Why is our German Sheppard suddenly attacking our Pug?
January 22, 2009 10:23 AM   Subscribe

Why is our German Sheppard all of a sudden attacking our Pug?

We have 2 dogs; both are female, spayed, about 5 years old, and are mostly indoor dogs. We’ve had the pug for years, and we got the German Sheppard 9 months ago for security type reasons. I didn’t want to get a protective type dog unless I was certain that it was a dog I could trust with our 2 small children. (I know you can never TOTALLY trust a dog, but stay with me here.) After extensive research we found a woman who breeds German Sheppards, but primarily she is an animal behaviorist and trains dogs for a living. Our GS came from Germany, and had been with this woman and her 3 small children ever since. She wasn’t able to breed the GS so she wanted to find the right family for her, which is where we come in the picture.

So the GS and pug have gotten along fine. The GS will let the pug know that she’s the Queen Bee by guarding her food, standing over her, etc, but she’s never been aggressive. Until yesterday. I don’t know what happened, but they were outside, and I hear barking, my pug crying, and slamming against the patio door. I run out there and the GS is standing over the pug and biting at her head. I took the pug to the vet and she had 2 puncture wounds and scratched cornea. She’s doing okay, and after I brought her home, the GS was acting totally normal again.

Well, this morning I stupidly left both dogs outside while the pug went potty (like I have every single morning for the last 9 months), and another fight broke out. I had to grab the GS by the collar and jerk her off so the pug could escape. I have no idea what provoked her……maybe she was protecting her food, but the pug would never go over to the GS’s food dish if she was there.

I read in this thread that “bitches can and do kill each other, same sex, similar age dogs …..often do not get along, and females will take it to extremes”

So how much of this is “normal” pact behavior vs. aggression that will continue to escalate (or god forbid, possibly turning against us)?

PS – Yes, she has been very well socialized, and though we have over an acre lot that she runs around on, we only take her on actual walks every other day.
posted by texas_blissful to Pets & Animals (11 answers total)
Dogs need a firm hierarchy, and the GS sees itself above the pug. However by disciplining the GS and giving the pug extra attention, the pug gets put back above the GS. This is what I see as the cause of all this. Really I think the only way out of this is (1) physical separation, (2) enforcing the GS's status so that it won't have grounds to go after the pug, or (3) very strong obedience training for both dogs to assert yourself as alpha so that the GS becomes more submissive and that the pug doesn't set anything off.
posted by crapmatic at 10:45 AM on January 22, 2009

biscotti's at work, but channeling things I've heard her talking about:

You were there for both fights? If the first fight was, as you describe, relatively quiet, that's bad. Loud, thrashy, shouting-barking and flailing around with teeth is more normal "dogs having an argument." Quiet can be closer to "I want to kill that dog."

I would take the GSD back to the breeder you got her from and explain that, due to dog dynamics, you can't offer the GS the good home you thought you could.

I would not worry especially about the GSD "turning against" you. She's not a wolf or other wild animal, and she's not doing this because she's vicious or bad or had been abused or anything else like that.

At the same time, you don't want the pair together with small kids around. They get into another real fight, kid goes in to break it up... recipe for disaster. Or even, they get into another real fight, kids watch your GSD kill your pug with blood everywhere, yuck.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:36 AM on January 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

I have two female dogs of similar ages who got along just fine for about 2 years. Then one day there was a fight in the backyard - puncture wounds, stitches, the whole deal. When we got home from the vet everything was fine. Six months later, they fought again. Then the fights got more and more frequent, and while at first I knew the triggers and could try to avoid them, eventually it got to the point that anything could trigger it. My fiance and I both ended up with stitches and puncture wounds from trying to break them up.

I've seen a behaviorist and worked with the dogs, but at this point they have been kept physically separate for over a year, and will likely remain separate for the rest of their lives.

I'm no expert, but I'm just speaking from my own experience. A little disagreement here and there is probably to be expected, but full on fighting where the smaller dog tries to get away but can't is another issue. Talk to the behaviorist, but I'm guessing there is a good chance these dogs will never get along. And the biggest concern is the children. When the dogs are fighting they are in complete survival mode - if one of the kids gets in the middle, the dog isn't going to stop biting. She won't even realize that she's no longer biting the other dog until she likely does some serious damage.

