Golden Retriever Dog Forums banner
1 - 20 of 24 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I need some help with my goldens but I'm brand new to this site so I am not sure how much background info you all need. I'm so glad I found this place! Forgive me for the long post. I just need to get it out.

Short intro:
Two goldens, Scout and Sara. Scout is 7 and Sara is 5. I've had them both since they were 8 weeks old. Both have had a lot of obedience training, are canine good citizens and Scout is a registered pet therapy dog. They are both great dogs. Sara is not a fan of other dogs (besides Scout) but I know that and we've managed just fine. Until 2 weeks ago, they got along fabulously.

Here's why I need help:

On Thanksgiving, I had the dogs up at my parents for 4 days and Sara ATTACKED SCOUT TWICE! She has never done this before. Ever. She is definately the alpha and takes his toys and treats and is 'bossy' to him but they've never fought. She's never even growled at him.

The first incident happened while I was feeding them treats. She lunged at him and got a hold of his ear and he was yelping like I've never heard. I screamed at her and she released him. Physically he was fine and they went right back to their normal behavior and got along just fine.

The next day they were sitting in front of me and I was at my mom's kitchen table. I was petting both of them and out of the blue Sara grabbed a hold of the top of Scout's muzzle and he was screaming and trying to get away but she would not let go. I stupidly put my hand between them and she re-directed towards me and nipped me. I was fine. Scout was terrified but physically he was fine.

For the next hour or so, Sara had this odd, uncomfortable look in her eye and it was like she could not return to her normal mood. Scout would not even go in the same room as her. He had very submissive body language and was scared.

I put them in the car and took them home. As soon as they got in my SUV, they were fine together and fine the 5 hour ride back. A friend of mine who had an aggressive dog recommended a trainer and I called him. He said b/c it was so out of the blue that maybe Sara or Scout was sick. We've now been to the vet with both of them and they are physically FINE. Did thyroid tests, blood panel, full physical...nothing but healthy.

The trainer said he'd come over and assess her but it's $120 an hour and right now with the holidays I just don't have the money. Plus, their obedience skills and ability is not the issue.

Since Thanksgiving, she has not attacked him but if he comes towards me, she'll get in the way and put her face in his and he'll immediately turn away. I've also seen her laying in the kitchen doorway and he won't even attempt to go through that entry way. But, as I type this they are curled up on the couch together sound asleep.

Christmas is in a few weeks and my mom has asked that the dogs not come b/c she is afraid to have them around my nieces and nephews. They have always been GREAT with kids but right now I just don't trust Sara but am also heartrbroken about the holidays.

I've read that you need to reinforce obedience with the alpha and make her work for everything. I've also read that you should treat her as the alpha (feeding first, petting first, etc.)

What else can I do? Does anyone have any advice on training or ways to work with her (or him) so that this never happens again?

Please help.
 

·
...
Joined
·
16,000 Posts
Before anything else is even considered I would have a complete medical work up done on Sara. Including a complete thyroid panel with a free T3 and Free T4. This sounds like a medical issue, perhaps even neuro.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Pointgold, thank you so much for replying!

She did go to the vet and had a complete physical, blood work and her thyroid was checked. She is physically fine.

That's why I just don't know what to do now.
 

·
Now Caue's Dad Too!
Joined
·
37,489 Posts
First I want to welcome you to the forum. So please make yourself at home here. I am not a dog trainer but what you describe doesn't sound all that bad to me. If the attacked dog was not harmed and even you were not harmed when you put your arm in to intervene makes me think it was more of a warning than a real attack. IMO if it were a real attack there would be blood and no words would have separated them.

My Oakly has "attacked" my Caue on several occasions but there has never been any damage done. It has occured more often when we are in a different location and I suspect there is a certain level of stress that triggers the "attack". I'll be curious what other posters think.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks Oaklys dad!

The vet said something similar...that Sara was warning Scout. But it sounded and looked horrid. I am so pleased he wasn't hurt. But, I'd prefer it never to happen again...hurt or not.

