View Full Version : Help -- My 2 year old cav is attacking my 9 month old cav

Leo's Pal
14th September 2008, 11:57 PM
Four months ago, we got a 5-month-old male Cavalier pup (Milo) to keep our young adult Cavalier (Leo) company. They are both males, both neutered (our breeder said not to worry two males with Cavaliers). At first, Leo was a bit cold to Milo, but eventually warmed up to him. They play together and even sleep together quite often.

But lately, Leo has been becoming very aggressive with Milo: He eats Milo's food, pushes Milo aside when we pet Milo, intimidates Milo with a stare and even snaps at Milo's ears (causing yelps from Milo). When this happens, we immediately put Leo on his back and correct him sternly. We have also taken to putting Leo in a small bathroom for about a half hour after each incident.

We're very worried about this. What else can we do?

Thanks so much.

15th September 2008, 12:32 AM
Well: this is almost certainly manageable, but I'd definitely stop doing the two things you have mentioned. First: please never roll a dog on its back!! :eek: This is a quick way to end up with an aggressive dog and also is a totally unecessary and overly physical way of managing any dog (and can create a dangerous dog, too!) but especially a breed as gentle as cavaliers. This is more than likely making things worse, and may very well have pushed Leo into this more aggressive state of staring down Milo etc, as you are linking the unwanted behaviour to an aggressive response that will just keep linking fear to the the aggression causing more aggression. The alpha roll has been solidly discredited (http://board.cavaliertalk.com/showthread.php?t=10874) by many canine experts -- wolves and dogs do not actually roll each other on their backs as a natural behaviour except in the most extreme and dangerous situations -- this is not the message you want to give your dog when he is being aggressive with a puppy!

A half hour in a bathroom is also really long. A time out only needs to be 5 or 10 minutes. Use the occasional time out like this -- making no comment or scolding, though you can use a negative marker phrase like 'too bad' (not 'no' which is overused by everyone and means nothing), just gently lead Leo into his time out space and then after 5 minutes, let him out again without comment.

Consider this in human terms -- if you had a 5 year old starting to hit a 3 year old sibling, what is the easiest, most constructive thing to do? Separate them! :) Watch and learn what sets off their fighting. Reward the older child for desired behaviours and playing nicely. :thmbsup: How productive would holding the older child down be? Or slapping them? Or shouting? Not very. It is the same psychology with dogs: management and motivating desired behaviours, not punishing unwanted ones (which doesn't give the dog any behaviour to do as an alternative) is the way you want to go. :thmbsup:

I'd advise finding an APDT or CCPDT accredited trainer to vcome in and give advice on how to deal with this behaviour as a management issue and to address the aggression with a rewards-based programme to get the desired behaviour rather than creating more fear. You can find accredited trainers in your area via www.apdt.com or www.ccpdt.org

But the basic answer is: this is behaviour that started as some common jealousy but now has intensified to a dangerous point, and this is going to escalate into something serious unless you start to manage the situation. Keep them apart in touchy situations and *prevent* then being able to do the things you don't want. :) For example, food is a typical flashpoint and how can a puppy defend its food bowl against an adult dog? It won't now -- but give him a couple of more months and they may rip each other apart if Leo tries this. They need to be fed separately in crates -- never, ever, ever where they can feed from each other's dishes. Give them 10 minutes in a crate to eat and then food goes away til the next meal; never leave food down. You will probably find there are other trigger situations that bring on stares and potential fights -- for example toys or chews. These also MUST be given separately, a good distance from each other and you need to supervise the whole time. Attention to the dogs may also need to be separate but equal -- don't pet one when the other is right there; either two people give each dog separate attention or only give attention when the other isn't there. They also need equal, separate time from you. Have you done any obedience with Leo? If he has good self control from a solid base of training he will be less likely to do this sort of thing and you can manage him more easily -- be giving a look command and getting him to focus on you immediately when you catch him getting aggressive.

The staring is very dangerous -- that is the last step before a serious fight.

You can try these basics and see how they do, but if you are uncertain, I really think you need professional advice at this point as you do not want Milo to end up seriously hurt or worse, and it would be very helpful to have a professional trainer come in and observe how the dogs are around each other and give management and training advice (rewards, not punishment based :) ). Some dogs just do not care to have another around, or not the same sex, or not one particular dog and will get along fine with another. A female also would have been a better choice I think -- while cavaliers often have no problems in two of the same sex, generally you will almost always get a better chance of a good friendship with the opposite sex as there are none of the typical hierarchy issues between them. But most issues like this can be solved with some smart management and what you need is just to get some good advice from a trainer. Until then, do not let them into situations that can cause flare-ups.

