Older dogs suddenly attacking each other

Posted by Carrie24
Sep 22, 2009
I have 2 female, spayed mutts. Madison, 12 1/2 yr old lab/shepherd/collie mix and Kasey 10 yrs rottie/retriever mix and I have had them together for the past 8yrs. For the past few months they have been fighting and over the past week it has been almost daily. The best I can figure out is they are having some kind of dominance issue. They fight and then it's over Madison is licking Kasey's face. I have trained them, we go for 20-30 min walks daily and 30-45 min jogs off leash at a local park 2-5x/week weather and schedule dependent. They used to play a lot but lately they don't do that much at all and other than the walks/jogs we go on they mostly just rest in the sun in the yard or in the house. Obviously I am doing something wrong, and after reading some of the website it must be not showing leadership/dominance.

As far as I can tell they only fight when I am home. There is never any evidence of a fight when I am gone at work. If you have any quick advice that would be greatly appreciated it while I quickly start reading your books. Thank you and I hope to learn exactly what I am doing wrong so my pups can live the last of their years in peace. Thank you. Carrie
Posted by KOPsarah
Sep 28, 2009
Hi carrie24, and thanks for your post.
I was wondering if I could get a little more information on your situation in order to get a better idea of what has changed for your dogs. During these fights how rough are they with each other? Do they growl, bite or draw blood? You say they have been playing less and sleeping more, is it possible that one or both of the dogs is experiencing health problems or arthritis? Pain in older dogs can cause them to be irritable when played with or bothered. Sorry for so many questions!
Posted by nicky-crane
Sep 29, 2009
my 18 month old castrated dogs, Andi and Petri, also fight each other. They are brothers and dearly love one another. Andi used to be the dominant one, and Petri used to hassle him and get attacked for his pains. Now Petri, who has become the dominant one, attacks Andi. They fight ferociously, but don't draw blood. Most of the time they are good friends, and they play rough games together. They often fight when another dog comes down the road - displaced aggression, I guess. Sometimes they just seem to fight for the sake of it. I just let them get on with it most of the time. I don't know if that's OK.
I used to have big problems with them barking at night, and once they start they don't stop. Recently I got bark collars, which have solved my sleeping problems and those of the neighbours. I used to have to get out of bed up to 5 times a night to order them back to their kennels. Then I started tying Andi up when he had been barking. I only tried that once with Petri - he got his revenge by shitting on the steps and demolishing his collar! But now I just put the collars on. Sometimes I leave Petri without a collar, if he hasn't been barking, as Andi is the main barker. They sometimes bark a few times in spite of the collar, but they don't go on for long. But since they have the collars and don't bark at night they are fighting more. I think they are letting out the aggression they can't let out by barking all night.
I know they don't get enough exercise outside. It's not safe to go for long walks because of savage dogs wandering around loose. Once I had 2 or 3 dogs approach my dogs, barking, from several hundred yards away. So we just go near home and they rush around and let off steam for about 20 minutes. They also have a big yard at home that they rush around. If I had not had them, Andi would have spent his life on the end of a chain and Petri would have been exposed at birth. As it is, they enjoy life and are reasonably obedient and keep most unwanted visitors out of my yard because they are big and bouncy and I do nothing to discourage people's fear that they might bite!
This is really a request for advice, rather than a suggested solution to the problem.
Posted by Carrie24
Sep 29, 2009
Hi KOPSarah,
Thank you so much for replying!! Please don't apologize for all the questions I don't know what you need information wise so the questions are good. This might be a bit long so hopefully I'll be able to give you all the info you need.
Yes both dogs have been slower since they've gotten older however Maddy is still very active, Kasey gets tired after 20-30 min of walking so I usually bring her back and go back out with Maddy. Both of their back ends are more sensitive but the reason I think it's a dominance issue is because Kasey will be laying down or sitting and Maddy will growl and then jump her. I've always thought Kasey (85lbs) was the dominant because she goes thru the doors first, pushes Maddy (35lbs) out of the way a lot and overall is just a bull in a china shop. Kasey has never been much of a growler or barker, that was always Maddy. Kasey would also whine and Maddy would go over and lick her face, now she rarely does it, only sometimes after a fight does Maddy lick her face. And I think bc Kasey has a hard time getting her footing Maddy has been on top at the end of all the fights. But then there are times Maddy will growl at Kasey and she'll walk away so I'm very confused at this point and am afraid I maybe adding to the situation by choosing the wrong alpha between the two. Over the past few weeks I was allowing Kasey up on the bed more since she's been sore and is more comfortable on the bed. Maddy is welcomed as well but usually only comes up for a few minutes or an hour and then she goes on the floor. The last few times Kasey has gone to come up Maddy has growled at her and Kasey went back to her bed. So now I"m wondering if Maddy is trying to move up or if she's always been dominant.
During the fights there is growling (usu Maddy), barking (usu Kasey), there has been blood and fur sometimes. Maddy has had her ear bit and a few scratches on her face Maddy's teeth are fairly ground down from bones and such so they aren't that sharp and she doesn't do much damage. Although I have seen her grab Kasey's fur, by her neck and shake her head, she also went for Kasey's stomach, not sure if she bit it or not but I thought that was weird. (I broke up that fight cuz I've never seen her do that before). Kasey's teeth are sharper but she doesn't appear to be doing much more than defending herself. I am taking Kasey to the vet next week as she has developed some new lumps on her body. She has a history of lipomas but I always like to get the new ones checked out as her being a rottie/golden retri mix I was told they are more prone to cancer.
They were doing well yesterday when I got in from work and Maddy actually wanted to play, which surprised me. But then they fought last night. I was on the bed watchin tv eating, Kasey was laying down next to the bed on her bed, and Maddy was at the foot of the bed on her bed. Next thing I know I hear Maddy growl and then she jumped Kasey. Kasey, as far as I could tell, wasn't doing anything to provoke it so I wonder if it was bc I was eating. But I"ve always done that so I'm wondering why now things are different.
We had moved into a different part of the house a few months ago and since then Maddy has been more on edge. It is slightly smaller but not much more than what they are used to.
I have other issues I'd like to ask about as well but this is the most pressing as they live together and it is difficult to watch them not get along anymore or enjoy each other's company. Thank you so much for any advice or recommendations you can provide and if you need more information please dont hesitate to ask. I know it's difficult as you are not able to witness their interactions yourself and are depending on my description of it. Carrie
Posted by KOPsarah
Oct 16, 2009
hi again, I apologize for the lack of response I did in fact spend quite a while writing you a reply several days ago but it seems that the it never ended up being properly saved on here for some reason so I will endeavor to write you another one and make triple sure that is has saved and posted this time, I apologize again for this delay!

