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Old 02-06-2013, 11:39 PM
simonsays simonsays is offline
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Default Two Female dogs, advice on co-existing peacefully?

Hello group. Thank you for accepting me. I hope that I don't leave any important details out in this post as I'm trying to give as much information as possible in order to solicit ANY advice you may have.

One year ago December, my boyfriend moved in with me with his female ACD/Pit Bull mix female, Eva. He says that her father is "purebred" Pit Bull and her mother was 1/2 Pit Bull, 1/2 ACD. He got her from a friend who had an "accidental" litter when she was around 8-9 weeks old. Because he worked a lot and was not home, she was left to fend for herself for long periods of time almost immediately. For most of the time from her birth (sometime in March of 2011) until coming to my home in December of 2012, she lived in her crate with very little interaction. Devastating. She had experienced pretty much NO socialization with other dogs, and little socialization with humans.

She came into my home and I had never had dogs before. She and I very quickly bonded and she seems to be more bonded to me than she is to the boyfriend as I am the one that feeds her, plays with her, walks her, lets her outside, etc. Things went rather well and she learned some basic commands. She is an extremely affectionate dog. I will be the first to admit that there has not been an overabundance of discipline in her life. She is allowed on furniture, laps, and has been allowed to stand up to greet us.

She is what I have called, a "nervous pee-er". When someone comes to visit that she doesn't know, she urinates a small amount on the floor when she greets them. Otherwise, she is completely housetrained.

In September, a dog came in to the shelter that I volunteer for. Nana is a 3 year old St. Bernard. She was spayed upon coming in to the shelter. I fell in love with her. She knew and obeyed many commands, was extremely calm and gentle. I brought her home a few times to see how she and Eva would interact. They did quite well with eachother. There was a lot of excitement and a lot of play. After several times of Nana "visiting" the home and interacting with Eva without incident, I made the decision to adopt Nana.

In the beginning (and up until possibly a month ago), Nana eas extremely respectful of Eva. She wouldn't attempt to take a toy from Eva, she would just walk away and relax. The only problem that we did have with her immediately was interaction with our cat, Dexter. We have two cats. We have an extremely confident 6-7 year old neutered male that very much enjoys the dogs and prefers to be near them, Malik. Dexter, a neutered 3 year old male, acts a lot like a prey animal. He runs from the dogs, which incites Nana to want to chase him. She would get fixated on his actions. She never did anything that scared me, but her chasing after him made me nervous. Her fixation is sometimes hard to break, though it has improved.

There have been three incidents between Eva and Nana in the last month or two. The first incident was play that became too rough. Eva's head hit one of Nana's teeth and she had a wound above her eye as a result.

The next incident involved resource guarding. Eva was chewing a nylabone and Nana was a few feet away staring at her. I sensed that this was not a good thing and attempted to redirect Nana's focus, but Eva lunged at her and the two of them engaged eachother. I was alone in the room and grabbed each of them by their choker collars. I separated them, but Eva pulled out of her collar and came back toward Nana, instead grabbing my arm. My boyfriend came in a few seconds later and got them separated. I didn't require any stitches and I truly feel that she had no idea she had bitten me. Neither of the dogs sustained any injuries from this.

Yesterday, I made the mistake of giving them each a chew toy. It quickly escalated and Eva lunged at Nana. The two were extremely hard to separate. Nana ended up with a laceration on her lip and Eva with a few wounds on her muzzle.

Today, their behavior was without incident until my daughter and I returned home and were putting groceries away. Oh, I should mention, they are both crated when we are not home. As we were putting groceries away, both dogs were in the kitchen. There were no resources to protect. Suddenly, they were again fighting. No injuries resulted and I was able to pull Nana away, my daughter grabbed Eva...When Nana is pulled away, she stops. Eva doesn't seem to know when to stop. She still attempts to keep coming.

