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Pawsitive Training for Better Dogs

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Disclaimer: The material provided by Bailey on this web site is designed for educational and entertainment purposes only. The information presented is provided with the understanding that Bailey is not engaged in rendering medical or professional behavioral services. Such information should not be used as a substitute for behavioral advice provided by a qualified canine behavior therapist.

Please remember that Bailey's advice, comments, or opinions are solely Bailey's, and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff here at Pawsitive Training for Better Dogs.

Pawsitive Training for Better Dogs is not responsible for actions taken based on the advice provided herein.

Can't We All Just Get Along?

Dear Bailey,

I have 3 dogs. 1 Dalmatian f/7 yrs old, 1 Shepherd mix f/11 yrs old and my new addition, a Shepherd f/5 yrs old from Shepherd rescue.

Well the Dalmatian and the shep/mix would fight once in awhile, but now since the new dog arrived, it's knock-down, drag-out violent. The Dalmatian always starts it, but she always GETS HURT THE WORST. Back and forth to the vet. 

They all growl at each other but show no teeth and wag their tails.....I just want them all to get along. Help me, please. 

I think the Dalmatian is also food aggressive because she doesn't let the older shep/mix eat as much. The Dalmatian is fat/large but the shep/mix is very skinny. They have an automatic feeder in the back yard; should I also remove that?

Thank you,

Worried Owner


Bailey's Reply:

Dear Worried Owner,

My primary concern here is with the severity of the fighting.  Re-establishing control of your pack takes time.  Since you've mentioned that you've been to the vet multiple times, I don't know how much time you've got before things get too far out of control (and they sound rather out of control!).  If you're concerned about the safety of your dogs, don't rule out the possibility of finding a more suitable home for one of them.  I'm not telling you that you must give up one of your dogs.  But in consideration of the situation, it may be a more harmonious solution to your problem.

It's not always easy to be the leader of a pack of dogs.  My owner read a great article to me recently by Pat Miller about how to manage a peaceful pack.  She mentions that the more dogs you have in your home, the more in charge you (as leader of the pack) must be.  So, as their benevolent leader, take a look at where your major conflicts amongst your dogs exist and take steps to manage them.  

“Increase the amount of exercise each of your dogs get.”

You mentioned that your Dalmatian doesn't let the older shep/mix eat as much from the automatic feeder.  Should you remove the feeder?  Absolutely!  Since this seems to be an area of conflict, take it out of the scenario.  Feed each of your dogs in completely separate areas at the same time- the less they see where the other is eating, the better.  This way, there is no conflict over food.  Also by feeding your dogs at designated times you improve your role as leader of your pack because you are providing the food.

Increase the amount of exercise each of your dogs get.  I'm not talking about "Yard Time".  I'm talking about time that you spend out walking or running with your dogs in the world.  No time to get them out?  Find a dog-walker that will get them the exercise they need.  A tired dog will be less likely to raise conflicts within the pack.  The more one-on-one time you have with each dog individually helps, too.  

The better trained each of your dogs are, the easier it is to keep control of your pack.  I highly recommend that you take the time to train each of your dogs individually, either with a group class or with a private trainer.  It may take awhile, but it's worth the effort!  Find instructors who use positive reinforcement techniques.  Don't go with a trainer who uses harsh methods, hits, or yells at dogs!  A good trainer can show you how to manage your packs' behavior in detail.  Visit the Association of Pet Dog Trainers online trainer directory for a trainer near you.  

I also recommend that you take a look at a great book which deals with managing a multiple dog household: Feeling Outnumbered? How To Manage and Enjoy Your Multi-Dog Household by Patricia McConnell and Karen London.  

Good luck and keep me posted on how things work out!

Sniffs and Licks, 

Bailey

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