Competing Young Male Dogs. Over-aroused.

They got both Harley and Louis as puppies, at about the same time, ten months ago. They are now seeing some of the problems they might encounter with same-sex siblings.

The two dogs are, in fact very different. Harley is a Great Dane. Louis a Boxer.

Over the months as the dogs have matured, they have increasingly been challenging one another.

Constantly competing for resources and attention.

Competing with the other dog


Louis goads and taunts Harley by parading resources. Harley, the less confident of the two, gets  aroused and he retaliates. It ends with him flying on top of Louis and bowling him over, pinning him down.

This competing behaviour is now so well-rehearsed that it’s become a kind of habit. As soon as there is any stress of any kind – the two dogs start at each other. All trouble between the dogs is generated by over-arousal and both dogs spend a lot of time excited. It may start with play but quickly deteriorates.

The couple are constantly having to try to pull them apart – not easy.

When people come to the house the two dogs are so excited that they jump all over them – no joke with a huge Great Dane in particular!

If left out of the room they create a great fuss, making them even more aroused when they do eventually come in. They may already be redirecting their frustration, excitement, arousal, onto one another.

Their humans are never able to settle peacefully in front of TV in the evening without the dogs mugging them, jumping on them or goading one another.

Peace is impossible!

What has brought things to a head is that Harley is starting to behave with other dogs the way he does with Louis – bowling them over and pinning them down.

Spending time apart.

Their first challenge is to get the two dogs happy being apart for a much of the time, without pining for one another. They need more quality time spent with them individually. It will be hard to begin with until they get used to it.

They have the perfect environment – a large kitchen with TV and sofas where they sit, with two smaller rooms leading off each end. Both small rooms are gated. One for each dog.

Behind these gates they aren’t banished – they are still part of the family but they can’t see each other. They can be fed in their own rooms and have chews and toys.

Along with separating them for periods of time is prevention of further rehearsing. No more challenging and competing behaviour, with Louis taunting Harley and Harley getting rough.

Learning self-control.

The dogs have had some good training, but that goes out of the window when the two are together at home. Training doesn’t necessarily reduce stress. The two good walks they get each day aren’t doing the job either.

The dogs need to learn that good things happen when they are calm and to have self-control.

This is best done by the couple using positive reinforcement for every bit of behaviour they like. They should wait for calm before doing anything the dogs want like putting on a lead, opening the gate or putting food down.

At the same time, when the dogs are together they should be on lead, unless asleep. This will need two people, one for each dog, with them out of each other’s reach.

The benefit of physically keeping them from actually getting to one another is that each can now have something to chew without it causing trouble and competing. Chewing helps calm.

They can now begin to break the habits formed over the past months. They can be given activities that help calm rather than arousal, like sprinkled food all over the grass. Hunting and foraging are healthy appropriate activities.

It will take time.

Having established a good routine working with the dogs separately and walking them separately too, they can begin to let the dogs freely together for short periods when they are relaxed. They will be ready to grab leads and part them immediately aroused behaviour begins.

Then they need something on which to redirect this build-up of stress – a Kong each maybe.

When their stress levels are reduced and they are able to be happy apart, training can kick back in. They can learn to settle politely when people come to the house. This will only be possible when they are no longer so over-aroused and so intent upon getting at and competing with each other.

With more self-control, individual work and management in terms of physical restraint, the two should also learn to be more polite when people come to the house.

Over time, short periods with each other should get longer with ultimately their beautiful, friendly dogs back together.


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 Vera 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. 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)

Fighting Saint Bernard and Boxer

Harry is a St.Bernard mix


Great Dane Blue and Boxer Sebastian lived happily together with their owners. Both dogs have their own traits – Blue is a bit needy probably due to health issues when he was a puppy, and Sebastian is very exuberant.

Then, about a year ago, they added Harry, a St.Bernard, to the mix. Things seemed to go very well until about four weeks ago when the St.Bernard and the Boxer had their first big fight. Since then,  as soon as they have come into each other’s presence there has been a big fight and damage, especially to Sebastian. The situation seemed to come out of the blue, but in hindsight the unchecked play between the two dogs was becoming extreme and should have been a warning sign. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I personally nip in the bud boisterous play between my own dogs the minute it looks like getting out of hand with any body-slamming or ‘hunting down’. The problem now with Harry and Sebastian is that their entry level is hackles, snarling and FIGHT.Great Dane and Boxer at the window. They now need to be kept apart

The ingredients seem to a mix of Blue, who keeps out of the way, but generally hypes up the atmosphere with excessive barking and anxiety especially if the lady of the house is out of sight, and Sebastian who tends to be over-excitable. One-year-old Great Dane Harry is a calmer dog, but is now an adolescent challenging Sebastian, and there is a lot of testosterone flying about.

In order to keep the two dogs separate means constantly moving dogs about the house like chess pieces, two in the garden while the third comes downstairs, one in the utility room while two are fed elsewhere, two upstairs while the third is let out into the garden – and so on. Very difficult. The people are incredibly patient and doing everything they can possibly find to remedy the situation between their beloved dogs, but are naturally extremely worried and wonder whether it will ever end.

Not having witnessed the fighting, I have to guess what triggers it. I suspect a cocktail of doggy personalities, over-excitement, stress and teenage testosterone. Most have kicked off in doorways.

We are working on the humans creating as calm an atmosphere as possible. Meanwhile, so that the humans will be able to relax when the rehabilitation process begins, both dogs will be introduced to muzzles in such a way that over the next two or three weeks they will learn to welcome them and happily be able to spend some time muzzled. Sebastian will probably get his off and eat it! However, Harry is the main aggressor and does the most damage.