What do you do with your dogs when this has happened? Or...have you learned anything (besided not taking them to different locations) to help manage the behavior?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I don't know what the levels were. The vet called while I was teaching and when I phoned back she had gone for the day and I talked to the vet tech and she told me that all the tests came back 'normal.' I didn't ask about levels...I guess I didn't even know to do so. I can certainly call back and find out tomorrow.
 

·
In the Moment
Joined
·
20,515 Posts
Make sure the full thyroid panel was done. And know that even a low normal is LOW for a golden and needs treatment. Even many vets aren't aware of this. If need be, you could have Dr Jean Dodds do a consult... she is the expert in the field and does this quite regularly. You'll find several people here that have had her work with their vets on this issue. Change of behavior if not unusual with abnormal thyroid levels/
 

·
Humankind. Be both.
Joined
·
7,650 Posts
She is definately the alpha and takes his toys and treats and is 'bossy' to him but they've never fought.

That sounds more like being a bully, IMO. And she's certainly bullying him now.

I would continue to puruse the medical side of things. As PG said, I'd want to know what exactly the thyroid level was.

Also, IMO, there's a difference between supporting the Alpha and supporting a Bully. You can opt to feed her first, but all that (pardon me, here) CRAP about her stealing bones and toys -- I'd put a stop to that. I'd teach her that what's hers is hers and she's not allowed to steal things from the other dog. A true Alpha would waltz past, give a look and the other dog would opt to relinquish the item. A bully comes charging over and intimidates the other dog into backing off the wanted item.

In my house, my Whippet is Alpha. She's allowed on the couch, the Golden isn't. BUT, if they're both lying down chewing bones and she rushes Quiz, making him suddenly back off his bone, I calmly go over, pick it up and put it away. You don't get what you want by being a bully in my house. And Alpha or not, you work for what you want. I'd brush up on BOTH dog's obedience and start politely reminding them that you're the ring leader. If you're petting Scout and Sara horns in, insist that they both sit. Don't accept pushy behavior. It always seems that if my Whippet is getting a bit pushy, a few days of obedience boot camp (in my house, that = sitting for EVERYTHING... leash on, door opening, permission to hop into the car, throwing a toy, etc.) helps settle everything down and remind all that I'm the team leader.

Bullies are insecure and it's not fair for her to live that way or for her to rule Scout to the extent that he's afraid of being around here.

Also, if they get into it, avoid babying Scout over it. Dogs don't hold grudges, but when we do, it can further mess things up between them.
 

·
...
Joined
·
16,000 Posts
I don't know what the levels were. The vet called while I was teaching and when I phoned back she had gone for the day and I talked to the vet tech and she told me that all the tests came back 'normal.' I didn't ask about levels...I guess I didn't even know to do so. I can certainly call back and find out tomorrow.
If any of the levels are in the "low normal" range, they should be considered quite low for a Golden. I'd encourage you to have Dr. Jean Dodds read the results. Low thyroid can cause behavioral problems, and supplementation could help significantly.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I'll find out the levels. Thank you all for info about that. I have no idea what I'm doing with the medical part of this.

Quizini, thank you so much for that response. Yes, when Sara wants something of Scout's he relinquishes immediately. Usually then he'll have a little tantrum afterwards. Nowadays they only get their toys for finite periods of time and when both can behave. When I was first learning about this, I would take them away from Sara and give them back to Scout. Now I do just put them up.

I think a major trigger of hers is putting her in a different environment...I am trying to do more obedience at home this week after staying up in to the wee hours one night reading everything online I could find about the topic of same household dog aggression. But, I'm not sure how to 'train' in a place other than our home that doesn't set Scout up to be attacked...or god forbid someone else or another dog.

They typically go lots of places with me but now I'm afraid to do that. And they aren't welcome with the rest of my extended family this Christmas....which is rough for me on numerous levels :(.

Sara has never liked other dogs...even with socialization as a pup and the whole bit and I completely avoid putting her in any situation with other dogs. I'm just so worried that she's going to start feeling the same away about Scout that she does with strange dogs.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,164 Posts
I agree with everyone else to look further into thyroid.

From an obedience side, I would work extra hard on her "sit" command. So that if you tell her sit, she will sit under any circumstance, and stay sitting (without being told to stay) until you tell her otherwise.

