Hormones? Two Entire Females That Fight

Are hormones to blame?

fighting females and hormones

Dylis

For nearly a year the two dogs had been the best of friends. They had their first spat around the first time when both had come into season but everything settled down again.

The family adopted Tibetan Terrier Dylis about a year ago to join Sybil, a Goldendoodle, age 4. Over the past six weeks the two dogs have become increasingly aggressive towards one another with the younger Dylis the instigator. Around the same time Sybil had another season but it’s unclear whether Dylis did also. Very possibly her hormones are troubling her. Continue reading…

Jealous When Other Dog is Fussed. Dog Fights.

Nellie isn’t very happy.

This is despite being treasured, along with their other two tiny dogs, Luna and Sandy.

Nellie is a two-year-old Pomeranian, the last to join their little dog family of three. Luna is a Chihuahua Pomeranian mix and Sandy a Chihuahua.

Jealous.

Luna is Nellie’s problem. Tiny Sandy keeps well out of it. Every time the young couple sit down Luna is on them – the lady in particular. She is cuddled and fussed. Nellie herself isn’t a dog that likes so much fuss, but she doesn’t like Luna getting it either.

Luna

I’m pretty sure it’s not that she doesn’t like Luna herself (she’s absolutely fine with her when they are shut in the kitchen; they play together). She is jealous.

Jealousy is a horrible emotion that eats into you, isn’t it. It’s like Nellie is bearing a grudge. She seems to choose to act like she’s an outcast, lying away from Luna and the young couple.

Luna for her part may be tormenting her! She is obviously ‘revelling’ in her attention, rolling on her back, eyeballing Nellie, rubbing it in (that’s my interpretation). Nellie turns her back, shutting it out.

Daily fights.

Over the past few months this has degenerated into fights, sometimes several times in one day. Damage is only prevented because these fights only happen when the dogs are with the couple and they are sitting down. Someone is always there to grab them.

Reducing overall stress levels should help greatly. At present dog to dog play with Luna goes on for far too long unchecked. Human to dog play is far too vigorous also.

Giving Nellie individual attention with things she herself likes to do will help her, things like going for a walk or hunting for food. She’s not a dog that much wants cuddles.

They will cut down on the constant fussing of Luna too. The lady is having a baby soon so Luna will have to get used to this. We have a plan for preparing Nellie in particular for baby.

Common denominators leading up to a fight.

Nellie is jealous

Nellie

In analysing the fights there are certain common denominators. Fights only happen when the young lady is about, never the man alone or when the dogs are by themselves. Fights happen when the lady is sitting down (hence cuddling Luna).

I watched to see exactly what the dogs were doing – things that people hadn’t noticed. It began with some lip-licking from Luna and some displacement behaviour from Nellie – she licked herself. Someone passed the house and both dogs rushed to the window barking.

Nellie, now more unsettled walked about growling softly. She disappeared out of Luna’s view. The owners thought she was asking to go out, but no.

Nellie reappears, still growling on and off. Luna was stretching on her back. She looked at Nellie. Eyeballing and stillness. Then it exploded like the cork removed from a bottle of fizz.

The fight was immediately interrupted, not hard because Luna was already on a lap and could not leap onto the floor to get at Nellie.

After the interrupted fight.

It was about to erupt again a short while later – unfinished business. We put our plan into action.

As the fighting always involves eyeballing, I immediately put my clipboard between them, breaking eye contact. As the fighting never happens when either of them is walking about, the young man immediately got up and walked out of the room, calling Nellie who follows anyone moving about.

Where shouting may be necessary simply to interrupt them, I feel there are better ways which we discussed (not listed here because what works here may not be the best plan for other fighting dogs). Ideally they should nip it in the bud before it erupts. Better still, to help Nellie with her jealousy.

It’s like Nellie resents the ‘favourite child’ and like a jealous child this brings out the worst in her. One can see from her body language she’s not happy as she watches and licks her lips, or turns her back on them.

Practice makes perfect.

