Happy sister turns aggressive

Posted by Duchess-of-Houston
May 18, 2008
Hi - new to the forums and the site. I REALLY need this to work:confused:

Some background on my situation:
Zoe is my 6yo Pug-ish dog. She's my first. I adopted her 3 years ago.
Grace is my 3yo American Bulldog(I think). She's my second. I adopted her 2 years ago.
Doc is the newest member of our pack. He's a 10 month old Lab/Staffordshire mix. He will be the LAST. I adopted him 6 weeks ago.

Before introducing Doc, Zoe and Grace were the best of sisters. They voluntarily napped in the same kennel, never showed food agression and generally got along very well!

I decided to adopt the third dog to give Grace a playmate of her own size (after seeing how she played and interacted with a dog for whom we puppy-sat over a long weekend).

The first week and a half with Doc were great. All three dogs got on well, seemed to establish a logical pack order and my older dogs were teaching Dog their good habits (waiting to eat until I gave the command, sitting after the "manners" command I use at the front door and before meals, etc).

But at the beginning of week 2, the dynamic completely shifted. Grace started viciously attacking Zoe. Snarling, jaw-locking attacks. The first few times it took me and my 19yo son to get Grace off of Zoe. Doc does not get involved with the attacks.
I started to completely islolating Grace from her pack-mates after said attacks. First for a short time - 1-2 hours, and increasing if there is another attack. By isolating, I mean locking Grace in her kennel and keeping the other dogs away from her.

It took about a week, but Grace's behavior seemed to improve. Sometimes we go 2-3 days between attacks - but then for seemingly no reason - Grace will attack again.

I'm at a loss. On the "good days" Grace and Zoe will lay together with no issues. Just when Zoe (and I) begin to trust Grace again, she attacks.

The situation is taking a horrible toll on me (physically and emotionally), on Zoe and on the household in general.

I've thought about taking Doc back to the shelter - which isn't a good solution - not fair to Doc, no guarantee that the Zoe-Grace harmony would not return to the pre-Doc days.

Honestly, if Grace wanted to she could kill Zoe quickly - but her attacks have yet to even puncture Zoe's hide. Grace gets vicious cuts and scratches on her face from Zoe trying to protect herself.

I need help. PLEASE - any suggestions or advice anyone can offer to help me restore harmony to my now dysfunctional pack will ge gratefuly accepted, embraced and tried with fervor.
Posted by Todd
May 20, 2008
HI there and thanks for the post.

I think the stress of a change in the house may be causing Grace some stress. She is coping with this stress with aggression. This doesn't mean it is okay so we need to get things under control.

Firstly we need to make sure things are not going to cause any dangerous problems. So i think you need to get a muzzle and use it at any times when Grace is around the other dogs. Secondly she should not be left alone with the other dogs at any time until she has resolved her aggression issues.
Next i think you may need to talk to a vet about possibly getting some sedation for Grace until she has had a few weeks. This will help take the edge off her and make her much easier to train and fix her issues

So lets start.....this is a very serious problem so i am glad you have asked for help.

The first advice i would give you is to ensure you and your family members have read and understand the techniques in the bonus book "Secrets to becoming the Alpha Dog". These are great techniques for maintaining or establishing your position at the head of the household. No matter what the problem is all dogs need to know where the stand in the house for both yours and their peace and comfort.

Here are some ways to reinforce your position-

1) If you come across your dogs while they are sleeping or lying on the floor then you can reinforce your position as alpha dog by making him move so that you can pass by.

2) Make sure that you always go through doorways first. A good method to reinforce your position as alpha dog is to walk your dog around the house on the leash, making your dog wait while you walk through doorways first.

3) At mealtimes make sure that your dogs eat after all of the humans have.

4) Do not feed your dogs tidbits or let it pester you at the table. Save the morsels and tidbits for training sessions instead.

5) Do not greet your dogs straightaway when you arrive home. Make it wait until you are ready and then call it to you.

6) Whenever your dogs want attention or anything wait till they are sitting and being well behaved.

Reprimanding -

You should reprimand your dog for unacceptable behavior, no matter what that behavior is. If you do not reprimand your dogs poor behavior then it will feel that it has the right to behave that way and it will take much longer to correct the behavior.

