Canine Behavior/Labrador aggresion towards packmate
I have a two year old female lab named Ellie who will at any opportunity attack my 12 year old female maltese cross, Rosie. Ellie plays really well with other dogs, including our one year old male maltese cross. However I have to keep Ellie and Rosie separated at all times. Sometimes Ellie sneaks in the house and she runs straight to Rosie and locks her jaws around her neck, and it takes me, my Mum and my two brothers to break Ellie's grasp. She just holds on to poor Rosie and refuses to let go. This has happened at least three times, though we of course try to prevent it. Each time I've taken Rosie to the vet and she's been treated for bite wounds and shock. Ellie is such a sweet dog and I love her to bits, but I can't let this go on anymore because I am worried for Rosie's safety. I just don't understand why she only shows this aggression to the one dog, whereas she is so sweet natured around other dogs and children. I would really appreciate your help.
Thankyou for your time.
It's not uncommon for one bitch in a household with other(s) bitches to develop on sight attack mode. Why? In this case, I can only hazard a guess.
Rosie is elderly; her body language is most likely being affected by her age and may be "unreadable" to Ellie. Rosie also may have underlying biological issues you are not aware of but are obvious (through scent or behavior) to Ellie. There is no remedy for this. It's gotten past the point of remedy.
You have two options: keep Rosie in a place in the house where she is COMPLETELY unavailable to Ellie. Unfortunately, this means you will have to give Ellie "outdoor" time or "time out" area (behind locked door) so Rosie can have fair access to the house and, conversely, Rosie will have to spend time behind locked door when Ellie has fair run of the house. Under NO circumstances can these two meet, for any reason whatever, at any time. Rosie will eventually be killed.
Second option: very, very carefully and with great discernment and investigation re-home Ellie. This means references that can be checked (including veterinary), preferably a single dog household WITH NO YOUNG CHILDREN and no intention of having them. House check must be done where you can bring Ellie and observe her in that environment. Adoption "contract" must be made: temporary custody of Ellie for one month while you have free access to visit and expect honest answers to honest questions. The simple (notarized, if you do that in Australia) statement by adopting party that, after one month of foster care, should they want to part with Ellie, THEY MUST NOTIFY YOU and give you adequate time to respond.
The fact that Ellie is behaving in this manner toward Rosie can be an indication of serious temperament flaw. The Labrador Retriever has a "soft mouth" and a "soft temperament", is playful, bidable, and a big over excited in young years. One should NOT be behaving in the manner you describe. It is therefor quite important she be re-homed very, very carefully.
Your third option is to bring all of this to the attention of your veterinarian. Rosie requires an in depth examination including super blood chemistry. If Ellie is not spayed, she should be given a course of progesterone to see if this decreases her aggression toward Rosie. But even with the intervention of a sophisticated professional, the risk to to Rosie is far too great at this point and a person WILL be hurt (possibly seriously) during one of these attacks.
Now, Ellie accepts the juvenile Maltese hybrid most likely because it is a male (and most male domestic dogs will acquiesce to a bitch even if the bitch is spayed) and is also quite emotionally immature. Playing "nice" with dogs outside her own space doesn't prove a thing. I suggest you put Ellie on Nothing In Life Is Free. You do this by teaching (re-teaching) "sit" using positive reinforcement only, as described here:
:::::::::::::::::::::::::::: start source, Karen Pryor DVM ::::::::::::::::::::::::
KAREN OVERALL'S BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION PROGRAM
Protocol for Relaxation
This program is the foundation for all other behavior modification programs. Its purpose is to teach the dog to sit and stay while relaxing in a variety of circumstances. The circumstances change from very reassuring ones with you present to potentially more stressful ones when you are absent. The purpose of the program is not to teach the dog to sit; sitting (or lying down, if the dog is more comfortable) is only a tool. The goals of the program are to teach the dog to relax, to defer to you, to enjoy earning a salary for an appropriate, desirable behavior, and to develop, as a foundation, a pattern of behaviors that allow the dog to cooperate with future behavior modification (generally desensitization and counter conditioning). This protocol acts as a foundation for teaching the dog context-specific appropriate behavior. The focus is to teach the dog to rely on you for all the cues as to the appropriateness of its behavior so that it can then learn not to react inappropriately.
