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Discussion Starter #1
We have a 6-year-old Standard Poodle who is a joy. However, she isn't well socialized (we didn't get her until she was 6 months old, unfortunately), especially around other dogs.

We recently wanted to add to our Standard Poodle family, so we took Dixon (the 6-year-old Standard) to the breeder with us so we could let Dixon and the new puppy choose each other (and also introduce them on neutral territory, rather than just bringing a strange puppy into our home).

Dixon growled at all of the puppies, so my husband and I chose two that seemed the brightest and most full of personality. Dixon was NOT happy the entire first day and gave me the silent treatment. :D

It's been 3 weeks since they've been here, and although Dixon has warmed up to them and even trots around with them wagging her tail, occasionally she gets vicious and snarls, baring her "vampire teeth" and several times has snapped at the puppies. She also sees them play-fighting and wants to join in, but obviously doesn't know her own strength.

Today, she actually injured one (he is fine now, but he yelped for several minutes). We are making sure we're giving her a TON of love and affection so she doesn't feel she's being replaced. We've given her opportunities to accept the new pups into the pack... we keep them separated with a baby gate much of the day so she can't hurt them... what on earth more can we do to get her to accept these sweet new puppies, rather than acting like she wants to kill them?? I'd so appreciate any/all ideas. We feel like spanking her when she lunges and snaps at one of these precious puppies! :(
 

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Personally, it sounds really normal to me. Older dogs who have young puppies around tend to be "tough" on them in order to teach them how thing work around her home. It sounds like she's had every chance to rip one of the puppies apart and hasn't done so. She isn't snarling at them to hurt them, she's doing it to communicate.

When you said she injured one today and he yelped forever about it, it means she made her correction a little more harsh, suprised the puppy when it was doing something wrong or accidently grabbed a sensitive part of the body (nose, ear...). It's normal and hopefully you didn't coddle the hurt puppy too much. He/she probably received a ton of warning ahead of time before the harsh correction.

Your puppies will learn a lot from her about pack order, about restrictions and limitations and maybe you should trust her a little more?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you... I really appreciate your reply!

In this case, the puppy was just running through a room, not nipping or doing anything overtly wrong. With no warning, our older dog seemed to see the running puppy as prey, and she pounced. So it was different than the times the puppies try to nip at Dixon's tail or ears (in those cases, I always let Dixon warn them without my intervention!).

Many people don't realize it but poodles were originally hunting dogs. I once watched in horror as Dixon attacked and killed a sweet little bird in the back yard before I could get to her. Her hunting instinct just kicks in. I had flashbacks of that as she accelerated and pounced on the little puppy... I don't want her hunting instincts to kick in with these little ones, especially since she doesn't seem to have any maternal instincts toward them.
 

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Actually, I've read the contrary -- puppies are actually often allowed to get away with more than regular dogs, especially when dealing with adult dogs. It's what's known as a "puppy license." Yes, sometimes it's necessary to let adult dogs correct pups, putting them in their place so to speak... but only when the puppies are acting obnoxiously (for example, bothering Dixon, trying to coerce her into play and not knowing when to stop, trying to steal toys, etc). If the puppy isn't doing anything wrong and Dixon goes after it, that isn't normal.

If Dixon is typically bad with other dogs, it might not have been the best idea to add dogs to your family just yet. Dog-aggression or reactiveness doesn't disappear overnight, especially not with the addition of more dogs to the household. Still, the puppies are home, and what's done is done.

I would strongly recommend calling in a behaviourist to deal with Dixon. One puppy is a lot of work. Two puppies is at least three times the work. Two puppies and one aggressive dog is sort of asking for trouble... it's for this reason that I really don't think Dixon's dog-aggression should be addressed at home. Professional work is needed in this case. In the meantime, keep them separated to prevent either of the puppies for getting hurt. Don't punish Dixon when she snaps at the pups...it will likely make the problem worse.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Melissa, thanks so much for your reply... I tend to agree with you and we will seek out a behaviorist ASAP. In the meantime, we've been letting Dixon have "supervised visitation" with the puppies, and when she acts well (sniffing them and wagging her tail), we give her treats... with a harsh "NO!" and removing her from the situation when she starts to growl/snarl. It may be a few weeks before we're able to hire a behaviorist so I may research what methods they would use so we can start using those methods in the meantime.

Thank you again for your replies!
 

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I would be careful about using behaviourists' methods with your dog, especially when it comes to aggression. Dealing with aggression requires one to be very experienced in reading the subtleties of dog body language and knowing at which precise second to act (dogs have an EXTREMELY acute sense of timing). Also I find that trying to fix the problem at home in the interim period before a behaviourist can be found often causes owners to procrastinate on hiring the professional.

