Inconsistent Aggression with Other Dogs

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ReamsFam's picture
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Joined: 2011-01-16

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1 month in with Petra and it has been a whirlwind.  Had some great days (a majority in fact) and some rough days ... and a couple stitches ... overall, Petra is doing well and our first dog, Susie, has come a long long way since those very tense first few days.  The two girls now consistently play together, can relax and hang out quietly in the same room and sometimes share toys.  Petra is pretty good, she doesn't have any ownership issues with toys, but Susie does, thus one day this week Susie flipped out on Petra who wanted Susie's toy ... and Petra ended up needing a couple stitches from where Susie nipped her.  An hour after the incident and after we'd gotten back from the Vet, all was forgotten and the two were playing again.  No problems since.  Regardless, since then we keep the toys away when they are in the same room and continue to keep a very close eye on them ... I think it's a part of Susie's efforts to set her boundaries and Petra needs to learn, sometimes the hard way I guess.  

Here's the real issue we're having now - Petra, who is about 6 months old, is inconsistently aggressive with other dog -  to the point of attacking.  And we have no idea what the cause is.  We have a group of dogs we get together with almost every weekend ... a rhodesian, 2 pitbulls, a german shepherd, and when we're lucky, another dobie.  Quite a combustible mix really ... but amazingly, these dogs can run around for hours on end with no problems and nothing but fun.  It's been awesome to watch and great for Petra's socialization which we are trying to make a major priority -  we want a good dog that we can trust around other dogs to be relaxed and have fun.  

So, there are two other dogs here we've attempted to have play dates with ... both happen to be german shorthair pointers, both rescues, both seemingly quite friendly and relaxed.  When we've tried to introduce them (separately on two different occasions with 1 dog, and 1 time with the other, without any other dogs around and on neutral ground); Petra has flipped out and not just growled and barked and snapped ... but gone after these dogs and I've had to struggle to get her off the other one.  Today, she didn't draw any blood, but last time she broke the skin of the other poor dog.  It's extremely stressful and bad for both dogs.  

We've tried both dogs on the leash, both dogs off, two different neutral sites, one dog on leash one dog off, etc etc etc.  Petra continues to go nuts and attack.  It's not fun.  She's still just a puppy and trying to figure things out but her behavior is not ok.  I have scolded and corrected her, put her on her back, popped her pinch collar, etc, but I don't think she gets it.  I wonder if perhaps she flips out because the other two dogs are pretty submissive and maybe she is seizing on that, but whatever it is it is unsafe and anytime we are introducing her to new dogs we SUPER on edge because we don't want our girl to hurt the other dog or vice versa!

Does anyone else have this issue?  99% of the time Petra is a silly, crazy dobie puppy that loves running around and playing with her sister and other dogs, chewing on her toys, being chased, etc.  She's a lot of work but she's been great so far.  But this aggression thing is freaking us out and seemingly comes out no where, no indicators to watch for etc....  any ideas or comments?  Thanks in advance ...

Wolfgirl_121's picture
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Joined: 2010-11-08

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You probobly need to just keep them away from eachother. She simply might not like them. I know a lot of dogs that do this. There are just some other people that we don't like and dogs are the same way. The other dogs might also be dispaying some behaviour that your not catching. Watch their mouths, tails, fur, anything that Petra could be taking for aggression. Lip curling, tail straight up, ears back, fur standing, legs braced, any of these could set her off. Trust her instincts, they're usually right.  Good luck!!

DJ's Dad's picture
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Joined: 2010-10-04

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For some weird reason, occasionally, a dog will just see a particular dog or a certain breed of dog and instantly "not like" it.  My last doberman, Darmok, was the sweetest, gentlest dog ever, got along great with all sizes and genders of other dogs,  but once at an agility class we were in, someone came walking in with a Portugese Water Spaniel and it had the typical 'show cut' to it's coat, and Dar flipped her switch and turned into Cujo just by LOOKING at this dog----from a distance, even.  She never could get over it, and when that dog would come around, I would just have to move to the other side of the room and try to keep Dar from barking at it.  She really just did NOT like that dog, and to this day, I dont know why.  I've heard dobe owners say that their dogs sometimes react that way to GSDs or other breeds, too.  You probably should just keep them separated and not try to force them to be friends.

jeshykai's picture
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Joined: 2010-09-02

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Paul and WG really hit it on the head here!

One thing that we commonly forget when we own our dogs, is that not all dogs are going to get along.  And sometimes we get pressured from other people for our dogs to get along with their dogs.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with the fact that Petra does not want to be around these other dogs -- and she is saying it in a very loud and clear way.  Listen to her and don't put her in that situation.

Since you are trying to socialize her, you want to be more successful than not.  So find the dogs she can play with who she tolerates and who tolerate her and use that for your social group.  The ones that she wants to attack, I do think it is in your best interest to desensitize her to these reactions.  Instead of a face-to-face or interaction, take them all for a group walk.  Each time Petra goes to snarl or growl, give her a correction and then go back to walking.  This way, when you are walking Petra, she will know "Even if I don't want these dogs near me or my human, we have to ignore them".

For the arguments in the house with Susie... they will have to work it out.  I think you are doing right by watching them like hawks, removing trigger items, etc.  Make sure to give them each individual time.  My chihuahua will not tolerate Steve at all, no matter what I've done to make them each respect each other Steve is too obnoxious and Miles does not trust him.  So I keep them seperated and will treat Steve to his daily runs and Miles to his ball.

It sounds like you guys have been really moving forward though!