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Discussion Starter #1
There's some backstory to this, but I'll try to keep this manageable...

My wife and I have two dogs, Maeby (3 year old Lab/Boxer mix, 65 lbs.) and Tobias (9 year old Papillon, 9 lbs.). This last April Maeby was attacked by a mountain lion (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=H6d53i-Uk9w). She was able to fight it off and survived. The recovery was a long process that involved an area on her stomach getting necrosis. We took her in for daily bandages (surgeries wouldn't hold) where she had roughly two hours of one-on-one time where we'd drive to and from the vet. This process ended about a month ago.

Around that time, she randomly bit Tobias around the neck and shoulders while no one else was home. They've had small incidents, but they get along great and have spent countless hours alone together. After that incident, they got along fine. There was never a hint of aggression while anyone was home. They spent time alone together just fine. But then two weeks later she did it again, but much worse. Many staples and stitches later, he is lucky to be alive.

Nothing indicates that they were fighting over a toy or food (all of that was put away and he's not much of a player). I'm not sure if something changed between them after the mountain lion or just with her. Or if her getting the alone time and now not is what triggered it. Anyways, she's been out at my parent's while he recovers and we're not sure if we can keep her unless we can find answers.

We've had them both since they were pups (he was rescued around 6 months old, she was rescued at 9 weeks). This one sided rivalry appears to have come out of the blue. One vet downplayed it after the first attack as dogs-will-be-dogs, but their size difference was too much of an issue. But after the second he said it wasn't and now we can't afford a third time.

Any suggestions are appreciated.
 

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Sorry to hear about your situation. It is impossible to say what could have triggered the attacks in your home. But dogs do often behave differently when they are in pain. The mountain lion attack was likely a traumatic event and that could also make a dog jumpier. Maybe Maeby felt pain from her injuries as Tobias was walking by and attacked Tobias thinking he had something to do with it. Unfortunately, dogs do make unintended associations like that.

Regardless of what triggered it, the fact that Maeby did that level of damage is significant. If these were my dogs, I would NEVER leave the two alone as long as either dog was alive. Maeby has already shown in the first incident that she will break skin. The second incident showed she escalated. Honestly, the third incident would likely result in death.

Unfortunately, vets are not trainers and I would not have chalked it off as "dogs will be dogs" after the first incident. Yes, dogs will guard from each other and may get into a scuffle or two. But the whole point of dogs having bite inhibition is proving that they can get out of an uncomfortable situation without breaking skin. I strongly believe that there is a line to be crossed when it comes to altercations between dogs - whether or not blood needs to be drawn (especially with that size difference). A dog Maeby's size can kill a dog Tobias' size in mere seconds (which is why I also recommend caution even when you are home). Really, one grab and one shake.

There is no training and no reputable trainer who would guarantee that this won't happen again. It doesn't mean they can't ever be in the same room together, though even that should be done with caution. But I would have one dog in a crate, or behind closed doors (Not just behind a baby gate), ANY time they are alone. Even if I were to go and take a shower, or check the mail for 30 seconds. You do not know what the trigger is, which means a fight can happen at any time. I would also not judge a person in your position for rehoming one of the dogs, if strict management is not possible.
 

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How horrible! I'm sorry.

I agree with Canyx. I would be keeping the dogs separated when they are alone, and under strict supervision when they are together. Even though Maeby has healed, perhaps she is still feeling weak and has some discomfort. I can't imagine how traumatic that mountain lion attack must have been for her. Maybe they were playing and it hurt Maeby, so she blamed Tobias and attacked him.

But yeah, just keep them separated when you can't watch.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the replies.

Canyx, that would make sense, but Maeby has never showed any real pain or discomfort from her injuries since being done with the bandaging. She runs, plays, and does everything she used to without really noticing it. But I can only base things off of what I see.

We are leaning towards rehoming, but before that I wanted to see if anyone had any magic cure-all. It's just weird since no aggression is shown towards other dogs and everyone who has met her agrees on what a sweet dog she is. It's all just directed at him in two (but I agree it would likely be now) odd incidents. Anyways, thanks again.
 

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Have you had Tobias in to check for any illnesses (other than the staples and stitches for the attack)? Sometimes dogs get confused if their dog friends smell funny because they're sick or something. I've never had this happen personally, but I've heard anecdotes.
 

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I'm sorry you are dealing with this, but I'm glad Maeby is okay after the attack.

Unfortunately you will need to keep the dogs separated any time they cannot be directly supervised. Honestly though, a lot of people (myself included) will not allow their dogs together when nobody is home. You just never know what might happen and without your being there. You have no idea what triggered these episodes, so you're kind of in the dark regarding the circumstances. You could have the dogs together when you're home, but it is a risk, since the dog has bitten twice already.
 

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Hi AJT, I understand you are in a very difficult position and love both dogs. But unfortunately there is no magic and "cure all", and I would NEVER trust any trainer that uses "cure" or "fix". I have stories where dogs who didn't get along ended up fine with each other. I have stories of dogs who have been 'taught' not to fight anymore but one killed the other out of the blue one day. There simply is no guarantee. But the statistics are not in your favor. In the dog training world, we talk about "when" dogs with bite histories will bite again, not "if". And I have been in your position before (though without less severity in the attacks). Every day things go well, we let our guard down just a tiny bit. In training terms, our optimism is positively reinforced. Maybe it's leaving the dogs alone while we check the stove, or make a quick run to the grocery store... It is human to hope.

I will bet that EVERY single person who takes the above-and-beyond precautions with their dogs have either witnessed tragedy or come close to it. I am very strict on management in my household compared to the ~20 or so other dog people I work around. My dog has bitten other dogs, theirs hasn't.

I know a person whose dog died in a freak accident when its head got stuck in an empty food bag. You can bet she is sensitive about bags in her household.

A woman's puppy swallowed a 1x1 inch of fleece chewed off a blanket and died from blockage. Never again does she put bedding in the crate with puppies.

People don't schedule lessons until their reactive dog has actually put their mouths on a person.

So on and so forth... But my point is, I totally understand that most of the time your dogs are fine, and it's hard to imagine that they can't somehow be fine one day. I just hope the last attack was the last, and that both your dogs live happy and fulfilling lives from this point on.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks again, Canyx. And just to be clear, the cure-all phrase was just being used by me in jest. We're really hoping not to have to rehome Maeby, but it looks like the only route considering their size difference. The vet we've used through the process who got Maeby back to health has been great. Thanks for the feedback.
 

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Apologies for misinterpreting!
Regardless, I hope you are able to reach an agreeable decision. Sorry that you are in this difficult position.
 
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