I appreciate any advice and can accept criticism. I am not an experienced dog owner. I would like to educate myself and become the best that I can be for these dogs.
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Old 02-07-2013, 02:07 AM
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Tazwell Tazwell is offline
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Sounds like you've done a great job with them so far. Eva's breeds make her very susceptible to fights and not letting go of grudges, I'll bet. You'll probably have to do lots of managing with them, including keeping them separated always when there are resources about. Toys, chews, bones, delicious smelling groceries, etc. It sounds mostly like resource guarding. It also sounds like they are both using great inhibition during their fights, but that doesn't mean that they won't escalate.

There is a book called "mine!" All about resource guarding that I would recommend. Also, using an interrupter that won't cause an outburst would help. Trish king used this idea, called "HOT DOG!" Where she would yell "hot dogs!" And get up and walk out of the room, right to the kitchen, and give hot dogs to the dogs. Realistically, getting up and walking away was what diffused the aggression. Trying to hold a dog back or stressed vocalizations from you will probably only make it worse. Another thing you could do is teach a strong "Leave it" cue.

Unless you're actively training them in a controlled set-up scenario, don't tempt fate, just keep them separated if there's a potential trigger involved. Baby gates and crates. Sometimes dogs spat, but sometimes they fight and hold a grudge forever. So it might be a good idea to call in a local professional behaviorist to help you (and it will be costly, but worth it), vs. having a serious fight and then having to either separate them forever or rehome one. And please keep separating them when you're not there, and supervise their outdoor time, too.

It also wouldn't hurt to start the "nothing in life is free" (NILIF) training, just to be sure that there isn't an over-arousal issue going on, as well as maintain general control over their behavior. Try googling NILIF.

Best of luck with your two! I'm sure you'll get a lot more helpful responses

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Old 02-07-2013, 09:21 AM
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Taqroy Taqroy is offline
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First, everything Tazwell said is spot on. Second, I highly recommend going to a behaviorist. You can get a lot of help on the internet but a good behaviorist is invaluable.

And third, you are not alone. I was/am in the exact same situation and it's scary and it sucks but in a lot of cases it is absolutely fixable. And the pattern of escalation between your dogs sounds a lot like how my girls got started. I was slow to get help and that was a major contributor to how long it's taken to fix our situation (1 year, 3 months and counting). Please feel free to PM me if you want - I also have documentation of a lot of what we did in my blog. It's linked in my signature.

Originally Posted by simonsays View Post
No injuries resulted and I was able to pull Nana away, my daughter grabbed Eva...When Nana is pulled away, she stops. Eva doesn't seem to know when to stop. She still attempts to keep coming.
Can you back Nana off verbally? My girls fight the same way - Mu won't stop until you pick her up off the ground (and if she gets loose she'll go right back) but we can pick Mu up and then tell Tipper to "BACK OFF!!" and she'll quit. Dog fights suck and they're scary, but the fact is your girls have had lots of opportunities to do each other serious damage. It's good that they're not really harming each other - now you just have to figure out how to fix the situation so they don't continue escalating and do serious damage.

EDIT: Something I forgot to say - if/when you find a behaviorist please find one that doesn't use force or punishment. There are several threads on here on how to find a behaviorist, I'll try to dig some up.

Edit again: This is the thread I was thinking of: Behaviorist Q's. Lots of good information in there.

I have a blog!! TeamShortLegs - Last updated 10/13/2013

Last edited by Taqroy; 02-07-2013 at 10:03 AM.
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Old 02-07-2013, 10:57 AM
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Emily Emily is offline
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For a relatively new dog owner, you're doing a great job. Seriously. And you've gotten great advice so far.

I second the idea to grab the book Mine! about resource guarding, and I also second strengthening house manners through something like NILF. I recently added a young female to my household, and my corgi, while not truly same-sex aggressive, is just bossy and guardy with new dogs, especially other females.

