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Aggression issues; please help! Or is re-homing the best solution? :(
  • I'm at a lost of words and am hopeless at this point. I tried looking up related topics, but I couldn't find anything specific toward my situation. Any input or advice would help because I am truly at a lost at the moment, but before I start, please try not to judge me! I'm only wanting the best for both my dogs.

    Some background information relating to my dogs. I have a female and male named Pepper and Dexter. I got Pepper from a breeder when she was a puppy. (I don't think they're full shiba. They're mixed a little with chow, but it's a very small percentage). She's now 4.5 y/o. I also got Dexter from a similar breeder, and he's currently 4 y/o. They grew up together. They're both really sweet and have their own personalities. Pepper is very sweet, protective and friendly towards other humans. When I first got her, I socialized her as much I could. I took her to dog parks, introduced her to people on our walks, and took her to obedience school. She also went to doggy daycare several times a week. However, when she turned 3, her personality changed. She became more dog aggressive, intolerant towards other dogs, and territorial. I read on a view blogs that shibas, especially, become intolerant of other dogs after a certain age. So my husband and I made the decision not to continue taking her to dog parks and doggy daycare.

    Dexter, on the other hand, is the complete opposite of Pepper. He's very submissive, super sweet, but is very fearful of Pepper and has separation anxiety. They get daily walks of up to an hour, are equally given tons of treats and love. However, every so often, Pepper will attack Dexter unprovoked. A few minutes ago, Dexter was grooming himself and Pepper came over and attacked him. This was to the point where it left a huge gash on his face and it drew blood. (This is not the first and it probably won't be the last, unless I figure out a solution). We have gone to two highly recommended pet behaviorists and obedience training for both Pepper and Dexter. We've followed the exercises given to us. They showed temporary improvement, but lately, they've gotten into scuffles every 3 months. The duration has become more frequent. I know money should not be a concern, but long term training adds up. We love both of them equally, but it's gotten to the point where we feel hopeless and don't know what else to do. We've considered re-homing Pepper because we felt she has the best chance at adjusting to a new environment, minus dogs or cats. She has a high prey drive.

    Is it common for multiple dogs to get into these scuffles? And if so, is it normal for them to attack one and another? Or would it be best to re-home home one of the dogs, in hopes that they would both be happier? We would hate to consider the last option, but we're just at a lost. Any advice would help!

    Thank you!
    Post edited by seastar135 at 2015-04-21 21:33:29
  • Kobe1468Kobe1468
    Posts: 1590
    very sorry you are going through this. While I can't offer any specific advice, I can say that we do have threads on Multiple dog households here, that may help. And I know there are members here who have gone through similar situations....@shibamistress comes to mind.

    I know your situation hasn't gotten to this point, but here's a very good read on assessing and managing these situations. Hopefully it will help, and please know you are not the only one dealing with this most difficult situation.
    "Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."
  • @Kobe1468, Thank you for your input and the article. I thought it was a really great article and very helpful. At the moment, both dogs are kept separately from each other, but I'm not sure how long I can keep that going. Pepper always finds ways of escaping. With a heavy heart, we do have some considering to do, but we're hoping re-homing is the last resort. Thanks for your advice!
  • sunyatasunyata
    Posts: 8588
    @seastar135 - Have you taken both dogs to the vet for a full workup? If not, I suggest starting there. Sudden changes in behaviour, including aggression, can often be attributed to a medical issue in either the attacking dog or the one being attacked.

    What have your previous behaviourists told you about the behaviour? Have you tried keeping the dogs separated at all times? Why is the male fearful of the female? Is it just because of the recent behaviour changes or has it been this way since he was a puppy? Do you know if there is a genetic disposition for unprovoked aggression in the female's lineage (I am guessing not, since she was purchased from a BYB)?

