Sometimes the Aggressive Dog is Not Easy to Spot

By: David Codr

Published Date: June 17, 2014

KenzieKenzi is a 40 lb female spaniel mix. Her owner contacted me concerned that she was being aggressive to two Daschunds in her home. Her owner is one of those great people who rescues dogs. While that is a great thing, it also means that there are other dogs in the house. Whenever I have a situation with multiple dogs in a home, I take great pains to keep an open mind as the dog the owner identifies as the issue, is frequently not the problem.

When you have multiple dogs in a home, its very important for the dogs to see and respect the authority of their humans and for the human to provide structure and enforce boundaries. When this is the case, the dogs looks to the human to maintain balance and order in the pack. But if the dog does not feel that the human is in control, its not unusual for dogs to attempt to look out for themselves.

When I met Kenzi in person, she was a little apprehensive, but showed no signs of aggressive behavior. Her body language was a little stiff and she barked at a distance at first, but after ignoring her for a few moments, she made her way over to say hello.

Her owner explained that the fights that had broken out occurred when one of the dachshund was in her kennel and the other incident was when the dogs came to the water dish at the same time.

I suggested that her owner correct the Daschunds anytime they go into Kenzi’s kennel. Its possible that she had left a bone or toy in her kennel and that the other dog was looking to “steal” it or claim her kennel as its own territory. While its important for dogs in a pack to learn to share, its also important that other dog’s respect her “space,” in this scenario, her kennel.

I went over a few rules and boundaries her owner can incorporate to help the dogs in the pack stay calm and identify her as the authority figure. I also showed her how to disagree with the most common behavior issues that popped up.

I also advised her to keep an eye on was the energy level of the dogs in the pack. When I arrived for the session, the collective energy was so high, that it bordered on being manic. After I was there a few moments, they all calmed down. But because many accidental bites and convicts involving dogs happen when they are over excited, reducing the over excitement will help all the dogs stay in a calm balanced state.

Frequently when I am dealing with a dog that is having difficulty controlling itself, I put it on a leash and stand on the leash a foot from the dog’s head. I remain there, not interacting with the dog at all until it calms down.

As I was explaining this corrective technique to my client, one of the Daschunds started to bark in disagreement at me. This was the dog that Because he had undergone back surgery, I attempted to disagree with the territorial display in other ways, with limited success.

After a few minutes of this barking outburst, I placed the Daschund on the leash and pulled it right next to me. As soon as I did, the dog stopped barking completely. This makes it pretty conclusive that the dog is  insecurely dominant, which is no doubt causing it a lot of undue  stress.

Coincidentally this was the same dog that had gotten into the fight with Kenzi. While Kenzi is not a perfect dog, the evidence was starting to point to the Daschund as the possible source of the fights.

I recommended that her owner repeat this process any time the Daschund showed the same behavior.

Its entirely possible and likely probable that the Daschund initiated the fight with Kenzie and its intrusion into Kenzi’s kennel was done in a challenging or territorial way. If that was the case, its the Daschund that needs to be corrected.I suggested that her owner adopt the leash correction anytime the dog was defiant or attempted to be dominant.

This will help change the Daschund’s perception of his authority in the pack. Once the Daschund no longer sees itself in an authoritative position, it will be able to return to its natural energy and stop the dominant behaviors that cause the other dogs to get out of balance. This will return calm harmony to the home and should put an end to the aggression for all the dogs.

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