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Help! BC attacking other family dogs!

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Hello,

I'm new to posting here though I have been around before to browse general information. I am writing today because I have a 1 year old male Border Collie named Scout. He very large for a Border, standing at my shoulder level when he is on his hind legs (I am 5'8).

He is intact, though he has an appointment to be neutered at the end of this week. We were told to wait until he was about a year old for the surgery in relationship to his leg bone growth.

 

We have owned him since he was 12 weeks old, purchased from a breeder. We have 3 other dogs: 13 year old pom/chia mix, 10 year old black lab, 5 year old fox terrier, whom Scout has known since he arrived in our home.

He started fighting some with the 13 year old when he was about 7-8 months old, just a lot of mouthing and growling no matter how ugly is actually looked. The older dog used to be the most dominant one in the house regardless of the fact that she was the smallest.

We assumed the fighting between them was because the female would get into Scout's face and growl at him for no apparent reason and he just was old enough that he'd "had enough".

 

He hasn't fought with her in several months now, but he does lower his head and grumble at her if she gets near him when I am around. With redirection he quickly leaves the situation.

 

In the past week he has gotten into 2 fights with the other two dogs, both of which he has had no issues with since the day we brought him home.

 

The first could be classified as food aggression: my husband was feeding all the dogs, and instead of feeding Scout first and crating him, he had all 4 dog bowls down at the same time.

Scout may have perceived that the black lab was too close to his food and he bit her on the back side of her ear, leaving a relatively good size puncture wound. This dog yelped and escaped with no fighting back or even a growl.

 

Fast forward to last night. I was letting the dogs in from outside all at once, just as we have since January. Scout and the fox terrier are suddenly fighting in another room! When I arrived, the fox terrier was still growling and bleeding from a small puncture wound under his jaw, and the entire side of his neck was soaked with saliva.

After each fight that led to blood, my husband and I cleaned up the bleeding dog and disinfected wounds and Scout acted terrified....almost as if he was doing this out of fear/anxiety instead of a dominance thing. At one moment, he went into his crate and actually growled at me...I'm guessing because I was standing over him looking down? I'm not sure because within 30 seconds he was normal with me again.

 

I'm really at a loss of where to go with this. It almost feels like the aggression is escalating, but I can't pinpoint the source. I'm afraid because I also have a 3 year old daughter and he sometimes gives her one of the border collie stares, or even lowers his head and turns his gaze from her.

Do I find a behaviorist? Do I continue with my plans to neuter or will it make the situation worse? Any help someone could give would be great. Thank you!

 

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In these cases, the aggressor is sometimes not who one thinks.

I think that you need professional assistance and should have a really good trainer or behaviorist come to your home. In the meantime, you need to manage things so the dogs can't fight and so that your child doesn't potentially get hurt by being in the middle of things or otherwise.

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I agree having someone come to the house. Ask the vet if they are aware of someone they could refer you to.

 

Without seeing what is going on it is hard to say but I think some general suggestions may help. I would say start with the basics with everyone. Make sure they follow your commands to the letter. When you say sit they sit ect. Then feed each separately in a crate or different room ect. Dogs have a hierarchy - generally the oldest male is in charge if the group is male. Females do not adhere to that especially with other females. Young ones of both sexes test the waters to see where they fit and he may be doing that, he is the right age. Kinda like teenagers push to see how far they get. This is why you need to lay down the law. Put the oldest dogs food down first and so on to reinforce not only you are top but the older dogs are also. No one gets on the couch or bed unless invited, no one shoves through the door ect. Once the rules are clear and people are in charge sometimes things settle down on their own but I would find someone to come over and see what is going on. Always easier to fix things before it becomes a habit.

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Thank you for your replies.

Scout listens wholeheartedly to me when he is seperated from the others. There are a few things we are still working on for example, we're in the midst of working on a leash outside to stop and come back to me, in the hopes that he will someday be allowed off leash and come immediately when called.

He is very distracted around the other dogs, and when he is paying attention to me, hes constantly looking at the others out of the corner of his eyes and slightly turning his head towards them.

We haven't had any more incidents....yet...and have changed the way they are fed....older dogs first and seperated.

I am still concerned about whether his upcoming neutering will cause more of a rift right now. Does anyone feel strongly that I could be making it worse to follow through without being certain of the cause of the fighting?

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(I wouldn't neuter before 18 months anyways for health reasons - the joints aren't guaranteed to be fully closed until then)

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Neutering may be an option. I currently have an intact male (~20 months) who's personality has become a little 'stronger' in the last few months. I agree with another poster that your young one may be testing the hierarchy.

 

18 months is not a magic number. Yes, you are probably very safe that all (>98%) of growth plates are closed, but the growth plates close at different times during development. I know that even at 12 months old, some growth plates are already closed. More plates will mature (close) as he gets older. (Also, different breeds have different rates of growth plate closure. For example, a smaller terrier may have all growth plates closed by 10-11 months - per my vet.)

 

I neutered my first BC at 14 months because he was too distracted by all the pee smells everywhere. He would focus on sniffing, then chattering. I was going to neuter him at 15 - 16 months anyway, but I just moved it up a little. He was a monorchid, so I always knew from about 5-6 months that he would be neutered. I consulted a general vet and a rehab vet about the growth plate issue, and they both felt that I was 'safe' to neuter at 14 months.

