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Canine Behavior/multiple dogs in one home


QUESTION: I have a 14 yr old Australian shepard and a 7 yr old puggle. I recenlty adopted a 2.5 yr old rottie who was socialized very well with infants/children. Upon adopting her, she was an only dog. She behaves well and has shown 0 signs of agression towards my dogs or any other dogs. About 1 week ago in the morning, my puggle's collar was missing and my puggle was very scared around the rottie. When I went to pick up the puggle, I noticed one puncture wound. I took the puggle to the vet for treatment and she is okay. I found the puggles collar near the rotties kennel. I am not sure if they possibly got into it over food, toys or what since it happened over night. Or if it was a rough play as the rottie does tend to play rough. I do know that the puggle can be food aggressive now and then. Over the week I have started back to square 1. I seperated them by a baby gate, I have always feed them seperate (from day 1), I have spent the same time with each dog on a one on one basis. The rottie is kenneled at night right now. The past 2 days I have attempted to put them together, meaning with out the baby gate (closely supervised and never unsupervised, even at night). The rottie and puggle will cuddle up on the couch together and the rottie still has not shown any sign of aggression towards the puggle. My question is... Should I continue to invest time in the rottie and my dogs slowly to make a 3 dog home or should I rehome the rottie? Does my situation sound like an attack or simply a mistake over rough play or possibly a territorial mishap that? I have always had it in my mind that once a dog attacks (if this was an intentional attack), they will attack again. Your help is greatly appreciated as everyone is telling me to give it a chance as I don't know what was the leading factor was to cause the wound and that it could have been mere accident.

ANSWER: It's no "accident" when a collar is removed and there is a puncture wound.  It's not play related.  It's always possible the Rottie WAS playing and got caught on the Puggle's collar (a tooth) and then got frightened and reacted.  But a "new" dog should never be left at large and alone with other dogs in the household until temperament has absolutely been determined and this takes time.

Re-homing a Rottweiler is a difficult thing.  I don't know where you obtained her from or how you know she was so "well socialized".  You'll have to explain as fully as possible what you think you know about this dog, where you got her, what living situation she was in, how you know you have been told the truth (people lie).  Please give as full a description as possible.  Feeding multiple dogs when one is food aggressive requires either they all be slowly accustomed to free feeding (with multiple bowls around the house, and this is tricky and must be done carefully and some dogs are unable to make this adjustment), or separating the dogs at feeding time (should be twice daily).

I can't make an informed opinion without a lot more information

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QUESTION: I obtained her from a couple who had small children ranging from ages 2 on up. I believe they were like 1.5, 3, 5 and then older children. When I went to pick her up, she was indeed in contact with the children the whole time I was there to evaluate her tempermant. While there I never seen any signs of aggression towards the small children. She was livig in a home where she appeared to have free run of the house and food/water was out all the time. I do not know the couple personally, however, with my time there the couple did not appear to be hiding anything and to today we still keep in touch. I believed this rottie was well socialized due to the easy going tempermant she has. She always, regardless of who they are or if she  has ever met them, greets them without fear, agression or any hesitation. She rolls on her back for her belly to be rubbed all the time. So I guess I just assumed that with a dog so easily going with strangers must have been socialized and treated very well. Also, all my dogs, their collars are very loose on them as we live out of town and I do not want them getting a collar caught on anything so they have easy removal of the collar if needed. I am also feeding the rottie since day 1 seperately. The aussie and puggle usually eat in the same room out of seperate bowls.

One wonders why this wonderful couple in this marvelous home dumped this dog.  And that's what re-homing a dog is: dumping, unless there's an unfortunate situation (eviction, foreclosure, death, etc.) which means they absolutely cannot take the dog with them where they are moving.  Dogs need to be socialized to other dogs, as well, not just to Humans.  It's quite possible this dog has not been properly socialized to other dogs.  "Appearances" can lie and people often lie when they dump a dog. "Recently added" is I guess a euphemism for within the past few weeks.  During her time in your home, she is making an enormous adjustment: she has lost her primary caregiver(s), she is in an environment where there are other dogs with virtual "strangers" (you and other family members).  She needs to find her place in the social hierarchy.  This breed is more likely to be very strong in temperament vis a vis other dogs and it's quite possible there's a subtle power struggle among the dogs, one you don't recognize because it IS so subtle (involving body language, etc.)

A too loose collar is as good as no collar at all and, in fact, can pose a serious problem.  It will come off easily, and no matter how rural your area is the dog will then be without identification.  A too loose collar is also much more easily caught on things (twigs, branches) plus it is a problem among dogs if they are rough housing (normal benign "play").  The puncture wound could have been the result of innocent "panic" if the Rottie's teeth got caught in the collar, but the older dog would have a conditioned fear response right now to the Rottie because of the injury.

I can't see anything from here.  Your entire situation needs evaluation by an expert who can tell you whether or not this dog is a potential threat to your other dogs.  Also, a dog going belly up is not an automatic invitation to be TOUCHED.  It is a signal of submission and the correct response is to walk away for two reasons: 1. If the dog is offering this body language in submission, leaning over and touching can result in aggression; 2. If the dog is offering this body language to coerce and you routinely cooperate, you are not giving her the appropriate signals of social hierarchy (you are instead acquiescent to her demand for attention.)  There are many, many dogs who will go belly up and this behavior is misconstrued as a "friendly" gesture until the dog acquires learned helplessness, knows her body language is not "working" and resorts to self defense.  It's highly unlikely that this Rottie is going belly up for "attention", not with small children as you report in her former home, and certainly not from former owners who took a breed that can easily be re-homed into dangerous situations (for the dog) and just handed her over to you, a virtual stranger.

I suggest you find a certified applied animal behaviorist (NOT a dog trainer).  The Rottweiler is not a casual companion, this is a breed that requires a strong, experienced, fair, and consistent owner(s) with a knowledge of positive reinforcement training and an understanding of the unique emotional and psychological needs of the breed.  You can find a CAAB at one of the following sites:

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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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