Start working with them separately on putting some really good control in place. Ideas include "Leave it!" (both dogs back away from whatever item they're after immediately) and a "Place" or "Kennel" command - they go either to a mat/bed and wait there, or they put themselves in their crates, and wait there. When I had just gotten my new girl, I slipped up and was home alone, and had the corgi loose and the Mal (new dog) on a lead. Corgi charged up, hackling and snarling, and the Mal reacted pretty violently (I had to hold her off the ground to keep her away), but, thank god, the corgi has a rock solid "Kennel" command, and I was able to direct her there to safety and shut the door. It can really be a life saver.

It's very important , IME, to teach these commands positively, because then they also serve as a positive interrupter to whatever tension is building. Like the "hot dogs" scenario Tazwell mentioned. The dogs go from fighting to "Oh she said leave it, that means we're getting good treats!" If the commands are taught with force, it can add to the dogs' tension instead. If you're not sure how to each these commands we can definitely help you!

Also, re giving out treats, I don't know if it's an issue in your house, but for a while my girls had issues with reaching for the same treat and then getting uppity. Now when dolling out treats, we say each dog's name before hand, and only that dog may take the treat. That sort of structure has seemed to enormously relieve the tension around treat time, because everybody knows, black and white, what's for them and what's not. That's kind of the beauty of NILF too - black and white, they know the rules, no need for fighting or tension.

For now, however, (as everyone has said) you really need to manage them tightly. Get some baby gates, so exercise pens, more crates, whatever you need to do so you can separate them easily around potential triggers. In fact, it may be best to separate them entirely for 1-2 weeks and give them a cool down period, since it sounds like their escalating their behavior. During that period you can start working on putting some more rules and controls in place. TBH, my girls were totally separated (crated and rotated) for a full two weeks before they ever even interacted (except for my slip up).

A good behaviorist (or even just a trainer with experience in multi-dog households) will be invaluable. Like Taqroy said, find someone who uses positive methods and is experienced with sort of issue.

OH! And I forgot. A great way to let them have positive contact is to walk them together (one person per dog, not you and both dogs). They get to share a mutual, positive experience away from home territory (which reduces tension IME) without having to directly interact.

You sound dedicated to making this work. Best of luck!

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Old 02-07-2013, 12:03 PM
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stafinois stafinois is offline
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For the record, she lives in my town a million miles from nowhere. The most experienced trainer in the area sadly is me.

I plan on helping her out, and I've observed the dogs interacting before things got as bad. But, I fear that some of the advice she is getting from some of our local dog people isn't ideal. And heck, many of you have more experience than me! You might suggest something I haven't thought of!
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Old 02-07-2013, 01:07 PM
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milos_mommy milos_mommy is offline
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All the previous advice is very good. Unfortunately, Eva's breeds do make her more likely to become dog aggressive than some other breeds. Both pit bulls AND cattle dogs are known for not coexisting very well with other dogs all the time, and she's at the age where she's reached maturity and fights are likely to start.

On the plus side, as others have said, her display of self-control during the fights is a good sign.

The most important thing at this point is to manage them and minimize or eliminate fights as much as possible, so make sure NO things they can guard (high value toys/treats/bones) are around, separate during feeding, and I'd suggest that when your family is eating the dogs are not around or separated as well.

Read up on the less obvious signals a dog gives off before they become aggressive. Lots of times you'll hear "my dog just snapped out of nowhere". No, she didn't. People just don't always know the signs or how to read a dog's body language past things like growling. Learn about stuff like posturing, wall-eyed, lip-licking, excessive yawning, and stiff tail wagging, and how those can be signs of discomfort and can quickly turn to aggression. Pretty soon you'll be able to see when one dog is uncomfortable (if they're not fighting over resources) and diffuse the situation before it escalates.

There's a book called Click To Calm by Emma Parsons that I would recommend to anyone dealing with dog aggression.
"My favorite color is green, green like newly cut grass. When it comes to green with envy, though, you can stick it up your @ss!" ~ Grammy
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Old 02-07-2013, 01:22 PM
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HayleyMarie HayleyMarie is offline
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You have gotten some grea advice, and it sounds like you are very comitted to your days and making it work.