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Thanks. He has a vet appointment today for an exam and to discuss neutering, I will let you know what they say. He is really marking now and becomes distracted by our two females even though they are fixed. He's being such a teenager.

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Neutering may be an option. I currently have an intact male (~20 months) who's personality has become a little 'stronger' in the last few months. I agree with another poster that your young one may be testing the hierarchy.

 

18 months is not a magic number. Yes, you are probably very safe that all (>98%) of growth plates are closed, but the growth plates close at different times during development. I know that even at 12 months old, some growth plates are already closed. More plates will mature (close) as he gets older. (Also, different breeds have different rates of growth plate closure. For example, a smaller terrier may have all growth plates closed by 10-11 months - per my vet.)

 

I neutered my first BC at 14 months because he was too distracted by all the pee smells everywhere. He would focus on sniffing, then chattering. I was going to neuter him at 15 - 16 months anyway, but I just moved it up a little. He was a monorchid, so I always knew from about 5-6 months that he would be neutered. I consulted a general vet and a rehab vet about the growth plate issue, and they both felt that I was 'safe' to neuter at 14 months.

 

No, it's not a magic number, but it's a lot better than 12 months. I just don't see any reason this dog needs to be neutered early. It's not going to magically fix the situation.

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In medicine we don't do anything just because "why not". Especially when there's a risk to it, as there is with neutering at 12 months.

 

And from a different perspective, I doubt the dog being confined to bed rest and feeling out of it and vulnerable for a while is going to be at all beneficial to the situation at hand.

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And from a different perspective, I doubt the dog being confined to bed rest and feeling out of it and vulnerable for a while is going to be at all beneficial to the situation at hand.

Hmmm. I agree that any elective surgery should be approached with caution, but neutering a male dog vs. spaying a female is very different. [Not going to belabor the physical and consequent surgical differences.] When my male dog was neutered, he came home the next day with the same bouncy attitude. He was a monorchid, so his surgery was a bit more invasive that a traditional neuter. He didn't understand why I wouldn't let him run and bounce like normal. No bed rest for him and no evidence of vulnerability. The other resident dogs showed no changed behavior to him when he came home.

 

Many of my friends report the same with their male dogs. But of course, there are always exceptions.

 

[Just a side note: One of my friends also had a monorchid dog, but her vet didn't want to have to perform an abdominal incision to find the undescended testicle. So she dug around too much looking for it, hoping to bring it out through the 'normal' opening. In the end, she had to go in through the abdomen. Her dog was very sore not only from the abdominal incision, but also from the unsuccessful search.]

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this ^ ^ ^

 

I had my 19 month neutered around this time last year although YMMV, "confined to bed rest" is far from how I would describe his condition upon getting him home. Not even a party hat was needed :)

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Fair enough. I haven't had a dog neutered in a long time so I'll take your word (s) for it. I'm still not sure why risk neutering now instead of waiting, though, healthwise.

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Well, actually neutering causes increased health risks no matter what age you have it done.

 

There have been several discussions (with links to research) on the Boards to this effect.

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I understand the issues with early neutering and spaying but I also know from experience that it can and often does change their behavior and the need challange pack orders. Some dog much more than others.

 

I really think this is an issue of the dog feeling his hormones raging and trying to figure out the hierachary with his new found prowness. Most dogs that aren't affected (I never know if it's affected or effected) by neutering are those that have a strong leader and a solid pack order. Which doesn't sound like this dog has. No offence to the op. You can't know what you haven't learned yet.

So really in this particular case given what the op has written, I feel it would have a good outcome.

Yes their are risks but a heck of allot of dogs have been altered at way younger and done just fine.

Others milage may vary.

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If it's a choice between death (ending up in a kill shelter or being euthanized for aggression) vs neutering a bit early, the right decision is pretty obvious.

 

It sounds like this fighting started when he hit adolescence, which is not unusual in any breed of dog. Consider neutering at this will likely help a great deal. In some cases, it even stops the problem completely. (It takes several months for the testosterone levels to drop, so don't expect an instant change.)

 

Take a step back, reinforce his obedience training and keep him separate from the other dogs for awhile. They all need a cool down period. When they are together, watch them like a hawk (how well versed are you with dog body language?). If ANY dog shows signs of bullying, provoking or aggression, you nip it in the bud. If you are not extremely confident in your ability to correctly read dog body language, find a behaviorist or trainer to help you.

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For a short while it wouldn't hurt to keep a short check cord on the fighter(s). That way whoever provokes the spats can be given a quick yank off the other dog and a correction at the same time, if you see it happen. I wouldn't act all freaked out or upset or sad for the loser. Just matter of fact "knock it off ya jerks" a check cord is maybe an 8 inch light line you just clip to his collar and leave on.

I'm sure he suprises himself with his little power trips or quick snarks. He could just be responding to hormones and then look and feel suprised at himself. Also the other more dominant dogs maybe be provoking it a bit feeling his change in hormones resting of position. They could be reminding him where he belongs.

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