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Thread: violence is not the answer

  1. #1
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    Default violence is not the answer

    Hello folks. I have been reading this site off and on for some time now and just ended up joining this morning. I was prompted to do so by a few incidents which occurred yesterday and last night between our dogs. It's out of the blue and I apologize in advance if this is too lengthy. So here's the situation.

    My wife and I were married about a year ago. I have two yellow labs which are male and female. Female is the subject of this post. My wife also has two dogs. One of which is a 35lb or so black mutt. Looks to have terrier in her but she is fairly heavy so probably mixed with a bigger dog. This is a guess.

    Background on the dogs.

    Female yellow lab is 5 years old and spayed. She is probably the best natured dog I have ever been around. Non confrontational to say the least. Type of dog that will turn over on her back submissively at the slightest hint of aggression from another dog. She is obedience trained, force fetched, collar conditioned, etc. An easily trainable dog w/ tons of bidability and drive to retrieve. Was starting to get her into HT's a few years ago when hip dysplasia became apparent and she was retired. Couldn't bear to part with her so she's now a dove hunting dog and a house dog. 2nd in the pack so to speak. Right behind the male lab who is the obvious dominant.

    Black terrier mutt is also 5. My wife adopted her as a pup before we met. She assumed she was abused because she acts like a coyote most of the time. However, the abuse is an assumption, not a known fact. In my opinion, this dog is the dictionary definition of avoidance. Long story short, if she's told to do anything like come here, sit, stay, etc, she will
    bolt, bite, or whatever it takes to defy what she was told to do. She's the kind of dog that will try to bite if you roll her on her back. She'll try to bite when I try to pull her out of the crate. I can go on and on, but in short she's very insecure and very intent on living beyond the law so to speak. This has been reinforced her whole life by my wife constantly telling her to do things and the dog constantly not doing it and getting away with it.


    My labs are very well trained to the lay person and are held to certain basic standards. Come, sit, fetch, whatever the first time each time. lay down and stay until released. Basic stuff. The little black dog has discovered she doesn't have to abide by any of these basic rules as the rest of the dogs do. She doesn't have to worry about a correction because she's never given one, because she was "abused" possibly at some point of her life. So the byproduct of all this is she lives beyond the pack rule. In turn, what I've noticed in the last 6 months is a difference in how she carries herself around the other dogs. Tail straight up, ears up, etc like she owns the place. Very annoying to me and I assume the rest of our dogs as well. In the last week or so, I've noticed when letting them out of the kennel out back that she will go right at my yellow lab and start jumping in her face. Kind of like she wants to play but not so much. It has progressed to where I've seen her do it in the house a few times, etc.

    So here we go. I'm at work yesterday and I get a call from my wife. She's crying and advises that the yellow lab has proceeded to whoop the black dog's butt. The lab has her pinned down with a good grip on the throat. She gets her off notices bite marks. I get home later, shave up the wounded areas on her back and neck, and get her cleaned up. A little purple spray antiseptic and we're good. I figure it's an isolated incident and the mutt finally managed to push my lab to her limit. Which is quite a limit because she's a good natured dog.


    So they hang out the rest of the day and all seems to be well. My wife lets them all out to pee before we go to bed last night. I start hearing screams and actually thought it was kids outside playing. I then realize it's dogs and my wife making all the noise and I run outside to see my lab going to town again. But this time she's she's shaking her and tossing the mutt around like a rag doll. Lab is now in the red zone and I have jump in the middle and was quite an effort to get her off the black dog. So we all get calmed down. Take the black mutt to the garage. More shaving, more puncture wounds, more purple spray. The mutt now looks like she got peppered by a shotgun. I am all about letting dogs work things out amongst themselves, but this thing has escalated a bit higher than I care to see. Black mutt cannot take many more rounds of this.


    So now my question. I'm still fairly convinced this is a dog thing being worked out in dog terms. But last night, it seems that my lab was unprovoked and took after her anyway. It lasted a good 30 secs and did not look to be ending any time soon when I broke it up. Were this not my wife's dog, it wouldn't take me long to figure out what to do, nor would it take 6 paragraphs to explain. But it is my wife's dog and I can't let her get chewed up again. I really don't want to get rid of my lab.

