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Rebecca
Rebecca, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 16008
Experience:  Veterinarian for more than 30 years
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We have a beautifully behaved 4 year old English Springer and

Customer Question

We have a beautifully behaved 4 year old English Springer and a very lively almost 9 month old springer pup. Although she has always been pushy, the last couple of weeks, the pup has become very jealous of attention paid to the older dog, to the point of lunging and barking at her when I invite her to approach me for fuss. The last two days she has also slowed down eating and seems to be inviting the older dog to approach her food bowl to instigate a fight. I took her bowl away this morning when she stopped eating altogether, thinking that she did not want any more food - unusual for either of them- and she immediately started on the older dog as if it was her fault that I had removed the bowl. After I had separated them and calmed the situation, I gave the bowl back and the older dog wanted to leave the kitchen. I stood between the pup and bowl and the door, but as the older dog went past, not looking at the bowl, the pup again lunged at her. They have always before both understood that they each have a bowl and a place for eating and have both eaten quickly and without incident. Only when our older dog had to have soft food for a couple of days after a small operation has either of them shown interest in the other's food.
Should I be concerned about this or will it blow over so long as I keep control of the situation?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Rebecca replied 3 years ago.
Hello,
I am sorry to hear about your problems with Meg and Gwen.
I am a veterinarian, and will do my best to help.
It is hard to make a diagnosis without observing the behavior, but I would be very concerned that this will not blow over, but will likely get worse.
It sounds like as the younger dog is maturing, she is challenging the older dog, just as a young dog in a pack might challenge the older ones for a higher position of status. Food is a precious resource, so if she is challenging the older dog over food, it is likely she is trying to tell the older dog "watch out; I am up and coming and going for the position of top dog."
You mention she has always been "pushy", so this may have started earlier on.
Interfemale aggression is one of the hardest behavior problems to deal with. It is possible that no matter how well you train them, how much you try to nip it early, this will always be a problem. I remember two female Akitas, mother and daughter. The owner was a breeder/trainer and tried everything. Eventually it was apparent that one of the dogs was going to be killed by the other, and she finally gave up the daughter (after hundreds of dollars in vet bills for the injuries).
Discipline will help. Obedience class is a must; this young dog needs to know a command from you is to be obeyed immediately.
Being proactive is also important. Dogs learn if you interrupt a behavior, and reward for the behavior stopping. Being reactive: breaking up a fight, loud voice, any punishment at all, does not change the behavior or teach them not to do it. So you need to look for clues that the young dog is going to go after the older one, and stop the attack, lunging, barking before it starts, or the moment it starts. The clues can be very subtle, like a sideways glance from one dog to the other.
If you know things that instigate an incident, prevent it if you can. Feed them separately and pick up both bowls before letting them together. If you are going to invite the older dog to you, the younger needs to first be in a Down or a Sit or a Stay. The younger dog needs obedience training, to understand that Sit or Stay or Down means staying in that position until you release her.
I sure wish I could say this is a phase she will outgrow, or that I have a quick and easy answer for this problem. In my experience, most female on female aggression ends with one dog leaving the household, but you may have caught this early enough that working with a trainer, getting the young dog into an obedience class right away, may be able to stop this and change the younger dog, but the sooner you start the better.
Please let me know what other questions you have.
Rebecca
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you. They otherwise seem affectionate, so I will take on board what you have said and see what we can do. I will definitely separate them for feeding.

Expert:  Rebecca replied 3 years ago.
You are welcome. Let me know if I can be of further help.
Thanks for the good rating.
Rebecca