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Question
Posted by: Doglover | 2004/12/17

RE: American Pit Bull Terrier

This is our home setup and I would appreciate any pointers on what we can do to ensure all our animals stay/become happy and content.

We have 7 cats, all sterilized, all rescued. Thus, some of them are inclined to hide and flee when the going gets tough! They are mostly afraid of people, but have learnt to trust us, and have also learned to accept our 2 female, sterilized miniature daschunds. The dogs appear to annoy the cats more than anything else. They do chase the cats but have never harmed them. The dogs are 2 years old now.

We have just acquired an American Pit Bull Terrier pup. Female, 8 weeks old. She has been vaccinated and will be sterilized when she is 6 months old, or earlier. Her name is Juno. The daschunds names are Abby and Dixie. Abby is the dominant female, and this can be seen from the ‘spats’ between her and Juno. Juno is usually first to submit.

As you can imagine, the pup is the same size, even taller, than the daschunds. If she were to turn on the daschund at a later stage, the daschund would not stand a chance. However, she has not come across as aggressive at all – she is far more interested in playing with the daschunds. She does bark at the cats, unfortunately, but one of the cats went for her the other day and she bolted in shock and yelped. Now she avoids getting too close, but still barks. Sometimes she ignores the cats completely – which we would like to encourage.

I am concerned about Abby and Juno fighting. Abby goes for Juno often, and it appears that Abby and Dixie even “attack” her as a team. None have been hurt, and the pup usually backs off. It will not be long before she does not back off though. The dogs used to have food at their disposal whenever they wanted it, but I have now stopped that and I feed them certain times of the day. I am still training them to realize this because they do not eat when I put their bowls down.

The dogs sleep inside at night, in our bedroom, in their own beds. We are still housetraining Juno so it is a bit disruptive currently. We also have a 6 month old baby boy, who shares our bedroom at the moment. He is moving into his own room this December.

The dogs are outside, in the back garden, during the day. The garden is very large and they have plenty of toys to keep them busy, as well as kennels in case of rain.

We got the pup for protection purposes, as well as for pleasure. We have enrolled her in a training course, and will be socializing her at the same time.

Is there anything you can suggest for the fighting between Abby and Juno, and also is there anything I should change to avoid this dog becoming a terror instead of a pleasure? I am fully aware of the possible animal-aggression in Pit Bulls – I am fairly clued up on the breed, and I am hoping that by training and socializing I will prevent this.


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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberVet

Hi Doglover
As you allude to, Pit Bulls have been selectively bred to fight. They are not good guard dogs as they were not bred for this (German Shepherds, Rottweilers etc. are guard dogs), but are a deterrent as many people fear them. They are usually good with people and children, but if aggression is sparked in them there is no warning (growling, hackles up, stiff legs etc.) and the bite is usually serious. The other problem you have is that all three dogs are bitches so they are more likely to fight than if there was a male to balance the equation. I think that the risk of Abby being injured or killed is high, no matter what you do, and the risk of your child being involved in a fight is also there. So my suggestion is that you re-home Juno as soon as possible. If you want a guard dog I think you will have a better chance of success with a male large breed, not a terrier.
If you are determined to keep Juno then here are some essential tips:
* Puppy socialising classes starting from 9 weeks old - with bigger breed pups. She must not be allowed to bully any other pups.
* Socialising with older big breed adult dogs that are "bomb proof" and will discipline her without hurting her. Labradors and German Shepherds are often good at this.
* Don't leave the dogs together when you are not around - alternate territories each day.
* Step in and discipline Juno when she goes for Abby by either 1: rolling Juno over gently onto her back and holding her down gently until she calms down or 2: separating them quietly, by picking one up, and giving them a few minutes of time out from any contact with dogs or people - no shouting or smacking at all.
Karen Gray-Kilfoil
ANIMAL BEHAVIOURIST

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Jan | 2004/12/21

Hi guys

Very interresting indeed. I have to admit that I've posted a simular question here in the past. I had a miniature Doberman Pincher, a Jack Russel and a normal Doberman pup. They are all 3 bithces so you also see the problem? The Jack Russel was the dominnant bitch. As a result there was lots of conflict between the Jack and the Doberman after which I sent the doberman on extensive obediense and other training. This worked in the sence that the doberman is now very well traine, but the conflict between these two persisted. All was within limits until one day the doberman decided that the jack has crossed the line. Without notice the dobe grabbed the jack by the neck and gave her a few hard shakes and threw her to one side. That was it. After this I dicided that one of them must go. It was the Jack. Poor thing. At least I got some nice lady at work which just loves Jack Russels.

My point is: At one stage or another the pit bull is going to grab the dach and it's going to be all over for her.

Jan

Reply to Jan
Posted by: Chill | 2004/12/18

A very interesting situation, and you're right to think about this now, at an early stage.

First: I don't (in this case!) agree with Acineth about 'creating' a pack leader out of Juno. They will have to sort this out between themselves. Right now, she's still very young and puppies are always going to be submissive to adults until they're a bit older. There's a good possibility that Abby will remain the pack leader, odd as that might sound. Also, I think it is absolutely imperative that Juno be spayed, as you say you intend to do. At least that way you'll prevent hormones becoming an additional issue.

I understand your rationale about not having food available all the time, you're obviously not wanting the food, or the guarding of food, or possessiveness, to become a trigger for conflict. However, you must realise that by restricting food availability, you are creating a possible sense of competition when it DOES become available, which could in fact be counterproductive. Provided the dogs don't overeat, it may in be better to not make it an issue in that sense, by having it available all the time. Also: hunger does play a part in aggression - I've heard it suggested that especially when young children are in the same environment as dogs, it's in fact better to keep your dogs slightly OVERweight, rather than lean or skinny - I know that's not a 'politically correct' thing to say, but it makes sense to me. Being well-fed would reduce the possibility of any kind of hunting instinct playing a role.

I'll be interested in what the behaviourist has to say, but I do have one further suggestion. If your dogs are going to be all together outside, even when you're perhaps not home to deal with any problems, then their relative size difference would make it fairly easy for you to create a 'refuge' for your dachsies, so that if something does happen, they have a safe place where Juno wouldn't be able to get at them. I'm thinking perhaps a fenced-off bit with a gate high enough off the ground for the small ones to get underneath, that would keep Juno out - something like that. At least that way, if the worst were to happen, they wouldn't be sitting dachs!

Good luck with your dogs, and well done for being realistic enough to consider all this stuff before any damage is done.

Reply to Chill
Posted by: Acineth | 2004/12/17

The training and socializing will go a great way toward helping with this.

I met a lady at training with a pit bull, she said it was very good with the cats. I'm sure that since she is being socialized to the cats at such an early age that it won't become a problem.

As for the fighting, they are sorting out their pecking order. It is best they do it now, while the puppy is small. I'm sure the little dogs won't be able to sustain the leadership roll. If they submit while Juno is young, then everything will be okay as long as they don't challenge again later.

The best thing to do would be to start treating Juno as the pack leader now. If you re-inforce it by feeding her first etc. then they should accept it.

Reply to Acineth

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