Dominant Behavior in Dogs
Tags: dogs, aggressiveness, passive, dominant, female, male
Passive or Aggressive
Question Comment 1:
I have 2 dogs, a 8yr old male mal and a 7 1/2yr old female. My alpha female has recently been more aggresive to my male, who is very passive. While walking in the woods near our home without noted provocation, she jumped on his back and bit his neck, puncture wound, after I kicked them apart (all I could do as I was wearing my newborn in a front pack) I had to keep them separated until we returned home as she would continue to try and get at him...... I will not be walking them with the kids again alone as I did not feel I could safely handle the situation..... my husband is able to throw our female down and has established dominance over her, however I have not.... the pups have had a bit less attention since the new baby, but could this cause aggression against our male by our female?? Another episode was on the deck after mealtime, and it is likely that our male was licking her empty bowl which could have been provocation, otherwise she is a sweet loving mal..... Please
advise..... we are anxious about leaving them alone together for fear of what she might do to him, but know it would be bad to separate the pack also......
Comment 2: When I had my very large dominant female, with my very submissive, smaller and younger male, there were several things I learned to never do with them. Rule #1 was make sure each dog was on a short leash and had no choice in direction, pulling head, sniffing out of turn, etc. A walk was for walking, not sniffing, not piddling, and not fooling around. The exception is when one would be walked on a lunge line. If they were on the line, they could do as they please -- with the expectation that they would obey a heal or a down, or a sit from 30 feet away IF I asked for it. But any kind of normal leash snapped onto those dogs meant fun over. I used the walks for stop-sit training, heal training, etc. I would sit each dog in front of road kill where they had to wait for my command to mover around it. Walks were for basic training and excersise, not the amusement of the dogs. My favorite leashes are handles. There is no leash, it's simply a handle, one dog on each side. To this day, I walk my current two boys like that. I used to also do bush runs with the male and female, on handles. The dogs carried me, and they had a pretty good time following commands, dodging trees, jumping ponds . . . leashes were for training =)
Female usually would keep herself ahead, even by a few inches. Male instinctively knew to stick behind. Under no conditions could male and female ever be moved together and allowed to be in any situation where male might pass female. Immediate problem would occur if they were on the bikes separately, on the sled together, or on leashes. Immediate fight if male EVER tried to pass female for any reason at all.
Rule #2 was make sure both male and female had their share of alone time, with me and by them selves. Female put away and left alone. Male put away and left alone. Male and female put away and left alone, together. Male and female with us. Male with us. Female with us. Every single day was broken into those catagories. Ken walked male and female one day, long leashes. I told him over and over not to do that. Dog fight on the side of the road over a squashed bug. Female wouldn't dream of eating it, but considered it hers.
In my case, the last dog fight I broke up with male and female was maybe a month before she was diagnosed with bone cancer. She jumped him outside and tried to beat the hell out of him, after maybe two years of no real problems. Just immediate, and viscious. A month later, the bone cancer, two months later she was dead. If behaviour changes are so sudden and so unexpected and so vicious they come as a complete shock, there may be something medically not right with one -- or hte other, as 'sick' dogs can become as much of a target as an instigator.
Ask Your Vet
Comment 3: I'd also recommend having the female checked by a vet to make sure that there isn't a medical reason for her change, and possibly the male, too.
I wouldn't consider licking an empty bowl to be a valid trigger unless the dogs have shown tension over similar actions in the past. Besides, a pair of dogs who've been getting along will have developed rules for living together which avoid fights, so something has changed if the friction between them can't be sorted out without escalating into attacks.
I've never wrestled my dominant dogs to the ground, but found calmer ways to control them. Often just positioning myself between the dominant dog and whatever it is focussed on is enough to establish my dominance, and I've similar non-aggressive assertions of dominance between dogs, such as a dominant dog walking between two other dogs to defuse tension between them.
Aggresive Alpha Dogs
Comment 4: Actually, I'm a bit surprised at you saying this. Assuming that the intended meaning of 'alpha' is 'one who defers to no one' that should be the human members of the household, *not* any of the dogs. Perhaps I am being a bit of a nitpick but I don't really like it when people use a technical term without understanding its meaning. Better then to just use "dominant" or some other word like it.
