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My 75 lb GSD mix, Lucy, is an absolutely darling dog. But...a few months ago, my little 20 lb miniature Brussels Griffin, Pippa, discovered that there was a rat on the back porch and started hunting it. Lucy joined in. They never found it, but one night, something startled Pippa and she ran behind the couch. When she popped out the other end, Lucy grabbed her by the neck and started shaking her. It's a horrifying thing to witness. I think she thought that Pippa was what they were hunting. Since then, she is absolutely obsessed with Pippa, just adores her. We have to supervise carefully. Tonight, twice, she was loving on Pippa and suddenly grabbed her by the neck and started shaking her. She has 2 pretty bad bites on the back of her neck. We have a vet appt in the morning. We never know what will set Lucy off, so we can't prepare for it. We also have the same problem with our 75 lb GSD mix, Toby. When one of the other 3 dogs bumps him or startles him, he attacks. He's so much better now, will turn loose and run when we holler at him. Again, we never know what will set him off. Needless to say, the bigs and the littles are never alone unsupervised. They are crated when we leave. The bigs aren't being malicious when they attack, but I'm so afraid that one day, one of the littles will be seriously injured or killed. The vet suggested a dog behavioral therapist, but the ones he recommended want $1000 just to evaluate one dog. And since we never know what will precipitate an attack, I don't think a DBT can get a good reading on them. Our only recourse is to rehome the bigs, and I don't want to do that. Thinking about muzzling both of them!
 

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I'm sorry that you're going through this. A $1000 is a lot of money, but the assumption that because you can't figure out what's "setting them off", a dog behavior professional won't either is just silly. It's their job to figure out behaviors that owners aren't able to fix themselves, including identifying the cause. However, $1000 also seems like an abnormally large amount of money for an evaluation to me. Most vets are also not experts in behavior, and with aggression involved there is a very real possibility that going to a trainer who uses punishment-based methods will make it worse. so I would take his recommendation with a grain of salt.

Grabbing things by the neck and shaking them is how dogs kill prey; this predatory instinct is inherent and I don't know that it can be modified. I don't know if Lucy will ever be safe around smaller creatures. Supervision isn't enough to stop Pippa from getting hurt (obviously). A muzzle will stop Lucy from grabbing Pippa, but it's not exactly ideal for Lucy to live the rest of her life wearing a muzzle. Personally, I would seriously consider rehoming Lucy. It is not fair to Lucy to live the rest of her life in a muzzle, and it's not fair to Pippa (or the other small dogs in your home) to experience the trauma of being attacked randomly. While a muzzle will stop Luzy from biting Pippa, but it won't stop Lucy from attacking her, which I imagine is pretty scary even if Pippa weren't injured.

Toby, on the other hand, it sounds like he either just doesn't like dogs being in his space, or (more likely IMO) is in pain and gets sore when he is jostled by the other dogs. Has he seen a vet lately?
 

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Some dogs with a high prey drive may mistake the little dogs for prey animals, but I find the love-hate relationship a little odd. I think your vet is right in that you need a behaviorist to evaluate the situation, as this is a bit too much for people on the internet to diagnose. A professional may be able to pinpoint what is triggering the dogs to suddenly attack each other. They can typically read body language that us average dog owners miss, so we think the attack came "out of the blue." If you need help with funds, consider contacting a local rescue, explaining your situation, and asking if they can help or know anyone who can. A behaviorist may also be willing to put you on a payment plan.

In the meantime, management is key to safety right now. Honestly, I would never let the bigs be with the littles, even supervised, as a big can so easily kill a little before you can get across the room. If you've already had a few skin-breaking attacks while you were present, you're kind of pushing your luck here.

When you go to the vet, make sure you have them run a full blood panel. Medical issues like a malfunctioning thyroid can cause strange behavior changes, or she could be in pain. If you completely rule out medical issues, you do really need to consider a professional to handle this situation.
 

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I totally agree about the full Thyroid even a low in normal range can cause undesirable behavioral changes. GSD's just are the not same breed any more after 30 years in them they don't carry the same balanced feel to them any more for me to not stay in the breed. They heavy on the prey drive nashy side because guess that was what was becoming popular and was selling to drive them being bred that way. Don't be to hard on yourself that you failed it could very well be how your GSD was bred towards. Best to start reading up on how to live with and train a Mal for help and support in the behaviors your seeing. Your doing the right thing managing your environment and contact right now. When you see you big guys focusing in on the other dogs, that is the moment to redirect them to work towards stopping it. They should live in your house hold not paying attention to the little dogs or what the little dogs are doing.. If they not paying attention to the little ones they will not feed off it or react in that direction. .
 
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