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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-29-2019, 04:23 PM Thread Starter
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Question Management vs. possibility of training

I'm not sure if I'm in the right forum area, if not please feel free to let me know/move it.

I have a female dobe, now 11 years old, and our JRT-mix, now 16 years old, (also female) who have never gotten along real well, and up until now we've just managed the issue. Our living situation was a bit different and we could do that fairly easily due to the way the home was constructed and a few other issues related to who was in the house to provide company etc.

Last July, we moved, and left the female doberman with our college-age son, who didn't move with us. JRT-mix was happy to have no sister to bother her. However, the female doberman has had to have a pretty serious surgery, and now is starting to have some special needs which my son at his age can't really deal with. I work from home, so the obvious answer was to bring her back with my husband and I, because I can deal with her needs.

Both dogs are seniors and pretty set in their ways at this age, the JRT-mix is somewhat deaf, but they both are still very physically fit. The doberman weighs (at full health) around 65 lbs, the JRT-mix about 20. We kept them separate because the JRT-mix will growl even when just being "casually investigated/sniffed" by the dobe, and the dobe thinks that's not cool and wants to end her. At first, when they were younger, the JRT-mix wouldn't submit and the fight got scary. The last time they were together (9 years ago) the JRT DID submit, the fight took place behind my back when I was filling the water dish and was clearly over resources (they were both thirsty), and no one was injured. The doberman has hung out with other (even female) dogs before, but it seems that only certain dogs trigger the "I will kill you" setting. The JRT ALSO hangs out with other little dogs without issue. I haven't tried the JRT with a big dog other than our old dobe, who grew up with her and loved her (but he passed away).

Separation is still possible, but due to the way the house is constructed and the fact that it's just myself and my husband, management is a bit harder. We've started going for walks together and they can walk side-by-side on the street with no issue. We tried a little bit of an intro and the dobe wants the JRT to be nowhere near me, and becomes very alert when she's moving around, but if the JRT settles and follows the rules, the dobe will settle and stop paying attention to her. It's just difficult for the JRT to follow the rules.

So my question is - is it even rational at this point to think that training would work? These are two senior pretty set in their ways dogs. I'm also wondering if I'm intervening too much. I'm just afraid that the "ending her" will actually happen due to the size difference. Also, the dobe has literally the scariest voice on earth, so her growl and snarl at the JRT is not a casual "hey you're making me mad" but rather an "I will break you, chew you up and spit you out, and break you again" kind of growl. We'll keep walking together and I'm happy to hire a trainer if that's worthwhile (I've done obedience with my dogs, but this may be a bit out of my wheelhouse), I'm just not sure at this point (ok, plus I'm a little gun-shy because I just dropped $3500 on the dobe's surgery and hospitalization).

Thoughts?

Edited to add: The dobe grew up with the JRT-mix and problems did not start until she got bigger. The JRT-mix was actually brilliant with both dobermans as puppies, but as they got bigger, would "put them in their place" and stopped playing/being interested in interacting.

Last edited by oberonandbella; 04-29-2019 at 04:43 PM. Reason: detail
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-29-2019, 04:32 PM
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Hi Oberon...

You should research Same Sex Aggression in Dobermans. It is real. I've been there.

Also, not to be an alarmist, but an 11yo Dobe can easily maim or kill a smaller dog even unintentionally. What would be a simple admonishment to a dog of the same size can turn South very quickly.

Me? I would keep them separated unless they both were under my immediate and strict supervision.

Crate and rotate is a total pain, but sometimes that is what you have to do.

John
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-29-2019, 04:42 PM Thread Starter
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That's the strategy I've been employing. My husband is bummed and thinks it's so unfair, but I just wasn't sure if I was being uber-paranoid. I guess I'm doing something right keeping all these dogs alive so long, and it's by being paranoid I suppose!
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-29-2019, 04:45 PM
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No such thing as "paranoid" when your fur kids well being is at stake!

John
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-30-2019, 09:32 AM
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Under the circumstances I certainly don't think you are being either "unfair" or "paranoid". Reality is sometimes ugly and as John said same sex aggression in Dobes (and in many terriers of any size) is very real.

I'd guess that walking them together is probably as good as you are going to get--especially since they are both senior dogs.

Good luck with the aging grumpy girls.

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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-30-2019, 11:53 AM
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I'm dealing with some aggression between two bitches right now - they are aged 7 and 1. At their age, separation for the rest of their lives just isn't realistic. We are using shock collars and have taken away most of the high value toys. So far with the collars, they are doing fairly well. I use the audible and vibration plenty to remind them to behave. It is constant vigilance and 99% of the time they are fine together. We never leave them alone together, and are hoping that as the 1 year old matures, she will calm down enough that her idiot play driven behavior will stop. All she wants to do is play, but she nips at the 7 year old in excitement.... the 7 year old will go after her in irritation.... and the fight is on. The 1 year old never starts it but she will end it - ugh.
I went through this with two other bitches years ago, and while it wasn't fun, we managed it for years. In their case, we could have no toys or bones around at all. Bones were for crates only.... and toys didn't exist till one of them died.
With older dogs and very unequal sizes, I'd probably go for separation.

