New Dog In The House Is Aggressive

Mr. Katz: I have a 8 month old Great Dane female, Dulcinea. I have used several of your techniques on training her and have been successful.

My husband and I work during the day and she is alone in the back yard. I do take her for a walk several times a week and we play ball. Occasionally we go to my in-laws to visit. They have two untrained dogs. A Toy Poodle male, 11 years old named Teddy. Also a Lab/Pit Bull mix female, 9 years old named Sammy.

Dulcinea is just thrilled to go there to see the other dogs. So we decided to look for a companion. We found a 9 month Great Dane/Lab mix male named Greedo. We got him Saturday and then stayed at my in-laws. Saturday went great, my dogs played all day and night. When I fed them Saturday, Greedo acted as if he hadn’t eaten. I also gave them all a snack and things went well. Sunday morning all four dogs were fed and Sammy went over by Greedo to wait for food to drop. Greedo is really messy. Greedo did attack Sammy and we had to separate them. Luckily Sammy only had one puncture. That was the first time he showed the dog aggression.

Later that day, I was in the kitchen and Greedo was at my feet. Then Sammy came in and Greedo attacked her again. We separated them again and Sammy didn’t get hurt except his feelings. My in-laws feed their dogs once a day and I feed mine twice a day since they are puppies and they are large breed. So when I was ready to feed them Sunday night, I put Greedo outside while I prepared the food. Greedo got his bowl outside and Dulcinea ate inside. After they were finished, I picked up the bowls and let Dulcinea go outside. Dulcinea and Greedo both ate the pieces that fell out of the bowl without problems. Now I’m at home with both of my dogs and I am extremely nervous.

I gave them both a bone when we got home Sunday night and Dulcinea went by Greedo and he growled. I took the bones because I didn’t want any problems. When I feed them I do spit in their food. My husband thinks it is sick but I think it makes sense. [ The Alpha dog always eats first, thus leaving his scent (saliva) on the food. Subordinate dogs only eat after the alpha dog has eaten. ] Monday morning, today, I fed them at the same time in two bowls. While I was at work I did leave them outside together. When I got home I didn’t open the garage so I could sneak in and check on them.

They were playing. I feed them when I got home and Greedo is chewing his food more. Dulcinea is spayed and Greedo is not neutered yet. I have an appointment on February 16th to get him neutered. That was the soonest that I could get him in. Do you think I’m going to have a problem with Dulcinea and Greedo?

I do use the pinch collar for Dulcinea and I got one for Greedo. Do you think that I should invest in the Electronic Dog Fight Stopper for when I go to the in-laws? Or would it be too much for Sammy? Sammy has been on Prozac and has thyroid problems. Would the pinch collar with a tab for Greedo be enough? Should I wait until Greedo is neutered and is older to introduce them again? I hope I haven’t confused you.

Everyday I do relax a little more. I’m just nervous and worried. Dulcinea is our first dog. The dogs are taking a nap right now. I will have to take them for a walk tonight. Part of me does think that this was a match made in heaven. She is so much more happier. Thanks, Christy.

Dear Christy:

Thanks for the question.

Well… you’ve got a lot of ‘dog ownership’ issues we need to straighten out:

#1: When introducing a new dog into your family, never leave the dogs unsupervised for the first several weeks… at least until you know that they’re both comfortable with each other, and have worked out all dominance issues.

#2: Make sure that you have voice control over both dogs. Any aggression needs to be corrected. Now, when you’re not around, they’re going to eventually, “work it out.” But sometimes, with certain dogs, you can communicate that this is an undesirable behavior… AND IT WORKS!

#3: In the beginning, be prepared if they DON’T work it out. Older dogs with serious dog aggression problems can be trained to ignore other dogs, in the presence of their master. But bringing a new dog like this into a home that already has a dog can be a living nightmare. This doesn’t sound like what you’ve got. Your case sounds more like two dogs establishing WHO is the more dominant dog. However, you can never be too safe, and if you are still unsure, then I’d advise seeking the help of a professional who can come to your house and watch the dogs to let you know if it’s just a dominance scuffle or not.

#4: Always feed the dogs separately.

#5: Yes, I agree… owning the Electronic Dog Fight Stopper (a stun gun, not a tazer!) ¬†certainly can’t hurt. While it doesn’t work on all dogs, I’ve personally seen some VERY SERIOUS dog fights end IMMEDIATELY with both dogs running in opposite directions.

#6: Neutering is a good idea, in general. Expect it to take two to three months before all of the testosterone is out of the dog’s system. This CAN affect the dog’s dominance level. But I wouldn’t look at it as a quick fix. It does have several other benefits, such as making the dog much less stressed, less frustrated, and less prone to certain types of cancer.

#7: I personally would not take a dog like this over to your parent’s house. With four or five dogs running loose, it will be impossible to break up a fight if something should get out of control. Once you’ve developed a proper relationship with the new dog and know that you can control him, then you may try gradually introducing the dogs again. But proceed with caution.

-Adam