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Canine Behavior/Sibling rivalry


Bear & Fozzie #2
Bear & Fozzie #2  
Bear & Fozzie
Bear & Fozzie  
QUESTION: We got an 8 week old chow puppy in February 2012 (Stuffy). We then got his brother Bear in September 2012. The same person who had Bear had the other brother, Fozzie, and we got him, also, in November 2012. Stuffy was neutered in June 2012 and Bear and Fozzie were neutered in November 2012. Bear and Fozzie lived in the same home from 8 weeks of age until we got Bear in September. I don't know just how they were treated in that home.

Stuffy gets along fine with both Bear and Fozzie. Bear attacks Fozzie mainly, Fozzie won't even be looking in Bear's direction and Bear will out of the blue attack him. No food or toys or anything else present. Yet (before we started keeping them separated), sometimes they could walk past one another without a problem 3-4 times but then the 5th time - BANG! - Bear would attack him. I have pulled Bear off of him when this has happened.

We now play "musical dogs" in that either Bear or Fozzie is in the living room with a baby gate in the doorway while Stuffy and whichever one isn't in the living room is in the rest of the house. We alternate each time they go outside to go potty and we alternate each night while we sleep. Each day we spend some time with each of them on a leash while we are in the same room. They can sometimes be laying down mere inches apart with no problems. But sometimes, again, Fozzie, not even looking in Bear's direction and Bear will try to attack him however, because he is on a leash, we are able to stop that from happening.

Bear is not inherently an aggressive dog he sees other dogs when we go for walks and he doesn't even bark at them and he gets along with Stuffy just fine (although we do have to be careful with 2 of our cats that he tries to chase our third cat has showed him who is boss and he doesn't dare mess with her). Fozzie has gotten somewhat to the point the last time Bear attacked him that he wants to fight back now. I swear it seems like Bear would probably be okay with any other dog (although this has never been put to the test) except for Fozzie. Any suggestions would be appreciated more than words can convey. Unfortunately I cannot afford a behaviorist.

I should also mention that at times, Bear can get to where I am somewhat afraid of him so I can't always make him do things - although when he does get that way, within 2 minutes of just standing next to him but not trying to move at all (for example, if I am trying to take him on a short lead to the living room), he will calmly do as I want him to.

We have had them separated like this for 7 months now. What is strange is that at times, they can stand on either side of the gate and play "kissy face" - yet if they were in the same room, all 4 feet on the floor, I know that Bear would attack Fozzie.

Also, the times he did attack Fozzie, there was never any blood, only fur.

I now realize how fortunate we were in the past when we had 4 dogs (2 chow brothers, 1 female chow and 1 male chow mix) that all got along together just fine. We lost 2 of them to old age and 2 to cancer.

We paid over $300 to a certified behaviorist approximately one month ago. Without ever even observing the two dogs with the problem (and only seeing Fozzie from two rooms away) she recommended to either re-home Fozzie or to euthanize Bear. I would never consider either of those terrible things.

I finally found a muzzle that I think is going to work for Bear so that we can try to get him together with Fozzie without leashes. Right now, he is still getting used to the muzzle - he acts like wearing the muzzle paralyzes him and he is just now starting to realize that yes, he can indeed move while wearing it.

I will never give up on my boys. I am attaching a picture of just how close they can be (with each of them on a leash) with no problems - which to me says that this is not a hopeless case.

I do have 2 short videos of one time when Bear attacked Fozzie on youtube. The addresses for these 2 videos are: and

ANSWER: You have an EXTREMELY difficult situation on your hands.  The Chow Chow is notoriously difficult as a casual companion (although you seem to have had success with them in the past).  Siblings are especially difficult to manage.  "Attack on sight" or, in this case, most likely a communication between them that you don't SEE (because it happens in 1/10 of a second) is a dangerous situation.  Bear, as you report, seemingly attacks Fozzie even when Fozzie is NOT LOOKING AT HIM (in other words: offering a calming signal and subdominance, breaking eye contact, turning head away, etc.)  Bear has ALSO CHALLENGED YOU (this might have something to do with the inhumane muzzle and leash).  Dog to dog aggression can be, and often is, a precursor to dog to human aggression.  The male Chow Chow is renowned for "turning" on its owners.

This is overall bad breeding (never obtain another Chow Chow from this breeder or from any other, for that matter; this is not a companion breed unless exquisitely bred and, in that case, there is a very long line waiting for puppies).  

