"The Peeing Post"

Newsletter for dog lovers who respect the dog's nature

Chief Editor: Mogens Eliasen

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Dear Dog Friend,

I have been inundated with e-mails about dog fights and problems with dog fights. We are obviously touching on a very delicate subject here, and since the stakes are so high, I think it serves a good purpose to make sure that we do not leave this topic without some closure for those that experience problems with this. But I also think that I will make this issue the last contribution to that topic for a while, so we can move on to other things too. If you still feel like getting specific advice on this topic, you are welcome to use my phone service with KEEN.

More on aggression and fighting - multiple dogs in the same household

Yes, multiple dogs in the same household can be a very severe problem. Unfortunately, not very many people know about this before it is too late, and too many are too deeply committed to have any "happy end" solutions available.... To me, taking in a second dog should generally only happen if/when a second member of the family also wants a dog to train. In that situation, the results are almost always positive. But when the purpose is more described by any other motivation, things often go bad. Some of those motivations that should cause a warning include:

And, of course, there is just no such thing as getting two dogs at the same time.... (unless you are a breeder or a very experienced dog handler!) - the stories I have on file about people who did this and regretted it dearly are just horribly numerous.

Enough preaching. So, what do you do when you do have a problem with multiple dogs? Let me illustrate through some of the examples I got in the last few weeks:


My question though is, you didn't mention multiple dog households? All of my dogs are Males, so I usually don't have any problems. In fact I have friends who have 2 males and 2 females and seem to have MORE problems with fighting than I do.

But occasionally, my Eskie will pick on the 80 lb. Shep. Mix and sometimes I feel the need to step in! Most of their disagreements are done and solved by just growling at one another. 95% of the time it's the Shep. Mix who walks away.......even though he is older. But when I feel it may be a problem, like when the Eskie looks like he's going to go after him, I take a spray bottle to spray them and they both go in different directions.

The problem I am having at the moment is that by 2 yr. old Eskie feels the need to protect our new eskie puppy......which is great that they get along, but If my Shep. mix growls at the puppy for any reason............it's usually because he just doesn't want to be bothered with the puppy as he is getting on in years................then my Eskie will stand over the puppy and growl at the shep. mix. That's when my Eskie has actually tried to go after the Shepherd while protecting the puppy, and this is when I step in with the spray bottle.

Am I doing this correctly?

And I would love to know why my 2 year old Eskie feels the need to protect the Eskie puppy who is by the way 4 1/2 months old! I also have a 3 yr. old Eskie and my 2 yr. old Eskie will also protect the puppy from him at times too. It's almost like he wants this puppy all to himself!!

Thank you for taking the time to read this and any advice would be very much appreciated!

Tammy


My response to Tammy included this:

To your problem, I cannot tell you what exactly is going on in your pack, but you might want to be a little careful with your interpretations of the events. First: growling is NOT a threat - it is a signal of MISTRUST! Please take that into careful consideration before you decide the appropriate action.

Next: a 4-5 month old puppy is a brat that deserves to learn to respect the older dogs in the pack. If that little brat is bothering the old dog, I would prefer to support the old dog nailing the puppy to the ground! By supporting the 2-year old, regardless the reasons being just or not, you are contributing to what can become a major problem later between him and the old dog! The 2-year old is using the puppy as an excuse to provoke a rank dispute with the older dog.... But if you help the old dog against the puppy while the Eskie is present, you might trigger a fight between him and the old dog!

What you need to do is to take some responsibility for the puppy and teach that little shit to leave the old dog alone. Unfortunately, you should have done this before the puppy was 12 weeks old (actually, the best would have been to let the old dog do that on its own) - and I guess you did not even have the puppy that early. But, failing that, the puppy SHOULD show respect for the older dog, and when that does not happen, you need to instigate that respect, or you will create a foundation for a major conflict later...