Supervised visitation sounds good, but Dixon needs to be removed from the puppies before she starts acting aggressive. There IS a period of time, no matter how short, in which she starts to get riled up -- it will show in her eyes, ears, corners of mouth. This is when you need to remove her from the puppies, not punish her when she gets aggressive. You want to minimise negative associations with the puppies' presence as far as possible.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thank you again for the great advice. We actually do notice just before the growling begins that her lip comes up (the best I can describe it as an Elvis lip :lol:) and her eyes get fixed on the target puppy. Other than the running-around-the-room incident, it usually only happens when a puppy is getting too close to my husband (she's very territorial/protective of him). During supervised visitation tonight (nowhere near my husband, btw), she played gloriously with them... they ran and play-fought and play-bit (Dixon did all that as well), but all in a very playful/non-harmful way.

We will be bumping up hiring a behaviorist on the priority list, on your advice, even if it means having to hold off on puppy kindergarten for the pups.
 

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The corner of a dog's lip can be very telling about how the dog is feeling, and how tense she is. When her lip comes up, no jerking, warning or spanking... you just want to get out one of her favourite treats and wave it in front of her nose, call her name in your most "fun" voice, squeak a toy, whatever it takes to get her attention. When she has redirected her focus from the puppy to you, deliver the reward and praise. Biggest mistake people make here is delivering the reward, praising, and then letting the dog carry on. You want to deliver the reward with praise, then it's time for Dixon to leave and go on the other side of the baby gate, with you telling her what a good girl she is all the way. Always end on a positive.

With regards to finding a behaviourist, I believe this is where most people in the States find professionals in their area:
http://www.apdt.com/

All the best.
 

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Don't punish or scold her when she gets nasty with the pups....that will only give her a negative association with the pups. Instead, try to distract her. When she shows signs of aggressing, do something perky and fun! to distract her, maybe using food treats if she's food-oriented. Negative methods are very likely to backfire in this situation.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
WONDERFUL suggestions... this really helps immensely... thank you so very much!! (especially with that link, Melissa... I was at a loss as to where to find a qualified behaviorist and didn't want to ask a dumb question!)

Dixon isn't very food-motivated and turns her nose up at most dog treats, except for the hideously unhealthy Beggin' Strips, for some reason... I will definitely be hiring a behaviorist ASAP. (On a positive note, she played very well with her young "brothers" today... the only growling was when one of them tried to bite her tail, which of course I just observed with a smile knowing the puppy would quickly learn his manners!)

Thank you again!
 

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Have you heard of Natural Balance food rolls? I believe they are available at most Petsmarts and Pet...centre? Petmall? For some reason I can't remember the name of the other big chain pet store. It's been a long day :p Anyway, Natural Balance rolls are what we commonly refer to as "doggy crack". No dog can refuse it. Cut them up into small pieces and refrigerate; you can then take some pieces out whenever you need them. If even those don't work, resort to human food (contrary to some popular myths, feeding your dog human food is fine as long as you don't give it to her when she's begging at the table). The general rule for dog treats is the stinkier the better, so look for things like cheese, roasted chicken, bacon, beef jerky...

Some dogs just aren't food-motivated, so take some time to find out what Dixon really enjoys. It could be praise, toys, a quick game or a snuggle.

Glad to hear she's doing well. Let us know what happens.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Ooh, I'll have to try those - thank you! (She's very motivated by kisses, but now that you mention "the stinkier the better," she does seem to have a fetish for kissing toes!! :O Hmm, not sure if that's an accepted reward method!)
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Melissa - I wanted to thank you again for all your great advice. Dixon seems to be responding to the bits of cut-up Natural Balance (as well as beef jerky - duh, how did I forget she LOVES that stuff)... yesterday and today I watched cautiously as I let her play with the puppies (one at a time) in the back yard, and she was wonderful with them... totally playful and friendly. She scared them a couple of times by rushing up to them, but that was still play for her, not aggression.

We're down to only two situations where vicious aggression is coming out... when she's on the sofa and one of the pups approaches, or when she's on the bed and we let the puppies on it too without my husband or me in between (and even then, she sometimes snarls viciously).

I've looked up 2 behaviorists near me and want to call a third then hire one of them that I feel will be the best fit. Just wanted to update and thank you again for your helpful replies.
 

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Also to keep in mind, in 'dog language' snarls and 'air snaps' are not violence, they are warnings. They are scary to people, but they are not, by themselves, signs that a dog is going to attack or hurt another dog.

