Canine Behavior/new pup


QUESTION: Hi, I have a female spayed pit bull. I've had her since she was about 8weeks. She is now almost two. We had both her and her brother but we had to rehome  due to the two not getting along and other circumstances. I put her on the Nothing in life is free method and she took well to it so I thought it may work out if my brother got a puppy since he really wanted one. It seemed to go well at first. She was constantly wanted to play with him. But I noticed she wouldn't let him go near me or our room. Then at some point she charged at him over food. I tried different things to show her that its okay for the puppy to come near me and since then she's fine with sharing toys and letting him in my room and even sleeping with us. But she's still charges when he's around while she's eating. Recently we've been having to stay in a hotel. I've made sure to keep her in a separate area when she's eating but now its escalated to treats and even the scraps in the trashcan. She's a runt and her eyes are bad. I don't know if that has anything to do with it? But the pup is a pit bull/mastiff. I want to help her so that they can both be okay living together.

ANSWER: It seems your Pit has an issue around other dogs in her living area.  Two of any breed from the same litter can be a setup for trouble due to similar temperaments, as was proven by what happened between your Pit and her sibling.  Change of living quarters puts a lot of stress on any dog but especially one with issues such as your Pit; she is now "generalizing" from feeding time to the presence of any high value food object.  You've apparently done a good job of stopping most resource guarding (you, your bedroom, your bed) but I can't see anything from here.  I assume the Pit/Mastiff X is MALE???  Please answer some questions:

1.  How old is the puppy
2.  What does the puppy DO when your Pit attempts to keep him from treats?
3.  Why can't the trash can be made totally unavailable to both dogs?
4.  Do you still have the Pit on NILIF?
5.  Do you have the puppy on NILIF?
6.  Have you done any positive reinforcement training with your Pit?
7.  Why are treats being given out freely?  Stop.  NILIF requires everything is earned.
8.  What are YOU DOING now if the Pit shows aggression toward the puppy?
9.  Has the Pit ever left injury on the puppy?

This will help me attempt to advise you properly.  TY.

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

QUESTION: The puppy is about 8 months and yes a nuetered male. The treats are not given freely. I make both of them do something for it. Sit,lay down etc etc. The pup lays down by her or barks and stares at her if he wants her treat or toy. Ive made the trash completely unavailable to both by constantly keeping it empty. I do still have my pit on NILIF. as for the pup its not up to me due to his owner being my brother. I have no control over how he's trained. I would definitely like to try the positive reinforcement but I don't exactly know how to go about it. I'll be honest I get tense when she shows aggression but I try to keep calm and bring her to a different area to calm down. She hasn't left an injury and not too much later the puppy tries to come back and play or lay down with her if that means anything. It has escalated though. She charged at him twice yesterday. Once over crumbs on the ground and another I didn't see but she had him submitted before we pulled her off. No blood shed though. After that I gave her a bath and she was fine with him.

From your description, the "pup" (and he is no longer a puppy, he is entering adolescence) is demonstrating calming signals toward your Pit.  Let me give a for instance: lying down near her when she has something he would like is actually a sign of non-threat; eye contact may really be more of a subdominant stare (see if he shows the whites of his eyes, that is subdominance and "no threat" signal).  The "pup" is also demonstrating affiliation by going to her to lie down near her.  Now let me say this: that "pup" is a breed mix (hybrid) that can demonstrate all sorts of problem behaviors.  I suggest that your brother be somehow informed that his lack of attention to his dog's socialization and training might very well result in a (soon to be) young adult dog with problems that will cost a great deal of money to ATTEMPT to fix.  So far, he is acquiescing to your Pit bitch; this might change as he matures (emotionally and physically).

Since you live in the same household and your dog is at risk here, you have every right to EXPECT your brother to  COOPERATE in this situation in any way he can.  If he refuses and the situation worsens, your best option is to MOVE, with your dog.

Try never to show any sort of anxiety when your bitch asserts her "right" in the social order (at least, for now, that may change in future) with the P/M hybrid.  Keep a house tab on your dog.  If she begins to demonstrate behaviors that tell you she is about to launch an "attack", simply observe for a few seconds: you cannot and should not prevent her from making a statement of rank to the "pup" but, if it should escalate past a FEW SECONDS, simply pick up the house tab (this is a lightweight leash) and remove her (say nothing, no eye contact) from the room, ask for "sit", praise; circle left, right, ask for "sit", praise.  Drop the house tab.  This is counter conditioning, expressing to your dog that YOU are ultimately in control and will tolerate only so much rank opportunism from her directed at the other dog.  There is no punishment involved at all: it is simple remove and re-direction to a trained behavior for praise, then a circling briefly to change brain wave function and engage cognition, and another request for an easy behavior ("sit") you can praise.  This should help in the immediate future.

However, if your brother persists in being a poor dog owner and refuses to use positive reinforcement to train his "pup" or cooperate with you in attempting to get these two dogs to live well together, you will have to report back to me using FOLLOWUP FEATURE, please, so I can see original question(s) and answer(s).  And you will have to make a decision regarding your future living environment.

Canine Behavior

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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

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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