The muzzle is punishing, it is not humane.  The dog can't pant (which releases heat and also expressions emotion), the dog can't yawn (another calming signal), the dog is restrained on short leash.  The AGGRESSOR is Bear ("bear attacks fozzie").  So you are now giving Fozzie (who is subdominant) a clear signal that Bear (on short leash and muzzled) is not able to communicate, and this heavily confuses social hierarchy between them.  LOOK AT YOUR PICTURE.  Bear is sitting, muzzled (inhumanely) and leashed; Fozzie is lying down (a sign of subdominance) with his head turned away (a sign of non-threat).  These two dogs are SO mixed up regarding their status between one another at this point, and SO aware of YOUR fear of their interaction, that this has become a quite complex situation.  I cannot solve it in a text box.

I'm sorry that you had a problem with a so-called "animal behaviorist" but there are far too many dog trainers out there who can call themselves anything, and do OFTEN.  A Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist is someone with educational credentials from University, who is a member of an organization without which credentials no one belongs, who has published, who is known by name at the teaching veterinary school in your geographical area, and who is NOT AFRAID TO INTERACT WITH YOUR DOGS.  NO ONE can assess a problem without interviewing both dogs, separately, together under control, and reading body language.  A true consultation should take at least two to three hours and, if the CAAB is truly a professional, you can then choose to accept, or reject, his/her suggestions.  You must check REFERENCES, you must ask for at least ONE veterinary reference, you must SEE educational credentials.  $300 is a relatively small fee for a REAL evaluation (over two hours) at this point in time, but this "behaviorist" is a fraud, I can tell you that much.  S/he was afraid of your dogs and with good reason: the Chow Chow is a potentially quite dangerous dog and a rank opportunist male Chow Chow (which your Bear appears to be) is especially dangerous because THAT DOG will KNOW on SIGHT who that CAAB is.  I've been in homes where I literally had to ignore the dog in question for over an hour before engaging him because I understand the psychology and can read the body language.

The true rank opportunist in your pack (appears to be Bear, but Fozzie is not totally exonerated, they are far too close in temperament being litter mates) cannot be re-homed BUT, if removed, you could (without expert help) find the two remaining in a similar situation.

You absolutely need the expert help of a REAL Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist WITH educational credentials, long term experience with dog to dog aggression, and many references you can check.  If you do NOT do this, your dogs are suffering terribly and this situation will resolve in only one way, eventually: you will slip up one day and these two dogs will kill each other or at least fight to the death of one of them, and possibly YOU, as well.

Call the veterinary college in your geographical area and ask for CAAB referral or look at the following sites.  Remember: any trainer can say they're anything (I've saved multiple dogs from euthanasia based upon phoney "behaviorist" recommendations) but, it might be necessary for you to, ultimately, re-home the friendliest of these two ONLY WITH THE HELP OF THE AKC BREED CLUB which understands the breed and has experienced homes waiting (hopefully):

There are certain breeds, although we may be attracted to them for various reasons, that do not make comfortable or easy companions.  This is one of them.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I agree with you - a 7 for "knowledge" was not fair. I was just upset because it seems you are prejudiced against chows. But your answer was BEYOND excellent. If there is any way I can change that 7, I would be happy to do so. You are extremely professional - after I gave you only a 7 in "knowledge", I commend you so much for still trying to help me by telling me about Dr. Ian Dunbar's videos. Thank you and please accept my apology.


P.S. I am stopping the use of the muzzle completely - your detailed explanation on that opened my eyes.

GOOD! CONGRATULATIONS!  I actually woke up last night in the middle of the night picturing that muzzle on that poor dog!  If one NEEDS a muzzle, it MUST be a basket muzzle (muzzles are quite punishing on brachycephalic breeds such as the Chow Chow).  A dog can pant, lick its lips, give calming signals, even drink, while wearing one.

I am not prejudiced in any way against Chow Chows.  Years back, the foremost breeder, Elaine Albert and I, were friends.  Her dogs were ALMOST always steady in temperament but there's almost always a THROWBACK issue so, yes, I did see a few of her dogs in their homes.  This is quite a difficult breed.  As she was the most superb breeder, she quite carefully screened for temperament over type and her dogs won in the AKC show ring and excelled as companions.

Look for a CAAB.  There may be hope.

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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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