Sudden Aggression in Dogs (HELP!!)

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Amy L, Mar 3, 2011.

  1. Amy L

    Amy L Well-Known Member

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    I have two dogs, one is a male golden retriever, and the other is a female golden mix (both are fixed). They've been in the same household for three years. The female is generally a lot more aggressive than the male (who is usually so clam he's basically a piece of furniture), but previously they've never gone further than play fighting. Today they have been fighting for real. I am sure they would have fought to the death without intervention. The first time I'm pretty sure the female started it, she jumped on him and starting to growl/bite. She was put outside, and he stayed indoors. After a half hour, I let her in. The male went up to her and started biting her first. This time it was VERY difficult to break them up. I put them in their pens, and after after two hours they seemed calm, so I let them out. This time, she went berserk first and really went after him. I managed to drag them into separate pens and I'm not letting them out at the same time again. She has a bloody ear, but he doesn't have any visible injuries.

    I called the vet, and he had no advice besides "keep them separated". They weren't fighting over food or another animal. They are not aggressive towards me. This has never happened before, and I don't know why something changed so suddenly after three years. Tomorrow I am going to have them checked out (separately!) by the vet to make sure one/both of them are not ill. I can't keep them separated forever... I love them, they are my dogs. Sticking two large dogs in different rooms indefinitely is not practical, nor is it practical for me to keep putting myself in between two snarling, biting, and fighting dogs. Their added weight is nearly 200 pounds, so it's dangerous for both them and me.

    I love them both, and if I had to choose between one to keep and one to give away would break my heart. I'm actually tearing up just thinking about it. Has anyone seen this behavior before? What could have gone wrong with my dogs?
     
  2. skatemommy

    skatemommy Well-Known Member

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    I'm sorry about this, I don't have any advise other than I think you are VERY wise taking each to the vet individually to see if something is going on. Good luck and best wishes.
     
  3. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

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    I used to have two dogs who fought, Amy - though it was a contest for dominance, not a sudden thing as you described. I likewise wonder if there is a health issue involved.

    Here's a tip for separating two dogs when one has its teeth on the other: lift up the hind legs of the biting dog, it will destabilize it and get it off the other dog. There is also a trick that involves getting your hand in the biting dog's mouth and pressing upwards on the gums. I've seen it done, but never been able to do it myself.

    Also, you might have to consider a muzzle. Sometimes muzzling a dog a few times works to control the behaviour in that the dog will respond to just the sight of the muzzle. This has worked for my dog's aggression around toys - she sees the muzzle and stops the behaviour. I haven't used it enough to determine whether it changes her behaviour in the long-term though. And I doubt it would work once aggression has escalated to a fight. But, it may be your only option for having the two dogs together, at least until you determine what other factors may be involved.
     
  4. Amy L

    Amy L Well-Known Member

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    I've been trying to do some research, and apparently the most common cause of sudden fighting (without moving house, introducing another dog, etc.) is that one dog is sick and the other is attacking to either put it out of its misery or take the chance at moving up in the pack. The other common cause is thyroid disease, which can make a dog suddenly flip out. The problem for me is that I thought I observed both of them initiating the fight at different times.

    The female has never been great with other animals. She's a cuddly sweetheart with all humans, but she with smaller animals it's like the dinner bell goes off in her head. She regularly hunts and eats lizards, I've seen her catch and eat a small bird. Lately, within this past week, I heard her barking madly in the back yard. When I went to investigate, she had a raccoon cornered. The first time I got her away, but then it happened the next day and she actually caught the raccoon in her mouth. I told her to drop it and leave it, and she listened to me. My male dog is a few dozen pounds heavier than her, and usually he definitely has an "omega dog" kind of disposition. Until now. I don't know if she's decided to move on to bigger prey (my male dog) or if she's in a roid rage, or if my boy is sick and she's taking advantage.

    Morning can't come soon enough for me. :(
     
  5. Cupid

    Cupid Well-Known Member

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    I've heard that if you have both a female and a male dog, the male will usually allow the female to be alpha dog.

    I hope they will both be okay.
     
