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Hello! I am new to the forum and am in desperate need of advice. First, a little background: I have two dogs, a 5 year old Husky and a 2 year old German Shepherd. About a year ago, I moved in with my boyfriend. He has a 5 year old Bull Mastiff. All three of the dogs live together in the same house. All dogs are male. My two are neutered; my boyfriend's is not.

Over time, problems started brewing between the GSD and mastiff. The mastiff would occassionally hump the GSD, which would spark aggression in the GSD. He would growl or snap at the mastiff to get him to stop. The humping has stopped, but the aggression on the part of the GSD has worsened. He has attacked the mastiff many times, leaving puncture wounds on his face and neck. It is an awful, high stress living situation that is not fair to the mastiff. I am fully aware of this.

I have taken the GSD for a one week "boot camp" at the facility near our house that trains police K9s. They trained him with a prong collar. While his obedience improved, the aggression towards the mastiff remains. Last night the GSD attacked the mastiff just because I told the mastiff, "NO" for something he was doing. He left a large hole in his ear. This was the worst attack yet.

I am now exploring the option of using an e-collar to further train and curb the GSD's aggression. I would love some advice on how to use the e-collar to ensure that I do not inadvertently worsen the aggression with the use of the collar.

Please, I do not want this to be a discussion of why not to use e-collars. I also do not want people telling me to rehome my GSD. I want to correct this issue and do everything I can do myself before looking into any other options. I would really appreciate any feedback anyone could give me on using e-collars with aggressive dogs. Thank you so much for your help!
 

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I don't think the e-collar will produce the results you want. Basically, it looks like the problem is stress. The collar would cause even higher levels of stress. While you may curtail negative behavior in the short term, you're setting yourself up for an explosion of fury. It think you've already seen this with the prong collar.

Overall, I think that finding ways to reduce stress in the home will be the key to improvement. You can use positive methods to help the two dogs get along better, once the stress level is lowered. I'm greeting the impression that things are tense right now. The dogs will pick up on that and act accordingly.

I suppose having the mastiff fixed is off the table as well?

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I suppose having the mastiff fixed is off the table as well?
Seconding.

Also, it sounds like the GSD was defending himself at the beginning, and now that time's passed he's decided to beat the Mastiff to the punch, so to speak. It's great that the humping has stopped, that's half the battle, but you've got to change the GSD's view of the Mastiff... and the e-collar may not help with that. Timing is everything with those kinds of devices. You want the GSD to associate the shock with his own behavior, but he may very well associate the shock with the Mastiff's presence— making him even MORE reactive and aggressive towards the other dog. For me, it wouldn't be worth the risk— I'd look into positive training methods, and I'd definitely consult a professional trainer.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I've already had him trained by the best facility in northwest Indiana. Like I said, it helped with obedience, but did nothing for the aggression. I have a lot of experience with positive training methods and have to say that they have not worked very well. My Husky was trained with NILIF and I wasn't impressed. Thanks for your input. I appreciate it.
 

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The dogs get along great most of the time. For some reason, when he's tired or crabby or irritable he strikes without provocation. I really do not understand it. It's like when I give the bull mastiff a command the GSD has to put his two cents in by attacking him or growling him. Almost all the time when they fight it's because me or my boyfriend told the bull mastiff to do something (i.e. move over, off the couch, etc.). I am sure I have done something wrong in his training where the GSD doesn't understand his place in the "pack." I'm hoping that using the e-collar will reestablish me as pack leader and that will, in turn, help with the dominance issues as well, if they are indeed a result of lack of respect for me (hopefully that makes sense).
 

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How would obedience training at an overnight facility help with his aggression towards the mastiff? Also, pack theory is way outdated. The man whose research sparked it has long since repudiated pack theory. Please read up on the matter. And DO NOT use the shock collar. That is cruel and will make things worse.

Basically, you have two, possibly three, problems:

1. Neutered males are known to be aggressive towards unneutered males.

2. The Mastiff set this off by humping the GSD, now the GSD hates him. Using corrections has likely made this worse.

3. Your GSD may have selective dog aggression, which is genetic. You can't train out genetics, even if you hook him up to a car battery and blast away.

