Fighting female terriers

2014-07-10 00:00

THE last weekend of June consisted of two normal behaviour consultations and three assessments. The first consult included nipping to cause bleeding by a 13-month-old female Labrador puppy, plus severe jumping up against people. The second was a male Bull Terrier, spinning and slamming repeatedly into people’s legs. These issues were sorted out, but it was two of the behaviour assessments that left me somewhat frustrated and sad. This was quite simply due to my having to inform the owners I could not help them. Besides the fact that fighting had escalated to an attention-seeking level, the other big hurdle would have been to reinstil confidence in severely traumatised owners. Based on experience, this is not an easy task.

Subsequent to this, a Google search on female fighting dogs produced countless examples of e-mails from pet owners about their fighting female dogs.

Some are shown below.

• I have two female Yorkies — ages 3½ and four years old. A year ago, they started to fight and it progressed to violent fights. My two daughters, husband and myself have been bitten.

• I have four Pekingese dogs, two males and two females. The two females fight. One female just lost the sight in one eye due to a fight.

• Female Silky Terrier (8) and a female pitbull (7) — not fixed and fighting! Female Yorkie of one year — not the problem. The females have lived under the same roof for a year now, but recently started fighting. My silky seems to be the aggressive one but there are times when the pitbull starts it.

Fighting is a situation where dogs either lock onto each other or inflict injuries through biting, thus requiring a visit to the vet. It is disturbing to see how often this occurs. One would expect that with all the information available when choosing a pet nowadays, people would make more informed choices, but apparently this is not the case. Among others, I am of the opinion that the three major factors that contribute to abnormal aggression in female dogs are dysfunctional hierarchies, attention seeking and the biggest being the effect of pheromones. I believe that these odours have the power to override pack hierarchy principles.

In both assessments mentioned above, female terriers were involved. In the first case, a Staffie cross was brought into the home to join an older resident dog. It was not long before the senior pet lost an eye during a fight. In the second, two sisters were taken from the same litter to different households belonging to a mother and son, respectively. About two years later, the adult dogs were put together on one property. This is one of those times when it would have been a good idea to speak to someone like myself. Besides all the other advice about rehoming, I would have sounded warnings against the blending of the dogs. My expertise in dealing with the introduction and later living conditions may have helped, but there are no guarantees. It is possible for female terriers to coexist without fighting, but the likelihood of success is rare.

When discussing puppy choices, I point out that when processes are flawed, a strong likelihood exists that pets could be euthanased at a young age due to behaviour disorders, or severe injuries. It is important to know that fighting also occurs between non-terrier breeds.

• Steve van Staden is a canine behaviour specialist and can be contacted at ­Advice is only dispensed in face-to-face meetings ­

with owners and their pets.

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