We have 3 working collies who live together outside. Until recently, it was Top Dog who was the boss, ruling the roost over Old Boy and Young Pup. But there seem to be changes and Young Pup seems to be asserting her authority more, challenging Top Dog, starting a few scraps etc.
We're reluctant to separate them as they generally live peacefully together, they have a large unrestricted shared space but each have their own sofas, beds etc. They do eat communally though which would probably be the easiest to thing to separate if necessary..
Is this just normal pup growing up stuff? She's 2.5 yrs now so I would have expected this a bit earlier. She's never had a full season and is a bit of a baby though. Presumably, they'll sort it out amongst themselves eventually?
I'd read on here that pack theory has been discredited but I wasn't sure if that was for all dogs living in groups, or just when dogs are living in a house with a human as the 'top dog' (if that makes sense).
I think it's real scrapping - marks have been left...
Nothing has changed in their work levels or housing, but food has changed (I've finally got him to take them off bakers!). Could it be this?
OK, I've come across plenty of dogs becoming aggresive when they're ON bakers, not coming off of it though! What have you put them on, and have they taken to it OK? Perhaps they're just a little off colour at the moment so tempers are short.
If they are leaving marks can you seperate them? I'd be tempted to speak with your vet just to be on the safe side.
Incidentally, "The Culture Clash" is more for the people / dog dynamic, but the Coppinger book explores dog / dog relationships far more - you may find it interesting (I did!).
The Bakers thing is interesting - could it be because they are no longer getting the crap chemicals and are now getting witdrawal symptoms?
Funnily enough, I was going to ask on here about working dog food. We have taken on a young dog who was fed on working dog food, but wasn't getting much exercise, and wondered if this was part of the reason for his boisterousness.
Are the scraps starting over food? Could it be that the new food is higher value to them leading to more guarding/possessiveness? Hands up I know nothing about working farm dogs as mine are urban pooches, but there are certain things I have to feed them apart to avoid conflict.
2 1/2 is when a medium or large breed would be becoming fully mature, so it's quite a common time for friction to start with older dogs. Often, it's simply because previous 'puppy' behaviours that would be tolerated in a younger dog simply won't be tolerated anymore.
Is the older dog a bitch or a dog? If a bitch then I would be very careful to put a stop to it now, especially if they are entire, as bitch/bitch fights can become very serious and they can bear grudges which mean they can't ever be together at all. Bitch/dog fights rarely get so serious, but I would still try and nip it in the bud.
Another possible cause is illness in one of the dogs. When you say the young dog has never had a proper season, do you mean she is spayed or that she is entire and has never had a full season at 2 1/2? If it is the latter and you haven't already mentioned it to your vet, it is probably worth mentioning.
All that said, serious fights would result in injuries requiring vet treatment usually. It is probably worth seeing a good behaviourist in order to get the problem sorted now to avoid the chance of it becoming serious though.
Sorry for the late reply. So far as we know the pup had a false season when she was about 1 and then nothing since. The older bitch has only ever had one season so we didn't think anything of it. There are no entire dogs in the area so we thought that they just weren't 'interested'.
The food is definitely higher value to them so that's probably the trigger. We can separate them but pup hasn't lived alone before so we'll have to see how that goes. Although we farm we're also in a village so the neighbours may not be too impressed with a wailing collie.
We'll consider the behaviorist and if necessary take them back to our trialling teacher - they need to be able to work together on the fell so we can't have them constantly trying to kill each other!
I know pack theory has been discredited but we had this with our younger dog when she hit around 9 months. Up until then it did seem as though our older dog ruled the roost. Then suddenly the fights started. They got quite nasty and we got a behaviorist in. She did a lot of work on giving them treats when they came into the same room etc, generally making them think that being together was a good idea.
With this, it did sort itself out. But young dog now very much rules the roost. If there is food dropped, old dog always gives in and lets her get it. She will not tolerate him getting things first or before her. We feel a bit sad as he was here first but they do honestly seem happiest havying sorted the pecking order out for themselves. I still wonder if there is something in the top dog theory. But our behaviorist didn't buy into it at all and her methods seemed to work.