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Canine Behavior/My dalmation growls all the time.

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Question
HI, I have a 8 year Dalmation mix named Mia. Mia has a pitpull she has grown up together and now we have added my boyfriends dogs,and sometimes his kids dogs, so at anytime there could be 5 dogs and they are all big dogs. One she really dosen't get a along with the most is a Vizsla Lab mix. Mia my dalmation growls at everything all the time and sometime her growling causes a fight with the dogs.
She didnt use to in the beginging but now its ALL the time, any suggestions?

Answer
Your household is too chaotic; this dog is not stable enough to withstand the comings and goings of other dogs.  Growling does not "cause a fight with other dogs"....it is a definitive statement regarding place in social order and the only reason another dog, or dogs, would construe it as incentive to "fight" is because it is intended as such.

Mia may be suffering from age related loss of sight (normal).  When you say she "growls at everything all the time" I wonder: does she growl at you?  Does she growl at anything that moves?  Does she growl only when other dogs that do not belong in your household are present?  I have no way of knowing this.  A "fight with the dogs" is very unclear, also.  What, exactly, is a "fight"?  If it's a lot of snarling and vocalizing and no injury is ever inflicted, that's one thing; if injury is being inflicted, you have a serious developing problem.

"Adding" dogs randomly to your living situation requires that your own dog is stable, heavily socialized, and that you are clearly in control, PSYCHOLOGICALLY.  

You require the intervention of a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (NOT a dog trainer!)  Mia needs individual evaluation and then evaluation as other dogs are added, one at a time, so the expert can read Mia's body language (and that of the other dogs) to determine exactly what is going wrong.  Your other option is to confine Mia with her Pit bull companion to a room with water, soft bedding: not as punishment, but to protect both of them.  Her Pit Bull companion is most likely as affected by Mia's behavior as are you.  If other dogs are staying in your home for more than a few hours, this complicates the issue.

Because I can see nothing from here, I strongly urge you to find a CAAB.  You can do so by calling the veterinary college in your area, they should be able to refer you, or by going to the following site:

http://certifiedanimalbehaviorist.com/page6.html

It is never a good idea to randomly introduce "strange dogs" where your own dog is clearly fearful, anxious and defensive.  If you are unable to find a CAAB, then you must strictly limit the number of dogs you allow free roam in your household.  Those dogs who do not belong there need to be confined (kitchen area) away from Mia and your Pit Bull.  This scenario is just too chaotic and there appears to be no clear leadership from the Humans involved (to the dogs, that is). I would also ask the veterinarian to do an eye check: Dalmatians can be prone to early onset cataracts, PRA, and (as I said) more advanced "aging of sight" than other breeds.  They are also a very high strung breed and aggression is not uncommon; think of the reason (purpose) for this breed: accompanying horse driven carriages.  You need professional help here and I can't do it from a text box.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.

Expertise

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.

Experience

30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for ThePetChannel.com for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, K9Shrinks@egroups.com. 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.

Organizations
Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Publications
Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Education/Credentials
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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