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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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Hello:

My sister’s 11 yr old 40 lb spayed female pit bull mix attacked my 10 lb neutered male Chihuahua completely unprovoked; she was lying on the floor & he was just walking by her; no food, toy or chewy was anywhere near either one. The pit mix grabbed the Chihuahua by the snout & my sister, the pit’s owner got her off him. He didn’t fight back in any way; he cowered & tried to retreat, but she wouldn’t let him go until my sister, her owner, got her off him. The Chihuahua’s bottom lip was torn & required 5 stitches at the vet’s office.

Missy, the pit mix & Rocky, the Chihuahua, have lived together for the last 6 years. Missy has never acted aggressively toward Rocky; in fact she’s always licked him & played with him; we thought they love each other.

Rocky loves to lick Missy’s teeth; he puts his whole head in her mouth & licks her teeth; she lays there & keeps her mouth open while he does it. Missy has had some gastrointestinal issues for the last couple of months; diarrhea, vomiting a few times & terrible gas that will practically knock you out. She’s never acted like she feels bad & the vet examined her & couldn’t find anything wrong; no worms or intestinal blockages or anything. He prescribed medication for Giardia & Coccidia, even though the test was negative. The medication seems to have helped her stool become more solid & the vomiting seems to have stopped. She’s been energetic & playful throughout.

We’re speculating that perhaps Missy wasn’t feeling well, even though she hasn’t acted like it. Our veterinarian didn’t offer any ideas about why Missy might’ve attacked Rocky or what we should do to keep it from happening again.

We don’t know why Missy attacked Rocky & are afraid she’s going to do it again & kill Rocky. We’re trying to just keep them separated but feel nervous she may still get to him at some time & hurt or kill him if someone slips & forgets to keep them separated.

I rescued Rocky as a puppy in 2011 & we lived alone until 6 years ago when we moved in with Missy & my sister. My sister raised Missy from a tiny, abandoned puppy.

I’m trying to decide if I should re-home Rocky to keep him safe. Neither my sister or I want to re-home Rocky, but we both love him very much & want to protect him. We want him to be safe.

I’m asking for your suggestions & advice regarding the situation & if you think it’s a foregone conclusion that Missy will attack Rocky again. We’re concerned that Missy might have dementia or something similar because there have been several times in the last year or so where she has acted confused & looked like she didn’t know where she was when we were trying to get her to go outside or jump on the couch, etc. She’ll look off in the distance with a blank look & stare at the wall.

Rocky has occasional seizures & is on prescription medication to prevent them; he rarely has a seizure. In the past when he’s had a seizure, Missy has just ignored him. He didn’t have a seizure when Missy attacked him.

We feed them Blue Buffalo dry dog food.

Please let me know if you have any ideas about what we can do to stop Missy from attacking Rocky again or if we need to re-home Rocky. We love him & Missy very much & want them to be safe, healthy & happy.

I’m new to this forum & this is my first post.

Thank you,

Maisybo in Texas
 

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It seems like you've ruled out obvious illness or pain at the vet, but did Missy get full bloodwork and a thyroid panel done? Thyroid issues absolutely cause behavior changes, including aggression, and checking bloodwork will give you a better idea of whether there's something internal going on that isn't immediately obvious. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) is absolutely worth bringing up to your vet as well, given her overall behavior change you're describing.

If you've completely ruled out medical causes, it's time to bring in a behaviorist, in my opinion. You can ask your vet if there's any veterinary behaviorists locally (fully trained vets who've further specialized in dog behavior and behavioral medicine), or you could look for a regular behaviorist - they're not medically trained, but they focus on behavior issues and behavior modification programs far more than your average trainer. ccpdt.org or iaabc.com are good places to start, as both have a 'find a behaviorist near you' function and hold the people they certify as behaviorists to a minimum standard of knowledge and hands-on experience.

A behaviorist will ask you a lot of questions about the dogs, their interactions, and their history, and also directly observe your dogs to see if there's anything you might have missed. They'll be able to give you a better picture of what's likely going on and what the options are for next steps, including a realistic idea of whether this is likely to happen again and a behavior modification plan for improving their relationship if they feel it's safe to do so. I know many are doing this remotely with video call programs right now due to covid, so you may not be stuck with people in your immediate area.

I'm reluctant to give direct advice on how to work with this myself, because I'm not a professional and wouldn't really know what I'd even need to ask about with that in-depth interview about your dogs, nor do I have the ability to observe them directly. I don't want to tell you to do anything that might put Rocky in danger due to my inexperience or me misunderstanding or making assumptions that turn out to be wrong.

I can give you some advice about management. When it comes to separating two dogs due to a serious issue like aggression, the general advice is to always have two barriers between them, with at least one being a solid visual barrier like a closed door if possible. Other barriers could be crates, pens, baby gates, or even a leash IF someone's staying with the tethered dog to avoid dangerous entanglement scenarios. This way if one barrier fails, you have a backup. If you've got kids in the house or are just worried someone won't be paying enough attention or forget, you can try installing child locks on the doors you use most frequently as a reminder that when the locks are engaged, there's a dog on the other side.