When it comes to play time, never ever let things get too intense. When it came to my two girls, high value items where kept away, feeding times where seperated and gentle play time was only allowed, like bitey face, rolling around on the floor together, I knew my dogs pretty well so I was always able to seperate them before play time got to intense and they both learned very fast that when play time got to rough, play time was over and in their kennels they went.

Teasing was also not allowed, and I have a terrier who loves to tease, she is what you would call a snarky Beeotch.

I wish you the best of luck

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Old 02-08-2013, 07:54 PM
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Aleron Aleron is offline
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Thought I'd share some reading material. You have gotten some great advice so far. I also felt I needed to say, sometimes these situations don't work out and the dogs need to be permanently separated or one rehomed to prevent them from hurting each other...or worse. I say this because some people are going to make you feel it is your fault your dogs are fighting. That it is something you have done or haven't done. And that if you just tried harder, were a better trainer/owner/whatever that your dogs would have loved each other. And that is just not true. Some dogs are more prone to having dog to dog aggression issues than others. It is part of their character. Unfortunately, Eva is a mix of breeds who can be prone to dog aggression and same sex aggression (aggression towards same sex dogs in the household). It is not uncommon for these issues to not be apparent at first. They tend to come as the dogs get more comfortable with each other or as the dogs mature and develop a relationship. I wish you the best of luck with your girls!

Two part article on Interdog aggression by Dr. Karen Overall:

Interdog aggression by Shirly Chong:

Some general info on pit bulls in multiple dog households:
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Old 02-13-2013, 02:10 AM
simonsays simonsays is offline
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Default Thank you all so much! - responses to your advice so far

I apologize in my delay in responding to your posts. To be honest, I'm having a hard time navigating a forum. I feel rather dumb and will be getting some tips from my friend that suggested this forum to me.

I'm not sure how to respond to each of you individually, so I'll do my best here.

Tazwell - Thank you so much for the suggestion of the book. I will purchase it or see if a friend has a copy I may borrow. I love the interrupter suggestion of "hot dog!". I will definitely start using that when they seem to be getting a little too excited.

I've kept them both crated when I'm not home, in the shower, or otherwise occupied in the past for the safety of the two cats mostly. However, I obviously now see the importance of doing it for their own safety as well. I also supervise outdoor time and have since the beginning. Most of their potty breaks are separate. Once in awhile I was letting them run around for a bit together, but that has ceased since this has started. It makes me sad, as I have a huge fenced in backyard that would be fabulous for lots of frolicking. Someday, maybe I'll get to the point they can use this space together peacefully.

The NILIF is something I've started recently too. They both seem to be responding to it quite well.

Taqroy - I will check out your blog for sure, as well as the thread regarding behaviorists...though I haven't found one near me as of yet. To answer your question, I have been able to redirect Nana to her crate by saying "kennel"...unless the situation has already escalated into contact. Both dogs know and respond to "kennel" and will even nudge their doors open to enter if they need. I am thankful that both handle crating well.

Emily - Thank you so much for the reinforcement of how I've been doing. I'm tired of feeling helpless and uninformed when it comes to having dogs, so I'm excited to be hear and interact with more experienced people! Thankfully, treats thus far have never been a trigger. Both dogs sit (with some distance between them) and wait for their turn. Also, I've been walking them more, and with the help of a friend. I'm nowhere near confident enough to walk them both together alone. I have a great friend who has come over and walked with us nearly every day. I think it is helping greatly.

I will definitely work on teaching "leave it" and "kennel" positively. Kennel command was easy for me to figure out how to teach, but I'm a little unsure of where to start with "leave it", though that would be an extremely valuable one...especially with the insecure cat. I am very dedicated to this and hope that I can manage the situation well enough that we can coexist at the least.