Now, with a calmer environment, some rules in place and muzzles accepted, they need to work at re-introducing the dogs bit by bit, initially just walking one past the other a few times on lead at home, interrupting any eye-balling, along with parallel walking techniques out in the open. I sincerely hope that this works and that the two dogs, like some humans, do not now hate each other to the extent they simply can’t live together. Splitting up a St.Bernard fighting a large Boxer is no joke.

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 with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approaches I have worked out for Blue and Sebastian. 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. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where aggression of any kind is involved. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

Adolescent Great Dane and Red Setter

A powerful adolescent Great Dane


Merlin, the Great Dane, is  a powerful thirteen-month-old adolescent. He is a bit of a canine hoodie, ambushing and going for poor Red Setter Blue and wanting to control everything around him.

More worryingly, he has started to bully other dogs on walks. He will body slam into them, knock them over, stand over them and even pin them down, but he chooses his victims wisely. They are usually older or more timid dogs. A typical teenage bully!

Don’t get me wrong – he is a gorgeous, intelligent dog with great potential, but he has an attitude problem – some of the time. He is supremely confident and fearless. ‘Brought up’ right by consistent and firm humans, he will be a wonderful adult dog.

Red Setter can be restless and stressed


Another area that is creating difficulties is that, like many people, Merlin and Blue’s owners believe the best life for dogs is to have lots of freedom and uncontrolled access to a large garden. Whilst they have their own area indoors, the door is open most of the time, all the year round. As Merlin has got older, guarding tendencies have kicked in. Visitors sometimes have to run the gauntlet of the dogs when they open the gate; Merlin has pinned someone to the fence. I have found in many cases that dogs can become a bit wild, uncontrolled and territorial when given open space and lack of boundaries.

Setter Blue can be an agitated and restless dog, and this stirs Merlin up. When Blue is able to relax and settle down it should help the whole situation.

‘Training’ as such is lost on Merlin, because although he understand the commands perfectly well, if he doesn’t feel like cooperating there is little anyone can do! He’s huge. He ignores his owners because he believes what he wants is more important, especially when he is engaged in putting another dog in its place. So, they need to work on becoming MORE IMPORTANT in the eyes of Merlin – through leadership and using more of a psychological approach. There are, after all, ways of getting a teenager to tidy his room – but commanding him to go and do it straight away probably invites refusal! Then what? So it is with wilful dogs. There are ways!

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

Giant Dogs

Irish Wolfhound and Great DaneYesterday I visited the largest Wolfhound I have ever seen, and a nearly as large Great Dane X.  Monty, the Great Dane, was rescued from a life of neglect and possibly abuse just a year ago, and you can see from the photos what state he was in – and how good he looks now, a year later. (To get a sense of scale, the two big dogs are sitting in the photo with their other dog Tess who is the size of a Springer Spaniel). Not only does Monty now look good, but his owners have worked so well with him that he is a chilled, well-mannered, cooperative giant in all aspects bar one – his very occasional unpredictability towards other dogs and a couple of times with Freddie, their Wolfie. When the dog the size of Monty wants to attack, it is serious!

These people have had many large dogs, but mostly from puppies. They have always felt proud walking out with their well-behaved, well-socialised giants. Starting with an attack on Freddie over a toy resource, the incidents have now escalated to two or three dogs out on walks. Monty had been mixing beautifully with a great many dogs, and the three that have been on the receiving end were all dog-reactive themselves. His very power makes this dangerous, and the lady owner who does most of the walking is shaken and nervous which obviously transfers to Monty, so the situation is slowly gathering momentum.

Monty now is walked on lead only, and because word has got about, previously friendly dog walkers are avoiding them and this is very upsetting.

It is quite hard to find what these very switched-on people could be doing differently, but what is certain is that if they carry on as they are, so will Monty. He obeys coming back when called when he is ready so he freelances. He is a big hunter in every sense of the word. He won’t have other dogs dominating him – which seems to be the trigger for his aggressive spats – which end as quickly as they begin. The lady in particular will need to work at her leadership skills and calm confidence, whilst carefully managing Monty so that the situations simply can’t arise.

I hope by walking him calmly by dogs he shows no reaction to (on a loose lead), letting him mingle with his doggy friends, and most importantly walking away from dogs as and when they choose, over and over, the owners can condition Monty to look to them for guidance and to walk away from trouble when called, so that eventually he can once more be trusted off lead.

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

Gentle Giant

Great Dane Troy lying down amongst the baby toysToday I met Troy! What a treat. Look at that face! When I sat down he towered over me.

The Great Dane lives with a couple who have an eighteen week old baby and a toddler – people with their hands full at the moment. Troy at only fifteen months old himself may not have quite enough to keep his clever mind occupied, so he is finding things for himself to do. Things like wrecking beds when he is left alone and chewing the kitchen table and chairs.  Chewing the children’s toys hasn’t occured to him fortunately, and he’s very gentle around the baby and the little boy.

It’s great fun pretending to want to come in from the garden and then giving the run-around when they open the door – especially when after several circuits of the garden it means causing chaos by running in over the carpet with huge muddy feet! It’s great fun running off to play with other dogs and giving the run-around when they want to get him back. It’s great fun to cause chaos in the kitchen with little polystyrene beads from a destroyed bed all over the floor like snow. His owners’ response when they get home isn’t quite so much fun though – but at least it’s attention.

Giving Troy commands merely gives him the opportunity to refuse, so we are finding ways to outwit him. When your dog exasperates you, you perhaps don’t realise just how many times you are saying No, or Down, or Bed! As with a child, it’s good to think of ways to show him what you would like him to do instead. Rather than being cross when Troy doesn’t come in from the garden, they are going to teach him that it’s rewarding to come in straight away when called, and no fun at all if he doesn’t.

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