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Canine Behavior/Seperateing Litter-Mates and Introducing New Pack Members


Sleepy Pups
Sleepy Pups  
QUESTION: I actually have two questions for you.

1. I have adopted 7 y/o Akita litter-mates. I am planning on separating them because my parents would like to keep the female as she has hip issues and her health is declining more rapidly than the male. They have the time and means to devote to her as she ages and undoubtedly  develops more issues. I have more time to devote to the more active of the two and keep him entertained with frequent hikes and all manner of stimulation to keep him occupied without his sister. I have read several articles about separating litter-mates and they have all said to do so gradually, as well as allow for frequent visits of the siblings so they don't feel so abandoned. I have been taking Koda (the male) with me on walks by him self and he does just fine, he will spend a couple hours a day away from his sister and does fine. I will try separating them for one night and see how that goes then gradually spend more nights in a row apart.  

Is this the best way, in your opinion to go about this to make the separation as painless as possible.  

2. Is it normal for siblings to gang up on another dog? {{My parents also have a 4 y/o Great Pyrenees mix. When all the dogs did their meet and greet to be sure they got along with no major issues, (which they did!) Maizie (the female Akita) and Paxton (the Pyrenees) got along great, more of an indifference to each other. The two boys were a little more aggressive, but once taken on a walk and allowed to spend some time together in a less stressful environment, got along much better.}} I ask about siblings ganging up on other dogs because, Koda (the male Akita) attempted to hump Paxton (the Pyrenees) and Maizie (the female Akita) grabbed Paxton's collar and pinned him down and was biting at him, leaving a couple of puncture makes on his face. We took Paxton to the vet and they said it was a normal part of the integration process. Is there anything i can do to make it easier and prevent the two Akita's from ganging up on the Pyrenees?  

Thank you so much for your advice.

ANSWER: I'm confused and need clarification (yes I identified in your photo at least two that either are Akita or have first generation connection: the third not so sure.  Remember that a bitch can be impregnated by several dogs and will (can and will) bear progeny (in the same litter) from both.

So long as the older bitch is going to a safe home, her removal from your home will cause:

1.  Some depression in the removed bitch which will disappear so long as her new caretakers DO NOT REWARD IT and treat her LIKE A DOG, not a disabled child, giving her patient but persistent signals that she is not "in charge" (especially important with guarding dog breed types)

2.  Some struggle in social hierarchy between the two "left behind" (so to speak) in your home.  Their interaction may become a problem.

Please be more specific about "who" Maizie "is" (btw, her behavior is consistent with Akita bitch but NOT ACCEPTABLE, puncture wounds ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE and not part of a normal struggle for hierarchy).  Koda's humping is part of social hierarchy integration.  I'm confused about Maizie and how you first report she was fine and then she attacked Paxton.  That's where I need more clarification.

The SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT of re-homing a dog is NOT how her former (soon to be former) members of the hierarchy in dogs in your home behave, but how SHE adjusts and accepts the dog in the "new" home (Paxton).  Once a dog is re-homed, IMO and experience, further interaction with dogs from a former home IS GOING TO DISTURB that dog's habituation to her new environment AND IS NOT NECESSARY.  (In fact, can be destructive to her habituation in her new environment.)

Many articles can be found on the internet, some of which are legitimate information from informed, educated and experienced people, and some of which are garbage.  Separating litter mates is NOT the problem.  The problem is how you plan to do it: isolating the bitch from the dog(s) (thereby demoting her).  Just make the break.  Walk Paxton (your parents' dog) parallel with the bitch you want to re-home with him and allow them to form their own relationship.  Once she has moved, let her be.  As for orthopedic issues: if these are true siblings (sired by the same dog, and it appears just from the photo they may not be), an orthopedic problem in one sibling can be a strong indicator that orthopedic problems exist in the other sibling(s): again, all dependent upon the sire, which we may not know.

Exercise the dogs mentally, not just physically, and not strenuously in a physical manner.  Dogs don't show pain, they are genetically programmed not to show pain.  A dog can be in significant pain and you may not know it.  As for the "advice" you say you received from your vet following the unprovoked and unacceptable injurious attach upon Paxton: find a better veterinarian.

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QUESTION: Clarification: All of the dogs are fixed!!

Maizie is the Akita bitch and the only female, she and Paxton are going to remain together as new house mates. Koda the male Akita will be removed.

She (Maizie) only attacked Paxton after he tried to run away from Koda while Koda was trying to hump him (Paxton). At their first meet and greet Maizie and Paxton showed little interest in each other and had a quiet acceptance of one another. The shelter behavior specialist was incredibly impressed with that interaction.

I don't know about "being impressed"...honestly, a female Akita is the most dominant of the breed type and can be quite a handful.  Her relationship with the other Akita (who will now be absent from the mix) most likely provoked her "attack" on Paxton.  When two dogs "ignore" each other, this does not mean they will get along well.  The higher in social hieararchy (the Akita bitch) WILL studiously ignore what she perceives to be a lower ranking member of her hierarchy and that individual (dog) will be demonstrating submissive and calming behaviors: turning his head away, turning away and sitting or lying down, head down backing away with eyes averted.  These are strong signals of subdominance and he may go so far as to roll over which is abject submission.  This does not necessarily deflect the female Akita's need to make a "statement".  She already has made one, a substantial one with physical injury.  She has lost her bite inhibition. Shelter "behavior specialist" means nothing to me.  The "assault" tells me that these two might not be such a great mix; that Maizie and Koda might very well be left TOGETHER and Paxton given refuge because he has the greatest need for this.  That would be my suggestion.

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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

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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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