Pack dominance issues - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 65 (permalink) Old 03-19-2012, 12:40 PM Thread Starter
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Pack dominance issues

We have two GSDs; one is a seven year old female, the other a two year old male. The female was with us for about five years before we got the male. Both are from the pound, so we don't have any back story on either. The female is very affectionate, good protector, etc. The male, as befits his age, is more energetic and playful, but also affectionate, brave, a good protector, etc. We have had the male about 15 months and everything was great until about a month ago.

Our problem is one that I believe is basically a dominance issue over which of the two will be the alpha. The female always has been, but the male is starting to make moves into taking over the role. The female is resisting this, demanding more attention and affection from the family, and is finding many ingenious ways to mess with the male. I accepted this as just the transition they will go through; being much larger, younger, and stronger, the male will eventually become the aplha. The trouble is that this competition for aplha status has begun to result in negative behavior. They are both becoming resistant to taking commands that they jumped to obey just a few months ago (they will still obey, but it is not instant, sometimes two or three repetitions are required where one was always enough before); the male and female actually got into a fight over food (this has NEVER happened before), and we have to keep a very close watch on them while they are outside because the female has been caught trying to dig under the property fence. Neither shows any aggression towards the family members and both remain affectionate and protective of the humans in the house. Neither sees the other as a threat to any of the people in the house, but both seem to want exclusive attention, rather than the sort of group affection, games, etc., that has previously seemed perfectly OK to both of them.

Is this all natural? And how long should it take these two to hash it out and establish the new pecking order? Is there anything as owners we can do to speed up or smooth out this process?
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post #2 of 65 (permalink) Old 03-19-2012, 01:02 PM
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Don't let the male do it. Younger, stronger, doesn't matter.
Female is there first, you protect her top dog status.
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post #3 of 65 (permalink) Old 03-19-2012, 01:04 PM
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I think you are looking to far into this. Don't let the dogs control the house you control the house. If there obedience is sliding it is not because of the relationship between the two dogs it is because you are not being consistent in enforcing the rules. Yes there may be things going on between them but that is not an excuse to not enforce your commands. Maybe a second round of obedience classes for both of them. If you have 2 handlers you could even have them in the same class and the trainer could give you suggestions on the issues in the house or do a private lesson at your home.

It sounds like your dogs might be trying to control movement and space in the house. They should learn that you are in control of all resources food, space, access to you etc. So don't think about it so much as how the dogs are hashing it out think about it as to how you need to show them that you are in control. With food if I give food to a dog it is theirs and I enforce this so no dogs bother each other. If they leave their food or chew without finishing it gets put up the other dogs don't get to take it.

I am sure someone will post a good link to a NILF article this will help out a lot also.
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post #4 of 65 (permalink) Old 03-19-2012, 01:10 PM
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Mind Games (version 1.0) by M. Shirley Chong

I want to reiterate, too, do not let the male bully your girl.
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post #5 of 65 (permalink) Old 03-19-2012, 01:35 PM
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Your male will ultimately assume top status between the two if they are often together. Its the way of the pack....the sooner it get settled the better the situation will be. You cannot keep the female in the top position over the male....doesn't work that way. Now if you separate them or you are always between them.....maybe, but that's not practical. I just had my 14 month old male take over the top spot from my seven year old female. If I could have prevented it I would have because she was first....doesn't work that way.
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post #6 of 65 (permalink) Old 03-19-2012, 01:41 PM
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Ultimately they are both #2. They own nothing, and get no privileges without them being earned.

Get it out of your head that either of them needs to be the "alpha". You are the decision maker and the leader in the house.

The NILF link is a great one, but more importantly is to change the way you think and live with your dogs.
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post #7 of 65 (permalink) Old 03-19-2012, 01:41 PM
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I don't believe it "has" to work that way. We've protected our female's status as top dog because the house works better that way.
You can give preferential treatment to the female, don't crate her while male is crated, take her more places, feed her first, etc.

There's more to it than sheer brute strength. The smallest dogs in the household are often "alpha" or the top dog, or whatever, I shared in another thread that a 4lb. dog ruled the roost and bossed around a 130lb. Great Dane puppy!

Your home is what you make it as long as you are in charge ultimately.

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The NILF link is a great one, but more importantly is to change the way you think and live with your dogs.
Exactly. Shrink that boy's britches back down, you are the leader and what you say, goes.
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post #8 of 65 (permalink) Old 03-19-2012, 01:44 PM
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I agree that the male will probably be tops in the house amongst the dogs. I don't try to maintain what I perceive should be the hierarchy the animals know that better than I do. But you still need to make sure that you are in control and that the top dog is not running your house. I think in this case there are issues between the dogs but also issues between the dogs and the people.
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post #9 of 65 (permalink) Old 03-19-2012, 01:52 PM
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Originally Posted by cliffson1 View Post
Your male will ultimately assume top status between the two if they are often together. Its the way of the pack....the sooner it get settled the better the situation will be. You cannot keep the female in the top position over the male....doesn't work that way. Now if you separate them or you are always between them.....maybe, but that's not practical. I just had my 14 month old male take over the top spot from my seven year old female. If I could have prevented it I would have because she was first....doesn't work that way.

?? The female dogs have always been alpha in my house. It seems like the male dogs don't want it. We started with a female shepherd who was always alpha over our akita male and she ruled the roost for 13 years. When she passed Xena a little 40 lb mix took over and kept my boys in line. The females are just flat meaner, and frankly a heck of a lot more protective.
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post #10 of 65 (permalink) Old 03-19-2012, 01:54 PM
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I am the head "B" in our house. I don't think you can control which dog is top dog, that is something the dogs must work out. As much as I tried to influence my dogs status, Lakota is top dog. She is the newest & youngest and most dominant. Luckily the other 2 dogs had no desire to challenge her. I don't take any crap from her when I see her posturing or mounting my other female or resource guarding from them. Size doesn't mater to her, she has gone after my 9yr old male, he's 115lbs and could easily lay her out.

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Wolfen - WGSD 12/31/14
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Apache - Shiloh Shepherd 12/15/02 - 6/9/15
Kiya - Shiloh Shepherd 5/15/04 -12/19/25
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