  6. skatemommy

    skatemommy Well-Known Member

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    Ugh, 90% of the coons if you can see during the day in our parts are rabid. Or carrying raccoon roundworm which if another animal or human comes in contact with the feces is a brain disease. Oh hon take care and mention the raccoon thing to the vet; may change txt options.
     
  7. CaptCrunch

    CaptCrunch New Member

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    Question for you Amy L? Do you walk the dogs together every morning? If you don't I would suggest that you get in the habit of doing this daily. It will create a "pack" environment and the dogs will learn to get along with each other. Have no idea what might have caused the sudden fighting although you might be on to something about one doing being sick and being attacked by the healthier dog?

    Good luck.
     
  8. JasperBoy

    JasperBoy Well-Known Member

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    I agree with skatemommy. Be careful touching both dogs and keep them isolated until the vet has a chance to check them out. That raccoon set off warning bells in my head.
     
  9. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

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    Stick your hands in a biting dog's mouth? :eek::eek::eek:::dog::scream:
     
  10. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

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    Into the gum line. The dog is occupied with the other dog and pushing up on the gums makes it uncomfortable, so it leg go. A friend of mine saved my dog's life this way, though admittedly, I've never attempted it myself..
     
  11. Tak

    Tak Well-Known Member

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    Amy - who was the alpha dog before this sudden aggression? From what you've said, it seems like the female. If the male dog did something she took as disrespect - it could even be something subtle that you might not notice it - esp if she was ill - she might have regarded that as a challenge that she couldnt ignore. I dont know - I'm just suggesting this as a possibility.

    I love my dogs too so I know how you are feeling now. I dont have any experience with this myself, but if it happened to me I would rush those dogs to a vet, because my guess is it's health related. I'd tell the vet to do a full blood work-up - try to see if there are any "hidden" health problems that might be causing this. And also check the bones/joints/teeth to make sure everything is normal there. Pain can also cause a dog to become aggressive - and sometimes it's hard for humans to see the signs of chronic pain in a dog. It's easily missed. Check the eyes as well. Failing eyesight can make a dog feel insecure and therefore more prone to aggression.

    About the rabies thing - when is the last time your dog was rabies vaccinated? If her shots are up to date, I wouldnt worry too much about that.

    How good is your vet? If you are not 100 percent confident in him, try to find somebody who is better.

    Was anything different around the house when they first started fighting? Did you have company? Repairmen? Did you recently change their food? Try to remember as much as you can - any little thing might give the vet some clue to what's going on.

    God - I really feel sorry for you and I wish there was something more I could do. If it was me - I would be beside myself with worrying - so I can understand what you're going through. Try to get an appointment with the vet as soon as possible - tell him it's an emergency. And if he cant find anything physically wrong, then ask him about an animal behaviorist, who might have some ideas. But I kind of think this is some kind of health problem - so I will be keeping my fingers crossed for you.
     
  12. rfisher

    rfisher Satisfied skating fan

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    I don't know why you seem surprised that your dog hunts. That's not aggression. That's genetics. Retrievers were bred to be hunting dogs. The majority of times, two dogs in a pack will settle their differences without doing real damage to each other. One dog will cede dominance to the other. I'd do a thyroid check (it'll be fairly expensive), but if it's normal, I'd be inclined to not interfere unless one of them has the other by the throat. Don't forget they're dogs not people and dogs always have a pack hierarchy. The key is that you stay the alpha to both.
     
  13. Amy L

    Amy L Well-Known Member

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    They're both up to date on their vaccines. The local animal control people said that most of the raccoons that show up in yards have had distemper, but they haven't found anything rabid.

    And they ARE going for the throat. Yesterday they were trying to fight to the death, I'm sure of it.

    I took them out separately this morning to go to the bathroom and run a bit since they've been penned up all night. They are acting totally normal on their own, and have been sweet with me as usual.

    Now, just waiting for the vet to open...
     
  14. Yehudi

    Yehudi Well-Known Member

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    I had the same issues with an alpha male and an elderly female. The alpha male all of a sudden started snarling at the female and attacking if she got in his way. The female was blind and would unwittingly encroach upon the male's personal space so he got angry at her. My brother one day saw it and shouted very loudly at the male dog and since that time, there haven't really been any incidents except for him growling if she came near his food dish. So I think you just have to be forceful with the aggressor and let her know it would not be tolerated.
     
