Over-Arousal Causes Dog to Attack

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.

over-arousal caused her to lose control

Dotty

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.

Mimi

Mimi

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

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.

Trouble averted.

 

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)

Tension Between Three Females

There is an uneasy atmosphere between the two EBTs

Chelsea and Peaches

Chelsea and Peaches are English Bull Terriers, aged two years and Peaches, on the right, one. They live with Angel, an elderly American Bull Dog.

There is an uneasy atmosphere. There is an unnatural stillness between all the dogs and the humans are on edge. Chelsea is fine if she’s not with Peaches, and it would be the same the other way around. Peaches is still a youngster and can be a bit annoying, but Chelsea is intolerant. Not only does she growl at Peaches, she growls at her humans when they move her and she growls at the children. She guards bones and she guards her crate. She even guards her place on the owner’s bed.

One dog will deliberately stand in a doorway – usually Peaches. Chelsea won’t have this so she too has to stand in the doorway. It’s now a stand-off about ownership of the doorway. This can only end one of two ways. Either Peaches will back down and move away, or there is a fight. Whether it’s a fight or not depends upon how aroused the dogs are.

If they are about to fly out of the door into the garden, Chelsea barking, it could well result in a fight. They may redirect their frustration onto each other if there is a noise outside or if they are not getting the attention they want.

Even Angel is less than tolerant, lying too still and watching the other dogs, growling at them if they go somewhere she doesn’t want them to be, and maybe snapping if they are near.

The family have been doing all they can to train their dogs, but the final straw was when they attacked two Staffordshire Bull Terriers in the park. The owners have gone down the ‘training’ and ‘discipline’ route. I believe de-stressing and calm, quiet leadership is what is needed.

A lot of the problems start with Peaches, but only develop because of Chelsea’s intolerance and belief she is in charge. She needs to be less defensive and more easy-going, and Peaches needs to learn to give her space.  Both dogs are extremely stressed by one another.

The humans now know how to interrupt things as soon as they start to brew, as well as emergency measures if they are too late or somewhere else, and a fight has already begun.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.
 

Beautiful Beagles

The two girl Beagles used to be the best of friends ad still sleep together Beagles Tilly and Cassie are both exactly the same age – two – but not sisters.  They play together and sleep together in harmony. Up until about a month ago they got on famously.

Then they had three very scary fights, with blood and leaving scars.

It seems that hormones were to blame for the dogs’ general change of attitude towards one another – both were due to come into season, and over-excitement and stress on each occasion caused things to boil over.

Cassie, the darker and more confident one, was previously in charge. Tilly has subtly been challenging her. It’s not by chance in the photo on the right that she has her head resting on top of Cassie.  Pip, my Lurcher, will sometimes stand over one of my other dogs for a moment, like he’s saying ‘just remember you are down there, and I am up here”! Then he lies down again. He will often lie with his head on the back of one of the others, just like Tilly’s head is over Beagles hiding behind dad's legsCassie.

I think where Tilly had accepted Cassie’s dominance before, she has gradually been turning the tables on her. The first fight was over a couple of bones. Bones had never caused problems before. However, against this hormonal background, family had been visiting. They did lots of excited playing with the dogs and probably overstimulated them.  Already thoroughly excited and stressed, what might previously have been an agreed swapping of bones will have suddenly flared into a battle.

Cassie is usually the actual instigator, but working backwards, something Tilly is doing seems to cause it. Tilly is a more nervous and jumpy dog, and this in itself can cause problems for another dog.

The second fight came very soon after the first. They were reunited too soon – still in a state of high arousal with people around who had been hysterical and screaming over the blood of the first fight. Now that it had happened twice, it’s like a door has been opened. The final fight, coming in an atmosphere of excitement, erupted more easily.

The question I was asked before I came was whether spaying one or both would do the trick. They might like to breed from one of them. How would it be if one was spayed and not the other? How would it be if neither were spayed and one had puppies? We know already that things would be a lot more relaxed if both were spayed, because they have had a hormonal injection. It will gradually wear off over four weeks.

So, with behaviour work and spaying I’m sure the problem will resolve and they will be back to their old selves. With behaviour work and no spaying, or if only one were spayed, it’s a gamble. At best the people would need to keep on their toes.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.
 

