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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
OK... First post, but I need help!

We have two dogs, a 5 year old male German Shorthair Pointer and a 3.5 year old Boxer/Pitt mix that we rescued from the pound when she was about 4 months old.

Both dogs are fairly well trained and obey my commands promptly and get plenty of exercise. We live on a half acre that backs to a community park, so people walk by the back of the property fairly regular. If someone gets to close to our fence line, the dogs will go up and bark at them.

Every once in a while (seems like about once a week now), the Boxer/Pitt mix will snap at the GSP if he starts barking at something (people in the park, someone coming to the front door, etc..). She seems to always go for his head, and has made some significant punctures in his muzzle as of late. We make sure to put her in submission as soon as we can get to her after each incident, but it doesn't seem to be working.

The last thing we want to do is get rid of her because she really is the sweetest dog on the planet, but just has this one flaw that I fear will do permanent damage to our GSP as the last snap was about 2 CM away from his eye.

Please help!

 

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To be honest, I don't think her behavior is horribly inappropriate- fairly minor.

She's snapping at a dog, not a human.
She's snapping at his FACE (a correction) not the back of his neck or throat (prey or fight type behavior). 2cm away from his eye is on the muzzle- if she'd meant to get his eye or do damage, she would have. Dogs generally have very good control of their mouths if they've been properly socialized.

Now, it's still rude- humans get to handle any corrections, not dogs, regardless of the heirarchy- but I think you may be compounding the problem by 'putting her in submission'- from her POV, your boy is doing something inappropriate, she corrects him for it, and then YOU jump on her for what was (in her mind) justified behavior. The other alternative interpretation is 'redirected aggression'- whatever he is barking at, she is frustrated by the lack of access to (I would suspect this was the case if he barked primarily on leash at things out of reach, or through doors/fences). THIS is somewhat more serious, but still, not out of hand.

Firstly, what I would do is NOT put them in the situation together where he starts barking. I would work on his barking issue and arousal issue with the two of them separate. (And I *do* think it sounds like you've got an issue.) If you put her in the same situations where he gets barky without him, does SHE get wound up? If so, THAT is what you need to work on.

Patricia McConnell has a great book called "How to the the Leader of the Pack and Have Your Dogs Love You For It" and another one called "Feeling Outnumbered" that might be really helpful for you. But basically, you to work on both dogs being calmer, period- and you don't achieve that through punishing excited behavior. (Punishing can make it worse, because it makes redirection more likely- they're going to be aroused at SOMETHING, so they'll do it at a different target- each other.) A good book about counter-conditioning and desensitization is Click to Calm, by Emma Parsons, and another (more technical) is called Control Unleashed, by Leslie McDevitt. One caveat about CU, is that it does not work unless you really understand the principles of clicker training and are willing to apply it step by step- work through the whole book in order (using your common sense) rather than just going "Oh, my dog can do this" and using corrections to get through each exercise. Ditto with Click to Calm, but you can skip around a little more in C2C, whereas in CU, it just plain doesn't work.

Cait
 

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Sounds like the dogs have not been taught what to when people get close to the fence so, they have made up their own rules of engagement. That rarely turns out well for everyone concerned. So, the question is what do you want your dogs to do when someone comes to the fence? Do you want them to just ignore people? Return to the house? Meet the people happilly for treats and petting (probably not...but, you get the idea).

The "submission" tactics will make things worse. She gets punished whenever the GSP is around....not because she took a bite out of him.
 

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One of mine used to lightly snap at our worst barker when she got too annoying. In fact, if she really got revved up he'd take her (this is the truth, I saw it myself) and would make a huge fuss and STUFF her in her doghouse and make her stay there until she shut up.

Cait gave really good advice, I'd follow it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the input all.

Couple of additions/clarifications...

1. Don't really want people coming close to the fence, and I do want them to bark and alert me if someone is at the front door (especially at night), so I'm not sure I want to alter that behavior much.

2. She is doing damage to the GSP. She bites down and draws blood everytime this happens, which is why I need to figure out how to make it stop.

I do think that she may be correcting him, but if what he's doing isn't wrong, how do I correct her from correcting him?

PS - "Submission" = just holding her collar down until she goes belly up and calms down.

Thanks
 

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It could be redirected aggression (barrier frustration), which has nothing to do with correcting the other dog...he just happens to be available as a target. It would be prudent to hire the services of a certified trainer to help decipher what the behavior actually is, and what protocol would best suit your needs.
 

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1. Don't really want people coming close to the fence, and I do want them to bark and alert me if someone is at the front door (especially at night), so I'm not sure I want to alter that behavior much.
We all want our dogs to be good watchdogs and alert us but, we also want them to do something after the initial alert...go to a mat/lay down/back away from the door, come up to the house or away from the fence and also stop barking. But, that all has to be trained.

2. She is doing damage to the GSP. She bites down and draws blood everytime this happens, which is why I need to figure out how to make it stop.

I do think that she may be correcting him, but if what he's doing isn't wrong, how do I correct her from correcting him?

PS - "Submission" = just holding her collar down until she goes belly up and calms down.
Back to number 1......teach them what they should do in these situations.

It might help to understand that the Alert barking is directed at you.....alerting YOU of a potential problem. If you don't show up to lend a hand when they alert you, then they have no idea how to handle the situation and it usually escalates...charging the fence..running the length of the fence....biting someone.
 

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"Submission" is frankly NOT a nice thing to do to a dog. Go watch the wolf videos again, if you insist on using this paradigm. The 'submitting' wolf does NOT get pushed over. They come up and put THEMSELVES over. The only times wolves force each other over like that is in SERIOUS fights that frequently end in major injury and a member being forced out of the pack. This is like threatening to take your 6 year old kid to juvie for hitting his little sister on the butt. It's an overreaction, it's scary, and it's NOT proportionate to the crime.

On the facial wounds, are they punctures? (deeper than 1/2 the length of the canines?) Or tooth hits? The skin on the face is thin and with both dogs moving and aroused and sharp teeth, 'nicks' and 'slashes' can happen by accident. Look at Ian Dunbar's bite scale.

You don't correct her. You change the situation.

For now, with the redirected aggression? Don't reward barking at the door. You acn re-teach that later. Right now, teach that anything exciting or novel means "Run to your mat and wait for a treat'. Then put the doorbell (or a bell on your fence) on a cue. Teach barking on cue. Then link the two so that doorbell means '2-3 barks'. If it's happening without so much arousal, I suspect the redirection will go away on it's own.

Frankly, I think you need a serious trainer to help you in person. Correction isn't going to solve this problem. TRAINING is goign to solve this problem.
 
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