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Our boys have started to fight a little bit. No blood but a lot of growing and grabbing. They are both intact males because they are both currently being shown. The older one is almost 4 and has been the dominant male just by being here first but he's 20 lbs. lighter than his 1.5 year old brother. The younger one has started to figure out that he's bigger and stronger.

Originally it was over high value treats (we stopped giving those) but tonight it was over something they usually don't even like that much.
Do we let them figure this out on their own...or... as we have been doing...ending it with us as the dominant dog?
Your opinions would be greatly appreciated. If worse comes to worse we'll neuter the older dog as he probably will never get his AKC championship (he is a Canadian Ch. but he'll never be breed as his hips are "borderline") but it's a last resort because I have so much fun showing him.
 

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I've been through this - and both mine are neutered, for what it's worth.

The boys hit this at about two (they are the same age). I think it has something to do with hitting a certain age, around 2-3.

After about three really big fights, the last of which drew blood (Angus got his ear torn and a gash about a half inch from his eye!), we decided to call in the big guns. We found a behaviorist and had her over.

If you can find someone reputable, I highly, highly recommend this. It was the very best $120 or so I ever spent on them.

The most valuable thing we got out of it was this:

We had been treating Angus as the "alpha." Why? Because he was here first. (Just like you said). We always fed him first, put on his leash first, let him out the door first, training him first, you know, all that stuff.

But, just because he was here first and bigger does not an alpha make. It was actually Simon who was alpha. The behaviorist spent about three minutes watching them together and pointed out several key behaviors to me. I couldn't believe it. I hadn't seen this myself until she pointed it out, but as soon as she did, it was like a light went on.

Her recommendation was that we start acknowledging Simon's alpha status so he would stop having to prove himself. We immediately started a strict "Simon first" policy - on everything.

The other thing we did was eliminate things that were triggers. As you said, high-value items or treats. For the boys, it was certain toys. Oddly, it's not all toys...Angus has a purple tire that Simon never bothers. Angus never bothers Simon's precious socks that he steals. But there was a squeaky fuzzy Kong football that I guess they could never decide exactly who it belonged to. So, that got put away and only comes out when they are not in the same room.

This has worked for us so far. It's been two years now with no fights. We also intervene and give them a time-out when it looks like bitey-face is getting a little too emotional. This is good practice for them at getting it under control.

We can no longer play fetch with them together, and we have to strictly supervise when there are toys or other goodies in play. For example, we don't leave them alone with their Nylabones. If someone tries to steal someone else's boney, I step in between.

It is a lot of "management," but it is do-able and you get used to it. A behaviorist can give you some good jumping-off points for developing a game plan, and you can tweak it as you need to.

I suspect we will always be managing them to some degree. But Angus now seems very content to let Simon lead. This was hard for us, because we sort of wanted Angus to be the alpha of the two of them. But it was not up to us to decide, and we were reinforcing the wrong one.

I hope you can get it worked out!
 

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I thought of something else I wanted to add that might be helpful:

I have tried to create an environment where competition is not necessary. I try to make them feel very secure that if one gets something, the other will too.

If Angus does something cute and cons me out of a treat (often), Simon gets one too.

This goes counter to conventional training, I realize. You generally don't want to reward for doing absolutely nothing. But, I don't know, in our case it seemed to me the best thing to do. If everyone is reliably getting what the other gets, my thought was that maybe it would reduce the need for competition.

Another example: Sometimes I am handing out, say, bedtime cookies, and I drop one on the floor. Maybe that cookie was intended for Simon, but Angus, chow hound that he is, darts and inhales it before Simon has a chance (treats are the one thing Angus has a hard time waiting his turn for).

When this happens, Simon gets several treats in quick succession. So, the dog who doesn't go after the treats gets rewarded more heavily. Over time, the result is now that I drop the treat, Angus snarfs it up, and Simon looks up expectantly at me because he knows he's about to get jackpotted. It prevents any skirmishes over whose treat that was that fell on the floor.
 

