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Any doggie psychologists out there? I have a few questions...

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karlrschneider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-08-05 05:03 PM
Original message
Any doggie psychologists out there? I have a few questions...
Can a female dog be an "alpha"? We have 3 doggies, all 'adopted'. The oldest is a medium-to-sorta large mutt female (spayed) about 9 years old, a 6 year old male also that size (neutered), and a recent acquisition, a mostly "blue heeler", "Australian Cattle Dog", female about 5 months old, not yet 'fixed.' She showed up in the driveway one morning in August obviously in not-so-good condition, was eaten up with both worms & mange...but we've managed to restore her health (maybe too much so! ;-)

The 2 older dogs have gotten along great since we got #2 as a small pup aside from the now and then semi-fight over leftover food that I think is expectable...the ACG is approaching full-growth (planning on spaying soon) and from what I've found on the net is exhibiting all the characteristics of the breed (we had no idea what she was when we first found her in the driveway, was just a barely-weaned pup), she not only tries to 'herd' both the other 2 doggies but any people she can get behind and nip the heels (it's kinda amusing but it's not so good when company comes over...and also she's deaf...I think totally.)

The problem is at feeding time, dog #2 which is the only male insists on getting his grub first, but the ACG won't wait or stay away...she sticks her snout right into #2's bowl before I can even get it filled and starts snarfing food down. But I can get her to follow me right away to her own feeding station and #1 (the old female) is pretty content to wait her turn (their bowls are in a kind of triangle about 15 feet from each other)...

So here's my dilemma: If I don't stand in the middle of this triangle and watch them, whoever gets done eating first gets victimized by #1 who will run over to one or the other bowls and chase off whoever's trying to finish, to gobble up what remains. She -seems- to be dominant, the others are afraid of her and will run away to let her have whatever they haven't eaten. Is this "normal" behavior?

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DELUSIONAL Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-08-05 05:14 PM
Response to Original message
1. Short answer -- yes female bitches can be alphas
Alphas are both male and female.

In the wild -- wolf packs are lead by an alpha female and an alpha male. I have a friend who observed Wolf Pack behavior (play behavior) and wrote her M.A. thesis on wolves.

You may need to feed the dogs in separate rooms -- if this is possible.

And yes -- fighting over food is normal.

Also you need to let your pack know that you are the alpha -- and that you won't tolerate any attempt to displace your role as pack leader.

Once when we had two dogs and a bunch of puppies -- each dog was trained to sit and each was given a treat in turn -- and only in turn. Each dog had to sit quietly while each got a treat. They learned that indeed each would get a treat and the better they behaved the more treats they would get.

We had a doberman who thought she was a poodle and a mother poodle and her puppies. (Five dogs -- who all learned to sit and mind their manners in order to get their treats.)
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benddem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-08-05 05:14 PM
Response to Original message
2. We had a female alpha
she even lifted her leg to pee. she had some problem with her legs or back and would sometimes stand on her front paws (back legs in the air) to mark trees. She was a riot...but if she and another alpha were in the area it was dreadful.
My dog now (male) is not an alpha. He does mark everything but only fights back if he is hurt.
Australian's can be trained not to herd but it is such a strong trait. Good luck. You need the help of a behaviourist. Do you ever listen to the program on NPR "calling all pets" It is broadcasted from Wisconsin Public radio...you can stream it on line. The woman answers questions...I'm sure you can email her and gives great advice.
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DELUSIONAL Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-08-05 06:32 PM
Response to Reply #2
9.  Patricia McConnell is simply the best pet behaviorists!
I've met her and went to a public presentation that she gave during an Animal Behavior Conference -- the place was packed. She should be on every public radio station.

Lobby your local NPR station to carry her program! And she is just as nice in person as she is on the radio. Even Animal behaviorists come to her with their pet problems!!

http://wpr.org/ideas/programnotes.cfm

Patricia's work for her PhD involved communication between dogs and humans -- and she found some universal methods that humans use to signal working dogs. She raises Border Collies.

Thanks for reminding me -- because I'm a big fan of hers.
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chookie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-08-05 05:14 PM
Response to Original message
3. Yes, very normal
Can females be "alphas"? HELL YEAH! My little 8 pound Marigold Bunnypants is a TYRANT! She was born alpha, was determined to be the alpha from the time I adopted her as a 12 week old pup.

We have had from time to time some hierarchy issues that have arisen -- such as when I adopted RastaMon, an older male pom, who Marigold bullied relentlessly.

I was told that as long as the other dog doesn't resent being the low man on the totem pole, and as long as there is no real fighting (as opposed to ritualistic fighting) -- to step back and let the dogs sort it out for themselves. Dogs are strictly hierarchical -- there is no egalitarianism in the dog world. If we attempt to interfere with their social processes, we can cause problems -- for example, and beta dog gets emboldened to challenge Numero Uno's throne, which results in a savage defense from the alpha, etc.

