The over-arousal and stress in one dog is causing the other dog to react.
This is a little different from the last case I went to involving fighting females where I believe the human’s punishing reaction to their two female dogs fighting was actually causing the situation to accelerate.
With Mimi and Dotty the problem isn’t really escalating in that it’s not really becoming more frequent though the most recent caused the most damage. There are several weeks between each episode between which the two bitches get on okay. I watched them and they passed each other in doorways in a relaxed fashion and lay down together.
In this case I’m sure it’s to do with general arousal levels causing things to erupt. When it’s all over and done with it’s like, to the dogs if not to the humans, nothing has happened.
Even after the recent episode where Dotty received a leg wound and had to go to the vet, the dogs were soon back to how they had been together beforehand.
The owners are dog-savvy people who have given four dogs a much-needed home and have made huge advances with them all. They have two boys dogs – quiet and shy smaller Romanian dog Teddy and a large Lurcher-type called Zach, age three, who gets on with them all. Then there are the girls – Staffie Dotty who they took in at four months old from a very abusive start in life and Mimi, a six-year-old Mastiff Rottie mix who was the last to join them.
Looking for common denominators as well as one can from just four episodes spread over several months, brought me to the conclusion that Dotty’s over-arousal was the final straw at a time when all the dogs were already excited.
Each incident had occurred either immediately or soon after the arrival of the the two young daughters, age 12 and 13 coming in, once alone and other times with parents or grandmother. The girls themselves are excited with the dogs. The most recent incident involved food too which may have accounted for it being the most severe.
Each incident occurred after the four dogs had been left alone for longer than usual, in a smallish room. Perhaps shut together for too long something could have been brewing.
Another common denominator is that Mimi didn’t seek out Dotty to attack her. They were either already together in a small space or Dotty went over to Mimi.
To break the fights up took a lot of shouting, screaming from the girls and spraying water at the dogs. Afterwards, however, the dogs were just parted for a while. There was no further punishment which I’m sure has something to do with things between the two going so quickly back to normal.
Teddy, Dotty, Zach and Mimi
Management is the first thing to put in place so not only are the dogs safe, but also the children.
When everyone is out the dogs should be separated in boy/girl pairs in the sitting room and kitchen.
When the girls come home from school they must now be a lot quieter and less excited as it’s likely this is one of the triggers. The two female dogs won’t be together anymore.
Teaching calm greetings without Dotty’s wild jumping up will be a start. Carrying something in her mouth helps her. They should let the dogs out from separate doors to toilet and keep them in their different rooms until the parents get home.
This will also give the dogs plenty of time to calm down before being reunited.
Although Mimi has been the ‘attacker’, Dotty’s behaviour and her over-arousal is at the bottom of it I’m certain, like she ‘asks for it’. The lady has an interesting theory. Mimi has had several litters of puppies in her six years before the family adopted her and she would have dealt with over the top behaviour like Dotty’s from one of her puppies quiet firmly. The puppy wouldn’t have retaliated though.
Mimi has also recently started limping which they will get checked out with the vet – possibly pain is making her less tolerant at times.
Dotty can be helped with her over-arousal.
Because stress inside Dotty continually builds up far faster than she can get rid of it, she’s like a little walking volcano. She is terrified of cars and much of the outside world, and tries to avoid going out. Each day she has to endure at least one walk, involving getting into the car which terrifies her. Once out she will pull like mad so she has a Halti which she hates.
They will start to walk her by herself for very short sessions, initially only in the garden or just outside the house, making sure she is willing and happy. They will get her a very comfortable special harness – not the ‘no-pull’ kind that is merely another restriction. They will desensitise her to their own car and to traffic in general.
The girls can help with short five-minute ‘happy with cars’ outings and teaching her to walk nicely around their own quiet road.
It will take a lot of time and patience.
Only when she is calmer and happy to go out should they take her any further. Only when she’s ready should she join the other dogs in the car and walking near traffic.
When dogs are having their differences and especially where there are several dogs, I feel it’s important for each dog to be deliberately treated as an individual from time to time. When one name is said, eye contact from that particular dog is rewarded and the others ignored. They can be lined up, the names of each dog said in a random order and that dog fed upon eye contact. They will learn they always get their turn and not to compete.
Having an instant response to their individual name is vital to avoid trouble breaking out. Any time they feel at all worried they can gently say the name of the dog who is giving concern. Everything can be calm. The dog will look at them, they can call her to them – and give her a reward.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Mimi and Dotty and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where aggression issues of any kind are concerned. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)