnt react to it well now, even when its directed at another dog. What does she do if you say "no" to her?

I know its not ideal, but it might be a good idea to keep a muzzle on her at home, just until you can train with her to get her to stop attacking after someone gets disciplined. Alternatively, if shes well trained and listens to you, give Roxie a command to leave before you discipline Riley. Then move to just getting her to sit and stay, get a hold of her collar, then give Riley a no when he needs it. Try putting Riley in time out for his bad behaviour, so that afterward they cant get at each other until theyve calmed down, and youre still disciplining Riley. Reward Roxie if she leaves him alone, if she tries to go for him, give her a no command and put her in a seperate time out.

Really put an emphasis on alpha training with the two of them, so they both know you're the boss and they arent in any situation. Spend one on one petting time with each of them, in front of the other one so they are ok with you interacting with the two of them seperately. If one tries to push in on your time with the other, tell them to get out, and if they dont, remove them. They need to learn to listen and let you deal with them individually.

Its pretty vague, I know, Ive never come across a situation like this, but thats my basic reasoning through the situation. Someone else might have more input to add on, or a similar experience. Either way, keep us updated and we can always do more brainstorming!
Posted by Latitude-Llamas
May 28, 2011
Hi, thanks for the prompt reply. To answer your questions: Roxie is a pretty typical Rottweiler to train or discipline, somewhat bull headed but smart. (I've had 6, half of them rescues). She feels safe with us- no cowering or fear, nor does she show us any agression. Except for her inability to trust other people she acts "normal", until now. Fine at the vets until they put a hand on her, then she shakes uncontrollably and growls; always wears a muzzle there. I'm her safety net-part of the problem maybe? If we go somewhere like Pet Smart she heels beautifully and ignores both dogs and people but she is in contact with my leg, leaning against it the whole time. It is a little out of her comfort zone.

I agree with the idea of separating them before disciplining and if I'm setting Riley up for training purposes I do that. What gets us into trouble is the ones you don't think about; that instictive, quick NO or some similar correction when someone comes to the door and they run in from outside or the cat teases them and Riley takes chase, etc. It can be as simple as saying "settle down" if the tone is firm. I can't make any correction or it might turn volital in one or two seconds. I have disfused things a few times by a quick "its ok, oh good girls" but talk about sending mixed messages! Both dogs live with us and usually have access to both the house and 2+ fenced acres but one or both have been put in the kennel as a time out. Have to be careful now about grabbing Riley to take her back to the kennel- that provoked an attack. I'm afraid that if I just put a muzzle on Rox and she tries to attack, Riley will kill her. She may be submissive but once attacked she fights for her life. I'm fairly strong but separating two 100 # dogs bent on killing each other by myself is no easy measure. Hence the 2 shock collars.

I don't believe it is a dog on dog dominance challenge. Riley defers to Roxie and looks at her to see how they should react to new things. We always feed Roxie first, etc. I often have two belly up dogs on the couch with me getting their bellies rubbed but we do interact with them individually too. Riley needs to be worn out so she plays ball while Roxie watches or sometimes joins in. Rox also lets Riley lead her around by the collar or drag her across the floor by her collar or jowells until she gets tired of it and makes a quick correction- not a vicous attack. They are great companions. I'm the problem (and my husband). I'm Alpha but Roxie feels the need to "help" me I guess??? I think I'll have my husband help me and do some leash work on both of them at the same time. Lots of sits, downs, stays, and leave its. He works a lot so I have always taken them to dog class or worked them individually.
Posted by KOPCaroline
May 30, 2011
Hi again,

Just a thought, though it might be hard to do with 2 dogs running around as they like. Have you considered trying to "desensitize" Roxie to the tone in your voice by saying more things in a stern, command voice around her? Even if Rileys around, it doesnt have to be corrections, just saying "Look" or "hey", in the same tone, so that Roxie could potentially get used to it and realize that the tone in your voice shouldnt be a trigger for her to go berserk?

