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SSA in GSDs

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UCH Onyx TT,- CGC

Do you even- lift?
 
 
Barked: Thu Jun 28, '12 12:44pm PST 
I'm curious what the truth about same sex aggression in German Shepherds is. I've heard it's big in the breed, that it's not overly frequent in the breed, that it's more common in females, more common in males (usually with the qualifier that the males are intact), that most will be fine with same sex dogs outside the home but might not allow dogs of the same sex to live with them, that same sex pairings have a higher chance to work if the dogs are at least X years apart in age, ect. ect.

I do realize all dogs are individuals regardless of breed, gender, and age, and anytime a dog is added to a household there's a chance everyone won't get along. But in the breed as a whole, what's the deal with SSA?
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Ajax

Design Jewelry- not dogs!
 
 
Barked: Thu Jun 28, '12 1:11pm PST 
I managed a GSD breeding/showing kennel for 20 years and, believe me, it IS a problem! We never let either two males OR two females together...everyone was kenneled with a member of the opposite sex.
Over the years there were a number of fights when someone was where they weren't supposed to be, BUT, these dogs were used to fence fighting since they were kenneled in huge paddocks side by side.
However, these dogs could be outside on leashes with others of the same sex and they did not ever obsess with getting the other dog... they pretty much ignored them.
I did have one female GSD who nearly killed one of my lab females, but that lab female also was not able to be near her daughter or they would fight.
IMO, the resulting fights are worse between females, but I don't think that means it is any worse in females than in males...I just believe they have a different style of fighting.
Over the years I always have owned one GSD along with my labs and now with my poodles. Females that I had were fine with my spayed females and/or my intact OR neutered males but not at all able to be with the intact females.
Males pretty much NEVER got along with either intact OR neutered males... they could go along for weeks and weeks and suddenly, BOOM, there was a huge knock down, drag out fight, so I always did crate and rotate with the males.
Ajax, twelve years old and neutered since a year of age, recently moved into my house and is fine with ALL my males EXCEPT my unneutered toy poodle. They are good in the house but the minute they are outside he chases him and tries to eat him. Fortunately, the poodle is terrified and being so tiny is able to avoid Ajax. In the house they can end up sleeping on the same dog bed with no problems.
From what I have experienced with living with these shepherds over the years, I would carefully keep two NEUTERED GSD males together, but I would NEVER even try to keep two females together, intact OR spayed.
I might chance a neutered male accepting an unneutered male, but the success of that would certainly depend on the males involved, and I would be more cautious bringing another male into a house with an unneutered mature male.
I should also note that these aggression issues did not normally even begin until the dogs were mature, usually around 18 months or even older. Younger ones did not seem to be affected by SSA at all.
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Nare

Woo-woo- whineybutt
 
 
Barked: Thu Jun 28, '12 1:25pm PST 
Wow Ajax, thats kinda scary especially since I expect most of my dogs to be males.

Nare is intact, although he is a mix.. Husky/GSD. He has never had any problems, but he does play a LOT rougher with males younger than him. Lots of "My teeth are bigger than yours" and wrestling, but is perfectly capable of laying next to them and sharing water/food/toys. He is only 2 though, I don't expect his personality to settle until about 3 or 4 but I hope he doesn't develop SSA. Our next dog was going to be female, but maybe he should be male so Nare gets used to it? thinking

Edit:
But when a dog decides to pick on Nare (hes pretty submissive sometimes), the owner is quick to blame its because hes intact or was a puppy at the time. I just say hes neutered now to avoid preaching.

