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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 20171
Experience:  Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 18+ years
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My 9year old male dog just does not want to accept my now 9

Customer Question

My 9year old male dog just does not want to accept my now 9 months old puppy. He keeps growling at him , marks his territory all around the house and occasionally the puppy looses his tolerance and they both end up in a terrible dogfight! The old dog is a Cocker Spaniel and the puppy a Bernese Mountain dog. I would appreciate some advice. Regards Lisa
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 4 years ago.

My name is Jane. I have worked with animals professionally for over 17 years dealing with both health and behavioral issues. I have over 14,000 satisfied customers. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.

I need to ask for some additional information. Once I receive your responses, it will likely take 30-40 minutes to type my response. I hope you can be patient.

Are either dog neutered?
How long have you had the puppy?
What obedience training have each had?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Jane,

Both dogs are entire. We 've had the puppy for 7 months now , he came to us when he was 9 weeks old.
William , the older one, came to us when he was 2years old and had some issues with socialising! He used to bark at everybody extensively and generally, he has a lot of adrenalin and is very attached to me! We had a dog psychologist visiting to help us in the early days and with her help and a lot of patience he is now a different dog with people! Unfortunately we seem to have another problem with him now, trying to socialise him with Bruno, the puppy! We also have a third neutered femal cocker who just fits in with everybody.
Bruno, the puppy dog had some basic puppy obedience classes when he was younger and is now a very uncomplicated happy dog!
Maybe the problem has become worse because the puppy has reached puberty?
Look forward to hearing from you

Kind regards Lisa
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 4 years ago.

Sorry for the delay, I was away for a little while. I'm positive it is related to him becoming sexually mature. Dogs do experience hormonal changes as they mature. In addition, if there is a female in heat within a mile of your house, the dogs can smell it and that can also contribute to problems.

I would discourage any aggression by your males at all times. There are other causes for sudden aggression in dogs such as hypothyroidism and pain. I don't think that a medical cause is to blame but have to mention it. You can read about this here.

Unfortunately, the site does not allow me to make clickable links to supporting websites at this time. So where there is a site listed, you may have to copy that to a separate browser window or tab to access the data there.

When a dog is a puppy (under a year of age or so) any older dog in the house is the alpha dog. A male is usually alpha over females and males have one male alpha in addition to an alpha female. Intact males are over neutered males. Thus there is no dominance fighting from the spayed female. While the younger dog was maturing, the older dog established his rank over the other male with minimal or no fighting involved. Now that the younger dog is maturing, he feels he has to put the older dog in its place and establish himself as the alpha dog especially since the older dog is so much smaller than the Mountain dog. An older dog will usually not just submit without some sort of altercation and this can be an ongoing issue. It may also be that the younger dog senses some weakness (illness perhaps) in the older dog. Sometimes it will look like one dog started a fight, but with dogs a wrong look or movement by a submissive dog can trigger a fight.

Attacking can also be triggered by an illness in the older dog as well, so you may want to have an elderly check up done on him to be sure he does not have a medical issue going on. It may just be that the Mountain dog is not even trying to be the alpha dog and the cocker just "feels" that his position is threatened.

I would start making your dogs work via the Nothing in life is free program (NILF). It is outlined below.

You will also want to keep a leash on the males at all times initially to grab if they should disobey. Dogs like knowing what is expected of them and they love the little paper thin slices of hotdogs that I use for treats while training. Give this a try and see how it works for you.

Obedience training can help. I know some training has been done but I feel you need to keep up with training and practice daily to help them stay in line especially the Bermese Mountain dog. He will need daily practice. Large dogs need that structure in their lives to continue to respect their owner's leadership.

Additional training can also help as well. Both dogs should be leashed and if one dog even looks at the other dog, a correction should be done. Any sign of aggression including a prolonged look, hair raised on the shoulders, a growl or even a stiff legged walk, should be corrected. A correction is a quick tug of the leash and a firm low toned "NO". Once you have done this couple of times, you should notice the dogs ignoring each other. When that happens, you will want to reward them for the desired behavior. Again, use tasty treats like the hot dog slices. This teaches the dogs that you WILL not tolerate fighting in YOUR pack. This along with the training really helps stop the fighting. The cocker is getting away with it for now, but the Mountain dog may not always tolerate it as well as it seems he is right now and he may become seriously injured.

In addition, if the situation is not improving using the techniques on the previous website, you may have to consult a professional behaviorist. You can usually find a behaviorist by asking your Vet for a recommendation or you may be able to find one using the following site.

Living in a household with multiple dogs can be an issue. You may eventually need to keep the two separate to avoid these problems. You can read about this issue in females here:

I hope this information is helpful to you and you are satisfied with my response. If you would like any additional information or have more questions please don’t hesitate to press the reply to expert or continue conversation button so I can address any issues you still have .
If you have questions in the future that you wish me to answer, you may click here and bookmark the page or make it a favorite. It is best to put my name "JANE" in the question as well. Please recommend me to your friends and family members if they have any problems with their dog as well. I would truly appreciate it.

Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 4 years ago.
Just a quick follow up to see if you had a chance to try any of my suggestions. I hope you found my suggestions helpful.