About Food Treats
This program uses food treats. Remember, the treats are used as a salary or reward, not as a bribe. If you bribe a problem dog, you are defeated before the start. It is often difficult to work with a problem dog that has learned to manipulate bribes, but there are creative ways - often using the use of head collars - to correct this situation. First, find a food that the dog likes and that it does not usually experience. Suggestions include boiled, slivered chicken or tiny pieces of cheese. Boiled, shredded chicken can be frozen in small portions and defrosted as needed. Individually wrapped slices of cheese can be divided into tiny pieces suitable for behavior modification while still wrapped in plastic, minimizing waste and mess. Consider the following guidelines in choosing a food reward:
1. Foods that are high in protein may help induce changes in brain chemistry that help the dog relax.
2. Dogs should not have chocolate.
3. Some dogs do not do well with treats that contain artificial colors or preservatives
4. Dogs with food allergies or those taking monoamine oxidase inhibitor drugs may have food restrictions (for instance, cheese for dogs taking deprenyl).
5. Dog biscuits generally are not sufficient motivation, but some foods are so desirable that the dog is too stimulated by them to relax - something between these two extremes is preferred.
6. Treats should be tiny (less than half the size of a thumbnail) so that the dog does not get full, fat, or bored.
7. If the dog stops responding for one kind of treat, try another.
8. Do not let treats make up the bulk of the dog's diet; the dog needs its normal, well-balanced ration.
The Reward Process
Rewarding dogs with food treats is an art. Learning to do so correctly helps the dog focus on the exercises and keeps everyone safe. To prevent the dog from lunging for the food, keep the already prepared treats in a little cup or plastic bag behind your back and keep one treat in the hand used to reward the dog. That hand can then either be kept behind your back so that the dog does not stare at the food or can be moved to your eye so that you can teach the dog to look happy and make eye contact with you. The food treat must be small so that the focus of the dog's attention is not a slab of food but rather your cues. A treat of the correct size can be closed in the palm of the hand by folding the fingers and will not be apparent when held between the thumb and forefingers. When presenting the dog with the treat, bring the hand, with a lightly closed fist, up quickly to the dog (do not startle the dog), and turn your wrist to open your hand.
When starting the program, let the dog smell and taste the reward so that it knows the anticipated reward for the work. If the dog is too terrified to approach, you can place a small mound of the treat on the floor. Then ask the dog to "sit;" if the dog sits instantly, say "Good girl (boy)!" and instantly open your hand to give the dog the treat while saying "stay."
Getting the Dog's Attention
If the dog does not sit instantly, call its name again. As soon as the dog looks at or attends to you, say, "Sit." If the dog will not look at you and pay attention, do not continue to say, "Sit." If you continue to give a command that you cannot reinforce, the dog learns to ignore that command. If necessary, use a whistle or make an unusual sound with your lips to get the dog's attention. As soon as the dog looks at you, say, "Sit." Use a cheerful voice. Some people may have to soften or lower their voices almost to a whisper to get the dog to pay attention to them. Often this is because they have given all their previous commands to the dog by yelling. The dog has very successfully learned to ignore this.
If the dog is looking at you but hot sitting, approach the dog to close the distance, raise the treat gently to your eyes, and request "sit." Often just moving toward a dog helps the dog sit. Not only have you decreased the distance, you appear taller and to be over the dog; such behaviors are used in canine communication to get the lower (in relative elevation) dog to obey the desires of the higher one. You can use these innate dog behaviors as long as you are careful. Never back up a dog that is growling. Never corner a fearful dog. Never continue to approach a dog that acts more aggressively the closer you come. Remember, the point of the program is to teach the dog to relax and look to you for cues about the appropriateness of its behavior. The dog cannot do this if upset.
If the dog still will not sit, consider using a head collar. By using a long-distance lead you can request that the dog "sit" and gently enforce this from a distance by pulling on the lead. Reward with a treat as soon as the dog sits.
