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Canine Behavior/Rescue dogs


QUESTION: Our 5 year old rescue dog, recently lost her pal. We adopted a 9 month rescue dog. One of the dogs has thrown up a little in the next room. We suddenly heard them really fighting. My husband had to separate them and put the new dog in a cage. When we let him out 10 minutes later, the dogs got along fine.  Any ideas why they had the fight.  My husband and I went out for New Years. We put the dog in a sturdy metal cage for 4.5 hours. When we got home he had mangled the side of the cage and partially pushed out the back. He is a sweet dog but we are getting concerned that these are bad signs. If we can't contain him in a cage when we are out, until we know that we can trust him, I don't know how we can keep him. Any suggestions?

ANSWER: Thank you for your question. I'm sorry for your recent loss.

Did you bring your dog to meet the new dog a few times before bringing the new dog home? Were there any signs of conflict over toys or people or food treats during these preliminary visits?

The fight was likely resource guarding over the vomit. I know that sounds gross. But many dogs will reingest vomit and if the dog who didn't vomit wanted to investigate it, the dog who did vomit may have defended it like it was a prized piece of steak.

Since nobody witnessed the beginning of the fight nor who vomited, it's impossible to guess which one instigated the fight. Or if the fight was over the vomit or the vomit was the result of the stress of the fight. That one is hard to pin down without more information.

The behavior in the crate sounds like it might be separation anxiety or isolation distress. Many, many dogs (as much as 40% if I remember correctly) suffer from some degree of separation anxiety or isolation distress. I encourage you to look at a couple of books on the subject of Separation anxiety and get a feel for what is really involved in helping a dog overcome this issue. It is not an example of misbehavior or failure to train. Separation anxiety is a full blown panic attack and includes the same physiological changes that humans experience during a panic attack: increased heart rate, increased salivation, dilated pupils. It can involve involuntary urination or defecation. Nausea and vomiting can occur. For dogs, the paw pads may sweat (this only happens at times of extreme stress). If they're stuck in a space that feels like they're trapped, they will fight their way out - which is what it sounds like this dog did.

For some dogs, during the early treatment of separation anxiety, they must never be left unattended. This might be for a few days or a few weeks to months - depending on the severity of the panic and how long the panic has been going on. Since this dog is new to your home, we don't know if he exhibited separation anxiety before coming to your home. It's extremely common for newly rescued dogs to have some separation anxiety as they settle in and learn to trust that the new space is safe and that you are coming back.

But, treating separation anxiety does require a commitment to the process. It can, and often does, have excellent results if the humans in the dog's world are able to do the work. But not everyone has time, energy, money (if daycare or medication is necessary) or patience. And that's not a failure on the part of the person to recognize that they can't give a dog what that dog needs to thrive. So, read through the books linked below. Speak to a trainer who specializes in separation anxiety or a veterinary behaviorist. They may want to have an in-person consultation to observe your new rescue (they will want video of the dog confined for about 30 minutes). They will then be able to give you more specific information regarding the process for your specific dog and his needs.

Treating Separation Anxiety in Dogs , by Malena DeMartini-Price (she is the preeminent expert on separation anxiety in the US)

I'll Be Home Soon - How to Prevent and Treat Separation Anxiety , by Patricia McConnell (one of the giants of canine behavior, world renowned author and lecturer)

The separation anxiety is treatable, though it can be time consuming and inconvenient to the owners during the early stages of treatment. But it can be done. If the other part was resource guarding, then supervision and management will be necessary until you can determine what the trigger resources are and then we can develop a protocol to help them feel better about those things. Or, it may have been a one-off altercation to determine the status of their relationship and you'll never see another indication of such outbursts again. It's possible in either direction and without having any witness to the start of the altercation, we've no way of actually knowing what prompted it.

I hope this information proves a helpful start. Please feel free to followup if I can be of further assistance.

Los Angeles Behavior Specialist

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

QUESTION: Thanks for the Response.  The dogs gave been sharing toys without a problem.  They have been eating near each other with no problem at all. There is
No foud aggression or guarding at all   Today they have been fine togeather. The one time Dexter tried to mount Roxie today, Roxie told him to leave him alone and he
Backed right off. Hopefully the one real fight was establishing pecking order.

The rescue group provided us with a heavy duty large size plastic crate. It seems to contain Dexter

I'm glad to hear things seem to have smoothed out a bit. Sometimes when dogs are just getting to know each other, there are scuffles as they figure out their relationship. Hopefully that's all it was.

Please make sure that Dexter is actually comfortable and relaxed in the crate, and not just 'contained.' If he's not comfortable in it, that can lead to efforts to escape and panic behaviors.

Good luck!

Los Angeles Behavior Specialist

Canine Behavior

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Jody Epstein, MS, CPDT-KA


IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 8 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members and many other issues. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.


I have been a professional obedience trainer for 9 years, and specializing in behavior modification for 8 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I own my own dog training and behavior modification business called Nutz About Mutz.

I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications ; ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

I have a masters degree (MS) in Animals and Public Policy, with a minor in Animal Behavior, from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. I also have 3 years of graduate education in Animal Behavior and Learning from UM-Missoula and UL-Lafayette. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences, workshops and seminars. Beginning in March, 2017, I will be the Behavior & Training Manager at Second Chance Center for Animals in Flagstaff, AZ.

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