Confused Cocker Spaniel

Cocker Autumn

Autumn

I went to see five Cocker Spaniels – all females of the show breed and none of them spayed.  Everything was ticking along along nicely in the household until Autumn who joined the group about twenty-one months ago reached her first birthday. She then went for one of the other dogs.

CockerMiami

Miami

Since then she has become increasingly unpredictable and aggressive to Lexus, the eldest, in particular. Things have reached the point where Lexus lives upstairs, and for much of the time Autumn is separate from the other three also. Their lady owner is on tenterhooks all the time.

Then very unfortunately to my mind, they enlisted the help of a dog trainer who encouraged spraying water at her, shaking a bottle of stones at her, shouting at her, intimidation and domination. Already more sensitive than the other dogs, Autumn is now really nervous. So worried is her owner, that every time Autumn goes near another dog, sniffs her or even stares, she shouts LEAVE or sprays her with water. I can’t see how this will do anything except teach Autumn to associate the other dogs with scary stuff and make her much worse.

Lexus is scared of Autumn

Lexus

She has not actually done damage except to a human hand separating two dogs – yet. Lexus is mild and scared of Autumn, but Autumn’s other victim, Miami, a much more confident and independent dog than Lexus, will stand up for herself.

So far as they can tell, there has never been any conflict when humans weren’t about – mostly the lady, which gives a clue as to where the stress comes from. She is stressed, Autumn is stressed. The lady admits that she spoilt Autumn more than the others as a puppy and now, on the advice of this trainer, she is more or less ignoring her all the time. This must be very confusing. Ignoring demands for attention is one thing,  but that doesn’t mean the dog should have no interaction or love – only that it should be under your terms and not hers. Giving the dogs attention whenever they jump up or bark for it is one thing, and calling them over when you decide is quite another.

There needs to be some healthy relationship building between the lady and Autumn founded on calm trust, positive reinforcement, not punishment.  The lady is extremely worried and loves all her dogs dearly. She has done everything she possibly can that she knows of, she has hired a trainer and she has read books.  I find it amazing that there is still such a lot of nonsense going around when, if things are looked at from the dog’s point of view, with patience the solution can be gentle, encouraging and logical.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.
 

Fighting Patterdale Girls

Two Patterdales look very differentEllie and Amber may both be Patterdale terriers, but they look very different. Amber is a chocolate brown with a short smooth coat, and Ellie is black and more scruffy!  They are both extremely cute.

It is an interesting case. The two-year-old girl dogs, the best of friends much of the time, have been fighting. We managed to work out the common factors that spark these fights off and they are not as random as they at first appeared. They play together boisterously, but their play never turns into fighting.

For now the two dogs are living apart,  Amber with my clent’s parents, and Ellie with my lady client. She and Ellie stay with her parents and Amber at weekends and they all go on caravan holidays together, so the dogs need to be together then. The humans are treading on egg shells.

Spats usually start when Amber is told to do something and either disobeys or is slow to obey- or when she is scolded. This seems to be the common denominator. It stresses Ellie and she goes for Amber.  With the excitement of Christmas Amber retaliated and it ended in a visit to the vet and both dogs muzzled for a few days.

It is certain that the fighting only occurs when humans are about – so the humans are the problem. They need to do something about their own behaviour.

As disobeyed commands are a catalyst, the first thing to do is to find ways to get the dogs to comply non-verbally for now. Most commands when analysed are unecessary anyway. People find it very hard not to give commands or to stop saying ‘no’. It is a real challenge. If they want Amber off the sofa for instance, instead of telling her to get down, they could take hold of her harness and lead her genlty off (they are both wearing harness for now so it’s easier to part them if necessary), saying ‘come off Amber’ in a kind voice, and giving her no choice in the matter. If no command is given, it can’t be disobeyed!

Each dog separately is no problem at all, and both the parents and my client need to work on their own dog individually when they are apart so that a few quiet and consistent rules are in place. Excitement of rough and tumble should be avoided even if it means the humans have less fun!

Keeping stress levels down and being quiet and calm around the dogs is the key to success here.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.