    Any insight or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by jason_s View Post
    But last night, it seems that my lab was unprovoked and took after her anyway.
    Are you 100% sure that it was unprovoked? It seems to me that she has been provoked for years now. How is the black dog acting around the other dogs now? Maybe it is settled and you don't have to worry about it anymore?...
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  3. #3
    Senior Member EdA's Avatar
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    in dog to dog aggression the apparent aggressor is not always the instigator, sometimes they feel so threatened by the true aggressor (by body language) that they are moved to defend themselves

    in my experience female dog to dog aggression is more complicated than male to male dog to dog aggression

    look for a copy of the book How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend written by the Monks of New Skete, one of my clients found it very helpful in dealing with dog to dog aggression, it is available from amazon.com

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    "Are you 100% sure that it was unprovoked? It seems to me that she has been provoked for years now. How is the black dog acting around the other dogs now? Maybe it is settled and you don't have to worry about it anymore?... "

    Good point. My wife says the 2nd attack was unprovoked. I tend to believe there was body language involved that she didn't interpret. But I wasn't present when the fight started.

    The black dog now seems to be where she should be in this pack mentally. Tail and ears positioned where they belong. Seems to be making more eye contact. Much calmer and not demonstrating the dominance insecurities I mentioned earlier. Not sure if it was a learning moment for her or if she's still in shock or playing the feel sorry for me card.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EdA View Post
    in dog to dog aggression the apparent aggressor is not always the instigator, sometimes they feel so threatened by the true aggressor (by body language) that they are moved to defend themselves

    in my experience female dog to dog aggression is more complicated than male to male dog to dog aggression

    look for a copy of the book How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend written by the Monks of New Skete, one of my clients found it very helpful in dealing with dog to dog aggression, it is available from amazon.com
    Thank you sir for taking the time to read this. I do feel like this situation fits what you mentioned. I don't believe my lab is the instigator. I do believe she drove her point home with a big correction so to speak.

    I just hope I'm reading it right and my lab isn't going loco on me. I haven't seen any other glimpse of aggression from her in any way. Also strange that she just decides to take care of business after living together without incident for the last 2 years or so. Way stranger things have happened I'm sure.

    I shall search out a copy of that book today. Thank you Ed.

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    Senior Member BetsyBernock's Avatar
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    Jason,

    Without being able to see your dogs interact, here is what I gather from what you have written: the terrier mix has been able to live outside the "house rules" and has demonstrated obvious dominance and / or challenging in a different manner than your yellow male (who you claim is the most dominant). Chances are, the terrier mix is truly the most dominant. The behavior you have described above about the terrier mix which leads you to think the dog may have been abused, tells me that perhaps this dog has spent time living on its own. Your female yellow lab appears to be reacting to the challenging (which you may or may not recognize) that is being done by the terrier mix. In most cases, if your yellow female has not been an outwardly aggressive dog within your pack, she is reacting to the terrier mix.

    Your course of action should be a) refrain from letting the two females mix and b) learn how to assert yourselves as pack leaders. The book recommended by Ed is a good start.
    "Don't practice until you get it right; practice until you can't get it wrong." ~ Kim C.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Julie R.'s Avatar
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    Sounds like the black mutt needs a good dose of boot camp...prong collar, wears a trailing leash or check cord at all times and has all priveleges removed. Don't let her on the furniture, feed her last after all the other dogs have eaten, make her go through doorways last, etc. If she was abused or even if she's just a fear/aggressive type dog, learning basic obedience and having humans assert their authority over her will actually give her confidence.

    I"ve fostered spoiled brat Chesapeakes before and have one here now that's a 9 mos. old, unsocialized heathen. I believe she bossed smaller dogs around and she's shown teeth at my alpha, but very serene 9 y.o. female and acted obnoxious doing things like body slamming, jumping despite businesslike warnings from the older female.

    Last week, she ignored a warning growl and made the mistake of growling back and lunging/nipping at the older bitch and got a can of whoop-azz opened on her--the first time the older female has used teeth. It was a horrible sounding fight but by the time I got there to separate them, she'd quit fighting back and was screaming uncle and the older female really hadn't done any damage, just a couple scrapes and she was just holding her upside down.