Unfortunately, the more this sort of thing is repeatedly practised, the more it becomes hardwired into the brain response, increasing the likelihood of the behaviour recurring. This is why things seldom get better by themselves but go on a downward spiral.

Our work will be like a jigsaw of bits to gradually put into place, concentrating mostly on Nellie. She will need positive associations with the baby from the beginning in order to avoid jealousy. They have two months before baby is due, so work starts now.

Some people dispute that dogs have feelings like jealousy which I find ridiculous. In The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin noted that ‘everyone has seen how jealous a dog is of his master’s affection, if lavished on any other creature.’ See the Daily Telegraph article written by Sarah Knapton. To read more about dogs and jealousy, see Stanley Coren in Psychology Today.

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 Nellie and Luna because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do much more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where any forom of aggression is 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).

Dogs Fighting. Females. Change in Dynamics

The two females have had several minor fall-outs over the past year, but during the last few weeks things have escalated with the two dogs fighting in ernest.

Three big fights in three days.

Blood has been drawn and the owners injured splitting them up.

dogs fighting and she comes off worse

Meg

Once this door is opened it is hard to properly shut it again.

It is a huge shame. The couple has done so well with training their two lovely rescues. They can be taken anywhere. They have made great headway with the more nervous of the two, Border Collie Meg, now nine years old.

Younger Nellie is a mix of Collie and Labrador, a more confident and straightforward character. For the first two of her three years with the family they also had a male Lurcher.

It’s most likely that the dynamics began to change when the Lurcher who kept Nellie in line died about a year ago. Nellie, previously the younger and more carefree of the two dogs, began to try it on with Meg. Any fights, however, were still minor and infrequent and easy to break up.

The two female dogs fighting.

Recently Nellie has changed. They described her way of walking about near Meg as ‘strutting’. She would posture and stand over her, almost like she was goading her.

Unfortunately this wasn’t turning out to be a bloodless coup.

NellieEverything began to escalate about six weeks ago, leading to the dogs fighting seriously.

In the past week it had become so severe that they were considering re-homing Nellie.

After the second big fight in one day they had kept the dogs separate. A couple of days passed and all seemed calm, so, hoping things would now have gone back to ‘normal’ they let Nellie into the room where Meg was lying on the floor near the lady.

Nellie came into the room, walked towards Meg, walked around her….then she attacked her. Unfinished business?

The very distressed lady phoned me that evening. Nellie had taken a hole out of Meg’s head and Meg had turned on her. Restrained and unable to get back at Nellie, she had bitten the lady instead.

Why was this happening now?

There had a build-up of events over the past four weeks. They needed to visit a sick mother who lives a long way away and who was hospitalised. The well-behaved, beautiful dogs always go with them everywhere.

They are selling their house and estate agents were showing people around. They had also made several long trips and stopovers in the short period including one to the West Country and another to Scotland. Then there was the snow. Nellie became very excited indeed in the snow.

Added together it was all just too much.

I am sure ‘too much’ pushed the dogs over the edge, Nellie in particular.

The dogs fighting will actually be a symptom of other things with two probable main causes.

Where before the dogs could tolerate a certain amount of stress/arousal without it resulting in full-blown dogs fighting, it seems now to take a lot less to trigger something serious. Attacking Meg is fast becoming Nellie’s default reaction to arousal.

One of the causes is undoubtedly stress levels. The other looks like a ‘battle for supremacy’ between the two dogs as Nellie tries to take over.

I had both dogs in the room together. The lady with instructions to act relaxed, sat holding Meg on a longish lead down one end of the room. The man then walked in with an Nellie, also on lead, and sat down the other end of the room. I sat opposite where I could see both dogs. Everything was set up for them to be calm.

Whenever she moved about, Meg was clearly finding Nellie’s presence distressing with her lip-licking, paw lifting and yawning. Nellie however looked blase – she is calling the shots and almost baiting Meg.

I tried to get as much information as possible about the more serious fights. Two common denominators seem to be that multiple people or dogs had been present, or they had recently been on walk (when Nellie comes home from a walk she actually seems more stirred up than when she left).