  15. ks777

    ks777 Well-Known Member

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    ok you need to call "it's Me or the dog" show!! Call Victoria Stilwell. She can probably help you.
    http://positively.com/
     
  16. Bev Johnston

    Bev Johnston Well-Known Member

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    I brought a 6 month old female into our house when one of our other dogs died. We had a 5 year old male who had never had any problems with the dog who had died, but he was decidedly the alpha. After the new dog had been with us for about three months, the two started fighting. At first I could break them up by tossing a glass of water on them, but the fights became more frequent and much scarier. One day I realized that each person in our family had been bitten trying to break up the fights, so I sought outside help. I brought a trainer into our home to observe the dogs (and us) and she gave us lots of help. It took time and patience, but her advice really worked for us.

    So, if your vet doesn't find any health issues, I definitely recommend shelling out the bucks to bring an expert into your home.

    Good luck!
     
  17. milanessa

    milanessa engaged to dupa

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    My BIL was in a similar situation and eventually one of the dogs did kill the other. It was horrific and now he's so sorry he didn't get rid of one of them.
     
  18. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

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    Any new toys?

    My female (spayed) corgi is the crabbier, mouthy dog and tries to boss the older, larger Aussie/greyhound mix (neutered male), but generally it only escalates to actual fighting if for some reason they both want the same bone NOW. I can break it up with a kick and a scream, but it certainly sounds nasty while it's going on, but I can do that because there is no question that while the corgi might be bossy, I am boss of both of them and they better obey or else. It sounds like they're out for blood, but it stops when I say.

    And don't worry about cornering raccoons, that's just being a dog, though be careful of bites. (Puff, the shepherd mix, tried to carry off a possum. The "LEAVE IT" command came in very handy. I would not want him to try it with something that fights back. The possum played dead, a raccoon probably would have clawed and bit.)
     
  19. Amy L

    Amy L Well-Known Member

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    No new toys. My girl isn't into toys, but she likes chewy bones every once and a while. We haven't gotten any new ones though.

    My boy is overweight, so he got his thyroid tested at his last yearly appointment (in December), so the vet didn't recommend that he get another one. I got the female tested today. She was okay with the other dogs in the office, and the vet was pretty certain that there's nothing wrong with her illness-wise.

    The theory seems to be that the male is just tired of being at the bottom of the pack and is trying to assert his dominance, which causes the girl to retaliate.

    My mom came over and we put each dog on a leash. We walked them around the neighborhood together and they were totally fine. I haven't kept them together back in the house though... maybe being in their "home territory" would make them worse. I dunno. I'm going to keep them on their leashes and keep them in separate rooms without putting them in their pens. I won't keep them unpenned at night or when I leave the house anymore.

    There are no professional dog trainers where I live, getting to a trainer an hour away with two fight-prone dogs might not be practical. I'm still not sure what to do with them. I think I will just keep my eye on them and not try to decide anything until Monday.
     
  20. Amy L

    Amy L Well-Known Member

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    And as soon as I posted the above, Battle Royale #4 happened. The girl was outside, the boy was inside. She came in, tried to hump him (she does that a lot), he gave her a look, and then they both went for each others' necks. I tried the lifting the back leg thing, and even the pressing the gum thing, but none of it worked. I was able to get them to both lie down (while still biting and howling at each other) and was able to separate them slowly, one tooth at a time it seems.

    From their other encounters, I am now almost 100% convinced that this is a dominance issue. Their fights have all started when one of them walks into the same room where the other one is. She'll try to hump him, or they'll just give each other a look, and then the fight is on. When I checked them over this morning, they don't have any deep bites, but they have some surface nicks on their skin. They did pull a lot of hair out of each other and there's mouth froth all over the place.