If your dog is aggressive or if you are concerned about approaching it, do not do any of these exercises off-lead until the dog is perfect on-lead. Fit the dog with a head collar and work with the dog only on a lead at the outset. The halter allows you to close the dog's mouth if the dog begins to be aggressive. This is an ideal correction because it meets the rule that psychologists have established for ideal "punishment": you have interrupted the dog's inappropriate behavior within the first few seconds of the beginning of the behavior so that the dog can learn from the experience. Be gentle but consistent. Taking your anger or fear out on the dog will only worsen the behavior. As soon as the dog responds to the halter and calmly sits, reward the dog and continue. Never reward a dog that is growling, lunging, barking, shaking, or urinating.
After the dog sits for the first time you are ready to begin the program. Remember the following guidelines:
1. Use the dog's name to get the dog to orient toward you and to pay attention. If this does not work, use a whistle or a sound to which the dog is not accustomed.
2. Once the dog is paying attention to you, say "sit" and give the dog 3 to 5 seconds to respond. If the dog does sit, reward it instantly; if not, repeat the "sit" command in the same calm, cheerful voice. You may want to experiment with voices to see the tonal qualities to which your dog best responds.
3. Do not worry about using the dog's name frequently or about repeating the commands if the dog responds. This is not obedience class, but if you later wish to take the dog to obedience class, the dog will do well if it did well on these programs. Making the adjustment will not be a problem.
4. Do not chase the dog around the room to try to get it to comply with you. If necessary, choose a small room with minimal distractions and use a leash. A head collar provides even more instantaneous response. Use head halters and other collars kindly.
A sample sequence could look like this:
"Bonnie - sit - (3-second pause) - sit - (3-second pause) - Bonnie, sit - (move closer to the dog and move the treat to your eye) - sit - (Bonnie sits) - good girl! (treat) - stay - good girl - stay (take a step backward while saying "stay" - then stop) - stay Bonnie - good girl - stay (returning while saying "stay" - then stop) - stay Bonnie - good girl! (treat) - okay (the releaser and Bonnie can get up)!" - Bonnie happily gets up and watches calmly for your next signal.)
Note that you talk nonstop to the dog during these programs. This type of talking is not allowed in obedience classes but is desperately needed with inexperienced puppies and problem dogs. These dogs need all the cues that they can get. They need the constant guidance and reassurance of hearing your voice with clear instructions. These instructions and reassurances should occur in the context of shaping or gradually guiding their behavior toward more appropriate behaviors. You will have to learn to read subtle cues that your dog is giving and use these to your advantage. You will find it easier than you believe. The one thing that you absolutely cannot do is to talk a continuous stream to the dog without receiving the context-appropriate responses to your requests. If you rush through everything, you will only stress the dog and teach it to ignore everything you say. This is not good. A corollary of this admonition is that it is necessary to use consistent terminology and brief phrases and to do so in an environment when no one else is carrying on long, loud, distracting conversations.
Do not push or pull on your dog or tug on its collar to get the dog to sit. These types of behaviors can be viewed as challenges by some dogs and may make them potentially dangerous. Use the methods discussed in the Protocol for Deference. If you really believe that the dog needs some physical help in sitting, use a head collar.
Do not wave your hands or the treat around in front of the dog. Part of the point of this program is to make the dog calmer and less confused. Excitable behavior on your part or unclear signals can make your dog more anxious. This does not help.
It is important to be calm. Yur dog will make mistakes. This does not reflect on you. Problem dogs and new puppies require a lot of patience. The people who have had the most success with these protocols have been those who work the hardest and most consistently.
