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Discussion Starter #1
Hi folks...
Recently a friend of mine asked me to help him take his family mutt to be put down. He moved out of his family home two years ago to a place where he can't keep dogs, and shortly after, his dad got locked up for 8 years. The dog has been living with his sister ever since, and has been badly neglected. According to the previous owner he has never been aggressive before, with the exception of one incident where he tried to bite a guy who leaned in through the driver side window of his car to speak to a passenger. He has mild arthritis, but no other health problems, so instead of having him put to sleep I offered to look after him, and I brought him home yesterday.

It's been just over 24 hours, and the new dog seems to be settling in ok, but he's already proving to be very possessive. I have an 18 year old male staffy, and a 2.5 year old female border collie who have both been with me since pups, and have perfect manners. The new dog has been growling to warn them off when they come too close to me, or sometimes to guard a toy. He chases shadows, and has even shown signs of aggression towards my other dogs because of those shadows. Sometimes he walks around us in circles, at an ever increasing speed, like hes trying to round up a mob of sheep, and if this is allowed to continue he gets quite worked up. There was an incident this morning when the previous owner came to visit, and everyone got excited, and the new dog attacked one of mine who was holding a toy at the time, then of course my second dog got involved too. It only lasted a second, and we split them up ok, but if it happens again I will have a hard time getting them apart on my own.

I made it clear before I took him in that he can stay only on the condition that he gets along with my dogs, so I always have the option to remove him from the equation, but I want to give him the best chance I possibly can. At the moment, I have been sending him outside at the very first sign of aggressive body language, and he immediately does as he's told. So far, it's been an effective way to resolve the issue before it escalates, but I'm not sure if this is the best way to manage the situation long term and I wont always be able to pay such close attention.

I have had dogs my whole life and I can read them fairly well. I am assertive and generally confident, and I like to think I can handle them effectively, but I've honestly never had to deal with serious behavior problems before. This dog has seen some terrible things, and he looks like he's never seen food in his life, so I hope he will calm down once he realizes this is a nice place where he can relax. But... I'm concerned, because he's a big dog. I'm surprised at his level of possessiveness just one day after first meeting me, and I very much hope this is not a sign of worse things to come.

I started browsing the internets, looking for anything that might help me to improve the situation, but so far have found nothing much more useful than warnings never to underestimate the gravity of the situation. Keeping the dogs separate is not really an option, and spending money isn't either, so I'm not really sure what to do.

Will things improve or deteriorate with time? And what can I do to fix it? Where is the best place to go for good information? This is the little guy's only chance.

Thanks for reading, and thanks in advance for any advice :)
 

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Really it could go either way. Being new, he may just be determining his status. This will likely escalate before it gets better. Some dogs don't get along, and need constant supervision, or seperation. Aggression tends to worsen with two incompatible dogs, usually with the others jumping in. Sounds like he is insecure with anxiety if he is trying to protect you already. Be assertive here, as this unmanaged could be very dangerous, especially with your older dog. Give it time if you are knowledgeable reading dogs, and prevent fights before it starts. Good luck.
 

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18 year old staffie or 18 month old?

Hmmm . . . on the one hand, you're doing a good thing. I applaud you for that. (I'm not being sarcastic, I personally couldn't deal with three dogs. One is a lot for me.)

On the other, you can't separate the dogs and you can't spend any money. It's not a good idea in general to have staffies unsupervised with other dogs (I love the breed, but they were bred a certain way. We have to be realistic.) Now you have three dogs, you can't separate them, one is being aggressive, there's already been a fight, you can't afford a behaviorist to help you . . . I really fear a seriously injured or dead dog in the future.

If you can't separate the dogs, I'd suggest another home for your new dog where he can be an only dog who can heal and blossom without having to deal with other dogs
 

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It sound like the dog has issues that tightly confined or chained up dogs are prone to develop. I would look for a new home for him where he will be the only dog in the house.

Other than that the best suggestion I would have is to try to keep them in separate rooms when not supervised and use some positive reinforcement methods of counter conditioning and desensitizing him to your other dogs and such.

Something like this.. http://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/preventing-dog-bites-stop-dog-aggression-before-it-starts

http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/13_4/features/Dog-Fighting-Behavior-Aggression_16214-1.html

I used some of this with my 2 girls as they fought a couple of times when I first had them together.
 

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You have no bathrooms, bedrooms or otherwise in your home? So it's all one huge open space? Then a crate shouldn't be a problem to fit in. There's always an option to keeping them separated.

If you don't have the money to spend on training, do you have it for vet bills if the dogs get into a brawl, which is pretty likely if the new guy is trying things the first day?