You need to keep the dogs separated at all times. This is called "crate and rotate". Many, many households do this for years, even decades, with no problems. If you can't crate and rotate, please rehome the GSD. That would be better than shocking it for being a dog.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I just said that I didn't want people to talk about their opinions of using an e-collar or rehoming the dog...you successfully did both. Thanks.

I hate using these forums because many people (like you) just post to boast about how much they know about dogs. You aren't really trying to help people, just brag about what you [think] you know. If you were really trying to help, you'd ask more questions to clarify the issue.

Thank you to the people on here who have truly tried to help with their suggestions. I appreciate it!
 

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This has nothing to do with dominance or your leadership and thinking that way will only set you up for an antagonistic relationship wih your dogs.
As others have said, adding an aversive to an already stressful situation will increase your dog's aggression without warning signs (what you will be punishing are the warning signs of the underlying emotional response, you are not changing the dog's emotional response to the situation) and he is very likely to start associating negative things in his environment wih the mastiff. Indeed, he already is. When you verbally corrected the mastiff the other day your dog reacted with re-directed aggression. You raising your voice was aversive to him, so he did what in dog logic makes sense -> use aggression (a distancing signal) to attempt to remove the thing in his environment that he associates with negative experiences. The mastiff.
Inter-male aggression by fixed dogs towards intact dogs is very common. Intact dogs have (relative to neuters) high levels of testosterone - which, among other things, is a hormone dogs produce when emotionally aroused. Your fixed dog is interpreting this superficially heightened level of testosterone as aggression/arousal (not sexual arousal, emotional) and therefore thinks he needs to defend himself.
You are shooting down positive training, but counter-conditioning your shepherd to the mastiff is the only way you're really going to address the root of the problem. You need to change his emotional response. What sort of positive training have you done? As you have already realized, obedience training, positive or aversive, has very little to do with behavior modification (other than apparently making your dog more sensitive to correction). Also, a huge part of training is building a language and trust between the two of you. Sending a dog to "boot camp," no matter how well renowned, does nothing for either part of that dynamic, and also does nothing to address the problem in context. As you have seen, it has had no effect here.

I would separate the dogs so he cannot rehearse this behavior and to give you more control for training purposes. I think looking for a certified behaviorist is a good idea at this point, the behavior seems fairly rehearsed and exasperated. Behaviorism is currently unregulated, but this website will direct you to folks with true behavioral training and certification.
http://www.certifiedanimalbehaviorist.com/
In the mean time, there are a few good books I would recommend.
"Click to Calm" - Emma Parsons
"Fight!" - Jean Donaldson (this is available from a website called 'dogwise' as an e-book download for around 10 bucks)
"Control Unleashed" - Leslie McDevitt
 

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I'm hoping that using the e-collar will reestablish me as pack leader and that will, in turn, help with the dominance issues as well, if they are indeed a result of lack of respect for me (hopefully that makes sense).
Ah, there it is.

With the e-collar, what you'll basically be doing is electrocuting your dog whenever he jumps the mastiff, and in his mind it's not going to 'I'm in pain because of what I'm doing, I should stop', it's going to be 'I'm in pain because of this dog, I should fight harder.' and when you finally get that fight broken up, -if you do- then you're going to add more stress on your dog and make him even more suspicious and resentful towards the mastiff.

Dominance techniques will only create a fearful dog. Your dog will end up being afraid to act rather than knowing the difference between right and wrong. and when one day he can't take it anymore, that'll be the worst yet. let that theory fly out the window.


What I see has happened here is the mastiff was allowed to be a bully, and now the GSD expects to be dominated by him, so he lashes out first.


Overall, I think that finding ways to reduce stress in the home will be the key to improvement. You can use positive methods to help the two dogs get along better, once the stress level is lowered. I'm greeting the impression that things are tense right now. The dogs will pick up on that and act accordingly.

I suppose having the mastiff fixed is off the table as well?
allll this
 

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Discussion Starter #11
That makes a lot of sense, thank you. I did a lot of research and asked how to begin to address the aggression issue and almost all places said to begin with obedience training (even though GSDs are generally pretty obedient to begin with). Do you think neutering the bull mastiff would be a good start?
 

