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spottedpupmom January 7th, 2013 01:14 AM

Two dogs we've had for years, fighting, big-time
We have two small female dogs in the house. They're both over five years old - I'm not sure about Dana's age - she was found on the side of the road :( and was an adult dog at that time. Dottie was about a year old when we brought her home.

They've both always gotten along really well. They "argue" every once in a while - like growling or even snapping at one another. That only typically happens rarely - maybe once in several months. Then, usually, just firmly saying their names will make them stop. We free feed and they'll often eat out of the same bowl. We all sleep together in the bed - Dottie likes to share hubby's pillow and Dana likes to lay behind my knees. Although they have two doggie beds in the living room, they'll often curl up together in the same one. Pretty much, things are easy-peasy usually.

Anyway, they've been getting more and more aggressive to one another over the last couple of days. They've fought several times today, maybe five or six times. It's been pretty vicious, too. My husband and I have had to pull them off of one another. He and I both have some bites to show for it. Neither of the dogs seem to be injured. (As I've been reading, I gather that's not the thing to do, possibly, but it's a knee-jerk reaction. I just think "they're hurting each other" and grab whichever one I can get. I'd rather be hurt than my babies be hurt.) There's no obvious trigger - we'll just be all sitting around and then suddenly there's this entangled pile of biting dogs. It's not one or the other, either. One time, Dottie will attack Dana, then later Dana will attack Dottie. We did get a new puppy several weeks ago, but he lives inside and outside, and hasn't even been in the house during many of the fights, and hasn't been involved in any of them.

Right now, they're separated into different rooms. I kind of hate that, though, because it's not their normal routine. I'm scared that it's going to make it worse by upsetting them. (Though, truth be told, neither is whining or acting unhappy.)

I'm hoping some of you guys might offer some suggestions???

I've been reading online and most of the information seems to be geared toward introducing a new dog, etc. I'm pretty sure there aren't any trainers available in the area. The nearest vet is three towns and 45 minutes away. The nearest animal shelter is three COUNTIES away. It's a very rural farming community.

(Also, I know that I'm an ill-informed animal owner, but I DO love them, and I AM trying to figure it out, so please bare with me.)

Loki Love January 7th, 2013 05:37 AM

Any change in behaviour like you're describing warrants a trip to the vet to rule out anything medical first. I'd start there.

marko January 7th, 2013 11:30 AM

Hi spottedpupmom and thanks for posting your question.

Based on podcasts I have done with [URL=""]tenderfoot training[/URL] (one of the experts on our board) and my own experiences with many dogs, dogs almost never go from Zero to aggression. You suggest there is no trigger, but I would be willing to bet that if you were able to carefully watch the body language of your two dogs, that you would see the warning signs of aggression. These may include direct eye contact, raised hackles (the hair on the neck and back) a low growl, showing of teeth...

If you catch these signs early (I realize not always easy in an active household) you should be able to halt the aggression before it happens by redirecting the dogs in some way.

[QUOTE]We did get a new puppy several weeks ago, but he lives inside and outside, and hasn't even been in the house during many of the fights, and hasn't been involved in any of them.[/QUOTE]

The smell of this new puppy might also be the trigger here.

I definitely agree with LL that a vet visit is also a good idea here to rule anything out.

I'd be very curious to hear what other members suggest.

Barkingdog January 7th, 2013 12:13 PM

[QUOTE=Loki Love;1051882]Any change in behaviour like you're describing warrants a trip to the vet to rule out anything medical first. I'd start there.[/QUOTE]

I agree with you , my sweet lovable hearing dog started growling at me when he got cancer . He never did that before. I am not saying the OP dog has cancer but I would try to rule out any medical issues .

spottedpupmom January 7th, 2013 10:22 PM

Oh gosh! I will definitely be calling the vet for an appointment! :( I've been checking them really well for any cuts or anything from the fighting, but didn't realize that being sick would cause them to fight. I guess dogs aren't so different from farm animals - you definitely have to separate sick stock animals until they're well.

I was just thinking it was a discipline issue, since they have none, unless you count cuddles and treats.

:( I hope my babies are okay!

tenderfoot January 8th, 2013 11:50 PM

What food are you feeding?

Has anything changed in your life? Schedules. Illness. Arguing. New bones or toys.

The puppy could very well be a part of the trigger to this problem. These same aged, same sex, dogs could be bickering for their position in the pack now that the pack is growing and involves the education of a youngster.

Often as a pack grows the weak links in the pack start to show up. The more children in a classroom the more structure the teacher needs to maintain harmony.

doggirl January 24th, 2013 03:38 PM

Two females are highest risk as far as pairings go.

Very risky to feed them together and definitely to let them get their faces in the same bowl. They should be fed separately - as in in different crates, rooms etc.

Even very bonded dogs are still dogs. Life was tough for their ancestors, and not giving up your food was one of the major traits that determined who survived. So, there is a primal response that most dogs are genetically wired to have around their food. Many dogs are so domesticated and obedience trained, that it's watered down enough that we don't get much of this response - at least with humans, and in many cases not even with other dogs. But it can and does happen, a lot - a dog that is the most friendly, easygoing, benign dog in most situations, once day having a pretty primal reaction towards another dog, cat, even a child around his food bowl, bone, rawhide etc. It just is safer handling to feed them separately.

Beyond that I would look for a rewards-based trainer with qualifications (beyond "I watched dogs and figured them out myself" - a background in psych, animal behaviour, zoology, or accreditation from a legit training course - Karen Pryor, Jean Donaldson, etc). You need someone who knows how to manage the situation using positive reinforcement. If a trainer is talking about being "alpha" and pack theory much, move on - most of the old school beliefs about "dominance" being any motivator for behaviour are disproven time again. Using force or just "outdominating" the dog may suppress behaviours but it will not fix them - you don't know when the spring will uncoil and you'll have more problems - often worse.

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