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Pack position problem

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Looking for some suggestions...


Sol: Chucklehead Lab/Pointer mix, will be 2 yrs old in August. We brought him home from a shelter (he was dropped off with his entire litter) when he was about 4 mos old, in 12/07. He was only dog until 2/08, when we brought Kip home. Personality-wise, he is (without anthropomorphizing too much) a big baby---not overly fearful or fear aggressive or anything, but approaches novel things by jumping back (preferably behind his human's legs), then re-evaluating, he takes correction rather to heart (if I "ah-ah" at anyone---Kip, the cat, the kids---he takes it personally). He probably of average, say, Lab intelligence. He is healthy with the exception of hip dysplasia. He is neutered.


Kip: BC, will be 3 yrs old (or so). Healthy. He was pulled out of a municipal pound after being rounded up by the dog warden as an untagged, unclaimed stray. He was neutered by the dog warden (well, probably not personally, but you get what I mean). He was "somebody's" dog---he knew all his basic commands and a selection of tricks when we met him at the pound, but has his reactivity issues. He assumed the role of alpha dog upon arrival at our house, and Sol has never questioned it.


Til now.


The guys have always gotten along beautifully---Sol has always deferred to Kip. Kip has never been equivocal about his role as alpha---he readily gives Sol a curled lip or stink eye if, in his estimation, Sol is taking undue liberties with resources like people, toys, cow hooves, etc. or if Sol is just crowding him/getting on his nerves. In the last few weeks-1 month, I have been seeing little instances of Sol challenging Kip---stink eye, a low growl when Kip has a high value item. Tonight, there was an outright snark attack. Both dogs were lying by me, chewing on hooves. Sol started giving Kip stink eye, and gave a low growl. I corrected him with an "ah-ah" and he quit and went back to chewing his hoof. Sol then got up in a huff, to lay so he wasn't looking in Kip's direction at all, while Kip continued to chew on his hoof, oblivious. After getting up and moving, all of a sudden, Sol left his hoof, and came after Kip in a snark-attack---no harm done, but he jumped squarely on Kip's back, growling and snapping. I sent him to his crate.


DH (Food Guy) now reports that Sol has been growling Kip off his dinner bowl (new).


I have asked DH to start feeding Sol in his crate if any more snarkiness at mealtimes comes up. (Right now, the guys are fed on the deck, together (pumpkin and yogurt makes dining al fresco a must).


Our last time as a two-dog household involved Molly, the UberAlpha Bulldog and Orlando, the UberOmega pup (who joined the house as a tiny pup ~6 weeks old, with parvo). There never were any pack-position challenges---Molly ruled with an iron paw, and Orlando never aspired to anything except Lowest Dog On The Totem Pole Ever.


I'd like to hear suggestions/experiences with pack position challenges.

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I'm a bit hard-line on this subject so do not allow any of my dogs to think they are in charge of resources -- food, toys, furniture, attention, whatever. If they have a toy or food or someone's attention, then until I (or another human) tells them differently what they have theirs and no other dog gets to say anything about it. When I've allowed my dogs sort things out on their own without guidelines from me, I've had a 50% success rate and the failures ranged from bad to horrendous.


Although you write "The guys have always gotten along beautifully," it sounds as though as Sol reaches maturity, he is tired of being pushed around by Kip and so as you say, is now "pushing back." This might be settled without any significant problems or injuries and they'll remain good friends. That has happened with some of my dogs in the past. Or it could lead to increasing hostility and tension until the dogs are in an unsafe, unstable situation. That has also happened with dogs of mine to the point of one dog nearly being killed. Hence my hard-line stance.


So no dog is ruling in my house with an iron paw. I'm not one to look at everything in terms of dominance and leadership, but have reached the point that I am the only Alpha in the house and I'm not looking for a dog to take the role of Vice-Alpha. If my dogs are pushing each other around in my presence I view it as they are trying to take charge because I'm not doing an adequate job as leader. So they are corrected for that sort of behavior.


now reports that Sol has been growling Kip off his dinner bowl (new).


Does this mean Sol is pushing Kip of Kip's bowl or away from his own? Definitely I would not allow either dog to think he gets to crowd the other during meal times. Quinn and my Lhasa do not care for each other and need careful management and supervision (because of mistakes I made before I became hard-line). They eat their meals in different rooms. They may bump up against each other for treats like the best buddies because from puppyhood they've learned any snarking results in NO treats for the snarker. But meals take longer (at least a minute! :rolleyes: ), my attention is often on other matters and I'm not actively involved in the process after putting the bowls down, so they are separated.