Do not let your dog be a jack-in-the-box. You must control the situation, and you must achieve that control by convincing the dog to defer to you. If the dog gets up to get the treat every time it is offered, the dog controls the situation. When the dog does this, consider whether you were too far away from the dog when you offered the treat. If so, move closer. Ideally, the dog should be able to get the treat just by stretching its neck. The dog should not need to get up. If you have a small dog, this may mean that you need to squat down to offer the reward. Be careful if the dog is aggressive because your face is now close to the dog. If you are close enough for the dog to do the exercise properly and the dog still gets up, close your hand over the treat and say "No." One advantage of holding the treat in this manner is that you can safely deny the dog the treat at the last second if the dog acts inappropriately. The ask the dog to sit again. After the dog sits, say "Stay," wait 3 to 5 seconds, say "stay" again, and then give the treat. The two "stays" with the period between them will reinforce the dog that it cannot get up when it wants to - the dog must be released. By asking the dog to stay twice, you are telling it that whenever it makes a mistake, it must do two things to recover from it. A sample sequence follows:
"Susie - sit - (3 to 5- second pause) - sit - (Susie sits) - good girl! - stay(start to give treat and dog gets up) - no! - (close hand over treat) - sit - (Susie sits) - stay - (3 to 5-second pause) - stay - good girl - stay - good girl! - stay (give treat) - okay!" (Dog is now allowed to get up and does so.)
Do not tell the dog that it is good if it is not. Do not reward shaking, growling, whining, or any other behavior that may be a component of the behavior you are trying to correct. If the dog gets impatient and barks for attention, say "No! Quiet! - stay - good girl - stay - good girl - (treat) - stay…" If a vocal command is not sufficient to quiet the dog, remember that a head collar can be pulled forward to close the mouth and abort the bark before it starts, so that your correction is the most appropriate possible.
Finally, if you accidentally drop a food treat and the dog gets up to get it, do not correct the dog (the dog did not make the mistake and you did not deliberately drop the treat). Just start at the last point.
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The basis in behavior and psychological effect of NILIF (Nothing In Life Is Free) is defined here:
:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: start source, Debra Horwitz DVM::::::::::::
Changing the Owner-Pet Relationship
Debra Horwitz, DVM, Diplomate ACVB
Veterinary Behavior Consultations
St. Louis, Missouri
When an owner is having problems with their pet, there are both owner driven factors and pet driven factors that are contributory. Some animals with problem behaviors are normal but have learned that certain behaviors are tolerated and beneficial for them. Other animals may be abnormal and respond to owner interaction in a different manner than expected1. In some situations the owner is interacting with the pet in an inappropriate manner that although unintended may prolong, worsen, or facilitate the problem behavior. The pet on the other hand, is often unaware of what the owner considers proper behavior and therefore is choosing behaviors that it feels are the most appropriate responses. What commonly occurs is miscommunication between the owner and their pet. The owner is using a human form of communication, reasoning and language, something most pets do not understand in the same manner as intended by their owners. The pet however, is communicating in the manner most appropriate for its species, and therefore often misunderstood by the human. The first step in behavior therapy is changing the pet-owner relationship and creating clear rules and expectations. This must be done in a manner that is understood by the pet. The goal of changing how owners and their pets communicate is to create an environment where it is easier for the owner to control the pet and thus elicit good behavior. This step is most useful in treating behavior problems in companion dogs.
The theory involved in changing the pet owner relationship is that cross species communication often results in misunderstandings and thus problem behaviors. Therefore, clearer communication is needed. Owners frequently misunderstand a dog's expectations in social communication and group living. Communication is a behavior that has a goal and a function. Communication is an action that takes place between a sender and a receiver. 2 For communication to be functional, the receiver must understand the message. The information that is transferred between sender and receiver can have 4 possible outcomes: 1.) benefit the sender and receiver, 2.) benefit the sender and manipulate the receiver, 3.) disadvantage the sender and benefit the receiver (eavesdropping), 4.) disadvantage the sender and the receiver (spite).2 Although owners often feel that the fourth option spite is taking place, most likely what is occurring is a miscommunication between species. Without clear communication problems can arise. The goal is to give the pet clear signals of what is expected so that behavior can begin to change and conform to owner's expectations. By bundling a series of learning and control tasks together, the owner can create an environment for clearer communication.