What I would suggest is contact some rescues, possibly the local spca, and see if they're willing to help with training advice and so on. Shop around, I know the one rescue here will not use anyone but their own training buddies, who are horrible, but there should be some help somewhere. What are your long term goals, to keep the dog yourself or rehome? That might make a difference in how you deal with things. The first thing I'd suggest is a full workup with a vet to make sure he's not got any underlying issues (the circling and so on doesn't sound like normal stuff) before you start training and working with him.

I would find some way of keeping the new dog separated when not supervised at all times, just not worth the risk. And while your dogs have good manners NOW, if they get into enough brawls with the new guy, they are likely to also start having some issues to work through. Again, you have to decide what's most important to you.

And remove the toys from the house if he's around, if that's an issue. I'm sure you figured that one out though.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
18 year old staffie or 18 month old?

Hmmm . . . on the one hand, you're doing a good thing. I applaud you for that. (I'm not being sarcastic, I personally couldn't deal with three dogs. One is a lot for me.)

On the other, you can't separate the dogs and you can't spend any money. It's not a good idea in general to have staffies unsupervised with other dogs (I love the breed, but they were bred a certain way. We have to be realistic.) Now you have three dogs, you can't separate them, one is being aggressive, there's already been a fight, you can't afford a behaviorist to help you . . . I really fear a seriously injured or dead dog in the future.

If you can't separate the dogs, I'd suggest another home for your new dog where he can be an only dog who can heal and blossom without having to deal with other dogs
He's 18 years old.

...And you're kidding right?
Staffies are one of the most popular dog breeds in Australia (my home) and yet they're well down the list of breeds responsible for dog bites. They also look a lot like pit bulls, which are illegal because they're so dangerous, so everyone who wants pit bulls registers their dogs as staffies, and staffies take the blame. I think that comment was off topic and unfair.
 

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Of course I have a bathroom... I'll go ahead and assume you're not advocating that I leave the dog in a bathroom for the rest of his life? When I said it's not an option to keep them separated, I meant that its not realistically possible to manage such a large dog if he has to be kept separate from my other two. It would be cruel to try. I have a house with a yard literally across the road from the CBD, it's not like I live on a farm. They get walked two hours a day and that's hardly enough to keep them happy and well adjusted. I don't see how cutting their living space in half will provide any kind of solution. Obviously, I feed them in separate rooms, and I try to avoid situations that can lead to a fight, but that's about it.

As for a new home... We have 4 different shelters who find new homes for dogs. Two of them are small, privately owned "no kill" shelters who hand pick the most desirable animals with no health or behavioral problems, and sell them at a profit. They wont take him because hes not worth money. The other two, the RSPCA and the animal welfare league are unable to rehome animals that show any sign of aggression because they will be liable if anything happens. I have been volunteering at the AWL for the past 3 years. The place costs upwards of $5 million a year to run, and each year they apply for a government grant of $30,000. The rest of the money comes from donations. The organization is staffed by 70% volunteers, and they handle almost all of the lost and stray animals in the state. So, while they WILL take him in, they can't afford to take chances. If there were someone that could take him and provide a more appropriate home than I can, he would be with them now, and as soon as that someone appears I will be more than happy to give him up. At this point though, I think I made it pretty clear that he doesn't have a lot of options. If you can think of something that I haven't, I'm all ears.

There is money for vet bills if something comes up, but anybody who can provide better training than I can myself is going to cost a lot more than I can afford as a student. If it comes to the point of vet bills, I will have the dog destroyed for the safety of the other two. It may come to that, and it may not. I recognize that this is a risk but I would like to give him a chance.

Thanks for your help guys.
 

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Aggresive dogs can be managed, its up to you if its worth the effort, or risking your old dog.

I have seven dogs, two of the girls do not get along. They must behave, so I am able to handle them together in the house, out doors, in the car, whatever. Certain things set them off. The malinois gets along with dogs. The Dutch does not. Both are close to same age and size, so they deal with it unless I need to step in.this is a good way to get bit if you aren't careful. If I get bit in this situation, its my own fault.

I have two old guys. If there was an aggressor towards them, its time to seperate, as that is not fair. Nor is a bully. I will not leave the two girls that don't get along inside alone together. Outside they are fine.

Since its only been a day, give it time,prevent the fights, and I would still seperate them when you are gone.
 

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When was the last time he's been to the vet? He's an older fellow, so he could have physical issues causing him pain and contributing to the aggression. I'd do a vet visit with a full blood panel and checkup.
 

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managing i dont think is the right word. it should be correcting. dogs get like this from too much energy pent up and lack of guidance/corrections. youll need lots of one on one time with this dog and very slowly getting him used to the otehr dogs. that and work him so he gets tired. if you dont have time use a tredmill or take him to a fenced in place where no one is. just let him run and play and explore. it takes time. i wish you all the luck in the world. i would hate to see a dog put down for something that is correctable.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks :)

I typed up a reply about the vet, but the forums seems to have swallowed it.