I'd also recommend trying this book (http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Dunbars-Good-Little-Book/dp/188804702X%3FSubscriptionId%3D1XFK01HK9NZWGPENWGG2 %26tag%3Ddostda-20%26linkCode%3Dxm2%26camp%3D2025%26creative%3D165 953%26creativeASIN%3D188804702X).

Leo's Pal
15th September 2008, 01:38 AM
Thank you, Karlin. You're always a big help.

15th September 2008, 09:44 AM
Was Leo quiet natured before Milo came? Maybe you got Milo to perk him up?
He could just be the occasional dog who likes his own company. Has Leo got any medical issues ,he will retaliate if he is uncomfortable.
It is perfectly natural for Leo to try to put Milo in his place, but obviously there is more to do with this pair.
Good Luck

15th September 2008, 11:20 AM
It is perfectly natural for Leo to try to put Milo in his place

Yes good point. There is a lot of roughhousing that goes on between adults and puppies that can look scarier than it is. That's why if you are unsure about what is happening, to get someone in who can observe. What you describe sounds as if it has gone beyond some basic discipline between dogs. You don't want to put a puppy in any danger so it is good to get the situation examined and some direct advice, much better than a board! :)

15th September 2008, 04:05 PM
I'd like to echo about removing things that are triggers - my pair get on brilliantly nearly all of the time. They are fed together, but at opposite ends of the room. However, there are some treats I won't give simply because they can get a bit nasty - and once you've seen real playfighting, and real fighting-to-hurt there's no way you can confuse them. Adults can put pups in their place, and your puppy is perhaps becoming more of an issue now for your adult dog because he's no longer a ababy - most adults are fairly tolerant of a baby puppy, and then this tolerance declines somewhat as the pup approaches adulthood. But if you do as Karlin has suggested and get all the help etc in then there's no reason why your dogs should not settle down happily together.

Cathy T
17th September 2008, 02:10 AM
and once you've seen real playfighting, and real fighting-to-hurt there's no way you can confuse them.

Boy, isn't that the truth??!! :eek:

My two are 15 months apart and now 5 and 6 years old. They get along marvelously and always have.....except with bully sticks and dinner. So, they don't get bully sticks anymore, they are fed dinner in their crates and given any "high value" chewys in their crates where they can enjoy them in comfort and know they don't have to guard them.

You've been given some really sound advice above.

Leo's Pal
11th October 2008, 03:07 AM
Well, we tried to handle this on our own and it's still going on. Can anyone recommend a good trainer for this on the west side of Los Angeles? Thanks!

11th October 2008, 10:53 AM
Are you handling it in the way described -- rolling him on his back etc? As I said before, this approach tends to makes things worse. One of the principle ways of dealing with this is simply management -- your second cavalier is in adolescence and this is the time when things will sometimes get more difficult. Once they are both adults generally the situation will settle. But you need to be separating them always for meals, *physically* separating them. They both need to have excellent sit-says and down-stays so that one will politely wait if you are giving attention to the others. Or else, both need to be crate trained so that you can give time to working and training one while the other is calmly crated with a stuffed kong to stay busy. Have you done any formal training at all with them? A 9 month old really should already have been through one structured course by now and have a fairly reliable look, sit, stay, recall, down, and loose lead walk. Both should be on the 'no free lunch' approach which means they have to do something --generally, a sit (see this (http://www.dogstardaily.com/training/sit-list)) -- before anything good happens -- before going out for a walk, before given meals or treats or toys, before being given attention, before being invited onto a lap, etc. Remember the dog needs a reliable sit *first* before it can be expected to offer one on request. The dog will quickly learn to offer the sit because they get something good/desired back -- food, a walk, a toy, time on a lap, etc. :)

A dog that is in a sit is not fighting. A dog that has a good 'look' command can be asked to immediately look at you, not stare down another dog, breaking that habit. Dogs that are fed in crates will not be fighting over meals (always a dangerous situation). Dogs that get treats like chews and kongs in their crates are not able to fight over them. Dogs that can be put into a downstay will not be picking on another dog. Dogs that do start incidents go immediately into a time out in a room on their own for 10 minutes, without being scolded, punished, rolled, dragged, tc -- just deprive that dog of where it wants to be for 10 minutes.It is one of the single most effective training approaches.

And do not forget to praise, praise praise during the day when dogs are behaving as you want. People remember to be irate and scold dogs and shout 'no' when dogs do what they don;t want. they rarely remember to praise dogs for good behaviour so the dog, next time it has a choice, remembers, 'oh yeah -- last time when I did X I got praised. I'll make that chpice this time.' My dogs get praised and sometimes get a scattering of treats tossed to them when they are relaxed and happy, when they stop barking when asked, when they are in a relaxed down, etc. :)

Here are some articles worth reading:\


From which:

Dog-Dog Socialization also deteriorates during adolescence, often at an alarming rate, especially for very small and very large dogs. First, teaching a dog to get along with every other dog is difficult. Groups of wild canids — wolves, coyotes, jackals, etc. — seldom welcome strangers into their midst, but that's exactly what we expect of Canis familiaris. Second, it is unrealistic to expect a dog to be best friends with every dog. Much like people, dogs have special friends, casual acquaintances, and individuals they don't particularly like. Third, it is quite natural for dogs (especially males) to squabble. In fact, it is a rare male dog that has never been involved in some physical altercation. Everything was fine with young pups playing in class and in parks, but with adolescent dogs, the scraps, the arguments, and even the play-fighting seem all too real.

