Our 4-and-a-half-year-old miniature bull terrier, Baby, is the most loving and affectionate dog on the planet, but she will hunt and attack her brother at home. She came to live with us last fall from a family leaving the country. She wasn’t well cared for. She was undernourished and kept behind a couch in an apartment for four years. We loved her, gave her attention, socialized her and gave her more love.
I believe her behavior problems are territorial in nature, as she was not aggressive initially and is not aggressive to any dog at the dog park. But we have had to keep Baby away from our other dog, Rosco, for the past six months, with a baby gate and locked doors. She barks and is aggressive when she sees her brother through the gate. If they come in contact, she initiates a full-blown dogfight, including puncture wounds.
Rosco only defends himself and is not aggressive in any way, shape or form. But the fights are bad. My wife usually is the one who gets bit. We have thought to use a muzzle, but we haven’t actually tried it yet. We are at our wits’ end and really don’t want to get rid of Baby, as she loves us to death — and I really love her. What do you think?
I think it’s time to lose the love goggles and call a pro. You need an objective third party who understands canine behavior to help you determine whether peace can be achieved through training. I can tell you right now that it can’t be achieved through love. And if it’s decided that peace in your household is about as likely as Israel and Iran exchanging Valentines, then you’re going to have to find a new home for Baby — a home in which she will be the only dog.
It’s clear that you love Baby. I’d like to think you love Rosco and your wife, as well. And if someone has to go, I’m betting Rosco and your wife would not be as conflicted about voting Baby off the island.
They’re getting bit. Puncture wounds. Poor Rosco never knows when he’s going to get pummeled, and your wife surely is tired of getting caught in the middle. It’s only a matter of time before someone sustains a serious injury.
For now, absolutely keep the two dogs separate at all times — for the safety of everyone under that roof. And if you can keep them from seeing each other, as well, even better. But don’t isolate either one of them. They both need frequent and ongoing exposure to you and your wife; they both need exercise; they both need rules and boundaries and, yes, love and affection.
And call a trainer. Look for someone who has expertise in dog aggression. Avoid anyone who tries to curb dog aggression with human aggression. You say so keep her that way. This is very important. If you reach the conclusion that Baby needs to be an only dog, and you need to find her a new home, the job of finding wonderful new owners will be much easier if her only issue is an unwillingness to share her turf with another dog.
But it’s time to drop the Baby talk and be a grownup. This is no way to live, and it’s not a problem that will go away on its own.
Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Read all of Uncle Matty’s columns at www.creators.com, and visit him at www.unclematty.com. Send your questions to email@example.com or by mail to Uncle Matty at PO Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619.
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