He had a general checkup, no bloods though. The vet said he was fine, and gave me some advice about feeding him, because he's extremely skinny.
It was the previous owner who said he needs arthritis meds in winter, though he seems to move fine, and when I mentioned this to the vet he didn't seem overly concerned. He said it's to be expected in a dog his age, but I know when a dog looks like it's in pain it's generally much worse than it seems.

Actually, the only time I feel completely at ease with everyone together is when we're walking. Everyone seems to get along then.
 

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Hi Elva,

I commend you for taking on this dog. He sounds like a challenge and his past sure isn't helping him any.

In this kind of situation I would expect that the first six - eight weeks or so will be a huge transition time for this dog as well as your other two. Bringing any new dog into a "pack" is going to disrupt the equilibrium somewhat. Add to that the new dog will become more comfortable in time and is either going to settle in and relax, or escalate his behaviour.

The pacing which escalates and can lead to an outburst is interesting. When I adopted my Malinois years ago she came with a bizarre habit of spinning (essentially chasing her tail) but it was triggered by a number of things. Boredom was one trigger and virtually anything that excited her would trigger the spinning too (vacuum, snow shovels, matches, lighters, fireworks, gun fire). The thing that I quickly realized was that when she was spinning it was guaranteed to result in a dog fight if another dog got near her in that state.

I ended up getting smart to the triggers and began working on interrupting them with obedience commands. Since it was easy to bring out the wacky behaviour, it was a simple matter to start managing it. To this day (7 years or so later) she still spins when she gets excited. The difference is it's controllable. Though I still don't allow the wacky to start, if she's in the mudroom with my lab and starts spinning it usually doesn't result in a fight. I attribute this to the consequences of fighting and the fact that I still to this day manage that trigger aggressively.

It's good you've picked up on the triggers and tension before they erupt. Given the behaviour and body language you've described from this dog it really sounds like there are some serious insecurity issues. Personally I would be focusing all my time and effort on obedience as a lifestyle for him. If he's clinging to you already, this is potentially a problem. Personally I would show him that pack status is a privilege not a right. He must earn his way into the pack through his good behaviour.

If this dog were in my house it would end up going like this:

Dog separated when I'm not able to manage them.

When I can manage them, there is a leash and muzzle on the new dog. Most dogs that are respectful won't engage in fighting unless given a reason to. The muzzle buys you more time and the leash makes it easier to follow through with your direction to the dog as well as provides a life line during a scuffle.

I would begin this dogs training by exercising him diligently and teaching him to go to a spot like a bed or crate on command. I would begin using this "place" command to send him away at the first signs of insecurity or territorial displays. Much like you've been doing already, the difference being this should be more like a time-out spot. He can't leave the bed or crate for 5 minutes. We want to create a black and white picture in his head that acting out gets him booted out (temporarily). Cause and effect.

Extensive obedience training would help him immensely too.

It's a tough situation to be in, and it sounds like your heart and mind are in the right spot. It's really a matter of time and effort, but also the crystal-clear leadership that will make this happen. Not everyone would be able to do this successfully. Give it some time, but play it safe. Don't leave him unattended with the others, and treat every exciting situation as a potential trigger. Energy is contagious too, so if you're excited or your other dogs are excited that energy will transfer to him as well.

Good luck!
Ashton
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Yeah, I have made him a cubby house out of a sheet and the kitchen table for time out, and so I can restrict his eye contact with the other two. I got in there with him and spent a good hour massaging the tension out of him, so hopefully he will start to think of it as a nice, safe place. He seems quite a bit more relaxed already, but I dunno how long that will last. :)

Thanks guys, You're all quite helpful.
 

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18 year old staffie or 18 month old?

Hmmm . . . on the one hand, you're doing a good thing. I applaud you for that. (I'm not being sarcastic, I personally couldn't deal with three dogs. One is a lot for me.)

On the other, you can't separate the dogs and you can't spend any money. It's not a good idea in general to have staffies unsupervised with other dogs (I love the breed, but they were bred a certain way. We have to be realistic.) Now you have three dogs, you can't separate them, one is being aggressive, there's already been a fight, you can't afford a behaviorist to help you . . . I really fear a seriously injured or dead dog in the future.

If you can't separate the dogs, I'd suggest another home for your new dog where he can be an only dog who can heal and blossom without having to deal with other dogs
I recomend a book called "Mine!" but when he guards you stand up & remove YOURSELF (if you are the source of the guarding; I dont know how to curb RG when it's applied to other dogs other then taking up all toys, only giving toys when they are crated or otherwise separated, the same goes for: feeding time & treats.
 
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