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Advice/suggestions please.

(6 Posts)
SchadenfreudePersonified Thu 19-Oct-17 14:47:17

We've ALWAYS had dogs - 40 years married and never less than two dogs, and for about 30 of those 40 years we had six. Now have a problem that we've never experienced and not sure how to cope.

At present we have a springer bitch (spayed, almost 2 years) and a cocker bitch (spayed, 17 months).

I prefer my bitches to have a season before they are neutered - but when the springer had hers she became a monster. She attacked our two cats, and repeatedly attacked her "sister" (who is a very servile, placatory little dog). There was never any actually biting/contact, but she would have the other animals pinned to the floor, terrified and screaming (and more than once peeing with fright), while she stood over them snarling and snapping.

The vet said that some bitches got like that in heat - they instinctively knew that they might need all the available resources if they became pregnant, and so they did what they could to ensure they go them. This seemed a reasonable explanation to us, so we hoped it would settle down after she was spayed (She was 10 months old when she had her heat, spayed six weeks after she had finished.)

After a few continuing aggressive weeks, she seemed to pretty much settle down, though occasionally she would lunge at the other for no apparent reason. Again - no actual harm, just scared her. We have coped with this by separating the two for 10 mins or so, and then letting them back into each other's company - you'd think there'd never been any trouble. They sniff noses and then cuddle up like nothing has happened.

Our cocker has never had a season, but we got her spayed anyway (a fortnight ago) in case she had had a silent heat (didn't want to risk a pregnancy).

However the singer has jumped on her a couple of times for no apparent reason this week - lots of noise but no damage. Now, when we pull her away, our little cocker has tried to bite her paws. She obviously feels that we are taking her side and trying to get a nip in. Again - short separation and they are fine.

We have NEVER had anything like this. We had two bitches who hated each other once, but they tended to really try to kill each other, so difficult as it was, we kept them apart and never left them alone together. Because they loathed each other we knew where we were with them - these two are cuddling up to each other 99% of the time, then suddenly - KA-BOOM!

We aren't really sure what to do. There rarely seems to be a trigger that we can identify. It's not even times where they have become excited about something else, and it has spilled over. They will be lying on the floor dozing, then suddenly the springer will leap at the cocker. Or one other will come in from having a wee, and again - the springer will lunge.

We're worried that we are actually making it worse by separating them (as the little 'un is now starting to respond).

Should we:
a) continue as we are and hope that they will settle now that both are spayed

b) not intervene and trust that the springer will just put the other "in her place" but not hurt her (there's quite a size difference)

c) get a male dog - it has been suggested that a male would dominate both bitches and they would settle. We've had mixed sex groups before and they settled well - but the other bitches we had who hated each other had a male dog in the house too - it didn't make any difference. We have got room for a third dog, and we could afford to keep one, so if that would work we would consider it (we are worried that it would just cause a three-way problem and we'd be even worse off!)

For what it's worth, we went to a dog behaviourist who charged £140 to tell us to do what we were already doing. I wasn't impressed with her - she didn't come to our home (to me, you need to see the animals on their home ground) and when we were with they were fine with each other (as they are almost all of the time).

Has anyone else experienced this? Did you find anything that worked?

We have no problems re: food, toys, treats or beds. We just can't see the trigger, but there must be one.

SchadenfreudePersonified Thu 19-Oct-17 14:47:47

Blimey - that's a long post! Sorry folks - just trying to give all the details.

missbattenburg Thu 19-Oct-17 15:24:35

If you cannot find a trigger then I would be tempted to look for the reward instead. What does your springer get out of these encounters?

The best option would be to video them and watch the whole thing back in slow motion, including the few mins afterwards. You need to be able to see all the micro behaviours that occur before, during and after. Failing that, one of you will have to deal with the fight while the other watches on with a bit of a scientific/critical mindset.

For example, is it as simple as the springer wanting to occupy whatever space the cocker is in at the time so the 'reward' is that the cocker moves (or is moved) out the way?

Could it be that the springer gets your undivided attention after an episode and so that could be a reward?

Could she just be bored and a fight is a way to spice the day up?

Finding out the reward will help you make sure she doesn't get it by misbehaving and instead focus on better, more polite ways to get whatever it is she wants.

I definitely would not add a 3rd dog to the mix. Dominance theory is not longer believed to be correct and to a male dog will not automatically dominate two females. You just risk making it all worse.

For what it's worth, I also don't think your cocker thinks you are taking the springer's side. I don't think dogs consider fights as one side vs another so wouldn't worry you were on her side. I would believe that the cocker was just losing any patience with the springer and becoming less and bothered about maintaining the relationship so is more likely to lash out. That's not great news... life will be much happier for you all if they can remain tolerant of each other.

SchadenfreudePersonified Thu 19-Oct-17 15:52:49

Could she just be bored and a fight is a way to spice the day up?

This is a possibility - they get three good off-lead walks a day, but the springer in particular is always on the lookout for novelty.

But no - the springer doesn't get undivided attention past scuffle. She is put into the kitchen alone and let back in after a few minutes. Though perhaps like a child, she would rather have negative attention than none.

Thanks for the suggestions Missb - I'll try to be more alert to what is happening. If i was frequent it would be easier, but weeks can go by with nothing, then suddenly all hell is let loose.

Whitney168 Thu 19-Oct-17 16:03:06

Well you won't like my advice, but these are two very young bitches, and I would guess there is a good chance that your Springer is not ever going to get on with another bitch. I'm afraid I would find a lovely home for the Cocker, and if you feel you want another dog then get a male.

Not an easy decision, but living on tenterhooks is not easy for the people or the dogs either, and I suspect you wouldn't realise quite how much you had been doing so until it stopped. I wouldn't subject yourself or your dogs to another 10+ years of it, when it is only likely to get worse if the Cocker is starting to go back.

Yes, I've had to do this once too. You can't live your life keeping doors shut when you are trying to live with two dogs as family pets, it is not to your or the dogs' advantage. I didn't realise quite how hard it had been.

SchadenfreudePersonified Thu 19-Oct-17 17:42:11

Thank you Whitney - you are right, I don't like it, but I appreciate the time you have taken to give the benefit of your experience.

I doubt we could bear to part with either of them. We'll just have to see how it goes. It definitely improved after the springer was spayed and settled. We are hoping that when the cocker's hormones calm down it will stop altogether.

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