Some examples of what you would want her to be able to do when told to sit:

If she's running after a toy and you tell her to sit, she should spin on a dime and plant her butt down immediately. You should then be able to leave the area without another word and her still hold that sit.

If she's sleeping or chewing on a bone, you should be able to tell her to sit and she should immediately pop up into a sit. She cannot go back down until you release her.


The reason behind proofing her sit so much is that if you are in a tense situation, you can tell her to sit and when she obeys that will give you the opportunity to step in and diffuse the situation.

The reason for not giving a stay command, just making her hold the sit on "sit," is it makes her have to think about what she's doing that much more, distracting her from the situation with the other dog.

You usually have some kind of sign right before a dog will attack, even if it is very brief, but you have to recognize your dog's signs. I know my male does not like my puppy, and I have about a one or two second window where he will close his mouth while looking at the puppy. I know that's when he is about to go off, so I give the sit command to him right then, and without another word get the puppy and remove him from the room. Then I can go back to my male and reward him for holding the sit.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,164 Posts
Forgot to add another exercise you can do:

Get a toy, chewie, or something else that the dogs like. Have both dogs sit near you. Say Sara's name and give her the item for a few seconds. Then take it back, say Scout's name, and let him have it for a little bit. At no time are either one allowed to break the sit to get the item especially if you are in the process of giving it to the other dog. Go back and forth like this for several repetitions.

This will reinforce the idea that you are actually the one that controls everything in the house, not Sara.
 

·
Humankind. Be both.
Joined
·
7,650 Posts
Forgot to add another exercise you can do:

Get a toy, chewie, or something else that the dogs like. Have both dogs sit near you. Say Sara's name and give her the item for a few seconds. Then take it back, say Scout's name, and let him have it for a little bit. At no time are either one allowed to break the sit to get the item especially if you are in the process of giving it to the other dog. Go back and forth like this for several repetitions.

This will reinforce the idea that you are actually the one that controls everything in the house, not Sara.
For safety, I'd recommend a low value item and that you tether both dogs far enough apart so that if you miss a signal and Sara starts to go for Scout, she can't get to him and you don't have to risk getting hurt by getting in the middle.
 

·
Humankind. Be both.
Joined
·
7,650 Posts
I'll find out the levels. Thank you all for info about that. I have no idea what I'm doing with the medical part of this.

Quizini, thank you so much for that response. Yes, when Sara wants something of Scout's he relinquishes immediately. Usually then he'll have a little tantrum afterwards. Nowadays they only get their toys for finite periods of time and when both can behave. When I was first learning about this, I would take them away from Sara and give them back to Scout. Now I do just put them up.

I think a major trigger of hers is putting her in a different environment...I am trying to do more obedience at home this week after staying up in to the wee hours one night reading everything online I could find about the topic of same household dog aggression. But, I'm not sure how to 'train' in a place other than our home that doesn't set Scout up to be attacked...or god forbid someone else or another dog.

They typically go lots of places with me but now I'm afraid to do that. And they aren't welcome with the rest of my extended family this Christmas....which is rough for me on numerous levels :(.

Sara has never liked other dogs...even with socialization as a pup and the whole bit and I completely avoid putting her in any situation with other dogs. I'm just so worried that she's going to start feeling the same away about Scout that she does with strange dogs.
What does she do when she sees other dogs?

Also sounds like she could benefit from getting out more - even to areas w/o other dogs - to work on her comfort level in new surroundings. Can you take her out by herself and do a little obedience training out in a shopping center somewhere? I don't know where you're located, so I'm not sure if weather would prevent outdoor training.

It's a great idea to start trying to learn her signals. As Louisana said, they ALL have them, although some dogs are super brief about it. Things like a dirty look (called a "hard eye), the mouth going from open and relaxed to closed, hackles, raised body posture, an overall stiffening of the body, a freeze, etc. You want to learn to see those signs so that you can ask for an incompatible behavior (like a sit, etc.) and reward that. Also make a point to notice and praise calm behavior on the part of Sara toward Scout. Sometimes I can see my Whippet start to give "the look" when my Golden walks toward the couch. I redirect her and praise. Then, when he can walk past the couch w/o getting "the look," I make a big point to praise that too.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Loisiana, thanks for the exercises. That is exactly what I need to learn more about. How do you correct the prolonged sit? As soon as she gets up, another 'sit command.' Almost like an extended 'stay' but without the word?