As far as the feeding is concerned, I would work out some routine that establishes YOU as the alpha. Make them wait for their food; don't let them gobble; make control what they must achieve before they get to eat. Remind Bossy Boss Girl that she is beta to YOU, and that might help settle her hash a bit, and encourage more cooperative behaviors.

But Marigold exhibits the same behaviors -- (most dogs do this!) -- I will give them both the SAME IDENTICAL meal, but Marigold will leave hers, go over to Rusty's and eat his. Other times she will steal his treat, eat it, and then go back to her old treat. It's taken almost a year of letting her be unchallenged, but you know what? The intensity has diminished. She is still assertive with him, but is not bullying, and you know what else? Rusty hasn't starved.

When I asked the vet about this a year ago, he said it could take a year for them to get used to one another. And now they are. It takes patience and understanding.
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skygazer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-08-05 05:22 PM
Response to Original message
4. Yes, this is normal
Also, male dogs don't tend to fight seriously with females - serious dog fights are generally between dogs of the same sex (although exceptions do occur). Dogs need to establish their own clear heirarchy which is not based on age or sex necessarily. For you, that means not stepping into their spats unless it gets out of hand, which it doesn't usually.

As far as feeding, though, you want everyone to get their full meal. I've had situations where I had leashes set up in the different feeding areas and I simply clipped each dog in its spot for feeding (like putting horses in a stall). It reduced stress for the dogs and allowed them to eat in peace. Or you could feed in separate rooms but I liked the leash method because they seemed to learn from it and eventually I could feed them without it.

You have to respect their established heirarchy but they have to respect that you are the top dog.

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Lizzie Borden Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-08-05 05:27 PM
Response to Original message
5. Yes. I'd say it's normal.
Dogs are very territorial about their food, and there is no reason why a female can't be an "alpha". Depending on the combination of dogs that I have, I've been in situations where they all got along at feeding time to (present) where I've got to feed them in seperate locations (with a closed door between them). I have always stayed present in the room where they were eating though. I've noticed through the years, and with all different breeds, that 2 dogs together get along better than 3. Sometimes I've had as many as 5 at a time (all large breeds)and had to keep some of them seperated from the others all the time (as in: o.k. you and you can be outside now, and you and you can't). I think the more you have, the more it is like a pack and in a pack there will always be an alpha, and somebody is always looking to take that position. I think that's what causes the friction.
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karlrschneider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-08-05 05:51 PM
Response to Original message
6. Thanks to everyone who replied! I've gotten some good advice and
insight. :toast:
DUers are the best. :D
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flvegan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-08-05 05:51 PM
Response to Original message
7. Two things:
1. Nice work taking in a sick stray. Cheers to you.

2. Feed them away from each other before a fight ensues.

Females can be, and often are, alpha dogs. Depends on the pack more than the sex.
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Cuban_Liberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-08-05 05:54 PM
Response to Original message
8. Yes, females can be alphas. n/t
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China_cat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-08-05 06:44 PM
Response to Original message
10. Some of the worst fights
I've had in my house have been between my bitches, jockying for alpha position...especially as Rose has gotten older and Dot has grown up.

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Minimus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-08-05 07:00 PM
Response to Original message
11. Yes! My female became alpha and bit the tip of my husband's finger off!
It is a long story, read about it in Pet Group.

Anyway, We had a 10 yo male neutered (Dog 1), got a female puppy, spayed when eligible (Dog 2). They got along well, the male was a good playmate for a while but started slowing down. So when Dog 3 was 3yo, we got her a little sister (Dog 3). She hated her little sister. Our vet even spayed Dog 3 early to try to help the situation. Many vet trips for dogs, and emergency trips for husband. He did not learn from first bite, second bite got his finger. Never use your hands to break up a dog fight, DUH!

We went to behavior vet and he said Dog 2 was trying to become alpha because Dog 1 was old and not really a threat, he minded his own business and left the 2 girls to do their thing.

Well when Dog 3 started getting a little bigger, she quit submitting to Dog 2 and the Behavior vet told us we were to blame.

Whenever Dog 2 would try to exhibit dominance over Dog 3, we would step in and scold Dog 2. Dog 3 started thinking we were behind her and she did not have to submit anymore. Vet told us we had to work on changing how we treated the girls. Dog 2 was to be fed first, get treats first etc. Dog 3 was to be crated or scolded when fights started to show her she was not alpha and should learn to submit.

Anyway, husband moved out, took Dog 2 (the one that bit his finger off). Dog 1, my beloved had to put down in Dec. :cry: So now it is just me and Dog 3. She is queen of the house and loves it.

Unfortunately we did not get to do the behavioral training before husband left, so I can't tell you if it will work. But the idea made sense. The Behavior Vet said, ultimately the humans are the alpha then you can help set the hierarchy of the rest of the pack by the way you treat them.

BTW, Husband's finger was sewed back on.
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