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I went through this too when I introduced a new intact puppy to my intact older dog ( Samson )

It was all OK until Jasper was 12 months old and then the fighting started.

I went to a behaviourist in the hope that he would be able to help but in the end the only recourse was to neuter Jasper.

In the course of all of this I ended up in hospital for three days on an antibiotic drip with Cellulitis having been bitten while trying to break them up ! How many stupid mistakes can somebody make in the course of 6 months !
 

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control, control, control . both of them need to be on a NILIF programme, and if you are working with one, the other should be in a downstay across the room.
 

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control, control, control . both of them need to be on a NILIF programme, and if you are working with one, the other should be in a downstay across the room.
Jax and dutch started this about 5 weeks into Jax's surgery. Talk about heart failure here.

Dutch is a provoker. He doesn't know how to fight...once he gets "attacked" he whines and runs to momma. But he walks around like a big sheot as tall as he can get and is probably saying "bring it on". And when the other dog brings it on...you can hear him screaming like a baby down the road.

One time it was over something one of them stole from the pantry. I'm not sure what the second time was over but Jax never shed any blood; Dutch's ear bled like crazy. I did what Kaytris said; once I got them apart from each other. See, Dutch will be all babyish, but once I got Jax off him, he'd start barking at Jax again. That's when I got a chair between them and made them BOTH sit until they could get up without going back at each other. I was the one out of breath.

I think in that last fight, the heiarchy was re-established. It's had to accept, but Jax is one peg above Dutch now in the pack. I watch Dutch...if Jax is lying by me Dutch is very cautious to approach and no longer provokes him. As much as we want one particular dog to be the "alpha" of the other; they don't always work it that way.

Sorry this is so long but it's really not always a neutering thing; it's them learning what is NOT acceptable. Luckily, there have been no more "arguments". They are sleeping side by side as I type. :)
 

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I can honestly say that neither of my boys have done this. I have to assume it is because they know I am in charge. Even when I have bitches in season here, I've never heard a rumble.

Once Seamus mounted Jake in play and I got after him for it and he's never done it again. I agree with Nancy. Time to step in and reestablish yourself as dominant. Any rumble, growl or even a look between the boys and they get reprimanded.
 

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I agree with Laura. You should be the alpha, and any misbehavior, whether it is rumbling, growling or humping) get reprimanded immediately. The guy I co-own Red with, thinks that humping, growling and inappropriate behavior is allowable in a dominate dog (Red). I do not....and Joe (the co-owner) always comments about how much more Red likes me, obeys me over him. Red knows where he stands with me and knows I will kick butt if he is not appropriate

Watch for the subtle behaviors that lead up to the conflict and stop it before it gets to a fight.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thank You everyone. Let's see if I got this straight.
1) Be in control. We are alpha. Anything that looks like a "start" gets squished.
2) The younger one is now dominant...or at least in the process of getting there...so acknowledge his status by feeding him first etc.
3) behaviorist if I can find one (we don't live close to much).

Question
NILIF...we kind of already have been doing that by requiring them to obey a command before they get a treat, fed etc. BUT...everymorning they get supplements on a cheese cracker and it's often the older dog who obeys first and therefore gets his cracker first.
I've always thought that rewards should be pretty immediate so they understand what's being reinforced. Is it okay to wait until they both obey and then give the treats so the young dog goes first?

Thanks again
 

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i never much bought in to the who gets fed first, etc. in fact, dutch gets his bowl of food before zoe and she and zena get their's put down at the same time (zena is at the bottom of the totem pole here).
they get fed in the order i get to them and what MY habit is....i just never saw giving zoe a treat first and down the line. doesn't happen that way here.
 

