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Roomie dogs are fighting consistently
September 9, 2013 4:46 PM   Subscribe

I live with a person who has a dog that I like quit a bit. She's really friendly, well mannered, not many complaints. Another roomie moved in about 2 months ago with her own dog. Ever since moving in both dogs fight constantly. I don't know if you can assign fault, but the new dog often does a thing where it will bite at the old dog's neck until it responds. The old dog will sometimes steal food and chew toys from the new dog. This is nearly always play fighting, but sometimes they get carried away and seem to want to harm the other. If I'm home by myself yelling "Hey, assholes, stop it!" is enough to get them to stop for the rest of the day, and I can usually give a loud "Hey!" if I see them doing things that lead up to fighting. However, both other owners have a harder time getting them apart, and sometimes do things I think are counter productive. I don't want to tell them how to control their dogs, but it's really tiring to be living in the constant center of a dog fight. Should I take more active steps to discipline them while the owners are around, or should I just say "well, not my dog," and not intervene?

The new dog is nice enough around me, but has to have a muzzle to be walked, chews itself constantly (to the point where its skin is often pink and sore), doesn't seem to like being petted very much (it will move out of your way if you try to touch it and lick your hand instead), and is generally very high strung (hates any loud noise, barks at anything it sees outside). I believe that both are rescue dogs, and both are pitbull mixes.

The owners will generally not yell (or yell only briefly) to get them to stop fighting, and will instead try to physically separate them. Sometimes (counter intuitively, I think) they'll give them chew toys as a distraction (I see this as being reward behavior, and probably not dissuading them at all).

Even though this seems like play fighting, both dogs have sustained small scratches and wounds from it when it gets out of control.

Other than fighting, both dogs are well behaved and not a bother to me in the slightest.
posted by codacorolla to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
If the dogs listen to you but not their respective owners... congratulations, you are the pack Alpha!
posted by KokuRyu at 4:57 PM on September 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Should I take more active steps to discipline them while the owners are around, or should I just say "well, not my dog," and not intervene?

It's not your dog, but it's your home. Your voice is one of authority, the owners' voices aren't. Go ahead and use your voice, keep it to one word that means the same thing every time.
posted by headnsouth at 4:58 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unless the owners step in and actually tell you to cut it out, go ahead and play alpha to the pack. It's in everyone's best interests, especially the dogs who would rather feel safe and looked after than continuing to feel insecure about their place in the household. Their owners might feel awkward/passive about breaking up the fighting and are secretly relieved you've taken on this role.
posted by syncope at 5:26 PM on September 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Tell them you're sick of living with this and they need to get a trainer in. (They're cheaper than you think, most situations don't call for more than an hour or so, and it will pay off exponentially.) All three of you need to be there for the trainer session. The other two need to commit to doing what the trainer trains them to do (which is what trainers do; dogs are pretty much dogs, it's how the people act that matters).

Seriously, it will cut through so much bullshit to just do this, insist on it as a term of continued cohabitation, and the dogs' lives will improve as a result. Win/win/win.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:36 PM on September 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Keep using your authoritative voice and use it on the roomies as well when they give them treats for fighting.
posted by jacalata at 5:55 PM on September 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


The owners will generally not yell (or yell only briefly) to get them to stop fighting, and will instead try to physically separate them. Sometimes (counter intuitively, I think) they'll give them chew toys as a distraction (I see this as being reward behavior, and probably not dissuading them at all).

I agree, that's bad ownership. Dogs, especially two pitts, either need to be left to sort it out, or shouted into submission/separated and crated or locked away from each other. Anything in between confuses and/or encourages the dog.

Personally, my guess is the new dog's weird behaviour stems from being thrown into dog #1's environment and being uncomfortable. It's possible just letting them go to work out their own dog politics a few times would settle the situation, but you never know.
posted by mannequito at 6:26 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


You don't need to "yell" at the dogs. It's more of a body language thing, plus speaking forcefully.

At the end of the day, a little "management" can help reduce your workload as de facto Alpha. It may pay to sit down with your roomies and determine what conditions cause conflict between the dogs, and then working to manage the situation and prevent those situations from happening.