I suggest you let the old dog and the puppy get together ALONE - with just you present. No other dogs, please. And then you help the old dog to teach that puppy some respect.... If you don't do that, you might severely regret you got that puppy when all three of them will get involved in a dirty fight that could be very dangerous to them, as the older dog is bigger, yet weaker, so you do not have a natural balance. The fighting could end up with a huge vet bill...

I can understand that you are happy about the peaceful balance in your pack - so please make sure you don't get all that turned around because of that brat....! You might still be able to have some effect, but you are on the very last possibilities, in terms of time. This Socialization should take place before the puppy is 16 weeks old, but you might still take advantage of the "aftermath" of the consolidation of the authority instinct.


Here is another one that I picked from 6 letters, all about the same - and all with the same answers, so I assume it it worth pointing out:

Hi Mogens,

My dogs do the "make a lot of noise fighting", which also includes putting one dog on the ground, whereby the other dog is straddling the other, is this still considered "rank fighting"? What about when a dog attacks a cat the same way? Also, if they snap their lips, why do I see so much teeth exposed during these episodes?

Thanks,

Dawn


The "standard" reply to Dawn was this:

Yes, forcing the opponent onto his back and standing over him until the adrenalin gets diluted is STILL rank dispute fighting behavior - with no intention to harm anything but maybe a few proud emotions.

If the dog is imprinted on cats, it might want to try getting the cat under control this way. Cats don't respond to this, though - at least not in a way that makes a lot of sense to a dogs. If the dog is not imprinted on cats, it will chase it and if he catches it, he will most likely kill it.

Showing teeth is a passive threat signal that is part of the dominance behavior. It is NOT used during hunting.

It is important to keep in mind that, when dogs are having rank disputes, the main purpose of the fight is to impress the other party or to have him/her leaves the scene. The purpose is not to kill. That means that a lot of warning signals are used. Lots of noise. If dogs would use those warning signals also for hunting, they would never make a kill... For successful hunting, you have to be extremely quiet, so you can get close enough before you launch the attack to kill, and you absolutely do not want the prey to have any idea whatsoever of what is going on, until "dinner is served". It does not look and sound scary to us when we see it. Rank fighting does. But please be aware that it is the silent attack that is the really dangerous one!

Now this doesn't mean that you can just ignore all rank fighting. Sometimes is originates in some serious imbalances in the pack hierarchy, most often caused by one of the dogs trying to qualify for the leadership. The next letter illustrates this with a very typical scenario:

I have 3 shih'tzu dogs; JR will 5 years old in September; Rascal will be 2 years in August; and Amber who is 4 months old. JR and Rascal are males and Amber is a female.

About 2 1/2 months ago, JR and Rascal started fighting. They used to play together all of the time. Now we have to watch them constantly. It is usually JR who starts it. Rascal could be just playing with a toy and not even know JR is there, and JR will just attack him. He has even attacked Rascal when he is sleeping.

JR is also guarding food, so now we have to feed them in their kennels. When I give them a chew bone, he guards his until the other dogs are finished and then he either eats it, or keeps guarding it. We usually have to take it away because the other dogs can't even walk by him without him attacking. They have even drawn blood between the two of them.

We went out to camp for a weekend and JR spent the entire time guarding our campsite. He wouldn't eat or sleep, he barked constantly at other dogs. He would even try to attack dogs who came over with their owner, on a leash. Most of the dogs were bigger than him. I ended up sending him home with my sister because he was too stressed. My biggest worry is with JR and Rascal though. Rascal is a very nice, gentle dog.

This all started about a month before we got Amber, so we know it is not over her. Both of my males are neutered also. Do you have any advice? I need help. I tried grabbing JR's legs and turning him over, but that did not help.