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I think in that last fight, the heiarchy was re-established. It's had to accept, but Jax is one peg above Dutch now in the pack. I watch Dutch...if Jax is lying by me Dutch is very cautious to approach and no longer provokes him. As much as we want one particular dog to be the "alpha" of the other; they don't always work it that way.
This was my experience exactly. Angus is now a lot more cautious around Simon. Simon can just give him a look and he retreats.

It IS hard to accept, because you know, I just adore Angus. I hate it when Simon give him the evil eye and makes him stand-offish. But, I really really hated seeing them try to kill each other...so I live with it.

I'm not 100% sure that allowing Simon to do things first was the only factor in stopping their behavior...we sort of did everything at once, so it's anybody's guess what it was that worked. We, too, especially for about a year there, were very diligent about intervening with anything that looked remotely like it could turn into a fight. So maybe it was that. Maybe it was both. For that matter, maybe nothing we did made a difference and it was just that they had finally established who was the boss of who. Since they're not talking, I'll never really know...but I'm not changing anything since something seems to be working! :D
 

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1) Be in control. We are alpha. Anything that looks like a "start" gets squished.
2) The younger one is now dominant...or at least in the process of getting there...so acknowledge his status by feeding him first etc.
Correct the behavior before there is a behavior. I can usually tell when play is getting out of control. A quick "knock it off" before it gets to the point where there is rumbling, etc. will usually curb the behavior. If not, then I move in and will punish and correct.

Why acknowledge his status? YOU are dominant. If YOU want to shake things up a bit and bring the younger dog down a notch, then feed the other one first every once in awhile.

I feed according to age. If someone starts getting too big for their britches whether its one of the boys or one of the girls (around here it's usually the girls) then they get fed last for awhile. I laugh at the startled looks on their faces. I make them sit, then lay down for their food then and if they don't do as I ask them immediately, then I step in and correct and punish.

I do the same thing for the horses. Gracie is lead mare, but I'm alpha mare. Any disrespect out of her or any of the others at all and they get a reminder that I provide the food and they eat because I say they can.

For the most part, I rarely have to do anything anymore. A clearing of my throat will generally make them all stop, look at me and wait for a command.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
It may be no surprise that one of my horses pushes me around too. I'm not much of a dominant personality BUT...if it's for my boys...I'll work at it. Thanks
 

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I've seen people have the best luck with the methods that Connie describes. Fighting between two dogs when a younger dog reaches maturity is VERY common and sounds like exactly what is happening with your guys.

One thing that is really important to remember is how you act when they start to posture to one another. Do you get all tense? They can sense that, and it doesn't make things better. Try to stay relaxed, give a command they know, and enforce it (I don't believe in the benefits of physically punishing dogs due to numerous recent studies, but enforce however works for you and your animals). I've found that for me, because I both don't ascribe to the belief that dogs are fighting us for alpha positions and don't physically punish undesirable behaviors, distraction and redirection works best if I see a tense situation between two dogs. I also praise, praise, praise for good interactions and both get attention from me (a desired thing for them) at the same time.

It's tough but you'll learn the signs, watch for freezing, tails held very high, hard and unblinking stares, a shift back on the haunches, lip movement (pulled down and forward tight is not a good sign), heads held over objects with eyes looking at the opponent. Also watch for space issues, if they have trouble with crowding at the door go to the center of the room, call them, leash them there, and let one out at a time. Attention from humans can be another trigger, so watch the one your petting for signs they're guarding you from the other dog.

I would also think about upping the exercise they get and seeing if that helps. Two really good books are The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell and Fight! by Jean Donaldson. Donaldson's book about guarding behavior (Mine!) was *very* helpful to me when Jake was a puppy and they're only about $13 - with step-by-step instructions and things that would point to a problem best-suited for a professional.

If you want to find a behaviorist this is a good place to start:
American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

Good luck, it can be scary and frustrating, but I'm sure you'll be able to work it out between the two of them, it's just managing it safely until then!

*The above dogs are daycare dogs I worked with. Charlotte is definitely a lover not a fighter as far as Jake's concerned.
 
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