Dog Behaviour Advice - Dog Advice Articles
The Case of Bitch-to-Bitch aggression. Part 2 understand the problem
Last week I wrote regarding a case of two bitches showing major aggression towards one another. The older spayed bitch has lived harmoniously with the younger bitch for some time without any sign of aggression. The owners were accepting their vet’s advice and were going to spay the younger one after she had her first season. This is outdated now.
At around the start of her first season the two bitches began major confrontations and the owners found it necessary to split them up. This aggression had been going on for two months and the owners just wished everything could be back to as before.
You would think that logically if the vet spayed the younger bitch that this should solve the problem and peace would once again rein in the household. It may well solve the problem but what if this does not work. There are in fact a few reasons as to why this may not work at all.
Ok you may think that if it does not work just try to solve the situation some other way. However, what if spaying actually made the problem worse without any method of reversal. It is here we are entering the area of experimentation without first reviewing the problem. We must not only fully understand what is the driving force here but to choose from the various methods before proceeding with what could be a possible irreversible decision.
It is here that the behaviourist must work with the vet and visa versa. We must both fully understand decisions regarding the options and not just by us but the owners must understand as well. They must agree to the treatment.
It is also important that we move with the times and use current retraining and medical solutions not just use those taught to us many years ago. We are always improving with new medicines and new techniques that can cure problems previously considered incurable.
So why am I advising a cautionary approach here? I telephoned Norma Knocks the other day because as a breeder she must have seen more bitch-to-bitch aggression than I have. She says that this for her was quite common that when a bitch was coming into season she would become aggressive towards the others. She added that if she showed one of the other bitches some attention first then the bitch in season would appear jealous showing her displeasure with aggression. I do not believe this is jealousy but her telling the owner that she is the alpha female now and entitled to attention first befitting her condition and rank in the hierarchy. Once the season comes to an end they usually calmed down.
Norma did say she used some herbal remedies to give to bitches that were too aggressive towards one another. Their use does quieten them down considerably. If you do want any information on such remedies, please do contact Norma. I never do this nor would I wish to give advice on any type of remedies other than those prescribed by a vet or by someone familiar with prescribing such herbal remedies like Norma. I have no knowledge regarding how to neither treat nor give advice if something were to go wrong.
We both feel that in this case it would seem that the bitch does have a problem with her hormones except her season finished some time ago. From Norma’s experience normally once the season finishes, the bitch should calm down and this is defiantly not the case here.
Could we be dealing with a phantom pregnancy or are the owner’s two young pups keeping her running true to form as the Alpha bitch. Could there be an imbalance in her hormones. Could she be running on estrogens without any calming control of progesterone?
I am not a vet I can only ask questions like any other owner. Certainly, compressed air is almost useless yet a bucket of water and the voice of the wife do achieve the desired calming effect even if only for a short time.
A further problem is the older bitch is not running on hormones so why will she not surrender her title. She cannot breed and knows this so why fight the bitch that legally is the rightful Alpha bitch.
Another problem is if they now spay the younger one will it make any difference. She knows the rules and she is not currently running on hormones and the yet the rage continues.
Normally vets do not like to balance aggressive dogs so they will normally castrate or spay the underdog leaving the other one dominant.
We do know that they were fine when previously balanced but will everything return to normal once spayed. It would seem logical but to test this by spaying is irreversible so if it does not work, aggression could increase not diminish because they would then be balanced.
A further problem here is the younger is bigger and stronger so such fights would likely mean that the older would inevitably be hurt in any future confrontations.
I think you, as I, would now be asking the question what are her hormones levels like. Could there be some imbalance that maybe hormone therapy could be the answer? Only a qualified vet can tell us that.
I hope you can see there are lot of questions and tests to perform before making any decision of spaying the younger bitch. Could it be possible to inject the bitch with a hormone that would simulate having been spayed as a test to see if things could settle? If it does, then spaying is the answer.
One problem that can interfere here is the aggression now originally generated by hormones could now have changed to learned aggression towards the other bitch.
I read Bruce Fogle’s book The Dogs Mind and he was writing about dogs’ masturbating a toy or cushion. Whilst hormones and chemical released guide the dog to act this out, as it is a nice feeling, it will learn to continue even after castration. Seeing the dog continue with this action the logical question is whether castration had actually worked.
The owners and the two bitches have now been to see a behavioural vet and I had hoped that they would contact me but alas, no such luck.
The basic solution put forward is to separate the dogs again with the younger bitch kept out back in a large dog crate. The older bitch is the one to favour in all sorts of privileges like running free, access to the house, fed first etc all in order to show her that everyone accepts her as the dominant bitch as she was before. The vet has though put her on a ten-day course of calming medication similar to Prozac. The vet wishes to see what progress this program has achieved in a few weeks time. They further advised that they should spay the younger bitch in a month’s time.
I will keep in contact with the owners and hope I am helping them to understand what is happening. I have suggested it would be a good idea to ask the vet for a hormone level test just to see if hormones are playing a part in the way the young bitch is currently acting.
I have heard from some owners of smaller dogs where there was an allergic reaction to wearing the collar. If you find your dog scratching at this collar more than usual just see if the dog’s skin is ok. If you are unfortunate to find your dog does react then you may find changing to ExSpot will work better. I understand that ExSpot also protects against the mosquito that infects dogs with heartworm. This would be useful if you have not protected your dog with some other medication.
I did hear from one owner that they had purchased a large Scalibor collar and cut in half so it would fit two small dogs. Shortly after wearing them, both dogs suffered symptoms similar to being poisoned. The vet believed the dogs had eaten something poisonous but that it was not the collar and it was just a coincidence.
I have heard of dogs removing the collar and chewing it up without having any ill effects so wonder if coincidence is all it was.
The chemical is only suppose to cover the dogs coat not be absorbed into the blood steam. It should not harm a dog in the event it might lick itself or if a cat were to lick the dog. It seems unlikely this was the reason but I will look into this to see if there is any potential problem for the smaller dogs.
Processionary Caterpillar updates
By the end of March, all the Processionary caterpillars should have disappeared into the ground to pupate. If you find you live in an area where you have problems with the caterpillars in your own trees or those of your neighbours then you should think about ways of killing them before the winter.
The best effective method is pheromone traps to capture the moths in your area before they mate and not to leave the eggs on the pine trees. For this you need to purchase a G-trap.
If you cannot use traps then you must attack the caterpillars. As they grow, they go through five phases and as they grow, each phase makes it harder to exterminate them.
Please do start to think now of having professional exterminators come to your area and spray your trees before the caterpillars finally hibernate in winter and create this annual problem associated with January to March each year.
Let’s be careful out there.