Page 1 of 4 123 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 35

Thread: Sudden fights after 1+ year of peace! HELP!

  1. #1

    Default Sudden fights after 1+ year of peace! HELP!

    Hello,

    I’m new here and am going through a dog crisis.

    TL;DR – two rescue dogs lived happily together for 1 year, both desexed, but recently girl reached maturity, they are getting into scuffles now, with no visible or audible triggers, with extremely aggressive growling and barking but no biting yet.
    HELP! PLEASE! We do NOT want to have to rehome either dog, as with their problems we don’t see a good chance of them finding a forever home. We love them to bits, and %95 of the time they get along great and play together, tug of war and wrestle.

    First I’ll lay out the situation, and then give background information on the dogs.

    Situation: we have two rescue dogs in a house with me (male), my fiancé (female) and her two adult daughters. One of these dogs (Tigga, 7) we got almost 3 years ago, one we got a bit over 1 year ago(Luna, a bit over 1). They existed perfectly and harmoniously for a year, while Luna was growing up. Luna is an adult now and they are getting into really serious scuffles. I would say fights, but no blood has been drawn yet. The growling is incredibly vicious and teeth are bared, Tigga is always jumping on top of Luna.
    Both dogs are desexed.
    Tigga is a staffy/bull terrier, very active and muscly, very focused on fetch and tug of war. He is well socialized with other dogs, and has never had an issue with another dog. He was, however, abandoned at least once by owners who had other smaller dogs. He lived on the streets for a while, we don’t know how long, and then the pound got him and a local rescue saved him the day of his execution. We got him from them.
    We live across from a dog park, so he has met probably over 50 dogs. He has incredible patience, and has never started anything with other dogs. He’s jumped in when Luna started things with dogs, but he never bites. He could easily, EASILY destroy Luna with one bite and whip of his head, but he never bites her, ever. They get a lot of exercise, at least one 30 minute intense fetch play a day, sometimes two, and always a hose play in the side yard.

    Luna is a 1 year, 2-3 month blue heeler/whippet/mix. She is incredibly clever, but due to having a really bad start to her life (abandoned puppy mill, dogs were skeletal and fighting over every molecule of food when found, it was apparently a real struggle to keep her alive when they found her), she doesn’t socialize predictably. She is great with most dogs, but once in a while she’ll go after a dog. She barks aggressively at every new dog she meets at the dog park, and after sniffing through the fence for a few minutes, she’s usually okay. I was visiting family for the past month, and came back and noticed she looks really different than she did before, which is weird because we thought she was done growing. Luna is hyper-vigilant and barks at sounds that sound close to the house. She gets nervous easily but she’s also a scrapper, and isn’t truly afraid of much. She has a history of being VERY submissive with Tigga, but now she isn’t always submitting when they have their problems.

    We can’t keep them inside together anymore. Outside they’re fine, or if they have any problems they work it out silently and we don’t know about them.
    Is Luna smart enough to challenge Tigga in an environment where she knows we will break up fights?

    The fights: there is no easily visible trigger. Suddenly we will notice their body language slowly and subtly change, Tigga will tense up and start looking at Luna, and she will not submit, but she doesn’t growl audibly either. Tigga will escalate and pounce if we don’t restrain him.

    Patterns: this happens most when Luna is cornered, like in her crate or under a desk. It also happens when the dogs are on the human’s level – couch, or if I’m sitting on the floor. It also happens when Luna is in her crate, and Tigga is outside of his. Lastly, Tigga goes after Luna through the screen/glass door sometimes at dinner. Both have spent time starved before they came to us so they have food security issues, we feed them separately, we aren’t too concerned about this one but it’s worth mentioning.

    Changes: I left for a month. Then, one of my fiancee’s daughters left about 3 weeks into me being gone, for a month. During this time their diets changed from raw to dried pellets/kibble. Also during this time, my fiancée got a job a few hours away from home, so the house is full of furniture she’s going to take to her new house. Is that worth mentioning? Could dogs sense another change coming?
    My guesses are that Luna has reached maturity and is looking to become higher in the dog hierarchy, she is challenging him through refusing to submit sometimes, and Tigga doesn’t like that. The fact that they only fight inside, around us, seems to suggest they’re resource guarding us, the humans, but it isn’t consistent or predictable.
    I’m the alpha male to both of them, as I take them out for exercise every day.

    What do we do? We can't keep them inside together anymore, which is awful. Please help!
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2

    Default

    Hi 'briguyman' and welcome !

    I have read your post a few times now and I am still a tad confused. So I will ask some questions first.