Pick up all toys and chews and only bring them out to actively play with a dog or let them actively chew on something, and feed them both in an enclosed space like a crate or pen. This will reduce the risk of there being a resource guarding related fight if they do get out together. I have no idea if resource guarding was involved in the attack you describe, but it's generally a good idea to reduce common causes of dog-dog conflict if you don't know the cause of an altercation.

You may also want to consider muzzle training Missy for situations where it'd be harder to keep her and Rocky separate, or if she might be around strange small dogs (like the vet's office). It's not safe for dogs to wear any muzzle constantly, but if you use a basket-style muzzle that allows her to open her mouth and drink water, you'd have another tool to help keep everyone safe in tricky situations. The Muzzle Up! Project (The Muzzle Up! Project | Muzzle advocacy, Education, and Training) has really excellent resources on how to choose and fit a muzzle to your dog, and how to train your dog to be happy and comfortable wearing a muzzle.

Good luck, and I'm sorry you're dealing with this.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
It seems like you've ruled out obvious illness or pain at the vet, but did Missy get full bloodwork and a thyroid panel done? Thyroid issues absolutely cause behavior changes, including aggression, and checking bloodwork will give you a better idea of whether there's something internal going on that isn't immediately obvious. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) is absolutely worth bringing up to your vet as well, given her overall behavior change you're describing.

If you've completely ruled out medical causes, it's time to bring in a behaviorist, in my opinion. You can ask your vet if there's any veterinary behaviorists locally (fully trained vets who've further specialized in dog behavior and behavioral medicine), or you could look for a regular behaviorist - they're not medically trained, but they focus on behavior issues and behavior modification programs far more than your average trainer. ccpdt.org or iaabc.com are good places to start, as both have a 'find a behaviorist near you' function and hold the people they certify as behaviorists to a minimum standard of knowledge and hands-on experience.

A behaviorist will ask you a lot of questions about the dogs, their interactions, and their history, and also directly observe your dogs to see if there's anything you might have missed. They'll be able to give you a better picture of what's likely going on and what the options are for next steps, including a realistic idea of whether this is likely to happen again and a behavior modification plan for improving their relationship if they feel it's safe to do so. I know many are doing this remotely with video call programs right now due to covid, so you may not be stuck with people in your immediate area.

I'm reluctant to give direct advice on how to work with this myself, because I'm not a professional and wouldn't really know what I'd even need to ask about with that in-depth interview about your dogs, nor do I have the ability to observe them directly. I don't want to tell you to do anything that might put Rocky in danger due to my inexperience or me misunderstanding or making assumptions that turn out to be wrong.

I can give you some advice about management. When it comes to separating two dogs due to a serious issue like aggression, the general advice is to always have two barriers between them, with at least one being a solid visual barrier like a closed door if possible. Other barriers could be crates, pens, baby gates, or even a leash IF someone's staying with the tethered dog to avoid dangerous entanglement scenarios. This way if one barrier fails, you have a backup. If you've got kids in the house or are just worried someone won't be paying enough attention or forget, you can try installing child locks on the doors you use most frequently as a reminder that when the locks are engaged, there's a dog on the other side.

Pick up all toys and chews and only bring them out to actively play with a dog or let them actively chew on something, and feed them both in an enclosed space like a crate or pen. This will reduce the risk of there being a resource guarding related fight if they do get out together. I have no idea if resource guarding was involved in the attack you describe, but it's generally a good idea to reduce common causes of dog-dog conflict if you don't know the cause of an altercation.

You may also want to consider muzzle training Missy for situations where it'd be harder to keep her and Rocky separate, or if she might be around strange small dogs (like the vet's office). It's not safe for dogs to wear any muzzle constantly, but if you use a basket-style muzzle that allows her to open her mouth and drink water, you'd have another tool to help keep everyone safe in tricky situations. The Muzzle Up! Project (The Muzzle Up! Project | Muzzle advocacy, Education, and Training) has really excellent resources on how to choose and fit a muzzle to your dog, and how to train your dog to be happy and comfortable wearing a muzzle.

Good luck, and I'm sorry you're dealing with this.
Thank you for your reply & suggestions. There was no food, toy or chew bone anywhere when Missy attacked Rocky;he was simply walking past her & she attacked him.
As far as a trainer is concerned, I’d love to be able to do that, but my sister will not spend the money required for something like that, & I would spend the money but am disabled & unable to work & simply couldn’t afford it.
I’m hoping we can solve the issues without having to re-home Rocky; Rocky & I moved in with my sister & it’s her house & Missy lived there first, so if someone has to go, it will be Rocky, even though he did nothing wrong. It will really break my heart & devastate me to not have Rocky in my life, though, because I rescued him ten years ago when he was a puppy & he’s been my support through many serious health issues.😭
 
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