It could be the time of the day, it could be where their respective beds and feeding areas are located.

You can probably figure this out on your own, and then prob your roomies to action by saying:

"I feel really terrible about hollering at your dogs all the time. It must be stressful. I'm wondering if we could modify their environment by doing a, b, and c..."
posted by KokuRyu at 6:34 PM on September 9, 2013


I'm a dog owner.

I have a neighbor who I don't see eye to eye with about dog training and really the whole concept of dog ownership. Granted, this is not a roommate, but bottom line he knows fuck all about dog behavior despite his constant need to tell me all about what's wrong with my dog.

If I were your roommate, I would probably either politely ignore your attempts to butt into how I handle my dog, or I would tell you to fuck off.

They're not your dogs. I think it's perfectly OK to do what you think you need to do when nobody else is around, but it's really not for you to tell your roommates how to deal with their dogs' thus far perfectly safe yet slightly annoying behavior. Furthermore, you can lecture them till the cows come home, but you're not actually in control of how they are with their dogs.

If you don't like having roommates with dogs, move. If you're the leaseholder, on the next cycle of new roommates, institute a no pets policy.

If I were you, I'd probably suggest to your roommates that the dogs be separated when owners are not around to supervise.
posted by Sara C. at 7:05 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Domestic dogs don't have alphas. Wild wolves don't have alphas. Please do not be buying into the alpha bullshit ala Milan and instead read good positive trainers McConnell, Clothier, Dunbar. Read and share information on benevolent leaders with your housemates.

The dogs are responding to you because you're confident, not because you're loud and scary. The owners really need to step up and help their dogs, and in the meantime you can source some good learning. "Pitbulls" are not the right type of breed to do any sort of alpha/dominance/freakish monks training with -- and no dog is.

It's not your job, I agree, but you seemed more tuned in to the dogs than the owners are, so you have a chance to help them before one or both dogs really get hurt.

Not your problem. not your job. know. It's just an opportunity. Best wishes.
posted by vers at 7:16 PM on September 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I echo many of the other recommendations - including keeping the dogs separated when the owners are not around to supervise. While normally I wouldn't interfere in your roommates' decisions/actions ... these two dogs are different. The fact that the two dogs are sustaining scratches and minor wounds when "playing" with each other is not good.

It is your roommates' collective responsibility to make sure everyone - dogs & humans - are safe ... including you. Their reaction of separating the dogs is good, and not yelling at the dogs is also very good. But they need to do more... play fighting that results in minor wounds isn't very far from turning into a real fight where people/dogs get really hurt.

You have the right to request that they establish a set of clear, positive-based routines & guidelines for everyone to follow ... and that they follow-up to make sure the dogs interactions are getting more calm & peaceful.

You can recommend hiring a trainer to help, or give them a good book, e.g. Feeling Outnumbered? by Karen B. London & Patricia McConnell.

All the humans in the house need to agree to a standard set of routines/guidelines to follow for the dogs ... from feeding, sleeping, greeting guests, playtime, treats, separate spaces/time, etc. These dogs *need* uniform leadership and management (positive-based) from the humans in the household.
posted by apennington at 8:16 PM on September 9, 2013


has to have a muzzle to be walked, chews itself constantly (to the point where its skin is often pink and sore), doesn't seem to like being petted very much (it will move out of your way if you try to touch it and lick your hand instead), and is generally very high strung (hates any loud noise, barks at anything it sees outside).

This is really disturbing to me. Is this a rescue dog that is being rehabbed? Or is this par for the course for this dog and owner?

Personally I would tell new roomie and dog to GTFO because dog fighting is really stressful to be around, and poses a personal safety threat to you. You might want to have a serious discussion about what happens if you inadvertently end up in the middle of the fight and get hurt.

Can you suggest that they at least feed them separately and try to minimize stress-inducing situations? Two years in I still can't feed my dogs in the same room because my bossy old Corgi will bully my little rescue terrier. It's only one extra step to kennel them during meals, and it saves everyone a lot of grief.
posted by radioamy at 11:49 AM on September 11, 2013


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