When owners seek help with their problem dog, the problem may be labeled a "dominance" or leadership problem, which can be a simplification of the issue. Practitioners of applied animal behavior interpret dominance hierarchies, ranking and how they interact in the human-dog relationship many different ways and may use varying criteria to define dominance 3, 4, 5. The concept of dominant and subordinate relationships between animals was developed from observation of animals (wolves, baboons, chickens) living in social groups. 6 Social hierarchies arranged around dominant and subordinate relationships decrease the conflict associated with the allocation of critical resources, i.e. food, shelter, mates and territory7. When living in social groups, canids will establish dominance hierarchies that may dictate access to certain resources such as food, resting places, favored possessions, territory and mates but may or may not involve aggression 8. These social relationships can be extended to the human members of the household9. However, a case could be made that dominance behavior may occur without aggression and instead be about control of the outcome. In domestic canid groupings, overt aggression is rare and deference common8. Owners often inadvertently reinforce a dominant outcome for the dog by deferring to the dog's demands. This sets the dog up as the one in charge, and each interaction that ends with deference to the dog reinforces that assumption. So perhaps the issue is not always one of "dominance" as much as one of control. The animal has learned that certain behaviors result in certain outcomes, which are favorable to the dog. In addition, often a behavior occurs because it can, in other words, the owners do not prevent the dog from engaging in a certain behavior and that in and of itself can be reinforcing. Some dogs that control their environment may do so because it is important to them to be in control. Others may control because they can but yet are anxious about the outcome. Changing the pet-owner relationship focuses on "control" of the dog, which often prohibits the dog from engaging in behaviors that "control" the environment and thus the owner. This alone can have an effect on the expression of problem behaviors.
None of the elements in this program are new. They have been used before and discussed many places in the applied animal behavior literature. The goal of this program is to place them together and counsel the owner on how and why changing the pet-owner relationship is beneficial to them and their pet. Initially, the owner is educated about canid social structure. Second, the owner is told how dogs communicate and what dominance and subordinance mean to dogs. Third, how animals learn is briefly explained to the owner. Finally, owners are told of how increasing their control over their dog is a positive action that can make their dog more relaxed and compliant in the long term.
The first step is a program that requires the dog to comply with an owner command to obtain anything the dog wants. This has been called numerous things since its inception. ("Nothing in life is free" by Dr. Victoria Voith10 and "No such thing as a free lunch" and "Learn to earn" by William E. Campbell11) In essence, the dog is required to follow an owner command, such as "sit" to obtain anything that the dog wants. This could be access to the outdoors to eliminate, food, petting, a ball the list is endless. The goal is for the dog to "earn" everything they desire by deferring to the owner. Deference is accomplished when the dog follows the command to sit or down. If the dog performs the command prior to being asked, it must do something else. This is critical. Unless the owner gives a command and then the dog complies, the dog is still controlling the situation and deference has not occurred. The goal is for the owner to have control. Although many owners have been told that they should control their dog, usually they are counseled to use physical control methods. While an owner can have control by trying to physically control a dog this can be difficult and potentially dangerous. Instead, in this program the owner uses their ability to physically control the environment and the resources to control the dog. By using benign control of resources and deference for access, the owners place themselves in a "dominant" position. It is not necessary for the owner to physically control the dog, merely to control access to things the dog wants. If the dog will not obey the command, the resource is withheld. In essence the dog is offered a choice-do you want the resource enough to comply or not. For some dogs the answer is yes, for others the answer may be no. Once the dog has learned to comply, if they defer by waiting quietly, the resource may be given.
The second step is control of attention. Many dogs with problem behaviors engage in numerous attention seeking behaviors. These include nudging the owner, pushing, leaning, barking, whining, pacing, scratching the owner, bringing toys and climbing on the owners lap to get attention. The attention can even be "negative" attention such as pushing the dog away or yelling at it; the desired response is an interaction. Some dogs use attention seeking behavior to control the owner, while other may have underlying anxieties which stimulate them to constantly seek information about their environment and social status12. In either case, the owners are told that they must ignore all attention seeking behaviors. If the dog approaches them for attention, they must ignore the dog. If the dog persists, then they must leave the room. Again, their response is to be benign. They are not to allow the dog to engage them in any interaction. However, this is not a prescription for ignoring the dog. They can give the dog attention, but with certain rules.
• They are only to give attention to the dog on their initiative.
• The attention should be given when the dog is calm and quiet.
• The goal is to reward calm, quiet, good behavior with positive owner-pet interaction.