    What sort of training have you done with both of these dogs ? Formal at a ‘Dog School’ or just at home ?

    Have you done any homework on the individual breed traits that make up your 2 dogs to understand where certain behaviours may come from ?

    When was the last time you took Tigga to a vet to be checked out ?

    What are they actually doing when you said this ?

    they are getting into scuffles now, with no visible or audible triggers, with extremely aggressive growling and barking but no biting yet.
    What do you mean by scuffles ?

    Could it be a game that my 2 pups play which is called ‘Bitey Face’ ? ‘Bitey Face’ is very loud, jaws snapping, no direct contact – so no blood – plus they take heaps of breaks and move positions. Then it starts again !

    Some comments:

    Classing yourself as an ‘Alpha’ is really an old fashioned very out-dated term and idea. Taking the dogs to the dog park does not make you an ‘Alpha’ to them ! A close bond built on trust is what you should be aiming for with these 2.

    Luna is not an adult at ~ 1 years old. She is in the ‘Terrible Teenager Time’ – which means she will push what buttons she wants to when she can. Training and not discipline is what is needed here. She will also go through the ‘Terrible Two’s Time’ before you might say she may be an adult dog – brain wise !

    I am really pleased to see that you don’t want to re-home either of these 2.

    A dog’s ability to read our body language is awesome ! So – Yes – your 2 will be affected by the changes that are happening in your home life.

    Also, changing your 2’s diet – from raw to kibble - will also have a massive effect on their behaviour.

    I am sorry if I haven't covered all of your queries.

  3. #3

    Default

    Hi Rileyj, thanks for the prompt, clear response!

    Luna has had puppy school, and we've trained them both at home, admittedly not enough.

    I've done a lot of reading on their breeds, but none of my reading has mentioned anything like this. Perhaps Luna's mind is not active enough, as her breed is very smart and so is she, perhaps the low level of training and high exercise is good for her body but not her mind, so she starts some of these fights. I'll be sure to pick up the level of training.

    We haven't taken Tigga in a bit of a while for a checkup, that's a good idea, thank you.

    When I say scuffles, picture the worst dogfight you can without any actual biting. That's what they're doing. Loud, aggressive snarling and growling. It's really scary - they do play bitey face but this isn't it. Luna pees a little during some of this because she is terrified, but also sometimes she continues the aggressive barking when Tigga is restrained.


    So we have begun giving them raw food again tonight. My fiancee's daughter just bought a huge bag of expensive kibble though, and doesn't want to switch. Do you think it would still affect their behaviour if we mixed them - some raw, some kibble? Or should we go straight back to raw?

    Also, I'll be giving them breakfast again starting tomorrow. I'll try to remove/minimise all of the other changes though, thanks so much for your input. I will also encourage my partner's daughters to resume daily training.

    Thanks!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Rural Western Australia
    Posts
    2,532

    Default

    Both dogs most likely have emotional issues from when they were young. Luna is maturing and has likely upset the order of things particularly if she challenging your other dog. I have witnessed a similar situation with a friend where the young female started to challenge the older male. She had young children so it wasn't safe to continue. Training is always useful but sometimes in a situation like this there could be complex interactions going on that may require the help of a professional behaviourist to get you on the right path as left it will probably continue to escalate.

    With dogs with difficult backgrounds the changes you describe are probably not helping. I don't know about the food. I switch mine all the time between kibble and RAW and it makes no difference to them. They do well on both high quality kibble or RAW but then they have no behavioural issues that are of concern.

    Dogs with issues often need a fairly rigid routine where they can feel secure. You may need to work with them individually and also really be able to read body language so you can start to see the subtle signs of arousal and redirect immediately with some other calm behaviour, or settle them in their crates. You have identified trigger situations so start by making sure they don't happen at the moment. Crate them both at the same time, don't allow Luna to feel cornered and don't have them at your level for the moment. There are situations where a low dose of specific medication can help but you will need a consult with a behaviourist to work this out.

  5. #5

    Default

    'briguyman' - Thank you for your honest answers to my questions and comments.

    I agree with ‘Kalacreek' a 100% with looking to consulting with a behaviourist to help sort these problems/issues out with your pups - for you and the other family members at your place.

    Training is always useful but sometimes in a situation like this there could be complex interactions going on that may require the help of a professional behaviourist to get you on the right path as left it will probably continue to escalate.
    If you can tell us where-about you are – I am sure we can suggest excellent behaviourists for you to contact.