    But there's no way I'm putting them together again any time soon. I never want to hear those sounds again.:eek::yikes:
     
  21. BigB08822

    BigB08822 Well-Known Member

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    I know you say they are fighting to the death but maybe this is something they have to work out? That sounds awful as I say it in my mind because if they truly are fighting to kill then this isn't an option. I just wonder if maybe it sounds a lot worse than it is because you would surely have puncture wounds if they were fighting to kill. Maybe one needs to win and set things in order. However, there is just no way to do this without being assured no one will get hurt or killed. I feel for you, I really do. Can you call the Dog Whisperer? lol
     
  22. rfisher

    rfisher Satisfied skating fan

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    I wouldn't worry about the sound. I'd be concerned if one gets the other by the throat and starts shaking. That's killing. You have a pack hierarchy issue that is really only going to be settled by the dogs. When I say gets the other by the throat, I mean one dog is down on the ground on it's back and the other closes it's mouth over the windpipe and starts to crush. What you're describing is actually quite normal behavior between two dogs battling for dominance. A little fur may fly, but they really aren't hurting each other. If they did, one would quit the fight.
     
  23. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

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    Amy -- I'm so sorry you're having to deal with this. I can't imagine how awful it must be to worry about what is going to happen. I hope they settle into a new hierarchy, and quickly.
     
  24. rjblue

    rjblue Re-registered User

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    You can fix this if it is a heirarchy issue. Pick whichever one you think should be the alpha. Always feed it first. Make the other one wait. Only speak kindly and pet the ahpha one. Be harsh and a bit mean with the other one. Give the alpha toys and treats, and none to the other one.

    After a few weeks of this, the dogs will accept their assigned positions and you can stop being mean-ish to the #2.

    A good link that more clearly explains what you need to do.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2011
  25. rfisher

    rfisher Satisfied skating fan

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    You should also teach the dogs down-stay and put them in the position when they show unwanted behaviors.
     
  26. Amy L

    Amy L Well-Known Member

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    Soooo... I thought the 4th fight ended quickly enough, but then later I saw blood on the doggy bed in Teddy's (the boy's) pen. I discovered a rather gnarly gash, about an inch and a half long, between the back of his neck and shoulder blades. It was only a few minutes from vet clinic closing time, but they were kind enough to wait for me to bring Teddy in. He's staying there overnight since he needs some stitches.

    To tally everything up, in the past 24 hours there have been four fights, three vet visits, four stitches, and about $400 in vet bills. I also have hardly slept or eaten during this time.

    I don't think I could stomach just letting them fight it out. I would need a thousand-percent guarantee that no one would die, and I'm afraid if I let it go on more than a few seconds they'd get too into it and I'd never be able to pull them apart. Ugh, I had so much hope when they walked so well together today. But as soon as they get into the house, it turns into a gladiator ring.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2011
  27. CaptCrunch

    CaptCrunch New Member

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    Amy, I know your getting lots of advice on this issue and not all of it is the same so I know your situation is difficult.

    Have you ever watched Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer? His show is on the National Geographic Channel. He's wonderful and completely understands dog psychology. Being honest, its not a good idea to separate your dogs. This will only go to make the problem worse. I know you have good intentions by doing this and you don't want a fight to break out but watching The Dog Whisperer regarding similar issues Cesar has always said the worse thing you can do is to separate them like you are doing.

    Its interesting that you said on the walk together they were fine. I would encourage you to do more of that if possible. The more the dogs walk together the more they will bond.

    Try emailing Cesar Millan with your issue at his website. I believe it is:

    cesarmillaninc.com

    If that's not it just google his name: Cesar Millan and you are sure to come up with it.

    Continued good luck with your problem.
     
  28. Amy L

    Amy L Well-Known Member

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    Cesar's website says it takes three questions per month, my problems are quite a bit more immediate than that. And for the moment I can't do anything about their separation since the aforementioned overnight vet stay.

    Since I'm usually such an annoyingly proud dogmommy:

    happier times (taken 2 years ago)

    The dominant female is the muttier looking one on the right. Other than being adorable... until the deathmatches... just giving you an idea on the issues I'm having trying to pull two big dogs apart.


    ignore the uglyass floors, that was taken in the middle of renovations
     
  29. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

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    They're beautiful. I'm hoping the only drama in your life tonight relates to the ladies' SP at Junior Worlds, and that all doggies chill.
     
  30. BigB08822

    BigB08822 Well-Known Member

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    They are gorgeous, Amy! I really do think you should email Cesar Millan. I bet he gets tons of emails and may never respond but mention how there are no trainers anywhere near and how much you love these dogs and need to make them be able to live together. He just may be able to help. Best of luck!