I would say now is the time to start a New World Order where both Sol and Kip understand the humans are in charge and resource guarding or taking is never allowed. Nipping this in the bud now (with refreshers as needed) could save you lots of heartache in the future. That's my take on it anyway.

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Sol's intrusion on Kip's position has always seemed to be in Kip's mind until now...and had not seemed "unhealthy" in any way (and both dogs are respectful of all humans' superior ranking, incl DD, age 6). Kip has always acted 100% assured of his dominance to Sol---and usually only really expressed any "pulling rank" during playtime/treat time. Kip never did any food dish snarking or anything...it was more on the line of, for ex.: Kip has a treat he had been given, Sol looks longingly, sidles up to Kip and gets mad teeth warning him to back off before he ever got very close.


On the dinner bowl snarkiness: FoodGuy reports that Sol has recently taken to digging in to his own dish (like the piglet he is), then glancing over at Kip's bowl (Kip eats at a much more leisurely pace), and will sometimes abandon his own bowl before it is empty to go growl Kip off his. Kip responds by very nonchalantly swapping bowls and continuing his meal out of Sol's dish while Sol occupies Kip's bowl...and so on---sort of a "musical bowls" maneuver. DH reports that Kip does not appear bothered by this maneuver in the least and does not even curl his lip...so perhaps that has been reinforcing Sol's bolder behavior. The dogs eat identical rations, so who gets what is not so much an issue, but I don't want to reinforce anything that will lead to WWIII, so FoodGuy has been asked to feed Sol on his crate for now.

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FoodGuy reports that Sol has recently taken to digging in to his own dish (like the piglet he is), then glancing over at Kip's bowl (Kip eats at a much more leisurely pace), and will sometimes abandon his own bowl before it is empty to go growl Kip off his.


I had a hint of that after my foster, Rhys arrived. He asserted rank over Senneca and tried to growl and push Senneca from her bowl. I nipped that in the bud immediately. Now they eat side by side peacefully and don't touch the other's bowl until it has been emptied and the owner has gone away.

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I had a hint of that after my foster, Rhys arrived. He asserted rank over Senneca and tried to growl and push Senneca from her bowl. I nipped that in the bud immediately.


I agree. That is a dangerous game to play. Most dogs take food very seriously. All my dogs do and Sol sounds like he does. Because of the dynamics between Quinn and the Lhasa, I never even tried having them in the same room at mealtime. I figured meals could be one factor that would never enter the equation of their rivalry with each other. Separating them isn't hard because I have a permanent gate to the kitchen and I just pull it closed, usually not even latching it while they eat. The Lhasa and Sheltie are fine together and only look at each others bowls after all the food is gone.


You know, the first real trouble I ran into with Quinn and Chili was when Quinn was right around Sol's age. Just before he turned two. Both dogs were egging each other on, often without my realizing it. Well, Quinn is better at flying under my radar than Chili who wouldn't know subtle if he tripped over it. But I had to become very alert to the early signs -- right down to a brief hard look and intervene immediately. Most of the time people who see me correct Quinn for starting something with Chili have no idea what just happened. It can be easy to miss.

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I just got through dealing with this...well, maybe not through, but hopefully...I got Ripley and Frosty together as pups and they have always and still do get along fine, but when they hit around 2 years old, mealtime became an issue. They used to eat side by side, no problems, but then out of nowhere, Frosty, who had always been #2 dog, started snarking at Ripley after he finished his food. One day Frosty out and out attacked Ripley, no damage, but he meant business. On closer inspection, Ripley had been finishing his food first and staring at Frosty...I noticed this after he did the same thing to Shiner and Shiner snarked at him too.


Anywho, I feed R and F in separate crates in separate rooms now and there are no more issues, but I think this is how it will have to be forever. The times I tried to feed uncrated again, the fighting was worse and not better. If I let one out before the other is done, or feed side by side in crates, they will cage fight. I chalked it up to same sex dogs reaching social maturity at the same time, and I consider myself lucky that the problems are only about food.


Oh, and I tried some other training techniques first, training them to stay by their own bowls to get "dessert", stuff like that, but it wasn't working quickly enough and with the problem escalating I was afraid someone would get hurt.

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