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Discussion Starter #1
Ok, I thought with Brady feeling better and less fighting going on that they would slowly return to normal, but tonight, 2.5 fights broke out (I caught one so early they didn't have time to start) and I can't see what sparked it, which prevents a good deal of ability to prevent a fight before it starts. As soon as I see the body language they display, of course, I step in and we have been successful in cooling them off. Due to the extent of it, we have gotten pretty hard on them for fighting...I yell NO!!!! to both of them and make them sit/down until both cool off. I actually felt awful because by the time the 3rd fight almost erupted tonight, Brady got so upset when I grabbed his collar to separate them before they went at each other. Am I doing the wrong thing yelling at them? I don't want them to think this is in any way acceptable behavior!!!!

As for reasons they are fighting, some of my thoughts and please comment anywhere on these:

1. Is there a power struggle going on? Abby is now 13 months (as of yesterday!).  Female, larger in size, was in the household first. Brady, unsure of age but definitely older (told between 2 and 3), male, and a cocker spaniel, who is naturally submissive in nature. Abby has appeared to be the dominant one throughout but there are a good deal of moments when she becomes submissive to him for various reasons...overall though, she seems dominant. Brady has been with us since January.  Based on ages or time with us, is there any reason a struggle for dominance would be taking place now? Well we try to be the dominant ones in the household, I think a dominant position between the dogs is not preventable. I have read mixed things on supporting a dominant role in dogs. If that is suggested, WHO do we support as dominant if there is a battle for it?

2. Abby was a big mama's girl until Brady joined us. Brady turned into SUCH a mama's boy that Abby turned to a daddy's girl. We were on vacation 2 weeks ago and since we returned, Abby is really seeking my attention. Noticing that while Abby used to be the fight instigator and that now, they both are, is there a jealousy issue going on? Is Abby trying to fight for my attention where she has just given into him getting it before? Is Brady trying to fight to keep my attention? And what do you believe to be the best way to handle both needing my attention? She's so huggy with me...could this be setting off his issues? While they HATE being separated, I do try to give them both some individual time with me, and we have been trying to sort of sway Abby's needs back to my husband so there isn't a battle over my attention if that's what is causing this. To do this, we've tried to make her rely on him...during couch time, he makes sure she's with him and petting her a lot, etc. in general, aiming his affection for her.

3. Are we just handling the fighting wrong, thereby leading to stress and causing more fighting?

4. Is it the heat wave passing through?!?!?! Full moon?!?!?!?  Stress of our kitchen renovation?!?!??! Lack of a 105th dog toy?!?!?!?! hahhaaa..grasping for anything right now.

Don't get me wrong, they adore each other. Separating them makes them both miserable. They play non-stop and ALWAYS follow each other. This morning before I left for work they spent about 3 hours chasing each other, tumbling around and knawing on each other. Then they start the fighting tonight and all goes downhill. This is just new to me in the past 2 weeks and I am unsure what is causing it and how to most appropriately handle it. I think knowing the cause will help me in handling it...I hope.

Sorry for crazy typos...its late and it's been a LONG day on several levels.
 

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Question......are they really fighting....or being normal dogs??  I watch my mom's goldendoodle every day....and my girl, Cloe and Jake "fight" every day.  They sound like they are going to kill each other....but apparently this is normal dog behavior.  We just got another Boxer boy, 7 weeks old.....and Chloe has been trying to "teach" this pup HOW to play!  It has been one of the neatest things to watch!!  She will grab his leg or neck and very gently bite it....while he BITES on her.  They make all sorts of noise, wrestle around on the ground, biting, barking, growling, yelping, attacking....having a ball. I've learned that this is very normal dog behavior!  My mom got all concerned when she saw how the dogs were playing and tried to stop it, until I told her that is was normal...that this was what they do!  Good luck to you!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
No, this is fighting fighting...they"play fight" all the time, grabbing legs, ears, tails, etc. They have a great time whining at each other to keep playing, etc. That is fine, they are playing, I just don't let them get too out of control...if one is getting too rough, I give a "gentle!" or "settle" and they quiet down a bit. What has been going on lately though is real, drawing blood, fighting. Only a couple times has blood actually been drawn but who knows what would happen if we didn't separate them ASAP. I think most of the time, although they are hard core fighitng, neither actually intends to hurt the other because I feel there would be more blood and cuts...but there are occassions...actually Brady got his teeth on Abby tonight and she had a puncture on both sides of her leg.
 