I"m not honestly 100% sure if it will work, it might trigger more fighting, or might cause the dogs to think they're in trouble when they're not, which is why I said to use random words or just something to get their attention. Be sure to give praise after if neither makes a move toward aggression. Desensitization can really help situations like this sometimes, which is why I"m thinking its worth a go.

Otherwise it sounds like youre doing everything you can, Roxie's just got the idea of "helping" in her head a bit too enthusiastically. Do you ever lock Roxie up in the house, where she can see you, and work with Riley in the backyard - playing and training at the same time, so that Roxie sees you interacting well one on one with Riley? Might help a bit too...

I feel like I"m not giving very great advice, I"ll keep thinking though and researching a bit more and see if I can find any more helpful ideas!
Posted by Latitude-Llamas
May 31, 2011

I hadn't thought about desensitizing for my voice when I say No, etc. I'm trying to say it with the least bit of emphasis possible so she doesn't react. When I give Roxie a similar command she shows no fear and generally does as asked-although now "leave it' does no good when she is bent on attacking Riley. I'll give anything a shot. I love these two and can't stand this! Everybody-dogs, cat, and us are on pins and needles all the time.

Things are escalating, I don't dare let the 2 of them be together unless they are both leashed. They fought again yesterday morning without any trigger other than both being very apprehensive around each other now. Guess it is now just plain dog agression. Roxie's got some pretty good wounds- punctures in her shoulder and a deep groove inside her ear from the previous fight so she is feeling vulnerable, which makes her more unsettled. I left her in the house yesterday and Riley in the backyard (reasonably unscathed) so she wouldn't have to spend 8+ hours in a kennel. When we got home Riley was out front- she had litterly chewed apart one gate and then scaled the other. She was shaking and definitely having separation anxiety- always been fine when we're gone but always been with Roxie. So now we've added another issue.

My husband sat in the truck with her and tried to calm her down while I dealt with Rox. She was her old self, happy to see us and settled right into the regular routine, helping me move llamas around and doing the feeding chores. She went back in the house and I played with Riley and did some obedience work with her while hub rebuilt the gate and Roxie watched through the glass doors. No particular reaction from Rox other than calmly watching what we were doing. I then left Riley outside for a few hours before putting Roxie in our bedroom and giving Riley access to the house. Both dogs have always slept in our room so only having one in there raises the anxiety for the other. When Roxie wanted to go out halfway through the night, I switched and let Riley in our room. Both of them are suffering from this change in routine but I don't know what else to do. I've never crated either one of them so don't want to add another variable at this time.
Posted by KOPCaroline
Jun 3, 2011
Sounds so frustrating! I'm sorry things have seemingly gotten worse.

I know you said you dont like the idea of crate training, but it actually might work better than seperation like you're trying to do now. Instead of "one night I sleep in this room, the next I sleep there" and "one afternoon I'm here, the next I'm there", a crate provides one safe place in the house that is actually each dogs' own space, no one elses (except you, of course ). Its really good for confining one dog while the other eats, and of course sleeping, that way they can both be in your room still if thats where you decide to put the crates.

If you eventually decide to give them a go, make the crates as comfortable as possible, put some of your old clothes in them so they smell good, as well as toys and soft bedding. Dont use the crate (solely, at least) for punishments or time outs, you want the dogs to like being there.

In the meantime of trying to get the girls to settle down again, as well as seperation/desensitization/whatever, you could consider muzzling them while theyre out together. I would suggest putting one on each dog for obvious reasons. I know some people are very against muzzles, and its a personal thing, but it could help prevent further injuries in the meantime. You could also talk to your vet about anti-anxiety medications or a DAP pheromone plug in for the house, either of which could calm the girls down enough to get back to one happy family. Ive heard from a few people that the pheromones or meds really helped, and it doesnt have to be too intrusive on daily life

I hope you/we/other users with advice can sort this out, sounds so stressful!!