Recued dog attacks old family pet

Posted by Kimmy
Mar 16, 2008
Abby is a 3 year old "terrier mix"..our vet says she is a brindle pit bull. We were told she got along with cats and dogs from the rescue shelter...that was 1 and 1/2 years ago. She was fine for the first 3 months and then attacked our 12 year old boxer. For the past year and 1/2 we have done "the doggy shuffle". Alternating which dog is in the yard or in the house. Abby is crated while at work and sleep time. Through the crate the dogs touch noses and seem fine. I bought the dog whisper book and my husband and I were exercising her by walking and bike rides. We had to stop this because there are many people in our subdivision that allow their dogs to roam their yards unleashed. These dogs would leave their yards, approach Abby and a fight would start. I tried a Hailti. Despite the progress we were making we had to stop these exercises because of "roamers". My husband had to start a career trucking and is no longer home much. Having to keep the dogs apart and give equal attention is tiring and frustrating. My boxer resently bumped me out of the way to get in the yard where Abby was, resulting in an attack. The boxer (85 lbs) has a bad injury and possibly ulcerated eyes (which we've already had operated on twice). Abby (40 lbs) is fine. My husband says Abby has to go. Trainers average $500 with no garauntees. Abby is a great dog except for this aggression. I have no option but to train in the back yard and she is obedient...except w/dogs. Help?
Posted by Todd
Mar 17, 2008
Hi there and thank you for the question.

I think it is important to deal with these issues and i am glad you have asked for help. As always i will help as much as i can but at any stage you may think it is very important to get a professional opinion as practical advice is often needed.

There are 2 major things i want to say before i respond.
Firstly a muzzle is key - this is a safety device for you, your dogs and other
Secondly the dogs must be separated whenever you are not there to watch over them.

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.

7) When you give a command make sure that you are in a position to enforce the action that you require from your dog, especially in the initial stages of Alpha Dog training. Also, use the Alarm-No-Command technique as described in the Alpha Dog bonus book to reprimand your dog if it does not obey your command.

Generally I do not recommend people give their dogs bones as this encourages the aggression, because in the wild the alpha dog would be the only one to have the privilege of chewing the bones. The reason your dog growls at you when you approach it with a bone is because it believes that it has the right to the bone and is trying to discipline you for challenging your dog for its dominant role.

I also think it is very important that both dogs be banned from couches and beds as these are items that can be used to represent dominance.

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 both dogs 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 they are the more likely you are to have success and get them to respond to you when they have misbehaved. This training will take a lot of time and patience.

There are a number of approaches you can take from here to deal with the aggression issues.

The one method i think is more successful is to train the dogs to be friends, not to reinforce one as the alpha dog (another option).

It is important in this situation not to enforce one dog's dominance, but rather make it clear that they will both be generously rewarded for displaying socially acceptable behavior. Before trying to undertake any training it is important both dogs understand basic sit and stay commands and that you have adequate control such that they are unlikely to harm one another. Spend a month or so with the dogs separate and enforce the alpha dog rules and reteach basic obedience commands. I can not reinforce how important muzzles are in aggressive dogs.

After a month the following controlled exercises may help:

1. Firstly muzzle Abby, 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 the dogs 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 the two dogs to eat at the same time near each other. Do not put their food bowls down until they are both sitting, listening and behaving. Be prepared for them to show some aggression, 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.

Make sure both dogs get heaps of toys when they are learning to behave. Make sure you teach them to play together and again reinforce good behaviour. Once they will play together then you can try and leave them with the toys, but always keep an eye on them.

I also think it is a great time to start socialising Abby a bit more. Take her for walks around your neighbourhood. When you see another dog approaching make Abby sit and relax. This will require her to be very obedient. Let the other dog come to you. Abby should be relaxed and sitting at all times. If at any stage she stands or growls reprimand her and make her sit. She must realise that you are the boss and what you say goes. Once she begins to behave again make her sit and give her plenty of praise. You must work on reinforcing they behaviours you want and reprimanding the inappropriate ones. Once she begins to behave in these situations you may want to try socialising Abby at other places like dog parks.
Posted by Todd
Mar 17, 2008
There are several techniques available for stopping dog fights once they have begun. Water has been known to work in some cases, however if the dogs are fixated upon harming one another, it probably will not work at all as you have experienced. Throwing a large heavy blanket over the two dogs may help surprise the dogs and prevent them from fighting long enough for one of the adults in the household to use the "Wheelbarrow" maneuver I will mention in a second. Clanging pots and pans loudly as may be enough to startle the dogs, however growling and reprimanding is unlikely to get the dogs attention.

It is also important to begin learning the tell tale signs of a potential dog fight so you can stop the fight before it even begins. This will include one or both dogs growling, showing their teeth, raising their back and lowering their head. You will probably know the signs having seen your dogs fight previously.

The safest way to break up a fight is to grab the most aggressive dog by the hind legs and pick its rear up like you are holding a "wheel barrow". Then you back up pulling the dog with you. Since the dog is now supporting itself on two feet only, it is not likely to want to continue fighting, and it is very difficult for it to turn to try and bite you.

Then get it out of the room, behind a door, or where ever handy as fast as you can so it is separated from the other dog. If two people are present, each can grab a different dog and wheel him backwards. Please remember that there is NO 100% safe way to break up a dog fight. If you do not feel confident and are not willing to risk a bite try a different method.

The two dogs should then be kept separate for a number of minutes depending on the severity of the attack. 5 minutes is fine for a slight squabble. Longer will of course be needed for a fight to the death. Reintroduce the dogs together immediately after the time out. You have to know your dogs. It is better to leash the dogs, although there is actually a better chance of them making up if they are off leash.

When you reintroduce them, continuously feed treats to both simultaneously, one every few seconds. Do not encourage them to get too close, but allow them to if they want to on their own. Then separate them for a while after just a minute. Repeat this a number of times during the day, each time keeping them together a little longer. End on a happy note, let the dogs think you are not at all worried, but secretly keep an eye on them.

Whenever the two dogs are with each other during the day and are getting on ok, give them treats and reward them for not fighting one another. This will encourage them to be happy together also.

I am not going to candy coat this. Interdog aggression within a household can be very dangerous and tricky to correct. Of utmost importance is your and your family's safety. Do not get involved in trying to break up a fight if you believe you may get bitten and follow the advice given above for safe methods.

This problem will take time to solve and a lot of patience. Your aim is to get the two dogs to behave, accept there position as friends and also as subordinates. Be patient and if you get lost just use common sense and think what would be best now, and later.
I will be here to help so feel free to ask any questions.
Good Luck.