Respectfully

Marilyn


What a horror story.... And, unfortunately not that uncommon, especially for people with small breeds. I got a couple of more e-mails that pretty much are about the very same problem, just in a different clothing, so I will bring the whole explanation I sent back to Marilyn, even though it is quite long and full of bad news I hate to convey to people who have problems like these:

I have seen this many times before, with Shih-Tzus in particular. As most other Asian dogs, their social instincts are "the pits". They have never been bred for being nice companions, as most European breeds have. Adding to this a dog owner who does not really understand this until after it is too late to do much about it (that is, when the puppy is 12 weeks old...), just makes a recipe for exactly these kinds of problems....

Here is what I see in your pack, based on what you tell - and what I have seen too many times before:

JR is the undisputed leader. He rules the pack and has done so for about 4 years, so he is experienced and good at it, at least in his own eyes. He is on his toes, protecting the pack all the time. He takes care of everything important. He liked Rascal, as long as he was young and fun to play with, and no threat to his powers, but as that little shit matures and reaches adulthood at 16-20 months of age, he is becoming a constant threat to JR's power. JR thus has to get him out of the pack now - he is plain simply not welcome anymore - he can go and make his own pack someplace else.....

You and Amber are accepted in the pack - none of you constitute any threat to JR's position.

I hate to say this, but this problem is created by you.... You did not make sure that JR would learn submission to human dominance when he was receptive to it (maybe you got him when it was too late...) - and you have not qualified for the leadership position in your pack, so JR has taken charge. (You probably never knew about this, so please don't get upset with yourself!). The "camp behavior" reveals this with no doubt possible. No dog will do this if it has a strong leader.

Grabbing the dog's legs when it is fighting does not teach him anything. It is nothing more than a relatively safe way for you to stop a fight. It is OK to use occasionally when you get a fight with a strange dog - but for "internal use" in your own pack, it simply does not suffice for your objectives.

I do not know if there is a solution to this that you would like. You have some options, though:

  1. Follow JR's clear suggestions and find another home for Rascal. He would be very pleased with you as an obedient and co-operative pack member if you did this...

  2. Find another home for JR where he can be alone with some mentally strong people that will not let him get away with his tricks...

  3. Get the knowledge you need yourself, and resolve to do the best you possibly can in terms of providing the leadership that is needed here - and hope that it will be sufficient for solving the problem.

Mind you, option 3 will call for some tough action on your side. Consistently. Maybe for 3-6 months or so before you see some serious results. It will also only be possible if you are completely aware of what exactly is going on in the dogs' minds, and how exactly YOU can take charge, so that JR will acknowledge that the pack is better off with you as leader than with him....

There is no quick fix solution to this, unless you consider options 1 or 2.

The third option will take that you, first of all, get your mind turned around so it makes sense to you what a leader should do in a dog pack. You are not aware of this in a way that manifests itself in your daily habits. This takes way more than I can possibly cover in an e-mail, but you can get the whole story in my video "The Dog's Social Behavior" where it takes me about 2.5 hours to explain it...

Next step will be that you reorganize your life and your daily habits to constantly accommodate the dogs' need for leadership, as explained in the video. One of the most important duties will be that you start a training program that makes sense for the dogs. Forget obedience training - it is boring and does not work here. You need some serious BRAINWORK, such as searches and hunting exercises that are organized so you can constantly increase the mental challenges to the dogs, so they never get finished learning. The total workload for you will not have to be more than about an hour per day (with all three dogs), so it is not an insurmountable task, if you are committed. The best help I can give you on that is my big e-book "BrainWork for Smart Dogs" which will give you everything you need in terms of being able to do this training on your own.

I had a student in Vancouver, BC about 12 years ago. He was a serious breeder of Shih-Tzus and he had the very same problem with three of his stud dogs. He decided to "go for it" and he was able to turn things around in about 6 months. He later said to me, "Mogens, before your training, I had no clue that Shih-Tzus were this tough to deal with - they are actually worse than any other breed I know of in regards to iron temperament - even a Doberman looks like a lamb in comparison, were it not for the size. I have to be on my toes constantly, and if I am not responding immediately on the smallest little indication of a provocation, I have blood baths to clean up... But after I got used to being this strict, they are more wonderful as companion dogs than I ever knew they could be."

