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My 2 year old pit, Iris, has always been loving and sweet. She has “mothered” rabbits, cats, smaller dogs and other small creatures; very sweet. We recently adopted a 6 month old male dog (God knows what breed) and they played fine. But recently Iris has seemed to be more aggressive, snarling and tying up over food and toys. I know he aggravates her but I was wondering if it was her age or just an annoying brother or acting out because we got a “new baby.”
It sounds like Iris is having some trouble adjusting to having an additional dog around the house full time. It also sounds like she is doing what is referred to as resource guarding. In a situation like you’re having it isn’t a bad idea to keep them separated when high value things are currently around. For instance, during feeding time.
Resource guarding is a dog’s way of saying that the object is theirs and that the other dog needs to back off. It’s a pretty normal behavior. There is a way to get Iris to stop, though. The way is called Counter Conditioning and Desensitization. This is something that takes repetition and good timing. It certainly helps having someone there show you how to do it. So I would recommend bringing in a trainer that is familiar with this technique.
The overall idea is to show Iris that when she has something she really enjoys and the other dog is around, good stuff happens to/for her and not bad stuff. Good stuff would include getting something very high value. I use little high value food rewards for this. Bad stuff would basically include the other dog taking the thing of value. Counter Conditioning means that when the other dog comes into sight, something good happens to Iris. Desensitization means that while he is there, she continues to get good stuff. With the repetition of getting good stuff when he is around, and nothing bad happening, her behavior should improve. This is something that takes lots of repetition and prevention and management. As I mentioned it would be a good idea to bring in a trainer that is well versed in these methods.
Another thing that can be done is giving the dogs an order. She could be first, or second. Whichever you choose though, keep it consistent. An example of this would be if you had both dogs in a room, you call them over, and then give them treats. You would give her the first treat, and then him the second. Each time you did this that would be the order. It would then carry over to anything that involved both dogs.
Finally, if you feel that this behavior is completely out of left field and feel this is something you never thought she would do, don’t be afraid to get her checked out medically. Medical issues are often the cause of sudden behavioral issues.
Thanks for your question!
Kevin Duggan CPDT-KA
Kevin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT.org) and is a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator through the American Kennel Club. He currently resides in Ohio with his dog, V, a six-year-old Shepherd/Lab mix, where he operates All Dogs Go To Kevin, LLC, specializing in helping build positive relationships between humans and their canine companions using clear communication, not pain and fear. For more training tips and tricks, and to meet his amazing dog, V, follow him on Facebook by clicking here.