After this - my second issue with 2 bitches - I will never have two bitches at once again..... I hope! I've never had two males - can't even imagine trying to separate two fighting 90 pound males!!

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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-30-2019, 12:11 PM
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Frankly, at their age and with the tremendous size difference, I'd keep them separated and be content with being able to walk together. You might be able to strategically use x-pens to be able to have them in the same room but not "together", but I'd not risk anything more, and I doubt that even with a heavy investment in training you're going to see a ton of improvement.


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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-02-2019, 11:29 AM Thread Starter
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I've ordered an ex-pen to keep the little one in. I think that's probably the best bet (when in the same room) as despite her age, the doberman can still quite easily destroy or jump an ex-pen to get out (but I'm not sure she'll go IN after the little dog). Obviously both will continue to be observed.

I crate anyway when I leave the house, so that's not an issue.

I think the dobe would be ok if the little one would let her sniff her, but even that creates snarls in the little one. I'm not sure that either dog would respond well to an e-collar. I'm not opposed to them and used one on my big male, but my female dobe just never could "get" the e-collar, despite her ok-ness with NILF and responsiveness to other training. I think she just gets beyond the point where she can deal.

I have to also remember that they are both adjusting to being in the same home again. Right now, it's semi-exhausting because they are both stressed, having some accidents, etc. I feel like I've got two puppies again, except they are big and grumpy. Bah. At the same time, I missed having a doberman around!
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-02-2019, 05:09 PM
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You are SO SMART to be figuring this out before a disaster! Ex-pens are the key to sane life! I use them every single time I have a boarder, no exceptions, cannot afford to PRETEND I CAN READ MY DOG’S MIND! If my previously-always-friendly Doberman gets jealous or ticked off or just bossy towards a smaller dog, and acts on it, well, that’s absolutely my fault.

I use gates across doorways too, so each dog can have a whole room and still feel like part of the action. I extensively use the clicker and throw down lots of treats when ever I see the two dogs looking at each other. If I’m giving one dog something or just talking to one of them, I’ll click and treat both dogs. Even though I keep them separated, I also try to build positive emotional content for the other dog ALL THE TIME. I know that would really help in the event of an accidental encounter.

My long experience, personally, and in the clinic, has been that dogs who truly have issues with each other, and yours do, will never ever go back to being tolerant friends. Kind of like people. I’ve literally never seen it go backwards and I’ve seen a whole lotta cases of dog “sibling rivalry”, or SR, as we coded it on vet records. Maturity and training and strong arming and punishment and threat of punishment (e-collars) can mask it, but the underlying issues DO NOT go away.

Lotta veterinary income derives from SR in dogs that was ignored or underestimated by humans. I’ve heard that truth discussed by groups of veterinarians many times. They will usually be talking about how the humans who refuse to see the light are contributing to their paychecks. It’s actually awful to see those injured dogs come in and absolutely know it could have been prevented if they had listened to good advice.


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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-03-2019, 08:31 AM Thread Starter
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Just a quick update, the ex-pen has been a godsend. I bought a $36 one from Amazon (was astounded at the price) in case it didn't work. It's actually perfect!

The dobe will go sniff, but since the ex-pen is there, the little one won't growl, and that means that the dobe isn't triggered. The dobe wags her nub when she sniffs and the JRT is starting to relax instead of going stiff. The dobe had ONE moment where her posture got more interested than I was happy with, but other than that they've been pretty neutral. Thank heavens. No growling, which is good.

At night, we let the little one out of the ex-pen to roam the house, and the dobe is in our room. I do feel badly about that since the JRT had gotten used to sleeping in her bedroom and has sat outside the door whining for a few nights, but maybe after a bit we'll buy another ex-pen for the bedroom and they can peacefully coexist there.

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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-03-2019, 09:35 AM
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That's fantastic! Glad you're able to make it work safely for both dogs.


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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-03-2019, 09:37 AM
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Yay for the update! Sounds like things are moving in the right direction!
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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-03-2019, 10:50 AM
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Awesome news! Good for you jumping right on it!!

You also might want to walk around with some of their daily kibble ration in your pocket and dole it out a couple to both dogs when they are interacting nicely (politely ignoring each other, for example). Also, I’d probably think about rotating the dogs during the day to make sure I wasn’t setting up a perception of preferential treatment for the Doberman. That can cause problems down the line.

Good job keeping the peace, Sheriff!


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