    ETA: One more question - Are both dogs altered?
    Bella 2Mountains 2Nola 2
    Casey, with Bella and Nola, hanging out in the mountains of Virginia.
    I Wander, I Ride
    Post edited by sunyata at 2015-04-22 11:37:31
  • NovaNova
    Posts: 15
    I have a similar issue with my Shiba developing aggression but he is only a week shy of 5 months. In my opinion, like in general with young dog aggression, it's hormonal. When my Shiba gets aggressive, snarls even, he follows up with a thorough attempt to hump things. Can't wait to pay a man to remove his balls, to be quite frank! Hormones influence behavior a LOT more than humans realize (this goes for dogs, other animals especially small animals and people alike).

    I had researched where fixing the pup if male, can really help with aggression, but in females, getting them spayed can actually increase the aggressive behavior. Possibly linked to a drop in hormones, kind of like PMS. But if your girl is 3, I'd imagine she was spayed long ago.

    The dog aggression issue you're experiencing, doesn't sound too hormonal; kind of sounds like your two Shibas are not getting along for whatever reason. Shibas are matriarchs; the females like to be dominant. I only have one Shiba (male pup) so I haven't done too much research on that matter of dog-dog aggression. Wish I had better advice. :\

    I was going to start my own topic on my unique situation with my Shiba's aggression issues. But am hesitant. He's been snarling and "talking back" quite a bit if he doesn't get his way with chewing your hands off, or just saying "no" in general to him evokes an aggressive response, an escalation in frustration and then a good humping of everything despite adequate exercise, appropriate time-outs and positive reinforcement.
  • @Sunyata, thanks for the suggestions! They get annual check ups and they're fixed. The last comprehensive test was back in March. I mentioned Pepper's behavior to the vet, but she came back healthy. There were no abnormalities with her blood tests or physical. She's always been very dominant. From the time we brought Dexter home, she's always tried to assert dominance. We've, on many occasions, separated their feeding, taken away toys/triggers that may provoke aggression and separated them throughout the day. This was the advice from our behaviorist. He mentioned the reason for her out lash was because she is, by nature, territorial and very protective. We allowed her to dominate us and we had to change our behavior/outlook on how to raise them. The behaviorist recommended that we separate them, removing the entitlement through the "no free lunch" policy and through positive reinforcement. I'm not sure if it entirely made sense, but it worked for a bit. Pepper acts very regal, but we love her the same. As for Dexter, he has always been cautious around Pepper, even since he was a puppy. When Dexter was a puppy, the first 6 months that he lived with us, he spent most of his time with Pepper. He would always look to her for reassurance, and I think that's why he has always been very submissive towards her. We have recently become lax on their separation, but that's only because I'm home often and I'm able to keep an eye on them. Perhaps we should separate them for awhile again, but we don't think it would be fair to either of them. Pepper and Dexter should belong in a home where they aren't restricted. When we got them, we made the promise of protecting them and raising them. We still haven't given up home, but Pepper has really tested our patience.

    Both dogs are from BRB, but from the same parents. We purchased them knowing that they weren't full shiba. Both parents were on premise, were very friendly and the owners took really good care of them.
  • sunyatasunyata
    Posts: 8588
    @Seastar135 & @Nova - Just an FYI, the whole "dominance" theory has been debunked and is not relevant in dog behaviour and training. There are threads about it on the forum if you want to learn more.

    As for the behaviourist that you hired, since they subscribe to the whole dominance thing, I would dump them and hire a REAL behaviourist. One that has a degree in animal science and is certified using only positive reinforcement methods.

    In the meantime, I would go back to the vet and have them run full blood panels (the regular physical that dogs get on an annual basis does not cover much). Make sure they run a full thyroid panel as well.

    You may also want to talk to your (new) behaviourist and vet about anti-anxiety drugs for Pepper to see if that helps.

    As for the separation issue... If Dexter is nervous and anxious around Pepper, than please, for his sake, separate them. Living in constant fear of another dog has got to be horrible.
    Bella 2Mountains 2Nola 2
    Casey, with Bella and Nola, hanging out in the mountains of Virginia.
    I Wander, I Ride
  • @sunyata, thanks for your advice. If only behaviorists weren't so costly. I will look into it once we have the financial means to. As of the incident, they've been kept separate.
    Post edited by seastar135 at 2015-04-23 11:44:21
  • It is, unfortunately, common to have this happen, and yes, I lived with two dogs that tried to kill one another. (You can read more about my story in the link in my sig about Bel). It's a difficult situation to deal with. I had to keep them separated from the time she was 2 when she nearly killed my male Shiba til she died at 8 years old. It was NOT easy, and I don't recommend it, and Toby, my male, had a very hard time too--he had to be isolated from the other dogs, and he lived in fear, because anytime she was around him (and there are always slip ups when managing dogs and keeping them separate), she tried to kill him.

    I would NOT do it again. It wasn't fair to my male dog, who did finally blossom again, even making other canine friends, in his old age (after she died).

    And btw, the first "behaviorist" I hired was like yours--not a real behaviorist (they MUST have an advanced academic degree to be a real one, or be a vet). And they told me the same thing about the dominance theory. and it made the situation, much, much worse. The dominance myth will not help you and may harm the dogs. I later learned the same "behaviorist" I had hired also gave similar advice to one of my vet's other clients, and said if they simply established "dominance" and let the dogs sort out their "pack order" (all of which is false info. not based in canine behavior), then everything would be fine. In that case, the younger dogs killed the older dog.

    And it is a very real fear: my female Shiba would have killed the male if I let her. And this behavior escalates. So you can't do nothing.

    It is worth it to hire a real behaviorist, even if you can only afford the initial visit. When I finally was able to do so, I got so much better information from the real behaviorist, who observed the dogs and gave me a lot of helpful info. I had a complicated case because the female had many medical issues that needed to be resolved (she was hypothyroid and epileptic and very very fearful of people), but it was worth the money I paid to have her help. You really need to do it.

    And keep the dogs separate. And finally, from someone who has been there? I think you should rehome one of the dogs. It is a horribly hard decision, but looking back, it was not fair to my male dog (the one who was less troublesome) to keep him in such a situation where he literally lived in fear. It was not good for his health. I should have rehomed one of them. I didn't do it because I tried to rehome her, but unsurprisingly, no one wanted her (health issues, fearful, aggressive). So the thing I should have done was the harder choice: rehome the dog who I could have placed, Toby. That would have given him an easier life. I didn't, and now I'm glad to still have my old boy in my life, but I am also aware that his life no doubt would have been better somewhere else where he didn't have to live in fear.
  • aferraroaferraro
    Posts: 33
    seastar135 -

    It may have seemed out of the blue for one dog to attack the other, but they probably have been showing signs for a while. Dogs have an entire way of communicating that we most often miss.

    Some people say that dog fights are normal - I strongly disagree.

    You have tried a dog behaviorist - it seems to me this person should find another profession. If you have the time and dedication, you can work with your dogs and they can live together. They may never like each other, but you can create comfortable safe environments they both will be okay in.

    Have you tried a dog trainer? There are some awesome trainers who specialize in multi-dog homes and dog aggression. Look for one who uses dog friendly methods: no alfa rolling, dominance methods, shock collars, nor prong/choke collars. You want someone who uses positive reinforcements - it may sound lame, but I have seen amazing changes in dogs with kind, gentle methods.
  • NovaNova
    Posts: 15
    @sunyata I've done my own research on the dominance theory. When I mentioned the matriarchy I was referring to the theory that female Shibas tend to have a more dominant temperament than males. This is obviously not always the case, but it could be in this situation. And has nothing to do with the dominance theory spread around by Cesar Milan which I am already aware is controversial at best.
  • So far with my duo-shiba Kiba (male/7mo) seems to be the one that tries to keep control of things and Ahri (female/4mo) is starting to get confident and trying to keep control of things now too. So they will at times begin to argue. They get along great though, at the park they just play and at home it is a mix of playing and arguing.

    Hope the situation gets resolved, I'd hate to have to make a decision such as rehoming a loved animal but sometimes the hard decisions are the best.

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