What I recommend you do, is the next time your dog acts poorly and exhibits dominant tendencies (growling), saturate your dog with the garden hose or a bucket of water, or if it is inside, throw a heavy blanket over your dog and be sure to reprimand it. DO NOT yell, as this has no effect on the dominant dog. Growl instead, use a guttural growl like " AAHHH!" instead of "No!", as this makes a sharper sound then "No" (If done correctly it may hurt your throat a little).

The next step you will have to take is to work very hard on Grace's obedience. Regular training sessions are key to improving your dog's obedience responses and keeping it used to answering your commands. Concentrate on the sit and stay, down and stay, heel and wait commands. The more obedient she is the more likely you are to have success and get her to respond to you when they have misbehaved. This training will take a lot of time and patience.

So now we need to focus on the issue.

It is important in this situation not to enforce one dog's dominance, but rather make it clear that they will be generously rewarded for displaying socially acceptable behavior. I can not reinforce how important muzzles are in aggressive dogs.

After a month the following controlled exercises may help:
For a start try working with Grace and Zoe with these exercises and then try with Doc to make sure things are good.

1. Grace needs to have a muzzle on at all times, then put both dogs in a sit near you. Pet one, and then feed that one. Then, feed the other one for tolerating your interactions with the first one. At first, this is best done with a second handler, but after the dogs become better at self-restraint, you can do this alone.

2.Sit on the sofa and call Grace and Zoe over. Ask one dog to sit or lie down. Make a fuss over Dog 2. Reward the sitting/downed Dog 1 for tolerance and remaining in place. Then reverse this: put Dog 2 in a sit or down position and make a big fuss over Dog 1. Reward Dog 2 for tolerance and staying. Again, you can do this by yourself if you have confidence that a brawl won't break out. Otherwise use a second handler to keep an eye on the sitting/downed dog. This exercise is best practiced on leash.

3. Remember that if you take one dog for a walk, leave the other one behind and kennel the walked dog on return. When things are calm for 5 – 15 minutes, get both dogs out and put them in sit and down together for a treat (never facing each other). Then allow them to interact, if you think that it is safe to do so at this point in training. Follow this advice when you work the dogs as well. Kennel one dog, and work the other dog. Then trade, kenneling one and getting the other out to work. After a 5 – 15 minute rest period, get the dogs out and carefully work them together. You may need two handlers for this also.

When it comes to meal time you should encourage all the dogs to eat at the same time near each other. Do not put their food bowls down until they are all sitting, listening and behaving. If one dog moves towards the others food or growls, reprimand them.

The methods above are great for reprimanding the dogs. You really want to reinforce that food aggression is not acceptable. If at any stage one of the dogs misbehaves take its food away and put it into a quiet room. Wait ten minutes and then try again with that dog.

Over the next few weeks you can slowly move the dogs food bowls together. Do this slowly and always watch them. If they misbehave go back to the step where they tolerated each other. You should over time get them to the point where they can eat side by side.

Feeding the dogs side by side from your hand is a great way to reinforce their friendship but be very careful and only do this when you fully trust them. It will take you weeks to get to this stage.

Getting Grace over her aggression will take time, effort and patience but keep up with the training and please ask away if you need any help at all good luck.

Posted by Tarnador
May 24, 2008
Hi there, I would like to ask you a question - do the attacks happen only when you are present, or if left alone will she attack?

I ask this as I have a rottie mix, Bobi, who is 8 months old and a 4 year old small mongrel, Lucy, plus 2 other dogs. Lately Bobi has been attacking Lucy, especially if I have to reprimand Lucy for any reason, Bobi also reprimands her, so I have to take care not to do this in front of Bobi. But bobi has started attacking her quite badly, drawing blood and shaking her like a rabbit - as though to kill her, I have to physically pull her off. Lucy is left very shaken and scared. She likes to stand over her and dominate her and generally bully her.

But other times they are great friends and sleep together and Lucy eats before Bobi with no trouble - which started me thinking that the attacks are something to do with my presence - so I decided to change tactics. Last week me and my 2 kids plus 4 dogs went for a walk - we live in the mountains and the dogs can run free, but when I let Lucy and bobi off leash, Bobi will push and behave aggressively towards Lucy. so anyway what I did was let them all off leash and as soon as Bobi barged towards lucy to attack, me and my kids just ran away - well amazingly she stopped dead in her tracks and came after us. Every time she attempted to attack Lucy, we ran away and she stopped.

This also works at home, as soon as bobi starts behaving aggressively towards Lucy we ignore her and quickly move away. Not quite sure of the psychology of this but it has worked well for us and there have been no more attacks since.

Good luck