"Super Sweet And Never Been Aggressive Towards Us"
I have a female doberman 15 months. She has had aggressive interactions starting at about 10 months, (she came into heat around a year) with my other 3 dogs, 2 females and a male, golden retriever, saint Bernard and a Rhodesian Ridgeback. Most times there is an obvious reason, playing ball and she wanted it, though grabbed the golden by the back of the neck. Other times, just reacted randomly to things that hadn’t previously bothered her. She recently fought the older female ridgeback for wanting to sit with her on the ridgebacks bed. She won’t be allow to sit there anymore. She cut her chest before i could grab her and stop the incident. After this exchange, my ridgeback is now guarded towards her and it feels likely a fight will start. My question is: how can you tell if the aggression is a serious or something that will stop. She is super sweet and never been aggressive towards us. But feeling like we can’t keep them both with such troubles.
Evolutionary Biology and Psychology
The history here indicates (to me) that this is likely one of the uglier scenarios with a lower likelihood of a happy ending. There are a bunch of factors that can individually, or in combination, contribute to dog-to-dog aggression amongst dogs that live together.
I suspect a combination of the factors personality, gender, age is at play here, in essence, aspects of evolutionary biology and psychology.
When the situation is as you describe, it’s usually females moving from adolescence into adulthood. Their cousins, the wolves, offer a hint as to why. In their social structure, it is only the alpha male and female that produce a litter. How is this decided? That’s the personality factor. Who wants it more? It is not, as Mark Twain was to have said, the size of the dog in the fight. It’s the size of the fight in the dog.
As adolescence advances, these females start to assert themselves in situations from the perspectives of the other dogs that were already ‘done deals.’ Sometimes they seem to just pick fights. However, I suspect the apparent randomness is more a byproduct of our ignorance of what dogs perceive as ‘them’s fighting words’ (triggers). If it goes on long enough, the mere sight of a past target is enough to trigger an event. It can get so bad that even if the dog on the receiving end avoids eye contact and any other potentially triggering social signal that might be interpreted as a ‘challenge,’ it will get attacked.
The Relationship With Owner Factor
The number one cause of this sort of problem isn’t as you might be thinking, the evolutionary drive to pass genes along. The number one cause is a byproduct of the pseudo-science recommendations made by the majority of the amateur dog training world with regard to how to train and live with one dog, let alone several. They embrace a fraction of the factors that influence how behavior is shaped. Usually, only cherry-picked aspects of B.F. Skinner’s work and, in essence, typically confuse getting a dog to sit for a treat as evidence they are ‘training’ and a ‘trainer.’ They completely ignore evolutionary biology and psychology, ethology, anthropology, and more.
The end result is most people’s dogs grow up thinking their owners are at best room-mates. Without a clear idea of who is living in whose home, when it comes to resources, and top female (even if the top female is a human male), they think, “Well, why not me?’, and all hell breaks loose. If people weren’t led astray by the amateur dog training world, many of these situations wouldn’t develop as there wouldn’t be any confusion as to who is ‘in charge.’ Fights are less likely and less intense if there is an existing loving authority figure in place.
It’s likely a little late in the game to turn this around, but if you wish to make an attempt, you’ll have to find someone that knows what they’re doing, and as such, will teach you to train using a relationship (science) based approach.
With this sort of dog, you will have to dot your i’s and cross your t’s all the while you own her. I think your biggest problem will be finding someone that isn’t a part-time amateur dog trainer. (Read this, Questions You Should Ask A Dog Trainer and, or buy this ebook, What Are The Different (and best) Puppy and Dog Training Methods (ebook) or consider this, ‘Virtual+’ – Training Help From John Wade For Dogs With Behavior Problems).
Even so, in situations like this, the outcome is rarely one of ‘happy households.’ One dog is always having to bit her tongue so to speak as the history combined with her personality ‘drives’ her and one or more of the other dogs may not feel they can trust her (or perhaps you to do your job) and they just don’t return to their old happier selves
None of this means the instigator is a bad dog. She just sets the bar higher as to who listens to who and is a gal that knows what she wants when living with other dogs. This is the sort of dog that simply would be far better off living in a household without other dogs with someone that knows she’s not a good risk to even socialize with other dogs.
Long story short, with enough effort, it’s technically possible to force them to behave, but that’s not the same thing as ending up you enjoying living with them or her or the other dogs enjoying living with each other.
– John Wade 🐾 (www.askthedogguy.com)