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What to do with dog aggression?

850 Views 2 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  Kepler
Sorry this is a little long, but I figured I'd tell the whole story then ask my questions below..

About 8 months ago I adopted Kepler, my first dog, a 5-6 year old male Chesapeake Bay Retriever. He's been a great dog but he loves socializing with other dogs and keeps trying to play with the cat (who doesn't want to play) so I decided to get a second dog. 2 weeks ago I adopted Curie, a ~2 year old female Australian Cattle Dog mix. They met at the shelter in a largish pen outside and got along well. Kepler did try to climb onto her back but she gave him a good correction and he promptly sat down, then got and followed her but didn't try again. Curie came to me underweight but she's already put on a few pounds and according to the vet has another 5 to gain. She also has had very little training and is still working on sit, stay, and come, which she's learning quickly. Both are spayed/neutered.

Curie came home Tuesday, and the dogs seemed to get along well. I watched them in play in the backyard and they did very well, lots of running at each other, chase (each chased the other at different times) and a grand time was had by all. In the first couple of days there were a couple of barking spats when Kepler tried to eat out of the same food bowl as Curie but they were quickly resolved with no violence. Then the first Saturday I'd let them out to take care of business in the back yard and a fight broke out a few minutes later, I don't know why because I wasn't supervising them. When I pulled Kepler off Curie kept going after him, but when I pulled Curie off Kepler sat and immediately calmed down. Curie settled down after a few seconds. Kepler had some scratches on his face and Curie had some minor damage to one ear. The dogs were kept separate until the next morning when a friend could come over and hold a leash while I held the other, both dogs looked happy to see the other.

After that I split them up whenever I wasn't able to watch them, even when I was in the shower. Again they seemed to get along well, sharing toys, alternating beds, etc.

Wednesday a few days later I noticed Curie at her food bowl growling at Kepler. Kepler was standing a few feet away in his "casual interest" pose, not threatening but clearly Curie wasn't happy so I tried to intervene but I was too late, Curie lunged at Kepler and Kepler fought back and this time he wasn't backing down. To break up the fight I actually had to pick Curie up when they were near the bathroom door and push her inside then close the door. Again, both calmed down quickly once they were separated. This time Curie got the most damage with scratches on her face and neck and more ear damage. Kepler got a few minor scratches.

After that fight I began separating them during meal times, at first with one dog in a different room while the other stayed with me, but the dog in the different room often wouldn't eat so I started putting Kepler in his crate with his food while Curie stayed out (she doesn't have a crate yet and we're still working on crate training). Curie was fine with this, even when eating right next to Kepler's kennel. They would also get treats at the same time - closely supervised of course - and Curie was fine with it. It might help that Kepler tends to take his treats to another room to eat, something he did even before I got her. I did notice that Curie would freeze when Kepler started sniffing by her ear (which is still healing) but calling either of the dogs' names would be enough of a distraction that her tail would start wagging again.

A week went by and the household was in peace, but today I was doing yard work and Kepler and Curie were in the yard with me. They started to play, something I've seen them do several times and there haven't been any problems, but after a few minutes I looked over at them and noticed that Curie was playing more aggressively than usual and Kepler was no longer playing along, instead he was alternately standing still and trying to back away. She wasn't biting him, but she was rubbing the side of her face against the side of his face and neck and as I said Kepler clearly wasn't comfortable but couldn't get away. I tried to get there to pull her away but again I was too late and they started fighting. I don't know who threw the first "punch" but neither were backing down. To split up this fight I had to actually get between them and push them apart, once that was done they immediately calmed down. I kept a very light grip on their scruffs - it was almost more of a touch than a grip - but after about a minute of them just sitting there I slowly pulled away and went to the door. They walked almost side by side to the door and I let Curie, the one who got there first, inside then kept Kepler outside with me. Later, when I let the two meet again, Curie seemed happy to see him yet a little wary (but not defensive), and Kepler just looked happy to see her. Curie relaxed after a few minutes and went on as usual. I'm now keeping a very close eye on them when they're together.

The question: should I keep Curie? This is my first experience with two dogs, and I only have 8 months experience with a single dog. I figured the food aggression was manageable if not treatable, but now that I know she sometimes has issues playing too I don't know what to do. In the short term I can handle keeping the two completely separate but in the long term it would be too much - twice the walks, twice the social time, twice the play time, etc. If the situation is workable I'm willing to put in the work but if they're set up for a lifetime of animosity I don't want to force them to spend the next several years with that kind of stress.

I already set up an appointment with a behaviorist earlier this week but she can't come until Monday and I really don't want to spend $150 just to be told "Three fights is too many, you'll never be able to trust them together" so I figured I'd ask you much more knowledgeable folks here for suggestions.

