Canine Behavior/Dog to dog aggression
QUESTION: Ok i'm resubmitting my ? as I was responded back to and told it was too long of a ?. I adopted a male adult dog from my brother a year ago, he is a lab/chow mix. We recently got two boxers one male and female. My dog will not let the male boxer around me or my family. He gets very aggressive towards him anytime we go outside or pull up in the car. The male boxer is submissive to him for the most part there have been a few fights. When we are not around they do fine together. What can I do to stop this behavior? Both males are not nurtured, female is fixed.
ANSWER: I don't know who you submitted your original question to. I'm sorry you were told it was too long. This question is almost not enough information, but I'll give you my initial thoughts based on the information you've provided.
Neutering the males may or may not help this situation. Neutering dogs often does diminish hormone-based behaviors such as fighting over females in heat. But it doesn't necessarily affect social behaviors. Neutering does have protective qualities as it eliminates the potential for testicular cancer and lowers the potential for other health issues. It also limits the likelihood of your dog escaping your yard and getting in fights or hit by cars should he smell a female in heat.
But, the crux of your current issue is that your lab/chow doesn't like your boxer to be near the humans. This is not a sexually based behavior. It sounds like resource guarding, which is actually a fear-based behavior in that the dog if fearful he will lose what he considers to be a prized possession.
You suggest that all 3 of these dogs are owned by you (or live in your house). They get on fine when you are not around (or certain other family members), but the lab/chow has a problem with your boxer trying to get some love from certain people.
Dealing with dog-dog resource guarding is a bit trickier than dealing with dog-human resource guarding as you have to keep the comfort and stress of both dogs at the forefront and you can't really explain to the boxer what you're doing to try to help the lab/chow feel better about him.
But, there are some things you can do. First: whatever the lab/chows most favorite treat in the world is - he now only gets it when the Boxer is in the room. You can start with them several feet apart (or even on opposite sides of the room), but build up slowly to having the boxer near you when you deliver that favorite treat. Slowly building means that you're not bringing the dogs closer to each other until BOTH dogs are clearly calm and relaxed. Nobody is panting excessively, snapping food out of your hand, looking sideways at each other, snarling, growling, biting, etc. Everyone is calm and relaxed when the food is given. Then you can decrease the distance by a few inches to a foot at a time.
So, now, the lab/chow will begin to associate that the Boxer being in the same space as he and you means STEAK or cheese or carrots or whatever his favorite treat is. Set up situations where you call the boxer into the room with you and the lab/chow and then immediately bring out the yummy snack (make sure you have something for both dogs - gotta keep it fair). The key is that you don't stand there holding the treat in your hand, tempting the lab/chow while you wait for the Boxer. The Boxer must come into the room BEFORE the food magically appears. This way the Boxer will begin to predict the arrival of awesomeness (but only when you're also in the room).
Second, and this one probably feels counter intuitive. Reassure the lab/chow that he's not going to lose you. Our instinct when he growls, barks, snaps is to scold him, separate him, etc. The problem with this is that he's behaving that way out of fear that the Boxer is going to usurp his place in your family. When you scold him or punish him or separate him from the family - even for a moment - you are actually telling him he's exactly right! the Boxer IS going to take his place, and so next time, the lab/chow will try to tell the Boxer "get away! don't take my place" sooner and more boldly and you end up with an escalation of the behavior.
So instead, try the opposite. If the lab/chow begins to growl or show the guarding behavior, speak in a sweet voice. Say his name and tell him how much you love him. Call him to you, ask for a simple behavior such as Sit or Shake (if he knows these) and then reward his compliance with a treat.
I used to have a dog who bullied my puppy (she's since passed away). At first I did scold her and it got worse. Then I the light bulb went off. Instead, when I heard or saw the behavior start, I'd interrupt it with "Casheeeeeewwwww..... you want a treat????" Her name was Cashew. She'd hear the word Treat and look at me. I'd call her to me, ask for a Sit or Shake or both, then reward her for complying. This would end the bullying for the time being. I kept little containers of treats in several areas around the house so they were handy to me, but out of reach of the dogs. After just a couple weeks, I could be in an entirely different room and hear the snarl, all I had to do was say her name and she'd come running to me. I didn't always give treats after the first couple weeks. Sometimes (at least 50% of the time) I just loved on her and told her she was still my favorite girl dog in the whole wide world. She was also a chow mix.