In regards to your dogs fighting the situation is indeed very unusual especially as they seem so unprovoked. I would definitely recommend a check up of both dogs to rule out any pain or neurological problems first. After that the best way to handle this is with lots of alpha training and with lots of time outs for inappropriate behaviors.

Setting up the order of dominance
Obviously you and all other humans should be at the top, as far as which dog should be highest this is a difficult decision. In general it is best to make the calmer less aggressive one dominant but this will only work if the calmer quieter dog will take this position on for example whether she will eat before the aggressive one. In summary despite the size difference etc I would definitely recommend making Maddison dominant if you think she will accept the position.

In wild packs the dominant dog controls access to all resources such as food, toys, sleeping places and attention. First access will always be allowed to more dominant pack members and then later lower members. There are several ways you can use this natural order of things to help your situation:

1) when you come home ignore both dogs for 10 minutes, after this greet Maddison first, then if she is calm greet Kasey.

2) when it's meal time ask both dogs to sit, then give Maddison her bowl first. Once she is well into her meal or even finished feed Kasey a little way away. Also always make sure you eat in front of both dogs before their meal.

3) only allow Maddison access to your bed and only when you invite her up

4) get Maddison ready for walks first. Have both dogs sit and wait while you open the door and go through then let Maddison through and finally Kasey.

This change is likely to cause a few problems at first as both dogs adjust so you will need to be strong and consistent. If either dog shows any signs of aggression use a 3 minute time out in another room to show them that you the pack leader will not tolerate this behavior. It is likely that Kasey will attempt to challenge Maddison for leadership over the first three or four days so this will be an especially important time for you to be watching for any early signs of aggression and be ready to move her into time out. It may be helpful during this time to keep a leash on Kasey's collar to help you move her quickly.

I am also interested to hear what other problems and questions you had regarding the dogs as you mentioned there were some others, these may even help me shed a little more light on the situation.

I hope this helps and I apologize again for the technical difficulties!
KOP Sarah