    From your posts – there appears to be 4 adults living together with 2 pups – and none of the adults are on the same page regarding what should be happening with the 2 pups. No wonder the 2 pups are confused – particularly the young one !

    A few comments:

    Diet does affect behaviour – particularly if the changes are made suddenly. When you are talking about raw feeding – What do you 4 feed these pups ?

    My 2 were on a mix of dry and raw until I ‘bit the bullet’ a couple of months ago. They were fine with it – though the amount of dry they were getting towards the end was not much. Now they are being feed raw.

    Your fiance's daughter can take the dry food bag back to the retailer for a refund/credit – opened or un-opened. So - No loss of money.

    Please think seriously about consulting a behaviourist – but the 4 adults must be present at the consultation.

    Good Luck !

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Adelaide
    Posts
    12,434

    Default

    Briguyman

    Thanks for the details in your posts.

    You think there's no trigger but there usually is.

    I would recommend getting a copy of Turid Rugaas "Calming Signals" dvd - and watching that to see what signals dogs give each other to calm things down (humans can mimic these or get their dogs to mimic and avoid trouble) and also what signals dogs make that other dogs consider rude or aggressive. And what signals mean "go away leave me alone"

    I expect Luna would be making plenty of leave me alone signals (eg looking away, licking lips) at Tigga.

    All the changes in environment you mentioned will upset a dog (or both dogs) and can lead to anxiety and anxiety can lead to "fear aggression" and "resource guarding".

    Given this is getting worse - what do you do when you see either dog start to stare or tense up (try to get in and prevent fight)?

    What do you do when they start slanging at each other? If there is any yelling on your part here - it's likely to make the problem worse as the dogs probably see that as you joining in, and blame the other dog.

    What I see peace keeper dogs (or fun police) do - is run between the two arguing dogs so they are momentarily unable to see or touch each other cos the peace keeper has gone between them. This works best at the tense up (early) stage but I've seen the peace keepers do it after the yelling starts. The peace keeper is usually quiet when they do it. And the peace keeper will repeat until the arguing stops.

    not exactly like this (but they are golden retrievers)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SM6Es8yX8ak

    Not sure if you can do the role of peace keeper safely (don't blame me if you get hurt, i don't know your dogs) but I would not let them get past the stage of "stiff stare" and the entrance to each crate should be off limits for the other dog.

    Ie if you see the wrong dog next to the wrong crate or thinking about it, I'd be moving that dog promptly elsewhere (it just won the free crate time in its own crate - with the door closed). I would do this any time I saw "calming signals" from one dog directed at the other eg if Lira is making calming signals and Tigga is stiff stare - Tigga goes in Tigga's crate. ASAP. Be quiet, firm, fast and gentle - do not hope he will get over it and calm down on his own.

    Also this is something that can happen in any multi dog households. Especially with two dogs from the same litter that have always been competing for the same resources, not just with rescue dogs with supposedly bad history. Resources - are not just food, but also human attention and company. So don't blame stuff on your dogs histories - just pay attention to what is going on and learn how to prevent it.

    And I second the recommendations to get some specialist help with this. Vet Behaviourist to start with. Your regular vet should be able to recommend or a rescue group should be able to recommend someone.

    This should be someone who does not use aversives other than restricting the opportunity for bad behaviour ie no chains in bags or squirty bottles or yelling at the dogs or worse.

    If you write what state/nearest capital city - we can recommend someone to start with (who could recommend someone else if they are unavailable).

  7. #7

    Default

    Hey everyone, these responses are amazing, THANK YOU!

    I'm going to write one general response/elaboration, then I will single out points made and quote them and address them or provide more info.

    I also wanted to give one more insight into the soul of each dog. Tigga has been challenged, attacked, bit by a huge wolfhound to the point where he needed stitches, etc., by other dogs and by Luna but he has yet to bite another dog, in 3+ years. I don't know if the pictures do him justice, but he is 30k of solid muscle, not an ounce of fat on him. He could *destroy* other dogs, including Luna, but he's just too gentle to do it. He will dominate a dog, but this means standing/laying on top of them and growling. He is also OBSESSED with his fetch toys, but other dogs take them literally out of his mouth and he will just happily follow them around until they drop it, or he'll playfully snatch it back. He is the gentlest dog in terms of causing physical harm, he just doesn't do it but he's beyond capable.

    Luna is head-over-heels in love with Tigga. It's apparently a heeler trait to lock on to one member of the household, and she's locked onto Tigga. She cries and yelps horribly when we take him on a walk without her, and she's comforted by seeing him. She doesn't care too much when we leave the house, either one person leaving or all of us, as long as she's with Tigga.