Nellie and Meg have great lives. They are dearly loved. They have previously had time spent on training and they aren’t left alone for long periods; they have plenty of exercise.

Like many people however, their owners hadn’t realised that stress from arousal of any kind can last in their dogs for several days.

It then gets to the stage where eventually one small thing can push things over the edge, with Meg and Nellie triggering fights. See ‘trigger stacking‘.

What do we do now?

It’s vital Meg and Nellie have no further opportunity to rehearse the behaviour. No more dogs fighting. Control and management is key. Fighting simply needs to be impossible. It must be removed from their repertoire altogether for some time.

Management will include dogs being on lead when in the same room and not too close – and only when all is calm. They can tie the leads around their waists if they need hands free. They can sort out a couple of anchor points on which to hook the leads. The dogs will be trained to be happy wearing muzzles. They will get a dog gate for the kitchen doorway. At present Nellie goes happily into her crate but a gate means the dogs can swap rooms. We don’t want either to become territorial.

Less arousal and more enrichment.

In addition to management, less arousal and more enrichment sums up the areas to be worked o

With their clever dogs, the couple will go back to training games, searching activities and more enrichment that doesn’t involve too much excitement. One necessary bonus in all this is that the dogs now have more time spent on them individually.

With more brain work and focus upon their humans, they should become less focussed upon one another.

The very worst scenario is that the dogs will always need to be kept from getting at one another and only walked together if there are two people. However, over time, with some hard work and keeping arousal down, I have high hopes that some of the time they can eventually be back together.

Their humans now recognise the trigger situations and the devastating effect of mounting stress levels.

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 Meg and Nellie and because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where fear or aggression is 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)

 

 

Don’t Want Their Females Fighting

Females fighting – nipping things in the bud before they escalate to something worse

Rosie

Rosie

I have just been to another family that really pulls together where their dogs are concerned.

They have a situation with two females – a Labradoodle and a Rottie, both a year old.

The two dogs got on very well to start with, but as they reached maturity what was a bit of bullying from excitable Rosie, the doodle, became rougher as she jumped on the more placid Missy.

Predictably there came a time when Missy had had enough and she retaliated. It escalated to growling and snarling with each dog held back on leads as they reared up on their back legs. Now, to make sure there is no chance of their females fighting, the two are kept separate except on certain walks which have to be fairly carefully managed.

It’s a large family with members ranging from their twenties down to three years old. The older teenage girls do most with the dogs. Labradoodle Rosie belongs to the seventeen-year-old who had worked hard with her, teaching all the basic training cues.

Things aren’t so good now for Rosie. The dogs have just the fairly small kitchen area and utility room. The more peaceful Missy lives in the kitchen with people coming and going and Rosie spends all the time she’s not out on a walk alone in the conservatory. She doesn’t seem to expect to come in, but she occupies herself by chewing things. She goes out into the garden for short periods, but due to her digging and eating things they don’t leave her out for long.

Missy

She’s a clever dog and she is very bored.

The people don’t know what else they can do. She does have two quite long walks every day. One walk is Rosie alone with her 17-year-old person. The walk is largely spent chasing a ball thrown from a chucker to tire her out, but she doesn’t come home from this walk tired out and satisfied.

I have asked them to leave the ball thrower at home. She doesn’t need it. There is a belief that the more you can tire a dog the better it will be. It can be the opposite – see here. A hyper dog anyway, she needs activities that stimulate her brain and allow her to unwind a bit, not the opposite.

Her second walk is interesting and works better for her. They take both dogs. One daughter has a head start with one dog followed by the other dog some minutes later. They meet up at a field with a pond. The dogs run around off lead and the situation is controlled with the ball chucker. At the first hint of any trouble they throw the ball into the pond and Rosie, who loves water, runs in after it. Missy hates water and thus the dogs are parted.

They walk home together and all is fine.

After the walk, having been hosed down the two dogs are left briefly together in the utility room. Someone watches them through a window. After a shake-off one dog will usually lie down. It takes a very short time before the other dog jumps on top of her and the conflict starts. They are immediately parted and Missy returned to the kitchen.