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See... I can't really assess anything because I'd have to be there to see who triggers first and the body language and what not..

Personally.. I don't tolerate this kind of aggression whatsoever.. All hell would break loose if any of the big dogs (Toby -92lbs-, Mia -only 25lbs so far-, and Sid -67lbs-) fought within the household over anything (dominance, toys, etc)... It would be a holy mess and we could probably assume who would win..  8O  .. I am the dominant one and thats it.. They have NO reason to fight because I decide what goes on..

Put them both on the NILIF regime.. They both need to look to you for guidance.. Not resort to each other and realizing you're unstable as a pack leader.. I hate referring to this like I'm Cesar Milan, but my "kids" are dogs first and foremost.. I always tell people like this:

Yes.. I spoiled my dogs, but they don't pull one over on me.. Why? If my skin child bit someone at daycare, "no biggy" (well you know what I mean!), they get kicked out of daycare.. If my dog bites someone, I go to jail, pay fines out the rear end, and lose them on top of that!

Thats all scenario though be/c I don't have any real children...
 

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OMG....wow that is something!  I have NO idea what to do there!  Chloe has a ton of scabs on her neck, and several scraps/scabs on the bottom of her chin from her rough housing with Jake. I was just trying to refer to many of my Boxer literatures....and most things talked about referring to a trainer.  hhhmmmm.....don't know, but I guess it is worth a look.  Man, I feel bad for you!  There have been times that I've felt the need to seperate my dogs as well....for fear that they'd really hurt each other.  Funny thing is, even when I do that, they go right back to where they left off!  Stinkers!!!!!  Geez, I wish you luck!  I'm sooo interested in knowing what you end up doing and what works!  While Chloe is super gentle and has been a wonderful teacher for Fiddler....they go at something terrible, and it does scare me sometimes...especially when I hear the yelp!
 

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When Liz pops back on here, she can give you some guidance... Best of luck..
 

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OK...The renovations to the kitchen could be causing excess stress in the household (not just the dogs, but you guys too) which can and will change the dynamic at least a bit.  It also sounds like you go from favoring one to favoring the other and then back again...NO FAVORITISM!!!!  They are o the same level!!!  I recommend that you train them DAILY together (as in at the same time)...This will likely be very interesting for you, but its do-able!!!

Also, As Kenya (Flutterby) stated, I can't give you any definative answers in this situation, because I can't see whats triggering it (although I suspect that favoritsm and the remodel are impacting it).  No maor yelling...Stay firma dn very matter of fact.  Throw a blanket over one of them (if you are alone) or a blanket over each (if there are at least two people) and seperate them.  Time-outs (seperatey and alone) for a short period of time to cool off.  Watch them like a hawk...

If you can give me more info (body language, standing position, eye contact, who was getting attention, who "butted" in, who was giving attention)..anything...I also think that it might be a good idea to have both taken in and have a thyroid draw and maybe a physical to check both of them...Sometimes irregular Thyroid levels can cause behavioral issues.

Get back to me and I'll help as best I can...If I don't think I can help, I will personally refer you to a behaviorist in your area myself...

Liz and Lilly
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Ok, this will be long so I can try to address everything:

Thanks so much for your replies...Liz, with respect to attention, there is no favortism (I can't ever seem to figure out who to kiss last before bed...I hate to kiss either one of them last for fear the other is counting...tehehehe) by any means...What I mean to refer to (and maybe I don't spell it out well) is that natural tendancy for a dog to see attention from one peron more than the other. A dog seems to always have that one person in the family to whom he/she attaches him/herself. Brady has attached himself to me. Abby has therefore gone towards daddy.  Since we've been back from vacation, Abby seems to have this insatiable need for attention from me and has really attached herself to me. I wonder if this is what is causing some of the issues....Abby trying to steer herself in towards me and Bradyis getting in the way because he is always stuck to me. Could she not like Brady being velcroed to me when she wants love? She always gets her love...I put done everything I am doing the second she comes to me. Could Brady not like that Abby is "stealing" more of his time? Could he be taking notice of all the extra attention she is seeking from me? In other words, if she is recently attaching herself strongly to me, could this be changing the dynamics of their relationship over jealousy?