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I am not "electrocuting" my dog for attacking another dog, nor is that what I said I was going to do. I actually never said I would even shock him during a fight, as I know that would cause him to lash out harder at the mastiff.
 

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An e-collar is not the answer to the problem. If anything, it'll make it worse. Sorry that's not what you want to hear.

Contact a behaviorist that uses positive methods. Until then, keep the two dogs separated.

It also sounds like the GSD has become a helper dog/bully. I've worked with numerous dogs that feel the need to help supervise the other dogs.

Forget the alpha mumbo jumbo. You've been given solid advice on the matter. The dog shouldn't even know that you're delivering the shock from a collar let alone viewing the remote holder as "alpha".
 

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Obedience training is important in this scenario because it a) gives you the tools you need to ask for alternate behaviors and b) it gets the dog used to looking to you for information (this is also why it is so important for you to be involved in training).
It has very little to do with actually addressing the problem, but it's still necissary for the process. Makes sense?

As to the neuter, now that this behavior has been well rehearsed, neutering is probably not enough to solve the problem. It certainly can't hurt though :)
 

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An e-collar is not the answer to the problem. If anything, it'll make it worse. Sorry that's not what you want to hear.

Contact a behaviorist that uses positive methods. Until then, keep the two dogs separated.

It also sounds like the GSD has become a helper dog/bully. I've worked with numerous dogs that feel the need to help supervise the other dogs.

Forget the alpha mumbo jumbo. You've been given solid advice on the matter. The dog shouldn't even know that you're delivering the shock from a collar let alone viewing the remote holder as "alpha".
I agree. Tomorrow is our last session with a behaviorist for dog aggression issues. All sessions were done in house and we used our everyday collars. Things aren't entirely perfect but you can't expect miracles in a few months, but the situation is manageable and the more we work at it the better it gets.

I will add, the "pack leader" mentality was not used, but the "I am in charge, not you, I will control the situation and dogs" was. Basically my DA dog had to learn that I was going to take charge and she didn't need to worry about it.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
What about just using the buzzer for redirection? That's definitely what he's doing-supervising the mastiff's actions and then "punishing" him-which is obviously not his role! I have been unable to find a behaviorist in my area, which is a huge bummer. Thanks for your feedback!
 

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That definitely makes sense, that's why I went ahead with the 5 day training. It made sense for him to know basic obedience before tackling the main issue head on. He sits, stays, lays down, heels like a champ, walks beautifully on a leash-it's just the aggression that I can't get under control.
 

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Neutering the mastiff may help in the long run but for the short term keep the dogs apart as much as possible. When they are together, keep the atmosphere stress free and positive. Separate them ASAP at the first sign of a problem, but do it calmly so as not to raise the stress level. Use positive rewards for calm behavior or simply not reacting.

I'm typing this on mobile so hopefully it makes sense.
 

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I just said that I didn't want people to talk about their opinions of using an e-collar or rehoming the dog...you successfully did both. Thanks.

I hate using these forums because many people (like you) just post to boast about how much they know about dogs. You aren't really trying to help people, just brag about what you [think] you know. If you were really trying to help, you'd ask more questions to clarify the issue.

Thank you to the people on here who have truly tried to help with their suggestions. I appreciate it!
So, "tell me what I want to hear and don't bother me with facts"?

Sorry, darling, I won't lie to make you feel better about shocking your dog.

I did train a 90 lb GSD mix with severe dog aggression to walk nicely on a leash past other dogs. I did it positively with not one prong, choke or shock collar in sight. I never would have asked him to live with another dog, although it did break my heart not to be able to help several dogs in need I came across. (I didn't want to crate and rotate, so I didn't get started with it. Had I had 2 dogs and then had one start being aggressive, I would have done it.)

Sometimes, the answer to your problems isn't what you want to hear. Pack leader is bunk. Shocking the dog won't make you pack leader. Leaving dogs to fight is a bad idea. Try something else, what you're doing isn't working.
 

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Thank you for stating the obvious. Your advice is useless. In the meantime, darling, enjoy tooting your own horn on your stupid "accomplishments." ;)
 
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