And he was right. His dogs were some of the worst I ever saw in my classes. But after he did the training, they were quite nice dogs. Not to strangers - heck no! But to him. And that was what counted (he was not married and had no other family).

I hope this helps a bit, Marilyn. I know it does not solve your problem quickly. I simply do not believe there is a solution that will do that without hurting you by letting go of one of the dogs, and I guess from your contacting me that this is not what you want to do if there is another solution....

The really bad news is that I cannot guarantee you that the solution I lined out for you will work well enough to solve the problem to your satisfaction. It depends on what exactly the genetic make-up of JR is. It depends on the way he was raised from he was 3 to 12 weeks old. And it depends A LOT of what you are willing and capable of "throwing into the deal". I have to tell you that without your watching the video very carefully and your getting started on some serious brainwork, I have no way of helping you - because I simply cannot explain, in a safe way, what you are to do in terms of detailed action, before you have this knowledge solidly in your head. Do yourself the favor of checking out those tools - I believe there are your very best bet for some effective tools of a solution.

Marilyn came back to me and was grateful for the insight. She wasn't all that surprised, but it obviously helped getting things put in perspective. She made herself a serious promise to get his pack leadership issue sorted out, once and for all!

That was good news to me! I hope I can bring some more good news about this next time...

As I said, I got several more situations like this one, all caused by people taking in a second dog that did not match the pack. Four of them decided to find another home for the second dog, and two of those have reported back how happy they were after doing it.... (I am still interested in hearing back from the two others, as I know this kind decision is not easy to make.)

There are another three cases I gave more or less the same advice to - they never came back to me, so I obviously offended them by being honest, so I will have to send them an invoice for my time....

But here is a response I got from someone who already got some results:

Hi Mogens! Thought I'd let you know how the toy and mini poodles who live with me are making out. I took a much stronger stand with them in regard to how they interact and have been unafraid to step in and take control when I wanted to - i.e. acting as the pack leader. Now their interactions, which from what your present article describes were rank issues being settled, have the toy male in an almost fatherly, tutoring role. He'll run up to her when she's trying to jump or some other behavior he knows is not permitted, and actually herds her away with growls and air nips. She has taken to falling over when he is play wrestling/fighting with her. Have not had an all out growl fest in a while now, so thanks.

You know one of the strangest ways I've come to get their attention if they don't listen on the first command - I bark at them. Have become fairly good at it since, as a little girl, whenever we'd play "house", my older sisters had me play the family dog (now stop laughing!) and I learned to bark back then. (No kidding, big sisters can be pretty devious when they want to get rid of the little sis for a while. They would tether me to the front tree and leave. I'd bark until my Mom would hear me and come and set me free. Anyway, I do digress - but thought you might enjoy that rather unusual childhood story). Since that time, I've been able to fool most dogs when I bark and have come to use it with my own little friends (although not in public as I'm sure they'd come after me with a net and straight jacket).

Well, thanks again for your quick response. You were right that I had to take complete control and stay on top of the situation until it was righted.

Elisse


Good work, Elisse! Here is more of my response to her:

Thanks a lot for this! I am glad to hear you got the pack in control! I am particularly glad that you experience, first hand, that "forcing" a dog to assume a lower rank actually creates peace and harmony and happiness for it! Very few dogs are "born leaders" - they are much more comfortable with a rank that has fewer obligations and responsibilities attached to it...

Yes - barking is meant to create attention, and you are not alone about having learned it well! I know several other people who have done it, including my stepson.

Be aware, though, that barking signals FRUSTRATION. This might not always be what a good pack leader wants to display, so use it with care.