After a couple months of consistently interrupting this behavior, her bullying went from several times per day down to once every month or two. And when she did get a little bully-ish, it took far less effort on my part to disrupt it. But reassuring her that she wasn't being replaced, and that I still loved her no matter what, made a HUGE difference in her comfort and acceptance of the younger/newer dog.
So, by making the Boxer a predictor of the arrival of the favorite treat, and by reassuring your dog that he's still your favorite lab/chow mix in the world and that the Boxer will not replace him, you can go a long way toward helping them learn to cohabitate more comfortably.
If you are at all concerned about implementing these things on your own, I encourage you to seek out the assistance of a positive reinforcement trainer in your area. You want to work with someone who understands that resource guarding is FEAR and not an effort to "dominate" and whose aim is to help your lab/chow feel more comfortable and confident in the relationships in the house. There should be no use of aversives such as choke chains, prong/pinch collars, e-collars/shock collars, squirt bottles, physical force such as pokes, hits, kicks, 'alpha rolls' etc. Anyone who instructs you to use any of that is going to make this situation worse, not better. So, before hiring someone, make sure that the professional aims to set up the dogs for success and reward calm and comfortable behavior, while redirecting fearful lashing out to another activity.
I hope this helps. Good luck. Please feel free to followup if I can be of further assistance.
Los Angeles Behaviorist
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: First off I would like to thank you for your answer this is exactly what I was looking for. We have recently been doing exactly what you are telling me not to do, we have scolded him, tied him up and spanked him when he does this (which is every single time we come in contact with him and the other dog). It was getting to the point were I was considering muzzling him. I just felt so bad for the other dog who just does not seem happy with my dog constantly yelling at him. Now the boxer dogs do not belong to me we have a studio apartment on my property in which we are renting out to a friend, hes dogs do have a separate area of there own, however it is very small and we don't like to keep them in there all day. I did figure this was a jealousy issue but I was not sure how to resolve this issue. Now I have done the treat thing with all of them out there an though there hasn't been any fights yet, Ocho (my dog lab/chow) does try eagerly to grab the food from me which he never did this before when it was just him. But he does know how to sit and shake so I will defiantly be taking your advice and try to see if this works, I'm sure with time it will. Thanks so much for your quick response. By the way we adopted Ocho because my 18 year old brother went into the U.S Coast Guard, and Ocho was basically tied up his whole life because my mom did not have a fenced in yard. So now he has a lot more freedoms than he used to, and I think that is a big deal for him and doesn't want to loose it. Not only that but I have young children that show him lots of love, and as my brother got older he just wasn't getting that type of attention anymore. But he's a happy boy and I think now that I know what the problem we can work on it.
Thank you for the followup and the clarification about the living arrangements for the dogs. Ocho's snatching of treats is part of the resource guarding process.
If these dogs were in my care, they'd all have to Sit before treats are handed out. I will often deliver treats simultaneously at arms' length so they're not trying to grab from each other. Another option is to drop the treats on the ground in a way that causes both boys to turn their head/bodies slightly AWAY from each other. Turning away is a canine cut-off communication that relays a "I don't want any conflict" message. Sniffing the ground is another of these cut-off signals that dogs give. So by dropping the treats to the ground such that both dogs have to turn away from each other to get them (not throwing them across the yard, just a few inches from the dog, but away from each other), will help them give each other those "no conflict please" signals as they are also rewarded with treats. Don't forget the female as well.
Once things start to calm down a bit, you can even adjust to another method I use, which is that all dogs Sit and whoever is calmest (quietest and body is most still - no vibrating with excitement) gets the treat first. Initially this can be a bit tricky, so get them into a routine with the dropping the treats away from each other first. But, once you can do the whoever-sits-most-polite-gets-it-first technique, you'll start to see them racing to sit quietly...
Good luck. Please feel free to check in in a couple weeks and let me know how it's going.
Los Angeles Behaviorist