Regarding the kitchen renovation, I half joke about that....we have honestly been in some stage of renovation since before we got both dogs. the kitchen reno started about 4 months ago (and will be concluding soon, YEAH!), neither really know of anything else since they've been with us. When I work in there for painting or picking up or whatnot (maybe 1 or 2ce a week for an hour or 2), they are sometimes separated with rawhides to keep them busy, or I bring a bunch of toys in the kitchen and a big blanket for them to romp on. Otherwise, if it's just my husband working on it, then they are either upstaris with me in their playroom or outside running around.

Let me talk about some of the body language...prior to the past 2 weeks, when a fight had occurred, it was ALWAYS over rawhide bones. So we stopped with the rawhides, obviously. On occassion, they each get one, but they are separated for the duration of having the bone. It's then taken away, they are each given a treat and a few minutes to sort of forget about the rawhide, then they are reintroduced.
With this new scenario...fighting is for an unknown reason.  They lock eyes for a few moments, then go at it. It took a couple fights for us to distinguish and oncoming fight from an oncoming play session because they also lock eyes when they are about to play. The differences though are than typically Brady is standing when the play is about to begin, his head is relaxed, he glances sideways towards me every few seconds as if to make sure they are allowed to play and his body is lose. Abby can be in any position, body tight even, but her forehead remains "smooth," not worried looking or winkled up. When a fight is about to begin, Brady typically is sitting or laying down, his head is pulled back a bit (all I can think to explain is pull your head backwards like you are imitating a chicken, so the chin under your chin ends up turning to a "double chin"---that's how his head is drawn back), his body is more tense, and he does not glance at me, he will NOT look away from her. When I try to get his attention, he tries to see around me to keep the gaze with her. With Abby, the only minor change seems to be that her forehead looks "worried" and winkled up. They remain in this gaze for a few seconds and then go at it. Key being to catch them in this gaze and interrupt it. Typically, interrupting it doesn't prevent them from trying but at least we get them separated before they make contact. Last night, for the first time, when I saw the "gaze," i told them "No!" and held both their collars and Brady barked randomly a couple times. He hasn't done that before.

After their separation is over and I reintroduce them, they seem to check each other over and go immediately into a play tumble. Brady becomes a little more leary over the next hour or so and tends to turn his body away as he sits each time she catches his gaze. But that doesn't stop him from keeping the gaze. Last night, the gaze started mildly and I intervened quickly, Abby put herself in her crate and waited till we said it was ok to come out!  It seems from both their behaviors that neither really wants to get into it but when they do, they do!

What was going on immediately before as far as attention goes, let me give a couple examples: (it is difficult to determine who moves it from the gaze to an actual fight...seems almost simultaneous but I am also just so busy trying to stop it first, I barely notice!)
1. Last night, one started when Abby got super playful and was tossing my flipflop around, she rolled on her back and was kicking it with her paws...Brady was chewing on a kong,...he usually tackles her when she acts this way but chose not to...no biggy. I went to her, took the flip flop away, quickly told her no because she was chewing on it, and remained on the floor with her for a moment smooshy facing her :p and playing with her a bit. When I got up, I put the flip flops in a spot she couldn't get them and both were curious about them and went to see where they were. I said "no-no" quietly which is more than enough for both of them. Brady moved to my other side and the gaze started.
2. Another time, Brady was on one side of the room chewing a toy, Abby laid down near me for a moment, the gaze started.
3. Abby got on the loveseat next to me, Brady got on the couch next to my husband, the gaze started.
4. one fight erupted over a piece of food that Brady stole from a grocery bag...while this is a totally different case...it is still not acceptable and needs to be addressed. Other than this, many sound like situations in which Abby has sought my attention. Could she be warning Brady off or could Brady be jealous as he is so attached to me?

I will try to think of more situations leading to fights and write later.  I hate to see this, they are SO attached to each other, I hate to see that disturbed. Right now they are nose to nose cuddling. But  something has definitely been going on between them in the past 2 weeks. Could our vacation have set this off? THey were with my parents, being completely spoiled the whole week...they are very familiar with them  but I am sure it was still stressful for them.

I definitely need to stop with the yelling then (I YELL NO! as I try to stop the fighting, because they are so worked up and grumbling, I don't think they hear me...I will stop that though, maybe it only eggs them on. Much easier to handle the separation when my hubby happens to be in the same room.

