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My boyfriend and I live together and we have 2 dogs. Both were adopted from separate shelters. Both are females, both are 35-40 pounds, both are just over 2 years old, both spayed.

Sable: blue heeler mix. She was adopted first, when she was about six months old (Fall of 2010)
Pixie: not sure of breed. Was adopted as a terrier mix (she does look a lot like a Basenji). She was adopted second, when she was about a year old (Spring of 2011)

We have about a half acre yard that the dogs run around in (only fencing is an electric fence). The dogs got along just fine for the first year. Played together all the time.

Actually, now that I think about it, it has been going on for a while that Sable would hard stare at Pixie on occasion. I'm not sure what would trigger the hard staring (no toys or food nearby), but Sable would be relentless with it. When this happens, Pixie pins her hears back, slinks down, tries not to look at Sable, and walks the other direction. Sable continues to follow Pixie and stares her down. We never liked this, but didn't know how to stop it and it never went any further than that.

About 2 months ago, Sable started attacking Pixie. We've been breaking up fights by grabbing Sable's collar and pulling her away. No blood has been drawn (except for maybe a bitten tongue), but we do see some of Pixie's fur left at the site of the fight.

When this started to happen, I got online and did some searching. Everything that was coming up was about sibling rivalry and dominance. Most articles agreed to treat the dominant dog accordingly (feeding it first, giving it attention first, letting it outside first, etc). So this is what we started doing and assumed that Sable was the dominant one.

That seemed to work up until about a week and a half ago (Sable still did the hard stares, but there was no fighting and we just thought this was part of the dominant role). Sable has started with the attacking again and there have been 3-4 fights in the last 10 days or so. No blood, but still the small tufts of Pixie's fur.

I searched around for dog trainers in our area and we took them both to a place nearby that did a free evaluation. The trainer asked us questions and talked to us for about an hour and a half. The conclusion was made that Sable is bullying Pixie and resource guarding owner attention. The trainer described to us their obedience classes and did a demonstration with one of their dogs. They said obedience classes would help so that if Sable starts to hard stare, we can command her to walk away and lay down in another area until she calms down. Their obedience classes use Dogtra 280 training collars.

Sable attacked Pixie tonight and here's how it went. I was on the couch, not paying attention. Alex (my boyfriend) was laying on the floor petting Sable. Sable was staring at Pixie (who was sitting a couple feet past Sable). Before I knew what was going on, Sable lunged at Pixie and the fight started but we quickly broke it up. Normally, as soon as we can grab Sable, Pixie doesn't try to continue the fight. The last 2 fights that have happened (including tonight), I have had to grab Pixie also because she continues to bite at Sable after the she has been restrained. So it seems the fights are getting worse.

We have been trying to figure out what exactly causes the fights. We have come to the conclusion that they've all happened when Alex was giving Sable attention (either petting or playing with a toy) and then Sable turned on Pixie who was in the vicinity bot not necessarily receiving the same attention. There are still other instances where Sable does the hard stare that doesn't lead to a fight and I'm not sure what causes that. It just seems like Sable gets in a mood and follows Pixie around staring her down. The whole while, Pixie is trying to avoid her (ears pinned, crouching down, whining, looking away from Sable).



So, I ended up typing way more that I originally intended. Thank you if you made it this far :D. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, can these 2 live together peacefully? Will the obedience classes I described benefit them? If not, where do we need to go from here? Thank you!
 

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I'm really sorry to hear you've been having these issues. First off, what's their exercise schedule like? Do you feed them together, or separately? How much training do they have?
 

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You have a sticky situation. Bitch fights are some of the worst and if you don’t take care of it properly you can make it worse. I do not agree with the training classes you described. Electric collars can make aggression a lot worse, especially if you are new to them.

To begin with, have you gotten a vet check on Sable? Unless you weren’t reading her body language correctly when her and Pixie first started living together, it sounds like this aggression is a personality change. Whenever a dog has any change in personality a vet check is in order. Check the thyroid as hormone imbalances can cause aggression.

You may never get to the point where you can trust Sable to not hurt Pixie, but you can work on getting Sable to just ignore Pixie. From now on I would have a harness or collar on Sable with a leash dragging. If at any point Sable does a hard stare or starts to act aggressive towards Pixie simply clap our hands or say something loud to interrupt. Grab the end of the leash and put her in another room. Shut the door and go back to the living room. Give her a minute. Bring her back out. If she repeats, get up and take her away. She wants to be with her people but she is only allowed to be with her people when she behaves.

Another thing to do is change Sable’s feelings towards Pixie. Have bf have Pixie on a leash in another room. You are in living room with Sable who is on a leash. Get some really good treats like hot dogs, chicken, etc. Have bf walk in the room with Pixie. The second Sable turns to look at Pixie you say “Yes” and give Sable a treat. Let her have a couple while Pixie is in the room. Make it a good thing. Have bf take Pixie back out of the room. Now ignore Sable. If you do this everyday, 3x a day with some good food, Sable will start thinking “Wow, when Pixie is around I get good stuff”.

Train them both. Both should know sit, down, go to mat, and stay. Have a bed for each of them on opposite sides of the room. You only play with one dog at a time. If you are with Pixie then Sable is on her mat. If you are with Sable, Pixie is on her mat.

Get crates, one for each. This is their safe place. This is where they go and when they are in their crates that means no one is allowed to touch them. Pixie needs a safe place to go when she feels nervous. T’s not fair to her to have her being bullied and afraid of living in her own house.


These are some of the things I would do.

First off, what's their exercise schedule like?

This too! Make sure each is getting enough exercise.
 