I see this couple of minutes as a window of opportunity – a time when both dogs are briefly sufficiently calm and already together. They can build on it. The girl can stay in the utility room with the dogs after the walk. When, having shaken off, one lies down, she can ask the other to do the same and reward them both. She can work on a short ‘stay’ before letting Missy out into the kitchen in a controlled fashion. Over the days the duration of the ‘down-stays’ can be extended.

Instead of waiting for the conflict to start thus daily further rehearsing the behaviour, they can be taught a desirable behaviour instead.

When the family has made some progress I will be going back. We will take things to the next stage. It needs to be carefully stage-managed.

Meawhile, the girl has considerably more work to do with Rosie if they are to get these two dogs back together in harmony. While Rosie is so frustrated, stressed and bored, she will lack the self control required. Because she seldom goes into the kitchen, she is understandably extremely aroused when she does so and in the totally wrong state of mind required for getting together with Missy. Both must be calm.

The girl is going to swap the dogs over for a short while each day and give Rosie some quality time in the kitchen – doing ‘clicking for calm’ and other games that require some brain work and some self-control. People will be coming in and out of the room which is necessary for her continued socialisation.

Finally, there is the big question of whether both dogs would be more likely to get on if they were spayed. People have strong feelings and reasons of their own regarding neutering their dogs which I respect and must make their own decisions. I have suggested they have a chat with their vet.

Once the dogs do have one full-blown fight there is no coming back from it – particularly in my experience if it is females fighting. It can’t be undone.

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 Rosie and Missy. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good particularly if aggression of any kind is involved, as the case needs to be assessed correctly which it’s hard for someone to do with insufficient experience and living too closely to their own situation. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get My Help page)

 

Fighting Females

Bitches fight. Dogue de Bordeaux cross attacks excitable Springer Spaniel.All went very well indeed until one day about six months ago. The two dogs would share the same bed, play and walk together. They fed in the same room and there were absolutely no problems until, seemingly out of the blue, Dolly went for Flossie out in the garden.

The two girls are both two and a half years of age and American Bulldog/Dogue de Bordeaux cross Dolly came to live with Springer Flossie earlier in the year. They had played with each other since they were puppies – Dolly having lived with the daughter. Unfortunately she and one of the daughter’s older dogs became arch-enemies so Dolly went to live with Flossie.

At the time of the first incident the family were there including young children. Dolly suddenly roared and leapt on Flossie, grabbing her by the throat. So much noise and panic ensued that neighbours down the road were asking what happened. Dealing with fighting females can be difficult and upsetting.

Poor Flossie hurt her leg. If Dolly had seriously intended to hurt her there would have been much more damage. Had the dogs been of equal size it may not have been serious at all.

When this happens once it all too often happens a second time, largely generated by the knee-jerk reactions of the humans. The second occasion was once again when family were there.

I believe Dolly,  like many dogs, is intolerant of extreme excitability or instability in another dog. She generally likes to assert herself. She is ‘in charge’ of petting and attention, getting it whenever she demands it, but gets ‘jealous’ when she sees people giving attention to Flossie. At the time of the second attack Flossie was being fussed.

The two fights have each taken place against the background of a stressful or exciting day, with several people about including youngsters. While Flossie gives in to her and is submissive, there is no trouble. When stressed, Flossie is probably sending out subtle signals that are challenging to Dolly – ‘asking for trouble’ if you like.

The other very important feature is that both times Dolly was hormonal – the first she was coming to the end of her season, and the second she had just been spayed with a phantom pregnancy at the same time. She was understandably less tolerant and even more bossy. Often hormones play a part when you have fighting females.

For the past five months the two dogs have been kept separated. They rotate between crates and gated kitchen.

Each dog must now associate the other with good stuff as it will take a while to erase the panic and anger generated by the two encounters. They can earn some of their food. Whenever one dog looks at the other dog, reward one or both dogs. When Dolly walks past Flossie’s crate or Flossie walks past Dolly’s, reward both dogs. This should scotch any growling. If the dogs are nose-to-nose at the gate – reward both of them.

