Dog on dog aggression

Posted by leslie-barnhill
Dec 24, 2012
I have 3 dogs; Honey (Female, ~9yrs old, Shepard/Bull Terrier Mix), Nick (Male, ~4yrs old, Lab Mix) and Mo (Female, 1yr old, Cattle Dog/St. Bernard mix). We rescued them all at different times. Mo is our newest and she has been with us for about 7 months. She was much smaller, but now is almost as big as Honey. The problem we have is fighting between Mo and Honey. It has only happened a couple of times and it happens either when someone is at the door or the last time (which required Honey to get stitches) in our backyard over a toy. Since that happened (beginning of December) my husband and I have been researching and begun training all three (they all need it).

While I have read many times, that training won't necessarily help with the fighting, we needed to do it. I have read that there needs to be an hierarchy to their pack that we can reinforce properly. We definitely know that Nick is low man on the totem pole, but it is harder to decipher who, between Mo and Honey, is the top dog.

While it seems that Honey would be the leader due to her size (about an inch higher and about 10 pounds heavier) due to some of her behavior (Mo wont look at her in the eye and will not walk by her unless there is plenty of room), Mo is also showing signs of being the top dog (she is the first dog through all doors).

I have read that we need to let them work it out themselves, however in the last fight, it took about 5 seconds of fighting before I separated them (pull Mo by her back legs to get her to detach her teeth from Honey's legs) and the damage was done. I don't feel that I can stand by and see the two of them fight it out, because I think they would literally kill one another. Also, Honey has recently broken her canine teeth, so I think that Mo's wounds would kill Honey.

What can I do besides let them 'figure it out' by fighting to find out who is the dominant dog so we can properly reinforce their hierarchy.

Luckily, they are responding well to training and their is no aggression towards my husband and I (we have no kids in the house hold).

Also, both Mo and Honey seem to get along 99.9 % of the time. (Nick and Mo are crated durng the day and Honey has run of 1/2 of the house when we are gone).
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Dec 25, 2012
Hi Leslie,

I have responded to the same kind of problems before but I don't know how to retrieve my comments since KOP changed the website format.

We have 3 dogs too and I foster dogs constantly. All my dogs are rescued dogs and they were added one by one. My ground rule is that any addition (including temporary ones as fosters) should not be a threat to existing dogs. That's why I always make the new comer the bottom of the pack, no matter how strong or dominant that dog is and regardless of the size. There is a seniority order here.

I reinforce the new addition's position by treating him/her at the last, including meals (by only like 5 seconds though), my attention, walks (when I walk one at a time), etc. If the new one challenges the older one, I reprimand and give him/her a time-out. This works because I AM the leader and ALL GOOD THINGS come from ME (foods, treats, toys, walks, etc.)

However, once they have learned their own position, they are treated equally by me. As long as they respect each other's resources and they can live in harmony, I don't mind who goes out to the yard first, or play with toys that nobody else is playing with. Snatching a toy from another dog when he/she is playing is not allowed though.

Since each dog's position is determined by ME, the leader, and not threatened by the others, they all feel comfortable and no resource guarding fights in my household. I even give only one bone to the four dogs so that each can gets his/her turn if waiting patiently.

I don't know if you agree with my philosophy or not but I would recommend you treat Mo as the bottom of the pack. Since she pays attention to you and your husband, I hope she will learn if you bring her down to the bottom whenever she challenges the other two. Hope this will make sense to you.
Posted by leslie-barnhill
Dec 26, 2012
This totally makes sense to me and we were doing this until we heard about the whole dog-who -goes -through - the - door -first -is -dominant and it made us second guess what we were doing. I like your logic of me and my husband being the leaders and whatever we say goes. (Following sound training techniques). We will reinforce Honey's place ahead of Mo and Nick and hopefully this (along with more training-she ispretty defiant) will help.

THANK YOU for your advice and suggestion.