    Also I don't know if I mentioned this, but they do not fight outside, or at the dog park or in cars together. We can leave them alone outside and they're safe.

    From what you all have said, this looks a lot more like resource guarding of people due to anxiety rather than challenging of Luna, but I won't count that out either as I am not a professional. We are looking into scheduling a visit with our behaviourist, we have used one in the past and he is positive focused, not punishment based as you all recommended. We used him to reduce Luna's anxiety because she went through a really rough fear period where she was terrified of everything, and going after dogs out of fear. But going back to Luna, she is usually submissive but growls back in two situations: 1. when she is cornered, and 2. I've noticed this due to what one of you said - it seems like she'll refuse to submit when we are sitting near Tigga, as she knows that might arouse his anxiety a bit, because she knows we'll jump in and she may be understanding this as backing her up in a fight, she must see it as a pack mentality of ganging up on a dog to lower it's status. That was such a great point, I'm pretty convinced she's doing this due to her age, pushing buttons etc. and because she senses Tigga's heightened anxiety with all the changes.

    To address this problem before we go to a behaviourist, we are taking the following steps, please let me know what you all think.

    1. Back to raw food, back to breakfast and dinner
    2. Training both dogs separately with dry kibble, just simple commands to cement the humans as the leaders and authoritarians. We lapsed on training, and never really got into it heavily after puppy school. We are doing 5-10 mins a day now, hopefully I can get the others to join me in 2 or 3 times a day, just short quick sessions.
    3. Positive reinforcement whenever the dogs are joined together from being separated - I forget who mentioned this but it was fantastic, praising Tigga whenever Luna comes around so he will associate positivity with her being near.
    4. Crating them at the same time. I can't tell if the crates are helping or causing more anxiety. The dogs will escalate if the other goes in/near their crate entrance, and when they're in their crate sometimes they bark aggressively at each other.
    5. Rigid times for exercise - 6:30am play at the dog park, after dinner play if they have the energy. I live in Australia, and it's summer, so it's dangerous to take the dogs out for play during the day. In the middle of the day, if they have excess energy, I do put the soaker hose on, and Tigga chases the water while getting soaked, so that's safe. We do that once a day actually.
    6. Having a meeting with everyone to unify our efforts - as someone said it must be confusing to have all of these different people running things.

    Question: I have been thinking about using methods to lower a dog's status, on Luna, such as leaving her outside slightly longer than Tigga, feeding her after him, things like that. What do you guys think about that? If I made her place in the family clear, being the lowest, some of you have said dogs are fine with that, it relaxes them as long as its clear.

    Okay individual responses now. Thanks everyone!!

  8. #8

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by RileyJ View Post
    Diet does affect behaviour – particularly if the changes are made suddenly. When you are talking about raw feeding – What do you 4 feed these pups ?
    We are currently feeding them a small handful of kibble and a half/whole chicken frame. I'm going by the butcher today to get some more chicken mince, and soon it'll be that, with a chicken frame once or twice a week. They used to be on raw completely, and they loved it, and then I traveled to see family and they were put on kibble suddenly. I'm convinced this caused some anxiety in them and I hope it starts to fade once they get regular feedings of raw food. I don't think we can return the kibble here, in Australia.

    Quote Originally Posted by RileyJ View Post
    Good Luck !
    THANKS! You helped so much!!

  9. #9

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Kalacreek View Post
    Both dogs most likely have emotional issues from when they were young. Luna is maturing and has likely upset the order of things particularly if she challenging your other dog. I have witnessed a similar situation with a friend where the young female started to challenge the older male. She had young children so it wasn't safe to continue. Training is always useful but sometimes in a situation like this there could be complex interactions going on that may require the help of a professional behaviourist to get you on the right path as left it will probably continue to escalate.
    We're keeping a close eye on it and we're most likely going to be contacting a behaviourist we've used in the past, one that worked with the rescue kennel that saved Tigga so he knows him.
    I'm starting to doubt it's a direct challenge, though. She submits 70% of the time. The other 30%, she won't submit but only if we're close to Tigga. This plays on his anxiety of losing us as owners, because he's been ditched at least twice by his owners, and it makes sense due to her pushing buttons phase. Because of what people have said, though, I think she's using us to challenge him, because we hold him back and that's backing her up and giving her free reign to challenge him. I don't want to do the "let them sort it out" method, but I can see its merits when this happens.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kalacreek View Post
    With dogs with difficult backgrounds the changes you describe are probably not helping. I don't know about the food. I switch mine all the time between kibble and RAW and it makes no difference to them. They do well on both high quality kibble or RAW but then they have no behavioural issues that are of concern.
    We are reverting back to how things were before I left - regular morning exercise, raw food and twice a day feeding.