Everything must be done to maintain a calm environment. The dogs must realise that nothing they want to do takes place until they are calm, whether it’s going for a walk or getting their food.  Calming Flossie down will make life a lot easier for Dolly.

Each time two dogs have a set-to it makes another time more likely, so they must simply not get the opportunity for a while. There is a lot of work to be done before very careful short get-togethers can take place at home – when nobody else is about and everything is calm.

Unlike some female dogs that fight I go to where things are past the point of no return and they truly hate one another, I feel that, handled carefully, these two can be friends again. Their crates are beside each other and the dogs are relaxed with that. They can even be together out on a walk.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Flossie, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good, most particularly where any form of aggression is concerned. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Tension Between the Dogs

Jack Russell Bella is a very hyped up and stressed little dog

Bella

I could hear the three little dogs as I got out of my car down the road!

With the exception of a German Shepherd, I have recently been to a run of little dogs, and one thing many of them have in common is excessive barking! The problem with all this tension between dogs is that it can then lead to conflict.

Two of yesterday’s three little terriers were particularly hyped up, especially Bella (left). Not only do they bark at sounds and people arriving, they bark with excited anticipation whenever anyone moves. Car journeys are a nightmare.

I took Bella’s picture after we had worked with her for a couple of hours, keeping the atmosphere as calm as possible, moving quietly and slowly, and rewarding her when she stopped pawing and scratching for attention. She became calm, undemanding and happy. It’s like at last she had a clue what was required of her.

The barking understandably drives the two ladies with whom they live to distraction. There is quite a lot of shouting! The more worked up the humans become, the more worked up the dogs get too. It’s a vicious circle.

Attempts at some ‘firm’ discipline have led Bella to showing her teeth and she has in fact bitten one of the ladies. A confrontational approach can so often end with the dog standing up for itself. Fights can break out Between Bella and one of the other dogs

In the stress-charged atmosphere, Bella and one of the others may break into a fight. Bella can become fixated with her tail, then spins, growls and chews it. She may chew at her feet.

It was wonderful to see the little dog calm down and to demonstrate to the ladies what is possible if positive methods are used. There are kind methods of stopping a dog barking at the gate, of breaking up potential trouble between dogs and of getting a dog off the sofa. These methods require patience but the big difference is that they work, and not just in the moment.

Many humans feel it’s the right thing to do to play wildly exciting games (‘but the dogs love it’) or give manic greetings to dogs, not understanding that they may be pumping them up to a degree that something eventually will have to give. It’s hard to convince people that it’s kinder to wait and respond to the dogs only when they are reasonably calm.

The main aim for now is to reduce the tension between dogs and arousal in the household. Having calmer dogs will help their humans – and calmer humans will help the dogs.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Bella and the other little dogs, which is why I don’t share all the exact details of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Multiple Dogs – they have ELEVEN!

A chaotic atmosphere is troubling to some dogs - just as it is with childrenOne needs to run a ‘tighter ship’ with multiple dogs if things are not to be chaotic. A chaotic atmosphere is troubling to some dogs – just as it is with children, and the behaviour of the 5-year-old Cocker named Jigs is evidence of this.

Considering they have eleven dogs – a mix of various Springer, Cockers, Poodles and Cockerpoos all age under the age of six, these dogs are a tribute to their owners. The lady is a groomer and the dogs are gorgeous. A full-time job.  It isn’t surprising, however, that with those numbers there are a few issues.

At present the dogs rule the lady in particular. As she sits on her chair they leap all over her uninvited. There is some growling between them. There is also some trouble between two of the female dogs, one of which, Jigs, constantly parades a ball, pacing about growling. There has only been one major fight between her and Millly, the 6-year old Springer – so far.The lady sits on her chair they leap all over her uninvited - but not today.

