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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 20176
Experience:  Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 18+ years
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I have four dogs, two were the puppies (now two years old)

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I have four dogs, two were the puppies (now two years old) of one of my other dogs. One of the young dogs has started to show dominant behaviour over the others by growling and snapping nothing serious but as a warning which the other dogs submit to. I have had dog training and understand the principle of being the pack leader. I dont feel there is any question of my authority over all the dogs. The young dog particularly doesn't like the other dogs to sit in front of her when they are by the fire. So i don't let her sit by the fire. It still persists. Could give me advise on how to deal with her when this happens. Many thanks.

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Hi JaCustomer,
My name is Jane. I have been working professionally with animals especially dogs in both health and behavioral issues for over 18 years. I have over 14,000 satisfied customers. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.
In order to supply you with the best information, I do need to ask for some additional information. Once I receive your answer, it will likely take me about 30-45 minutes to type up your response. I hope you can be patient.
Have you actively trained all of these dogs?
So one of the younger dogs is taking over the alpha position in the pack?
Do either of the older dogs object to this?
Are they both female or male and female (older dogs)?
What about the younger dogs?
What dog gets fed first?
Who do you give attention to first of the dogs?
Why are you not allowing her to lay near the fire?
Has she actually gotten into any serious altercation with the other dogs?
have you tried anything else with the dogs?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Jane, thankyou so much for your response, I,ll just go down your questions in order.

Yes, I've trained them all on the whistle when out, and they are very much led by me, when I stop, they stop and look at me. When I change direction, they change. I went to a trainer who basically trained me to be pack leader. But, am unsure about the relationship between the dogs themselves. Also the younger dogs were our puppies and were treated as babies. I don,t know if we have addressed their place in the pack.

The older female who is the mother, after having the pups she exhibited behaviour of the alpha female which lead me to see a dog trainer. This was addresses and have had no problems, but she has submitted to the young dog in question. The older female dog also submits.

both older dogs are female.

younger dogs, one submissive boy and the dog in question is female.

Feeding - the oldest dog gets fed first, then the mother, then the boy, last our female in question.

Attention gets given in the same order as feeding at initial greeting in the morning or when I have been out.

Dog in question is not allowed to sit in front of the other dogs by the fire as this seems to be when she will sort out the other dogs, she likes to be nearest to the fire.

Altercation with other dogs - this hasn't happened and because of where we live in the country it is unlightly. Although when it has happened she is pleased to greet and play with another dog.

I haven't tried anything else with the dogs other than what I was taught in the training sessions which Has become my natural behaviour on an everyday basis. Making sure I,m leading when we are out, never feeding treats from my hand, just generally being assertive as the leader.

I hope this information is clear for you and really look forward to your response. Many Thanks

I also forgot to mention that I suspect the problem behaviour is more lightly to occur when she is coming into a heat.

My name is Jane. I have been working professionally with animals especially dogs in both health and behavioral issues for over 18 years. I have over 14,000 satisfied customers. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.
I'm glad you actively work with your dogs adn that for the most part they are very obedient. That is definitely a good thing. It is also great that they see you as the boss. However, even if there is a human boss, the dogs have an alpha or leader among themselves. Pups usually see mom as the boss but it sounds like you instituted measures to not allow her that position. Thus the female pup has matured and is making her own bid for leadership of the "pack".
If she is the best choice for leader then it would be something you would want to encourage as long as you have ultimate control over her. In a pack the leader keeps control over the other members by reprimanding them when they overstep their boundaries. These boundaries include pushing past the alpha for food or attention or even to exit or enter an area. It also includes not relinquishing a sleeping spot or toy that that alpha has chosed as their own. Much like you taking a toy from them or telling them to move off of a piece of furniture or out of a hallway. If they didn't do it, you would reprimand them in some way. A dogs way of reprimanding is growls and nips.
Of course, if one dog already feels like they are the alpha, fights between the two will be the result. Unfortunately, changes in leadership are bound to occur especially with dogs becoming elderly or developing health issues. Dominant dogs are also more likely to vie for that alpha position as well.
Owners of "pack" often recognise these changes and support the switch over to a new leader when it occurs. It is often the only way to ensure a smooth transition of leadership. This can be done by giving the new alpha the privileges associated with being the alpha. This means feeding that dog before the previous alpha (likely mom). It means all affection should be given first to the young female as alpha before the rest.
This helps the other dogs see that you acknowledge her place and support the change and it usually makes for an easier situation all around. Of course, you can not allow the fights to continue even if she is just reprimanding others. You can call a dog in her spot away so she can have it. You can also stop the altercations before they happen. Study dog body language. Use the knowlege gained to spot potential issues before a reprimand is necessary from one dog to another. You provide the reprimand or otherwise provide a distraction to prevent the situation from progressing to a fight.
Here are several sites on body language:
Make sure your younger dog obeys commands as well as your older dogs do. Perhaps up the training for her to a daily training session and definitely have her on the NILF program. It is outlined below.
Additional training can also help. 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. You can get 30-50 tiny treats from one hotdog and dogs do like to work hard for these treats. While reprimands are great for telling a dog what you don't want them to do, it helps to reward them for the desired behavior so they realize what it is you do want.
Dogs are more dominant in heat. Usually it is the alpha female who has the right to breed, so they likely to try to reinforce their alpha status or gain that status during their heat cycle. Getting her spayed may help the situation.
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 .
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 20176
Experience: Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 18+ years
Jane Lefler and other Dog Training Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Jane, That,s been really helpful and will study the links you've given me particularly body language. What you've said seems to be to go with the grain rather than against it and working within the dogs natural behaviour. That makes a lot of sense to me. Just a slight nag as I have heard conflicting view points regarding allowing a dog to have a position within the pack. I,m guessing as long as I'm the one allowing it and the other dogs recognise that it does not undermine my position. Is the alpha female different to pack leadership?I would be concerned about that as I,v also been told that leadership is actually a stressful position for the dog who feels they need to take that role because the owner isn't doing that job, which is what threw me a bit as I feel with good advise I've managed that. Wouldn,t mind your response on that and then I think I will leave you and just really appreciate your time and response. Many Thanks Lara

A dog knows that a human isn't a dog and thus isn't the "alpha" of the pack. However, if the alpha of the pack listens to the human "leader", then the rest of the dogs do as well. This is why it is so important to have control over the alpha.
Dogs without a strong leader will feel stress. However, if you are the alphas leader, they will take their cues from you. They will expect you as the boss to let them know if you need protection and help in a situation. As long as you are calm, they remain calm in a stressful situation involving other "non pack" members. However, if the human is not the leader, the dog feels the need to protect the human and the territory and has to make their own determination when it comes to other humans and non pack members. That does put a lot of stress on them.
So it is correct that you need to be the ultimate leader, but there is an alpha dog in any pack and while it is best to have control of all the dogs, it is especially important to have control of the alpha.
Dogs can have pack positions and will whether you allow it or not, with your help you can keep the dogs from having any confusion as to what their place is in the pack. You also have to remember that illness and aging also have an affect on the order as well.