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I'm really sorry to hear you've been having these issues. First off, what's their exercise schedule like? Do you feed them together, or separately? How much training do they have?
Thank you. We do have a half acre that they run around. They get let out in the morning before I go to work and they usually want back in within 10-15 minutes. Sometimes they will stay out for a half hour or so. Once we leave for work, the 2 of them are left out together inside the house. It's a pretty small house and the bedroom doors are shut while we're gone, so they just have the kitchen and living room. They are inside about 6-8 hours while we're gone. Once we get home in the afternoon, they can go outside as much as they want. Recently, Pixie is usually outside and Sable likes to be inside with us. They both used to run and play a lot outside, but they haven't been playing as much recently. It's been so hot and I don't think Sable likes the heat, she does go out more in the evening and her and Pixie still play sometimes.

Do you think they need a more scheduled exercise routine?

For feeding time, we feed them both in the kitchen about 4 feet away from each other. As far as training, they've never had any professional instruction. They know the basics: sit, stay, lay down, speak, shake, down (to get down off something), hi five (which is pretty cute), and twist (spin in a circle, which Pixie does but not Sable). As far as listening, it's hit or miss whether they will listen or not if you don't have a treat in your hand. We hardly ever have them on leashes and they pull a lot if we do put them on. I do want to start working with them on this.



Nil, thank you for the advice you have given. We will try to work with them. Based on what I have just said about their training, do you think it would be beneficial to start with some obedience classes? Something that doesn't involve the shock collars?

Oh, and I will get Sable scheduled at the vet just to make sure. She's been there for checkups and shots, but never specifically for the aggression.
 

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Do you think they need a more scheduled exercise routine?>>>>

yes letting them out unattended does not = exercise. structured walk/ run, throw a ball etc..

Personally I dont nec have an issue w the trainer simply because he uses e-collars. Im sure many disagree. No need to go there as the instructions given by nil are a good starting point regardless
 

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Do you think they need a more scheduled exercise routine?
Yes. Playing in the yard does not equal exercise. When dogs go for walks outside the house they are being mentally stimulated by scents, sights, sounds, and new novel things. I would take them both out together for a 40 minute walk twice a day. That will probably start to help because a tired dog doesn’t have the same pent up energy that can lead to aggression. Make it a fast walk. Let them both pee/poop near the beginning then walk quickly without stopping. If they stop say something like “On by” and keep moving. Every ten minutes or so slow down and say “Go sniff” or something to that affect. Let them sniff and explore on your terms. When you want to keep going say “On by” and continue walking briskly.

Another option is to purchase a long line and go out to a park. Throw a ball around. The dog gets the ability of some more freedom but they are secure with the long line so they can't run off or chase anything.

Or swimming, hiking, backpacking, and biking are all great options for some good exercise.

You can't expect them to be calm in the house and follow your commands if they are full of pent up energy. That's like keeping a kid inside for 3 days and expecting them to take a nap. You need to get them tired and they will be more responsive to training, more responsive to you, and generally less anxious. Also, mental games will help them. Lock up Pixie and take Sable to the living room. Hide food around the living room and then let Sable try to find it all. Help her out at first. When Sable is done finding the food, put her away and get Pixie. Do this with Pixie too. You are stimulating their minds by getting them to have to actively look for food.

For feeding time, we feed them both in the kitchen about 4 feet away from each other.
Does either one have any aggression during feeding time? Any stealing food? Staring? Does Pixie eat real fast as if she is nervous? I would still suggest you feed them even further apart than 4 feet if you can, but especially do so if you have any of these problems. Or, better yet, use their food for training. Take their AM meal and work on sit/down/stays/go to mat one at a time for each of them. It'll add an extra 30 minutes to your morning routine but both dogs will get fed, they will be working on commands, they will be mentally challenged, and they will know that you are in control of the food.


We will try to work with them. Based on what I have just said about their training, do you think it would be beneficial to start with some obedience classes? Something that doesn't involve the shock collars?
Yes. I think using positive reinforcement training you can get them to both reliably follow your commands. It will be work but I think you will be pleased with the results.

Here are some videos from a user who is really great at explaining what she’s doing:
Leash Pulling
Teaching Calmness
Go To Mat


I would keep them separated while you are gone though. If something did happen while you weren't there to break it up, you may end up coming home to a dead or injured dog.
 

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Personally I dont nec have an issue w the trainer simply because he uses e-collars. Im sure many disagree. No need to go there as the instructions given by nil are a good starting point regardless
I think e-collars can be useful for people who know how to use them and I really don't have a problem with people who use them. I just said no initially because it sounds like the OP is unfamiliar with their use and would just follow the trainer. Who knows, maybe this trainer knows how to use them properly in a way that won't cause the aggression to worsen or the dog to become more nervous/anxious, but I would almost like to see the OP try out some positive work herself before doing that because it is another option that, even if done wrong, will just make the dog fat and not necessarily more reactive. My opinion though, I didn't mean to sound like all e-collar work is bad and all who use them are the devil, that is definitely not my intention.
 

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I think e-collars can be useful for people who know how to use them and I really don't have a problem with people who use them. I just said no initially because it sounds like the OP is unfamiliar with their use and would just follow the trainer. Who knows, maybe this trainer knows how to use them properly in a way that won't cause the aggression to worsen or the dog to become more nervous/anxious, but I would almost like to see the OP try out some positive work herself before doing that because it is another option that, even if done wrong, will just make the dog fat and not necessarily more reactive. My opinion though, I didn't mean to sound like all e-collar work is bad and all who use them are the devil, that is definitely not my intention.
sounds good :pop2:
 
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