With so many dogs all together most of the time, the lady needs to behave a bit like an orchestral conductor! She should be calling the tune. She could be inviting which dog she wants on her and turning away those she doesn’t. She needs to watch out for and pre-empt trouble between dogs immediately.

All the dogs follow her everywhere – she is like the Pied Piper. It’s quite hilarious really. She is a very warm and lively person, and unsurprisingly the dogs are much more excitable with her than when they are left with her quieter husband. Jigs’ pacing, parading and growling doesn’t happen so much when she is out. She acknolwedges that she has some work to do.

Bo

She needs to take more control and Jigs needs helping out. It will be hard for her initially to get into new habits that are alien to her, but we have made a plan so that she is introduced to one thing at a time, starting by gaining control of her own lap! This will be followed by treating each dog individually, calling one at a time to her.

Most importantly the dogs need to learn that calmness gets the good stuff. At present they are wild with excitement at so many things – being let into the sitting room in the evening, going out into the garden with the lady (they won’t stay out without her), and when people come to the house. The excitement then stresses Jigs and Milly who may turn on each other.  When a visitor arrives the little white American CockerAmerican Cocker is scared of people and may pee (left) is scared and may pee, and Springer Milly runs and hides. The rest are very sociable. Absolutely delightful.

I have been to people with far more problems with just two or three dogs then they have with their eleven. A lot could be done by creating a calmer atmosphere and letting the dogs know that their humans – the lady in particular – aren’t their slaves!

They breed Cockerpoos. Last year they had two litters. This year the four unspayed females will hopefully have puppies (Jigs isn’t one of them). The dad will be handsome year-old Poodle Bo, on the right.

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.
 

Rehomed Cocker Spaniel

Cocker Ellie is inseperable from her lady owner

Ellie

Cocker Spaniel Ellie’s previous owner died, so now she has come to live in a lovely home with two other Cocker Spaniels, one male and one female. She is three years old.

Life before Ellie was a bit easier. She is a more nervous dog, and on occasion she has suddenly gone for the other female, who retaliates. No serious damage has been done so far as they have been separated in time, but it is very distressing for the owners – especially the lady, as it seems these fights only happen around her.

The fact the lady is always there could simply be because Ellie is inseperable from her. She follows her absolutely everywhere and looks anxious should she even go to stand up. However, fighting has not happened when the lady has left the dogs with other people at home.

All dogs are very well loved and much cuddled – by the lady in particular. Now there is a third less stable dog added to the little pack, the spoiling and lack of leadership is causing problems. Giving too much demonstrative human-style love and cuddles to a nervous or needy dog, particularly while the dog is growling, is sure to reinforce any problems she already has. Reinforcement drives behaviour.

Ellie does quite a lot of growling, especially when one of the other dogs walks towards the lady (to whom Ellie will be as near as possible and who will probably be touching and tickling her). I believe all growling is a warning of sorts unless in boisterous play (and I wouldn’t encourage that either), and should be taken seriously. She may growl if the daughter touches her. If constantly ignored, a dog then may take things to the next level. There are a lot of people coming and going in this busy household, and I noticed a visitor leaning over Ellie, trying to touch and fuss her whilst she was backing off, growling. She needs protection.

Ellie needs space. She needs calm and she needs time to get used to her new home without any pressure. Each small fight has occurred around stress or excitement, and around the lady. One incident occured shortly after I arrived. The atmosphere was more charged because I, a stranger, had just arrived. The dogs were about to be fed and the lady accidentally dropped Ellie’s food out of the bowl onto the floor. The lady will have been a bit agitated which dogs pick up on immediately and it was a perfect scenario for Ellie to attack the other female when she had finished her own food and approached Ellie. Fortunately I carry a large bag and I have fast reactions! I was instantly able to swing it between the two and the spat stopped as quickly as it began.

It is very hard for some affectionate and demonstrative people to stop constantly touching their dog, but this sacrifice is vital in order for Ellie to settle down and become less needy and more confident. A little dog full of growls, ‘possessing’ her lady owner and protective of her own personal space unless she herself has initiated contact, is an ‘incident’ waiting to happen.

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