    Quote Originally Posted by Kalacreek View Post
    Dogs with issues often need a fairly rigid routine where they can feel secure. You may need to work with them individually and also really be able to read body language so you can start to see the subtle signs of arousal and redirect immediately with some other calm behaviour, or settle them in their crates.
    I am taking this rigid routine idea on board, I've made up a feeding and exercise schedule, and now I just need other people to commit to daily training times.
    We can read their body language, but the problem is, it's about a second and a half before an attack begins. It's not enough time, most of the time, to recognise and redirect, only enough time to grab hold of collars which makes it worse because they're restrained, and their owners have physically entered the mix.

    We are crating them at the same time, but I really can't tell if its adding to the anxiety or lessening it.

    Thank you for your responses! They are really clarifying and helpful, especially the strict routine.

  10. #10

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Hyacinth View Post
    Briguyman

    Thanks for the details in your posts.

    You think there's no trigger but there usually is.

    I would recommend getting a copy of Turid Rugaas "Calming Signals" dvd - and watching that to see what signals dogs give each other to calm things down (humans can mimic these or get their dogs to mimic and avoid trouble) and also what signals dogs make that other dogs consider rude or aggressive. And what signals mean "go away leave me alone"
    I will check this out. Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by Hyacinth View Post
    I expect Luna would be making plenty of leave me alone signals (eg looking away, licking lips) at Tigga.
    She often does, and when she does, problems don't start. If Tigga gets up and walks to her, and family members are nowhere near, she will submit and he will walk away. If we are near, a fight will most likely start, but sometimes during those instances she doesn't communicate the 'leave me alone' signals. She stares at him and doesn't lower her body to the ground like usual. I said it elsewhere, I think she's using us to challenge him in a consequence free manner, because she knows we will hold him back.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hyacinth View Post
    All the changes in environment you mentioned will upset a dog (or both dogs) and can lead to anxiety and anxiety can lead to "fear aggression" and "resource guarding".
    We are seeing both of those, so that's good to hear in a sense, thank you. It makes more sense now that you've said that, Luna is fear aggressive and Tigga is resource guarding, and it's likely they both came from all the environmental changes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hyacinth View Post
    Given this is getting worse - what do you do when you see either dog start to stare or tense up (try to get in and prevent fight)?
    I don't know if it is getting worse. I think it's staying about the same, I hope it's lessening but it's hard to tell because we're controlling their inside time together so rigidly now. What we see is, Tigga will start to move differently. Luna will stare and Tigga will tense up. Usually we have about 1-2 seconds before the fight starts when we see this, and it's only enough time to grab collars which makes things worse.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hyacinth View Post
    What do you do when they start slanging at each other? If there is any yelling on your part here - it's likely to make the problem worse as the dogs probably see that as you joining in, and blame the other dog.
    Before this post, we would sternly reprimand. It happened again this morning, and I comforted Tigga the whole time and his ears immediately went down and his tail was wagging as I approached. I think it brought him down a bit quicker, so I'll be continuing that.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hyacinth View Post
    Not sure if you can do the role of peace keeper safely (don't blame me if you get hurt, i don't know your dogs) but I would not let them get past the stage of "stiff stare" and the entrance to each crate should be off limits for the other dog.
    It's always safe for us. They haven't broken skin or even visibly bit eachother yet. But it isn't possible to get between them, Tigga is too fast and strong, and their interactions don't allow any time whatsoever to stay between them. It's like a light switch, there's only time for restraining.


    Quote Originally Posted by Hyacinth View Post
    Also this is something that can happen in any multi dog households. Especially with two dogs from the same litter that have always been competing for the same resources, not just with rescue dogs with supposedly bad history. Resources - are not just food, but also human attention and company. So don't blame stuff on your dogs histories - just pay attention to what is going on and learn how to prevent it.
    I think you're right. I think all the changes set off Tigga's anxiety to a level where he is guarding his human resources. I won't try to look too hard into his past anymore but he has been abandoned by his owners twice. But even without knowing that, I'm still going to do all I can to reduce anxiety.

    We have a good behaviourist that we're going to use if this keeps happening. Now that I'm back, and they're on their old rigid schedule of morning play and twice daily feedings of raw food, I'm hoping it will lower anxiety enough that we can have a peaceful household again.

    Thanks for your input!! It was very helpful!

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Tags for this Thread

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •