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Canine Behavior/Two females dogs that fight


We have two female dogs. Lola is a 3yo shelter dog that looks like she may have pitbull in her.  We adopted her when she was 4-5mos old.  Bella is a 1.5yo pitbull that we adopted when she was only 4wks old.  

Up until approximately 1 year ago, they played together and got along great.  There was an occasional fight that was always initiated by the older dog when the younger wouldn't leave her alone or over food/treats/toys, etc.  We always tried to keep things away from them that we knew would cause issues.  Then Lola started attacking Bella out of nowhere (at least that's how it appeared to us) so we started keeping them separate indoors.  Outdoors they got along great, played all the time, etc.  Then about 6 months ago, Lola started attacking Bella outdoors.  It appeared to be over things that Lola had and Bella wanted (sniffing a rabbit hole, chasing a squirrel).  This lead us to completely separating them at all times, putting one in the crate and letting the other out to roam.  Then they started attacking each others' crates while the other was in there, all the time.  If they would accidentally encounter each other (due to us not closing a door all the way) it would result in an immediate fight.  When one is caged, there is regular barking and growling at each other through the cage, and occasional fights through the cage door.  The most frustrating thing is that when we take them on walks, at the beginning of the walk they greet each other very happily outdoors.  When we approach our house at the end of the walk, Lola instantly becomes tense and begins sideways glancing at Bella and wants nothing to do with her.  

My question is where do we go from here?  What can we be doing to improve our situation with them? We love them both to pieces and are willing to do whatever to keep them, but at times it seems so hopeless.  

Possibly of importance: we use e-collar for correction and guidance; we were trained by a certified dog trainer and canine rescue specialist.  We use them for control during walks and correction for attacking the window when dogs walk in our yard and for when they attack and bark at each other through the cage door.

E collars should NEVER be used except by a trained behaviorist who can read dog body language and knows exactly how to use them.  THROW THEM AWAY.  If the dog is looking at an object and gets shocked by the collar, the dog will identify that object WITH THE PAIN.  If a dog is reacting to another dog in a situation of failed social hierarchy (as in your case) and gets a shock, that dog immediately attaches the PAIN with THE OTHER DOG and now we have a fight/flight conditioned response.  This is why I don't like dog trainers; far too many do too much harm.  This situation may have been available to remedy at some point but....

When two bitches fight on sight (as is occurring here) and even attack the crate wherein one is contained, it's pretty much impossible to remedy the situation safely.  Breed mix on both brings propensity for serious injury/death on real contact with intended threat.  Human gets in the middle, ER visit, or worse, severed artery, no time for 911.  It has happened.

You need a certified applied animal behaviorist NOT some dog trainer.  This is a professional who can evaluate both dogs' temperament, asses the extent of behavioral impact of the E collar use, evaluate the dogs' body language toward one another inside AND outside (not unusual for dogs to be able to walk parallel on leash and yet get into instant "trouble" on home turf), and make a recommendation.  I can't see anything from here but I do know this: it's quite difficult to rehabilitate a problem like this between bitches and can be dangerous.  To find a CAAB:

Meanwhile: confine dogs (alternately) to room with locked door rather than crate.  The crate should never be used for this purpose and the dog is helpless in there, this attack behavior is worsening this situation to the point  where it is most likely you will have to re-home (or worse) one of these bitches.  Do not allow harassment of one dog by the other: if "free" dog goes to door and scratches, growls, etc., put up a baby gate if possible so door can't be reached and put "free" dog on house tab (leash with handle cut off) so you can use the leash to lead the dog away (say nothing, be calm), circle the dog, ask for sit, reward.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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