They can call the dog over, request that the dog sit or lie down and then pet the dog. However, it is also critical that they end the interaction and send the dog away. If the problem is aggression, the type and amount of interaction are structured and detailed for the owner. This program of controlling attention has been used in other treatment plans for various behavior problems. 13, 14, 15 These rules also extend to how they are to play with their pet. The owner is instructed to only play with the pet when they initiate the playtime and end the game when they are done. The owner is encouraged to play games such as fetch, or engage in a walk with the dog if they can control the pace of the walk.
Finally, the dog is taught to sit/stay or down/stay on a verbal command. Eventually the dog should be able to sit while the owner leaves the room, returns and releases the dog. Once the dog can do this well, the owner is to introduce a verbal phrase to signal relaxation such as "chill", "relax" or "easy". Again the goal is to teach the dog to take contextual cues from the owner. When given the "chill" command, the dog is to be watching the owner with a calm, relaxed facial expression and body posture. If the owner tells the dog to "chill" the dog learns that this means to focus on my owner and wait for the next command. To facilitate learning this task, food rewards are used. This task is useful as a basis for counterconditioning, which is often used in behavior modification programs for other problem behaviors.7, 16, 17, 18 This program has also been called "Protocol for relaxation: behavior modification tier 1" by Karen Overall. 19
The techniques described have been combined various ways in treatment protocols for separation anxiety, dominance aggression, fear aggression and compulsive behaviors7, 12,13,14.
Potential problems and pitfalls
This plan is not without its problems. Many owners have difficulty ignoring the attention seeking behaviors. What they like about their pet is the persistence and the perceived "need" the pet has for them. These owners are unaware of how their actions are reinforcing behaviors that they do not like or may be contributing to the problem behavior. It is imperative that the concept of control be explained to the owner and how their behavior can change the problem behavior exhibited by their pet. In addition, it is important that the owner not feel as though they are neglecting their pet. Therefore, they must be given guidelines for appropriate interactions. This can include a list of appropriate games, walks, and number of times that they can call the dog and pet it. Each case will be different and have different needs to encourage compliance. If aggression is the major problem then the owners must also be given instructions for safety around their pet and avoidance of further injury.
Another problem area can occur 10-14 days into the program. Many animals will initially respond well to the new rules for interaction. However, once they realize that the rules have changed, some dogs will increase their efforts to get the owner to interact in the old manner. This usually results in the dog engaging in attention seeking behaviors at even a higher level than previously exhibited. This is an extinction burst. If owners are warned about this phenomenon, they are prepared and ready to continue the program and wait out the pet. Many dogs will then return to compliant behavior if the owner persists with the plan.
This is not meant to be a stand alone treatment plan for any and all behavior problems. Neither does it replace the need for complete behavioral histories and diagnosis of behavior problems. Nearly all dog owners are given this plan as an adjunct to a more complete behavior modification program designed to treat their specific problem(s). In each case this plan can act as a framework for beginning to change problem behaviors. Each environment and problem will be different and require modifications to this plan as well as a more in-depth behavioral treatment plan. However, what often is surprising is that many dogs improve greatly as judged by owner reports with only these three steps. What this plan seems to accomplish is to allow owners to change the way they interact with their pet with easy to follow and understand steps. Once owners see that they have the ability to control their pet, and in many cases still have a satisfying relationship, they are often empowered to continue to shape behaviors in more positive directions.
Changing the pet-owner interaction is the first step in behavior therapy. It allows owners to be in control of their pet and its behavior in a benign way. When done correctly it empowers the owner to change their pet's behavior. This will often encourage them to go further and work on specific problems. When explained correctly owners gain a better understanding of canine communication and learning and can use this information in all their interactions with their pet.
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This protocol psychologically forces a dog to find a place in social hierarchy behind its humans without restraint, punishment or anything negative. It results in a calmer dog, more bidable, less likely to act impulsively.
However, because Ellie has attacked (and seriously injured) Rosie, she has lost bite inhibition. This loss of bite inhibition MAY (MAY) indicate a threat toward humans at some point (especially children). Treat Ellie as a problem because she is one. And there aren't too many people out there ready, willing or able to adopt problem dogs.