So I second ROU's suggestion to talk to the breeder and take the dog back. She should understand the situation and be willing to take the dog and find it a new home.
posted by thejanna at 11:49 AM on January 22, 2009

Response by poster: I wouldn't consider the fights quiet.....there was definitely thrashing about, and I could hear barking and growling, but I'm not sure who it was mostly coming from. But I didn't hear any threatening growls/barking leading up to the fights.

posted by texas_blissful at 11:56 AM on January 22, 2009

Since the breeder is a behaviorist and a trainer, I think she'd be a great person to talk to about this, particularly as she knows one of the dogs in question. She should be able to address any fears you might have. Also, in the event that you have to get rid of her, chances are likely that she'd want to take the dog back and be the one to rehome it, since she's already invested so much time with the dog and (presumably) should know what type of environment is good for it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:58 AM on January 22, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for sharing your story thejanna, but I have to ask.....how in the world keep your 2 dogs totally separate?
posted by texas_blissful at 11:58 AM on January 22, 2009

Keeping dogs separate is not rocket science. Keep them in different rooms. Keep the rooms' doors closed. Don't let them be in the same room, or the same outside, ever.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:59 PM on January 22, 2009

Best answer: Talk to the breeder and arrange to return the Shepherd. This is not unusual in any way, and the breeder should be aware of this if she is a behaviorist and as such should not give you a hassle about returning the dog. If bitches get a real hate-on like this, it is vanishingly rare that you will ever be able to safely leave them together. With a LOT of work you may be able to have them be supervised in the same room for short periods, but if you do not enforce 100% separation immediately until you can consult with a behaviorist, it is very possible that the Shepherd will end up killing your Pug. Definitely and at very least start feeding them separately (in separate rooms, where they cannot see each other), and do not allow them to have high-value items (toys, chewies, bones, whatever) in the same room, and do not leave them alone together unsupervised. Do not underestimate how dangerous this situation may be for your dogs, yourself and your children.

Dog aggression does not have anything at all to do with human aggression, but a dog fight can easily cause severe human injuries if you get in the way. Return this dog to the breeder, this is a dangerous situation to have in any home, it's frankly terrifying in a home with children.

Training and socialization are very important, but they cannot prevent or cure established same-sex aggression. You do not need this kind of situation in your home. I lived with two males who had this problem and it was horrendous (and males are almost never as bad as females when it comes to same sex aggression). The Shepherd is not being a "bad dog", but she cannot live well with your Pug (or likely with any other female dog), in a "natural state" one or the other of these dogs would leave of her own accord, you need to make that happen before the Shepherd does it herself, in a permanent fashion.
posted by biscotti at 2:51 PM on January 22, 2009

Just wanted to chip in and agree that sometimes female dogs just won't ever get along with each other. Growing up, I had a Labrador/German Sheppard that could never be allowed around other females. She was fine with female puppies, but once they were adults, she would want to kill them. She was an absolute sweet heart to people and male dogs, but other females had to die. Our dogs were outdoor dogs, so she was kenneled during the day and the other females (all small toy breeds that could in no way defend themselves) were kenneled at night. She actually did one day kill my mother's poodle. It was an accident of someone not locking her kennel door before releasing the other dogs, and it took less than a minute or two for her to realize the door was open, open it, snatch up the poodle who was running by, drag her into her cage, and kill her (I think she managed to break her neck; wasn't any blood).

What I'm saying is, separate them immediately. No good can come of waiting to see what will happen next. And those who suggest giving up the Sheppard aren't being drastic. It will be easier on your nerves (and safer for all involved) if one of the dogs goes. While I did love our dogs, it was really stressful for years wondering if every time the dogs were being loud was because somehow Ebony had been let out and had gotten a hold of one of the others.
posted by quirks at 4:38 PM on January 22, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you all for your input. We do plan on talking to the breeder first thing in the morning, and will plan on finding another home for her. While she is a great and beautiful dog, our pug is basically our oldest child, so she stays.

Is there any etiquette on returning a dog to a breeder? Generally speaking do they re-compensate in any way? The GS cost us $2,000, and while money obviously isn’t the biggest concern, it would be nice be receive some of that money back when we know we could find a good home for her here for a price (not to mention the travel expenses).
posted by texas_blissful at 5:23 PM on January 22, 2009

What does your contract say? If your contract does not outline the fact that you must return the dog to the breeder if you can't keep her (rather than rehoming her yourself), then you should know that you did not buy from an ethical breeder (all ethical dog breeders insist on placing their dogs themselves, or at least vetting new homes, this is part of taking responsibility for the dogs you produce for their entire lives). And if you don't have a contract at all, the same applies. It is not unusual for the refund given to diminish after a certain amount of time.
posted by biscotti at 6:32 PM on January 22, 2009

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