    Turns out it was exactly what the young whipper snapper needed but since they I've supervised them constantly when I had them out together. For the next day the older female did not want the young one near her but, to her credit the youngster has been suitably contrite and much more submissive and hasn't pushed things since. But, from my experience when a mild mannered older female suddenly explodes, your best bet is to supervise all interactions with the aggressor until you're certain they can be trusted together. I do think dogs send out signals even we aren't aware of and once a dog has gone after another, especially a smaller, weaker dog it usually takes much less provocation for a second attack.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Julie R. View Post
    Sounds like the black mutt needs a good dose of boot camp...prong collar, wears a trailing leash or check cord at all times and has all priveleges removed. Don't let her on the furniture, feed her last after all the other dogs have eaten, make her go through doorways last, etc. If she was abused or even if she's just a fear/aggressive type dog, learning basic obedience and having humans assert their authority over her will actually give her confidence.

    I"ve fostered spoiled brat Chesapeakes before and have one here now that's a 9 mos. old, unsocialized heathen. I believe she bossed smaller dogs around and she's shown teeth at my alpha, but very serene 9 y.o. female and acted obnoxious doing things like body slamming, jumping despite businesslike warnings from the older female.

    Last week, she ignored a warning growl and made the mistake of growling back and lunging/nipping at the older bitch and got a can of whoop-azz opened on her--the first time the older female has used teeth. It was a horrible sounding fight but by the time I got there to separate them, she'd quit fighting back and was screaming uncle and the older female really hadn't done any damage, just a couple scrapes and she was just holding her upside down.

    Turns out it was exactly what the young whipper snapper needed but since they I've supervised them constantly when I had them out together. For the next day the older female did not want the young one near her but, to her credit the youngster has been suitably contrite and much more submissive and hasn't pushed things since. But, from my experience when a mild mannered older female suddenly explodes, your best bet is to supervise all interactions with the aggressor until you're certain they can be trusted together. I do think dogs send out signals even we aren't aware of and once a dog has gone after another, especially a smaller, weaker dog it usually takes much less provocation for a second attack.

    Thank you for the post. I totally agree with your first paragraph. This is something I'd have no problem implementing. The problem is that my wife is this dog's out. Consistent enabling and reinforcement of bad behaviour. However, I do believe the happenings from yesterday have opened her eyes and her mind to what's actually going on. Now maybe I can convince her to stick with me and make this mutt a dog. I agree that the problem is a lack of consistency and perseverance on our part.

    Funny part is my wife is a psychologist. In some cases I think it's harder for her to grasp dog behaviour after spending this long focusing on human behaviour.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BetsyBernock View Post
    Jason,

    Without being able to see your dogs interact, here is what I gather from what you have written: the terrier mix has been able to live outside the "house rules" and has demonstrated obvious dominance and / or challenging in a different manner than your yellow male (who you claim is the most dominant). Chances are, the terrier mix is truly the most dominant. The behavior you have described above about the terrier mix which leads you to think the dog may have been abused, tells me that perhaps this dog has spent time living on its own. Your female yellow lab appears to be reacting to the challenging (which you may or may not recognize) that is being done by the terrier mix. In most cases, if your yellow female has not been an outwardly aggressive dog within your pack, she is reacting to the terrier mix.

    Your course of action should be a) refrain from letting the two females mix and b) learn how to assert yourselves as pack leaders. The book recommended by Ed is a good start.
    I see what you're getting at. I would still have to go with the male being the dominant. He's very calm and grounding for the rest of the pack. Doesn't get worked up about other dogs in his face. Doesn't typically react to another male as if their insecure aggression is below him.

    I honestly feel more like the black dog is trying out for the yellow lab's position, and failed. It's just so out of character for my lab that it's kind of got me on edge. Visions of old yeller so to speak.

  10. #10
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    Hopefully this will be the end of it. One thing that you need to understand is that you are the alpha, you need to get this point across to them. I have six 4 labs and 2 rot's there was a scuffle I stepped in and let them know that this behavior will not be tolerated. Since then no other incidents.
    There are a lot of good books out there explaining this to a tee, read some of them and it will help you understand just how things work in the dog world. Good luck.

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