Canine Behavior/Female and male English Bulldogs Fighting
We have 2 English Bulldogs. A female, Belle, who is just about 2 years old and a male, Wilbur, who is 11 months old. As of late, they have begun fighting. 90% of the time they hang out together, nap together, and are perfectly fine. Lately the other 10% seems to be spent fighting and very aggresively. We have tried to pinpoint the exact triggers causing this, and the best we can come up with is it happens when Wilbur feels he deserves the attention. Once in a while he will be aggressive with a toy, but for the most part this occurs when there are no toys around and no food or treats, just myself, my husband, or our 2 boys. It takes 2 of us to physically separate them. Are there ways for us to work with them to avoid these situations? Is this a breed problem? We love them both very much and are willing to work with them to resolve this problem. On a side note, when we are not home both bullies are crated, in separate crates. Belle loves her crate and often "crates" herself, Wilbur is not a big fan of the crate at all.
Thank you in advance for any help or advice,
Robyn Hunt and Family
There's a growing issue of "social hierarchy" here; an 11 month old dog should not be challenging a 2 yo bitch; dogs normal acquiesce to a bitch. The situation is most likely the direct result of insufficient "guidance" from Humans in the living environment; in other words, "no one" is clearly "in charge". This will, undoubtedly, get worse without intervention.
Intervention requires both dogs be assessed individually, and then together; it requires an extended interview of all family members regarding each member's manner of interacting with each dog, and both dogs at once. Children need to be questioned separately; you have no idea what I've heard from children when Mom and Dad are out of the room.
You say Wilbur "feels he deserves attention": I say Wilbur is an adolescent dog who is making a statement of social hierarchy to a 2 yo resident bitch (Belle) that is not being understood by the Humans in the family; each Human has a place in this "social hierarchy"; normally, the Human male of the household has more "control" because of pheromones but, also, the manner in which men interact with dogs (which is, generally, quite different from women and children). Sometimes, the woman of the house has more "trouble" with a dog, or dogs, when the man is not present. Often, children are the "target" of redirected aggression or simply perceived by the dog (in its culture) as low in social hierarchy.
Having said all of that, let me say this: I can't see anything from here and I can't fix this in a text box. You ABSOLUTELY require a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist ASAP (NOT a DOG TRAINER). THERE IS NO OPTION HERE. This will get worse and a person will be hurt. Can this be remedied? I don't know, can't give an honest opinion. But I can say that the breed type presents a problem, certainly. It's worth a try and it will not be easy or a quick fix, it will take time, constant effort, and the children must be gauged by the CAAB as able to participate (safely) as you address "who is who" between the dogs and "who is who" TO the dogs (meaning: you and your husband are at the top of the social order and your children are next). It's not easy and there's no guaranty.
To find a CAAB go to the following sites and you might call the veterinary teaching hospital in your geographical area for referral. A CAAB MUST come to YOUR HOME. He or she will have to make several visits; this won't be inexpensive.
If the dog is not neutered, DO IT IMMEDIATELY. If the bitch is not spayed, do a titer for estrogen first to be certain she is not close to estrus cycle. DO NOT neuter and spay at the same time. First: neuter the dog.
Put house tabs on both dogs: lightweight leashes ideally attached to body harness (not collar); observe body language of Wilbur and Belle, if you see Wilbur is displaying a clear intention to attack, pick up house tab, put him behind closed door for ten seconds, let him out but hold onto house tab for a few minutes: SAY NOTHING, DO NOT TOUCH HIM OR USE HIS NAME, DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT. If a fight erupts, you can then use the house tabs to separate them. They must both then be held on leash for approximately five minutes until BOTH dogs display calming behavior: yawning, lip licking, head turning, lying or sitting down; then release. SAY NOTHING, do nothing except pick up the house tab and sit quietly, do not make eye contact. In this way, you will be using a quick measure to reduce the escalation of aggression to a point where one, or both, dogs will be harmed and a person will end up in the ER. Your children should NOT be left alone with these dogs unless they are close to adulthood; that means, 16+ years of age and able to follow directions.
Dog to dog aggression is considered a precursor to dog to human aggression; if one of these has to "go", it must be Wilbur, and only into a very experienced home (in terms of breed type). Find a CAAB as soon as you can.