A dog's first adolescent fight often marks the beginning of the end of his socialization with other dogs. Again, this is especially true for very small and very large dogs. Owners of small dogs are understandably concerned about their dog's safety and may be disinclined to allow their dogs to run with the big dogs. Here is where socialization starts downhill and the small dog becomes increasingly snappy and scrappy. Similarly, owners of large dogs (especially the working breeds) are understandably concerned that their dogs might hurt smaller dogs. Here too socialization goes downhill and the big dog becomes increasingly snappy and scrappy. Now we're in vicious circle: the less the dog is socialized, the more likely he is to fight and thus be less socialized.These two on fighting:


There are many other excellent training tips and videos, all free, on this site by Dr Ian Dunbar. You can also get a list of APDT trainers and will be able to find those listed for LA if you feel you want additional help.

I also suggest reading the articles here:


I am sure this is probably a management and training issue -- rather than get a trainer in, why not get your younger dog into an APDT training class, or better yet, both? You can then talk about the additional issues with the trainer. There is a small chance that this is really not going to work -- that you just have a dog that doesn't enjoy the other dog no matter what. If that is the case, you will need to rehome one of the dogs, but this should only be done in conjunction with the breeder as breeders tend to have clauses in homing contracts requiring dogs to return to them. But this would be very extreme and with the right management and training apporoaches -- which will require time and input from you, as both dogs do need separate and equal time and training every day! -- I am sure this will be sorted.

Have you gone back to the breeder for advice as well? Good breeders always will offer management suggestions as they are accustomed to having many dogs in a household.

11th October 2008, 01:23 PM
Jasper and Ceddy are the first "Dog-Couple" with whom I live.
Previously, my Jasper and before my Charly (english Cocker) me always accompanied to visit my mother, and first Hector (Cavalier;)) and later on Rap.

Hector and Charly eating, we have not left alone, they did not get into conflict, but it was very important for them to ensure that the other do not has approached the own bowl.
I think it's the same if some people do not like when another person with a fork from her plate serves only to get the other dish to taste ;).

Jasper and Rap were a dream-team. They have eaten from one bowl, we could probably leave them alone with one bone in the apartment. They would jointly eat away each one from his end of the bone:D.

For Ceddy HIS meal - or even what he tries to remove from Jasper - means a very important resource.

I think that all dogs react somewhat differently and we should try, the whole things go with less stress- and as conflict-free as possible for the dogs - and thus also for ourselves.

There is also the danger that dogs could transfer the only on the feed-oriented "jealousy" to other areas of life and then conflicts may occur also in different situations.

I solved the problem by giving Ceddy his bowl first, he immediately begins to eat and I go a few steps away and Jasper gets his bowl second (although it's not according to my human sense of justice:cool: and Jasper will be ever the "first-dog" to me).
While dogs eating I stand near to Jasper, the dogs cannot see one another.
For us it works.... so Ceddy snarls no longer eating and Jasper does not need more to flee and gets his own meal;).

I'll keep my fingers crossed that Milo and Leo will be a great team and that this exceptional situation will turn out all right!

11th October 2008, 05:13 PM
I don't have two cavs, but I've had two male dogs of the same breed before (papillons and pomeranians) and unless your older dog is really going for the younger one with true ferocity, I think you should leave well alone and let them sort it out. Don't feed them in the same room, if you give treats, always give to the older dog first, fuss him first etc to show him that the younger one isn't taking his place.

We have a lurcher of around 5 and a cav who is now nearly one, and there are times he gets really fed up with her leaping on him and really tells her off, but if he accidentally makes her squeak he's very worried and makes a big fuss of her afterwards. Some of their games would make your blood curdle, when he has his jaws completely round her throat, but it's not meant seriously.

Leo's Pal
13th October 2008, 06:38 PM
First of all, thanks to all of you who took so much time to answer my call for help. Our biggest fear is not that Leo will actually hurt Milo, it's that Milo will become traumatized.

Some of the conflict comes from feeding issues, some of it is over my wife. Leo is apparently very possessive of her - and doesn't like it when Milo gets her attention.

Still, through all this, they do play together, sleep next to each other and offer each other comfort when we are gone. I remain cautiously optimistic.