Also, I just took them to the vet Tuesday because of all this, each had a physical and Brady had bloodwork drawn but the thyroid was not checked. Maybe I will make another appointment.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
In reading that, I am afraid I still haven't addressed the favoring issue well enough, but I can say there isn't any. Everything gets dropped for whichever comes looking for lovin', each gets alone time with me, each gets group lovin' from me, when I sit at me desk, they tend to take turns sleeping in my lap, treats are given at the same time, they each get a TON of love from both of us. When they are both relaxing, I position my self between them if I can so I can pet them both and smooshy face them. But there is still that tendency for a dog to attach to one person in the household and until 2 weeks ago, there was one for each to attach to....now they are both just attached to the same it appears.
 

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On my drive to work, I kept repeating their fights in my head and thought of another body language detail that I have been keeping my eye out for...With the "play gaze," Brady looks at Abby head on. When a brawl is about to erupt, while he DOES NOT break hs gaze, he tends to turn his head slightly to the side, sort of staring at her from an angle. Nervousness about the doomed brawl?

Ugh, I hate this...they are my babies and I hate to see this happen. But I did say to my husband the other night, after they went straight back to romping around like nothing ever happened, dogs are completely different than humans in that a grudge is just non-existant.
 

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OK...When they are about to fight...They're not going to hear anything...You yelling is just white noise to them, but yu are adding to the tension and your dogs can sense that and it can escalate the situation more quickly.

Based on the end of your email, it sounds like you are favoring one over the other.  Most people do this without realizing it.  Like when you said you told Abby no and removed that slipper, but stayed on the floor for a moment to smoosh her face.  I also believe that they are fighting over a resource...YOU!!!

NO MORE FAVORITISM...When you go to give one attention...call the other over and give that one attention too.  I know this isn't what you want to hear, but as a dog trainer (and this is just the type of person I am) I just don't pull any punches!!!

Look at the dog body language stickey and then watch your dogs...99.9% of dog communication is through body leanguage and I think there is more going on there than you realize.  Let me know what you find.

Liz and Lilly
 

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Discussion Starter #12
No, that's fine, and I can't afford to have any punches pulled right now, I need this fixed yesterday! ha! Let me ask then...typically, I do try to pet both at the same time (this is of course unless we are having a little one on one time, but for that, I take one outside to play frisby for a bit...the other can't see this happening...then I switch and take the other one), as I hate to have one think that I am not paying attention to that one..."but look what she's doing with him/her." That is constantly going through my mind...in fact, if one is tumbling around near me, I try to sucker the other one in being near me also. But, the other is just not always interested in joining. Using the slipper incident, Brady was chewing on a kong....whereas sometimes he would see me on the floor with her and comes tumbling over, other times I can try to tempt him over and he has no interest in joining...he's happy with his kong. Do I not do anything with Abby then? Or should I try to relocate Abby closer to Brady so I can at least pet him while I am playing with her? Or is the fact that I have invited him but he's not interested in joining enough to make it ok that I play with her for a few minutes? What's the best approach? My thought would be maybe to move the one that does want to play closer to the other one so I can pet both?

Let's discuss another situation....Abby laying next to be on the floor while he brought his bone to the other end of the room to chew on...or Abby jumping on the love seat with me and Brady going to the couch with my husband...in that situation, neither was even being petted yet when the gaze started....how does that get handled? Or are those types of things just the result of earlier "favoritism"?

I did read the body language stickey last week when this was in the beginning stages and I am trying to watch for those signs...what I have explained is what I see at this point, but I will keep watching. They are not out of my site for a moment at this point in time.

I have also started researching for trainers around here...what would a trainer/behaviorist do in this situation? It's unlikely that with others in the room, this behavior would be displayed.
 

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I think you need a behaviorist (not just a regular "Trainer") to come to your home and watch what goes on.
 

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Call me (or give me your info so I can call you) and I will walk you through the process of finding a good behaviorist and what they may do for this.

Liz and Lilly
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thank you...I see your number on your website, I will give you a call this weekend if that's alright. Thank you everyone for your help with this...it's so frustrating. The first day they were introduced, they spent 6 hours chasing each other and romping. They spent their first night together curled up in a ball together. This has continued to the present and until 2 weeks ago, this behavior was just non-existant. I hate to see it. We'll get through it one way or another though...I agree with Liz, I think I may be the resource that they are fighting over...we just need to learn how to deal with it.
 
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