Further, I should also say that it is quite common that dogs try to distract each other with barking when they attempt to keep peace in the pack in a situation where two rivals are getting too close to each other and too tense, without any peaceful greeting signals. Anders Hallgren explains this in "The ABC's of Dog Language". As Anders also points out, this behavior is often used to discourage "mom" and "dad" from hugging each other, as dogs see hugging as "too close to be friendly". I got a sad proof of how a dog can use this kind of barking to take control over the family when my brother and his wife wanted a dog like mine (a Spitz!) because they liked my dogs so much. They did not listen to my warnings about the breed and the work they would have to put into training in order to get their dog to behave like mine... It did not work. It started by the dog barking incessantly at them when they touched each other, and it ended with it biting to split them. From there, it moved on to all other aspects of their lives: they had to constantly watch the dog for permission to do the simplest things. Three months later, they no longer had the dog...


A few more general comments:

The whole issue of leadership is not simple. And it is sometimes not enough to create happiness in the pack. You might be able to create peace - maybe. But not always happiness. I had an example of this myself when I had to take a dog back I sold as a 4-month old puppy 3 years earlier. A gorgeous dog that just simply took control over the family (much like the example I told you about my brother). Although he recognized me instantly on my voice and was on the seventh cloud for being reconnected with his "old dad", he could not get along with his brother, a litter mate I kept to train myself. Those two males had good reasons for the rank dispute. Chafka, the newcomer, was an experienced fighter, but smaller than Pjuske, who was used to his position at the bottom of the hierarchy in our pack - but, of course, he felt that this position now should be Chafka's.... Chafka, in turn, had never experienced any other position than that of the boss, so he could not accept this proposition from his brother's side. The short version of the long story is that I was able to keep them from fighting, as long as I was around. They did not even look at each other. But my wife at the time, couldn't. She did not have the strength and the toughness needed. We kept trying for about 6 months, but after one more serious fight that went on for more than 20 minutes, we decided to find another home for Chafka. That was the best thing that could happen to him and to everybody else. He got adopted by one of my trainers who recently lost her dog (also a Spitz), so I could follow up very closely - and he thrived! There was no discussion that this was the very right thing to do: after Chafka was gone, all the dogs started to play again. The "armed truce" between the two rivals had left zero time for play because of the constant tension....

In Nature, such a dispute between two dogs in a pack will typically lead to one of them leaving the pack as a "lonely wolf" seeking a mate, so he can start a new pack of his own. I think it is very wrong of us to ignore this element of Nature and of the dog's genetic ballast - particularly when it causes nothing but trauma for both the dog in question, and for all other members of the pack.

That's why it is so darn important to plan this well ahead of time - because, once you get emotionally attached to the new dog, the decision is going to be very, very tough to make! Been there, done that, didn't like it at all. But you know - leadership is tough. There is a very good reason for most people and dogs clearly preferring that someone else take charge... J

(If you want to understand how the leadership concept works with the dog's instincts, my video "The Dogs Social Behavior" explains it in great detail.)

Enough for now. Next time, we will discuss something different than fighting....

 

Cheers and woof,

Mogens Eliasen

 

If you have any suggestions to contributions or contents of The Peeing Post, I will be happy to know about them. (Please no anonymous contacts, though...)

If you have any comments or questions pertaining to this issue or in general pertaining to dogs, please respond - if I can find an answer for you, I will!

 

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P.S. I have been asked to do two camps in October, but the groups that ask are both too small to make a good camp on their own. We should preferably be 6-8 people, plus me. The one groups is in British Columbia (in the Kootenays - Southeast BC) - the other one is on the East coast, around a resort in Maryland! (Please note: on the East coast!!!!)

If you have any interest in possibly participating, then me know! The dates are not yet cast in stone, so you might influence the choices if I hear from you. The camps are not likely to be publicly announced, so do not "sit on the fence" if you would like to join!

I do not yet have all the specifics about the accommodation and the plans, but the information about the last camp in May is still on the site, so you can get an idea of what we talk about by going to http://k9joy.com/dogtraining/campcourses.php. Chances are that we more or less will copy those plans and simply adjust to the other locations.

So, if interested, send me an e-mail!. There is no commitment asked at this point, only an indication of interest.

Mogens