As for the rest of what you wrote though, Mary, I do agree. Aggression gives rise to aggression. Of course each individual is different and what works with one dog might not work at all with another, but simply put, throwing the dog down might establish dominance but it can NEVER establish a leadership - simply because leadership is based on mutual respect, not fear. That respect, in my experience, is best earned by being fair and consistent, not by being overbearing and aggressive.
Comment 5: Oh the dumb AND stupid things people will do to control their dogs. I worked with a gal who laid on top of her Irish Setter and actually BIT the dog's nose!!!!!!!!!!!! The woman weighed well over 300 lbs and said she used her weight to pin her dog.
I was so aghast I couldn't speak but I did think, "try biting a mals nose and see what happens!"
We ran into her walking (i.e. being dragged by) her dog at a local pet event. Her dog lunged, choked, gagged, drooled, panted, etc. The woman actually told me that it took her, and 3 vet techs to hold down her dog at the vet for any procedure. Meanwhile, and yes I am bragging, my husband whispered "sit" to Frosty who immediately responded. Before long, Frosty rolled over on her side watching disinterestedly while the women (who was talking) had sweat pouring down her trying to control her dog while it yanked & pulled. At work the next day she stated, "I would take my dog to obedience but I don't want a Robo-Dog". I responded that Frosty, though trained, was no Robo-Dog. She still had her mind, instincts and was more than happy to make her own decisions.
How to Help Fighting Dogs
Comment 6: I wanted to add that I've separated my pack any time there was any tension between dogs, whether my own or foster, and it never seems to have any effect other than defusing the tension.
**I'm of the opinion that not all dog aggression is the same and therefore there isn't a blanket statement way of dealing with it. Obviously, if they are out to kill/you have a dog who just won't stop--separate quarters is the only way to go. Otherwise, before you can really pick a plan of action you have to determine the type of aggression. In one of the old Mal Quarterlies someone wrote an, IMO, excellent article about managing a pack of bitches. If you can get your hands on it (I'll try to locate the issue) I think it would be valuable as well as consulting Susan Clothier's articles at www.flyingdogpress.com as she breaks down the types of aggression.
I have a pack of 5 who lives together pretty peaceably overall. After squabbles I do NOT separate them--when we used to do that the bitches held grudges and more trouble ensued. Mine are required to walk away---both of them. Each saves face as they're not being hauled off against their will therefore no heightened animosity. Both get punished first, it takes two to fight. The key is that mine are squabbling, not out to kill. IMO it's no different than an argument between people--they just need to cool off and
they may be wary of each other at first but it blows over. The bitches in question are a super dominant bossy girl (8years) and a moderate but won't be bullied girl (5 years) and I've handled it this way for much of the 5 year old's adult life. I've known multiple people in similar situations and their dogs (packs of 3-5 dogs) live together about the same. And a number of people who quick separated their dogs at the first bit of trouble rather than working with the dogs and those dogs must forever be separated.
Tension in Dogs
Comment 7: I agree. I separate my current dogs as a training tool to weaken any separation anxiety potential. But with the male and female I originally had, female being an instigator, male being an antagonist, BOTH dogs were made to stay together, made to lay on the ground, and allowed to do nothing else. I wasn't going to try to figure out who did what to whom. He would have 'done something inappropriate' and she would have 'responded inappropriately.' So both dogs were in trouble. I never deviated on that stance either. And it took very little of this to extinguish a desire to be a fighter in her . . .
No playing, no squirming and no sleeping. Nothing, just sit and wait. Separating led the female to believe she was a victor. From anywhere to 2o mins to a few hours, they were made to lay on the floor. I'd watch tv, something I didn't have much time for in those days, unless the dogs were bad, I didn't really watch tv =)
If it had ever gone to a level where it was just non-stop fighting, then that is different. I went almost two years with no fights out of those two until the bone cancer diagnosis with her, and she tried to kill him. I had to drop his leash in the yard and physically haul her 130 pound snarling, screaming, snapping, self to the house. I was stunned that after all the work I did with her THAT happened, but it was the bone cancer. They were never put together again, as she was hurt for a month until diagnosis, and then dead a month later. He was put in the kennel, she tied to it, but even in the house they were separated.
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