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Canine Behavior/Samoyed suddenly aggressive towards younger dog


Hi there!

I have a 7 year old Samoyed, Diogee, that we have had since 10 weeks old.  He is a happy, sweet dog that gets along good with other people and pets.  When we adopted Diogee, we had an elder Keeshond and several housecats.  A year later we adopted a Pomeranian.  When my older Kees passed, a few months later we purchased another Kees, and two years later we purchased another Kees pup (Smushy) at 9 weeks old who just turned 8 months old.  All pets have gotten along great with no issue.

Smushy and Diogee have always played very well together.  Smushy is a very sweet happy dog and is very attached to me. Diogee is more attached to my husband.

A little over a week ago, Diogee and Smushy were playing tug with a toy when suddenly Diogee yelped.  When I checked him, he was holding his head sideways and his ear was doing the gremlin ear.  I thought perhaps Smushy had grabbed onto his ear during play, so I separated them.  Later that night, Diogee started to growl at Smushy and kinda went after him, pinning him down.  Smushy was scared and did not fight back.  The next day Diogee was still acting wierd with his ear so I checked it and turns out he had an ear infection (which I am sure Smushy did not cause, but most likely made it hurt if he grabbed onto it).  I took Diogee to the vet and he was given Prednisone, antibiotics and an ear wash.  He does not like his ears touched to begin with, and this ordeal is really aggrivating him.  Since that time, he has gone after Smushy about four times and Smushy was not bothering him at all.  There are many times during the day when they are fine together, they go outside in the yard together and no issues, but then in the house Diogee will just look at Smushy and start growling and barking at him and acting like he wants to go after him.  Now Smushy is afraid of him and is slinking around.

I spoke to the vet and she said the ear infection and the Pred could cause him to act aggressive.  It seems like Diogee is associating Smushy with the pain in his ear perhaps?

Additionally, just last week Smushy started to lift his leg and mark, so I am wondering if this is coming in to play as well.  All of the dogs are male and neutered, with the exception of Smushy.

I am very concerned with this behavior and want to do whatever I can to nip it in the bud before it escalates and someone gets hurt or develops a permanent attitude.  Smushy is crated during the day and at night so he is safe while I'm at work.  I have been keeping them separated with a baby gate for now, with Smushy in my office and Diogee having the run of the house as he typically does.  We have a very small house so it is hard to create separation.  Earlier Diogee growled and barked at Smushy thru the gate, even though Smushy wasn't doing anything except for playing with me on the floor.

I am baffled at this behavior because Diogee has always been a sweet, laid back dog, and him and Smushy have always been good friends.  Smushy truly seems confused and I'm worried this is going to affect him, especially as my hope was to train him to be a therapy dog.

Sorry this was so long, I appreciate any help or guidance you can give.

Thank you!

The single most important statement made here:  "I'm worried this is going to affect him (smushy) especially as my hope was to train him to be a therapy dog."

You are far from a casual dog owner.  You have a household of "difficult" dogs.  The Samoyed was bred as a hunter and guard dog; the Keeshond as a watch dog and family companion.  Your Keeshond is exhibiting the PERFECT RESPONSE and seems quite well suited as a therapy dog.  Your Samoyed has definitely connected Smushy with his pain and is beginning to make statements of social hierarchy (rank) to which Smushy is responding by "marking".

I can't fix this in a text box but it CAN be fixed.  Since you are an experienced and educated person with a definite plan for your Smushy, I STRONGLY suggest you find a certified applied animal behaviorist (CAAB)  -   NOT A DOG TRAINER  - who can interview you and other humans, each dog individually, and then observe them together.  It's quite likely that, once the ear infection is cleared up and perhaps the Samoyed put on a short course of propanolol (beta blocker that truncates the rush of adrenaline which spurs a fight/flight situation), this CAAB can establish actual social hierarchy among the dogs by observation and instruct you on how to establish it, with each dog individually and together, while offering suggestions (Keeshond should be neutered) on behavior modification.

You can find a CAAB by calling the veterinary college in your area or from the following sites:

This must be done IMMEDIATELY.  The short term control of this situation MUST be SHORT TERM (because we may be "promoting" the "wrong" dog): put a house tab on the Samoyed.  When he begins to show signs of irritability and intention to go after the Keeshond, PICK UP THE TAB (a house tab is a lightweight leash).  Say nothing, do nothing, stand there.  If the Keeshond attempts to take advantage of this restraint upon the Samoyed, ASK HIM TO SIT AND STAY (I assume you've trained him to this extent, if you plan to have him certified).  Wait for the Samoyed to be VISIBLY CALM, ask HIM to "sit and stay", praise and release both dogs.  Do not crate the Keeshond in plain view of the Samoyed: this may be giving the Samoyed the wrong signal regarding his place in social hierarchy.  Prednisone does increase anxiety and aggression but there's a problem brewing between these two to begin with:  tug of war is not "play" (as in with children), it is a TEST of social hierarchy.  There's no reason the Samoyed cannot be put on a veterinary dose of propanalol right now.

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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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