Thanks in advance.
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I would set up the appointment with the behaviorist. The good thing is that they are not trying to fight every chance they see each other. It seems to be fights that are somewhat reasonable.

First, let me give some reasoning here. Curie is brand new, put in a whole new situation with a person and a dog she doesn't know. Not only that, but an Australian Cattle Dog mix. Aussies are known to be very "sharp" dogs. Females also get the term "bitch" for a reason. Curie is a young dog of a breed that is known to be very driven, smart, and "won't take any crap". Now I'm not blaming anything on her but you need to keep in mind that Aussies are a lot of dog!

The first two fights were, in my opinion, completely your mistake. You let Kepler (awesome name btw) get into a, more or less, unknown dog's food bowl. Big no-no. She defended her food. Same in the second fight. She was defending what she thought was hers. So you were right in separating them. In fact, I personally probably wouldn't trust hem together with food or highly valued items.

The fight in the yard is hard to guess. Either Curie was playing with Kepler in a way he didn't like and he told her off which escalated, or she was bullying him, or some third thing. Either way, they don't seem like they completely hate one another but you certainly need to intervene.

1. Teach Curie and Kepler they shouldn't have to defend themselves. YOU are their protector and should be supervising them. If Kepler is bothering Curie, remove Kepler from the room. If Curie is bother Kepler, make a loud noise to interrupt them and remove Curie from the area and let them both calm down. It is your job to manage their time together.

2. Instill NILIF with both dogs now. http://www.dogforums.com/dog-training-forum/6856-nilif-nothing-life-free.html

3. Get a crate for Curie and start crate training.

4. Exercise both dogs more. The more exercise they get the less "ramped up" they will be from excess energy and the less energy they will have to cause a fight. Cattle dogs are incredibly athletic and need a lot of exercise! Especially one as young as Curie. Kepler too is a breed that is used to intense exercise.

5. Train both dogs more. Use clicker training. Teach them tricks. Sit, down, leave it, stay. These will help keep them settled and separated when you need them to be. Teach them useless pet tricks too. Touch, paw, spin, close the door, etc. The more you work their minds the more tired they will be.

6. Start hand feeding Curie. Instead of putting her food in the bowl do this. Put Kepler in another room so he doesn't bother her. Then, sit down with Curie's kibble in her bowl in your lap. Tell her to sit and feed her a kibble. Tell her to down and give her a kibble. Repeat until her dinner is done. Wake up early and do this in the morning too. You are teaching her that good things come from you, you are in control of her food, and she has to earn her food.

7. Always supervise their interactions. If you can't, separate them. The more they fight the more they realize they have to fight in order to get what they want. You need to intervene BEFORE they fight. Once you notice them getting a little too ramped up you need to intervene, separate, and wait till they both settle down.

I would start with these and meet the behaviorist and see what they say. Because they don't seem to be trying to kill each other and so far these fights have had some sort of reason behind them I think they can be ok living together.
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Thanks for your reply. The appointment with the behaviorist was made after the second fight, I'm just waiting for her to get here.

I accept responsibility for the fights, I thought they were getting along and didn't need as much supervision when clearly it was too early to relax my guard. They're interactions with each other are going to be much more carefully supervised, even if it means only one can be out in the yard when I'm doing yard work because I just can't watch them carefully enough while I work.

I've been mostly following NILF but can certainly firm it up some more. I have some questions regarding putting it into practice but I'll start a new thread for that.

I've started crate training Curie with Kepler's crate because his is large enough for me to get inside (which has been the best motivation for her to get inside, treats weren't cutting it). She's now getting inside on her own now so her own crate will be along soon.

I'm working with Curie on leash etiquette but for the time being her walks have to be short, 1 mile max, or my hand and/or arm are completely sore and cramped. What other things can I do to exercise her until we can extend her walks? Kepler gets longer walks, 3 miles or more if I have the time, and regular games of fetch as well.

I have to admit I've been lazy in training Kepler, mostly because he came to me with a ton of training already. I guess it would be fun to teach him some "stupid pet tricks", I'll have to browse the forum for some ideas... Curie is getting better at the basics and we work on them every day, but she isn't responding reliably just yet. I'd thought about enrolling her in a class but I'm not sure if I should considering the fights they've had.

I'm not a big fan of hand feeding (eww, slobber) but if it'll help I'll do it. She does eat "nicely" from my hand, it's just very slobbery from all the licking...

The good news is that I just got a job offer but probably won't start work for at least a week so I'll have more time off to work with her and won't have to spend so much effort on job hunting (I figured the best time to get a new dog was while I was home most of the day). I know it'll take longer than that to get the situation under control, just hope I can make a dent in it.

Thanks again for your reply. They seem to get along so well when they aren't fighting that I really do want to make it work, but I don't want to take an iffy situation that's just going to get worse and force it on them.
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