I'm a bit worried about the toy exchange but tethering them would help. Right now they are getting cookies on opposite sides of the kitchen.

Quizini...how is sara around other dogs? Well, it depends on the situation. On her lead, she listens quite well to commands and I never let her get within reach of another dog. So, if we are walking by one in a yard and we are on a walk, I'll command her to heal, give her a short leash and then a 'leave it' and we walk on by. She usually tenses up a bit and stares the dog down but we keep going. When I have her and Scout together, Sara is always put the farthest away from any other dog...so Scout and I act as a barrier between her and that helps.

If there are random times when another dog gets too close....she will growl, bark and try to fight but it never gets to that b/c she is NEVER off lead if there is EVER a situation where we might encounter another dog. I know her barks pretty well and in these instances it is not a play bark. If given the chance, I know she would fight another dog.

In any situation with another dog, if I can get her attention and have her do something BEFORE she starts barking, growling, etc...then we are fine and we move AWAY from the other dog. If she starts in before I can give her a command, that's a whole other story and then usually I have to drag her away and get her to calm down.

Her threshold is about 15 feet. If a dog is 15 or more feet away, she is not thrilled but reacts very little and I can keep her under control with my words. Any closer and she is one pissed off pup.

One of my BIGGEST pet peeves are dog owners who let their dogs just walk straight up to my dogs. I always warn them when they are several feet away that my dog is not friendly to other dogs and then they always have some shocked reaction and say 'but she's a golden!' It drives me nuts.

In other situations that she is uncomfortable (we're not talking other dogs here), her nonverbals are more skiddish and scared than anything else. This doesn't happen all of the time, just some times. Tail between legs, ears back, wants to be between my legs.

Scout is just the opposite in every single way. Loves other dogs, is never nervous in new situations. And they were trained and socialized the exact same way.
 

·
Humankind. Be both.
Joined
·
7,650 Posts
I'd suggest fitting her for a Gentle Leader so that you always feel like you can control her physically. I'd also suggest reading the book Fiesty Fido. It will specifically address the leash aggression issue and will outline several training strategies for it.

Did she ever have a negative experience w/ a dog when she was younger? Did she attend day care or frequent a dog park as part of her socialization?
 

·
Now Caue's Dad Too!
Joined
·
37,489 Posts
Thanks Oaklys dad!

The vet said something similar...that Sara was warning Scout. But it sounded and looked horrid. I am so pleased he wasn't hurt. But, I'd prefer it never to happen again...hurt or not.

What do you do with your dogs when this has happened? Or...have you learned anything (besided not taking them to different locations) to help manage the behavior?
Honestly I still take them to different places all the time. I have found that if they get lots of physical exercise it is less likely to happen so I try to take them out to run as much as possible. I've also tried to train the people I'm around to just let them work it out. As horrible as it sounds there is actually less biting than when they play. (With my guys anyway) Once we are home they often snuggle together on the couch and both of them will initiate play with each other. They really are best buddies.

I would love to find a fix, as I said, but for right now I try not to get to excited about it. I really don't thing breaking the "fight" up would do any good.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,164 Posts
Loisiana, thanks for the exercises. That is exactly what I need to learn more about. How do you correct the prolonged sit? As soon as she gets up, another 'sit command.' Almost like an extended 'stay' but without the word?
.
</p>
I wouldn't say another word, just gently place her back into a sit. Once she's back in the sit and your hands are off her then you can praise with a "good sit." Something I wrote about in another post might help you in situations where strange dogs are approaching you. Get Sara comfortable being between your legs with your hands in her collar. Give her lots of treats and lots of petting while she's there so it's a good place to be. If you see a dog approaching and you think it's going to be a problem, get Sara into that position. It's a lot easier to control a dog that way and I find if they're used to being there they find it gives them a safer buffer zone from the other dogs and they're less likely to act out.
 
1 - 20 of 24 Posts
Top