Milos_mommy - I've heard several times that Eva's mixture of breeds can be difficult, to say the least. She is very determined, yet very eager to please. I'm also glad that there has been self-control by both of them. It devastates me to think of the damage that these two dogs could do to each other with little effort.

We have eliminated all inanimate resources, only allowing them when they are crated and removing them when they leave the crate. I didn't want to leave the object in the crate, even if I shut the crate door, as I noticed that Eva is a little touchy when Nana comes near her crate even when there is nothing in it but her I nipped that one right away. However, I feel that I, myself, am a valuable "resource" to Eva. She is very jealous of attention that I give to other animals and sometimes even people. I really need to address this, but I'm not positive on how to do that.

Another thing you mentioned, that I'd love more info on are the signals. I've seen "wall-eyed" mentioned elsewhere, but I'm not sure what that means? I've picked up on Eva's signals of the lip-licking, posturing, and lifting her front leg, but anything else I can watch for would be amazing.

I'll also check out the book you mentioned as well.

HayleyMarie - I agree on the play time. I tried to limit it before, but now it is pretty much non-existent. I just don't want to take the chance.

Aleron - Thank you a million times over for saying that it may not work no matter how hard I try. I constantly fret over whether I will fail them. I do need to try to process the fact that regardless of what we do, it may not work. I'm not ready to throw in the towel, though

I am going to read the links that you provided to me
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Old 02-13-2013, 02:23 AM
simonsays simonsays is offline
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Default Update

I also wanted to say a little more and let you all know how things have been going since I posted my original post.

I have really been focusing on making sure they both sit and are calm before we do anything, whether it be potty, furniture time, walking, everything. For the first few days, the dogs had zero contact with each other.

After that, I decided to dedicate myself to walking them for a significant walk each day. Thankfully I have a friend who has come over to help me. We rotate which dog we hold and there have been NO issues during the walks between the two of them.

After the walk, the boyfriend and I wanted to see how they would act near each other. Oh, I should back up some. My walking partner and I tried an approach of having both dogs leashed and introducing one dog to the area while feeding treats to both as I read would be helpful in an article referred to me. BOTH dogs are so food-motivated that neither would even look at the other. Ok, back to the post-walk contact. We had them both out in the living room. We tested (while carefully watching reactions) what would happen if Nana was getting the pets...if Eva was getting the pets...if I sat on the floor...etc., etc. Eva did show a slight change in alertness when I sat on the floor and was giving Nana affection, but she snapped out of it quickly.

I have NOT seen what I was seeing when they were together for those few days of Eva tensing up, eyes dilating, leg lifted, lip-licking since last week. For that, I am so thankful. I'm not naive enough to think that this problem is "fixed" or that they're best friends now, I'm just glad to see some positive as those few days of such tension really exhausted me emotionally.

I know that I have a long road ahead of me, but am looking at it with a positive attitude.

Here is something I'd like to work on with BOTH dogs, however, Nana has the biggest problem with it.

When we ride in the car, if someone approaches the car, she becomes excited or agitated, I honestly have a hard time telling which it is with her. She barks loudly and paws at the window. She also does this if there is a dog within a close distance while she is in the car.

On walks, she reacts to other dogs in a similar manner. She will begin barking and pulling toward the other dog. Since I'm not sure how to address this, I simply either put her in a sit and repeat "wait" until they pass or turn and change directions if the dog is not moving.

I've used "wait" as I found out early on that she knew that command from her previous owner. I tried "stay" and got no reaction and one day accidentally said "wait" and she immediately sat and...waited.

Eva reacts similarly to seeing other dogs AND people when we walk. However, with her, I can physically control it better (obviously with the size difference). I WOULD very much like to learn how to approach correcting this in both of them. I don't like having to avoid other dogs. It is my goal to be able to walk both of them with a group that walks every Sunday with their dogs here (obviously not side-by-side) but spaced out.

This was not a well-written post, I apologize, I'm dosed up on cold meds, but I wanted to put some more information out there and thank those of you that have offered advice thus far.
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