Icesis, for example, doesn't like playing with other dogs. At the dog park, she minds her own buisiness and allows dogs to sniff her, but if they start crowding her and pestering her to play, she will curl her lip. Some dogs immediately understand this 'sign' and calmly turn away. But some dogs do not understand, and continue to be in her face and crowd her. Generally this is when I come in to gently nudge the dog away. If I don't, she will then snarl out loud and 'air snap' (not aiming for the dog, but snapping near them). But even THEN, sometimes the dog doesn't get a clue. I wonder about the socialization of those ones. I notice many seem to be 'only children', while the dogs that understand her the best are ones from the multi-dog families. I think some dogs live so exclusively with humans that they become slightly socially inept with other dogs.

The usual progression towards an actual attack is: Growling -> Air Snap --> Restrained Nip --> Serious Bite. It is normal for adult dogs to do the first three to pesky puppies. It's how they teach them what is 'okay' behavior. Of course, since you're the 'pack leader' it's up to you not allow that 'discipline' to get out of hand. But also don't be too afraid of it, it's just what dogs do.
 

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I believe you mean PetCo & PetSmart :)
Petco, that's the one. Thanks.

Melissa - I wanted to thank you again for all your great advice. Dixon seems to be responding to the bits of cut-up Natural Balance (as well as beef jerky - duh, how did I forget she LOVES that stuff)... yesterday and today I watched cautiously as I let her play with the puppies (one at a time) in the back yard, and she was wonderful with them... totally playful and friendly. She scared them a couple of times by rushing up to them, but that was still play for her, not aggression.

We're down to only two situations where vicious aggression is coming out... when she's on the sofa and one of the pups approaches, or when she's on the bed and we let the puppies on it too without my husband or me in between (and even then, she sometimes snarls viciously).

I've looked up 2 behaviorists near me and want to call a third then hire one of them that I feel will be the best fit. Just wanted to update and thank you again for your helpful replies.
You're very welcome. I've been keeping an eye on this thread and I'm glad to hear that progress is being made, both with Dixon's socialisation and with the behaviourist. Remember that even though Dixon may be improving, it's still just as important to get the behaviourist in to evaluate the situation and tweak your training program. Like I said in my first post, an aggressive dog and two puppies in their formative period make for a very delicate situation. It's very easy for one incident to escalate and result in issues in all three dogs.

How is socialisation going with the new puppies? Despite having other dogs in the house, it's essential that you get them out to daycare, puppy class or even to a friend's house to make sure they get the socialisation they need at this time. You don't want to end up with two undersocialised dogs and a similar situation several years down the road!

Lastly, don't worry. When I arrived at this forum, Spunky was food-aggressive, Honey was leash-reactive and both of them knew how to...sit. It's been slightly over a year and now both of them are completely free of any behavioural issues; they can sit, stay, down, paw, pose, wave, nose-touch... And before you say Dixon's too old to learn, my dogs were 7 and 9 when I arrived :) DF teaches you a lot. Once you gain the confidence, knowledge and motivation to work closely with your dogs, they pick up very, very quickly.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Pai, that's a great point... I had noticed that the puppies seemed blissfully oblivious when Dixon did the lip curl, and initially they happily ignored her growls too... the air snap sure gets their attention though! I'm sure they are still learning cues.

Melissa, we learned our lesson from Dixon and have been making it a goal to introduce them to as many people as possible, and even a few dogs that we know are vaccinated, and as soon as they complete their course of vax we'll introduce them to a lot more dogs, as well as sign them up for puppy classes. (Not for the training side, because these little geniuses totally have the hang of potty training, basics like "sit" and "come," etc., at just 10.5 weeks! but, we want to expose them to a variety of dogs while they're still puppies.)

I think some dogs live so exclusively with humans that they become slightly socially inept with other dogs.
Exactly Dixon's problem! We thought this whole time she was well socialized since she does well with humans. We would joke that she's a dog-snob and looks down her nose at other dogs. Wow do we wish we'd done things differently.

But, she's learning. The puppies are teaching her almost as much as she's teaching them! Even things like loud noises... Dixon is insanely skittish, and even the smallest unexpected sound can send her cowering. We've intentionally exposed the pups to plenty of varied noises so they won't be that skittish. The other day, the washing machine started thumping insanely (even I was startled!). The puppies cocked their heads curiously but were totally calm. Dixon jumped at first but observed how calm the puppies were, and she didn't run cowering to the bedroom, for once. We will definitely be working on socializing her with other dogs (more gradually, of course)... she's a smart one so I think with a bit of effort she'll do just fine!

The poodles are playing better and better... it seriously makes my heart swell to see them approach each other in a playful way, tails wagging happily. One of the little ones stood up and affectionately put his paws on her back, which made me nervous since that's usually an aggressive act that I thought Dixon would correct him for, but she LET him... I couldn't believe it!! I can't WAIT until we can start doing "pack walks" throughout the neighborhood (after puppies' last vax)... I'm sure that will only help their bonding with each other.
 
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