Edited by author Thu Jun 28, '12 1:29pm PST

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Bella

Miss Boss
 
 
Barked: Thu Jun 28, '12 2:42pm PST 
Sorry so long. . . . .
I would never take in a female on a permanent basis at my house. Bella gets along with other dogs male and female (all my animals have been spayed or neutered). Bella has the personality type that is the fun police. She rules both of my boys’ worlds. She speaks and they listen. Well Gem listens, Casey is the old man so when he talks back (which is rare) she will give him some room. We babysit quite a few different dogs (male and female) and have never had any problems. But after the experience of taking in a stray (female) I would never test bringing in another female into my house to live. Some of you probably know the story of Sugar but I found a female stray that was very sickly. I nursed her back to health and she was introduced to my dogs (only had Bella and Gem at the time). Sugar displayed resource guarding towards Bella over me and my husband since day one. We worked with her and most of the time we had no problems, but when we did, boy, we had BIG problems. Long story short we ended up not being able to have toys or beds and they still would fight. 95% of the time they would get along and be best buddies but that 5% of the time was the most horrible thing I have ever experienced in my life. Sugar’s resource guarding escalated instead of getting better even when we had no toys, no beds, and no food and were trying to practice NILFF.
I believe that Sugar was the problem. I had multiple people wanting to adopt her but I have never seen so many dogs just plain out hate Sugar and have violent reactions to her right off the bat. But after blood spattered walls, broken fingers, many scars and almost seeing Bella lose an eye it will never be worth it to have another female in my house as my own dog. And the worst part of ending up putting to sleep a perfectly physically healthy young dog (Sugar). It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life and would never put myself in that situation again.
We will still babysit female dogs but by the time they leave I can see the relief on Bella’s face. I know it takes allot of her energy to be nice to females in her house for an extended period of time. I think some of that might have to do with the negative effects of dealing with Sugar in our house for 9 months but I could be completely off base on that opinion.
Now for Gemini I could go get another 10 males and it would not faze him. I don’t know if it is his poor breeding or the fact he is blind but he is the most submissive easy going boy in the world. I really do believe he is a pug in a German Shepherd’s body. We have had Casey for 2 years now and Casey and Gem play. Sometimes Casey picks on Gem a little but they get along great. Gem loves all dogs and I could never see Casey or Gem having SSA.
The only experience I have had with an intact male was one fourth of July we had a party and some friends brought along an intact male basset mix. It was the funniest thing by the end of the night the basset was chasing a terrified Gemini around the house.
I really don’t think that Bella is SSA since she is so tolerant of us babysitting etc. I know Sugar had something wrong with her (resource guarding was the tip of the iceberg) but I would never ever test another female in my house on a permanent basis.
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Mulder

Spooky Mulder
 
 
Barked: Thu Jun 28, '12 6:35pm PST 
As with anything, it totally depends on the dogs, but in the case of GSDs, it also depends on the owner and what they're willing to do to keep the peace.

Is it a major concern in the breed? No, IMO not, at least not compared to breeds that one can TRULY consider SSA (dogs like bullies, Akitas, etc).

Part of that reason being that the aggression simply comes from a different place. Its not SSA for the SAKE of being SSA, its not so much genetic. These are very high drive, intense working dogs. I think where a lot of people get confused, is they put two high drive, intact, assertive males together and wonder GEE, WHAT HAPPENED when things go to hell and back, when in reality it probably had nothing at all to do with the dog ACTUALLY being SSA. Take those same two dogs, place them with other males who are lower in drive or who are not as assertive in nature, and watch them thrive and wonder what the hell just happened. Its not that they're inherently aggressive, its that they're too intense to be haphazardly thrown together with other animals who match them on that level.

Females I think are something of the exception to this rule for the breed. Inter-bitch aggression is more common, WITH noting that it TENDS to be more so with other Shepherds or dogs of similar type, or between intact bitches. You'd have a much more harmonious time, I'd say, trying with a female GSD and a female Golden (for instance), than you would two female GSDs, or a female GSD and female Belgian (so on and so forth).

With all that in mind, how the owner manages the dogs is also important. Some people, I have come to believe, see things like inter-dog aggression within the household and treat it like something that will just have to forever be managed- and with some dogs, that well could be the case. But I think a lot of it can also come down to just how much work the owner is willing to put into MAKING the relationship work. My agility instructor, who is big into GSDs, is a firm believer in the harmonious household- and she achieves this through 100% control of her dogs interactions. Until recently (she just lost a couple of her GSDs, sadly), she had 3 GSDs (2 males, 1 female), a female BC and another male mix all living in harmony under the same roof. No fighting, no crate and rotate, all were perfectly happy, and the REASON for that was her having conditioned them to so ABSOLUTELY focus only on HER, that what the other dogs in the house were doing was literally inconsequential. Her dogs don't play with each other or pal around or anything like that- and if that's what you WANT, well, then maybe it wouldn't work out as golden. But if your goal is simply to keep multiple dogs, all for your own personal purposes, know it CAN be done.

Maybe the showlines are in some kind of mystical void where this doesn't apply, but the above has been my experience. I certainly know of working breeders who house multiple dogs together in dog yards, with the key always being COMPATIBILITY. Which, as we all know, is highly individual and varies absolutely from dog to dog.
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Sabi

When the night- closes in I will- be there
 
 
Barked: Thu Jun 28, '12 9:48pm PST 
I can say that I was warned that as a breed GSDs were noted for the females being more aggressive. The dogs I bring home are usually hurt, sick or babies and Sabs maternal instincts kick in but every dog she has gone after was female and she is spayed. When I still had my black female she and Sabs ganged up and tried to drown my roomates female lab in the dog pool. They weren't playing, we had to drag them off her. Once I had her spayed she seemed oblivious to males in general, but most of the males she has interacted with were appropriately(in her eyes) submissive to her, it is always the females that challenge her. I avoid males because she mauled one when she was in heat years ago and even when he totally gave up she wouldn't let up. Both my other females would also go after other females, or dogs that weren't shepherds. Buds mom climbed an 8 foot chainlink fence to get at her own sister. All of my males have been fine, although two of Buds uncles tried to kill each other several times.
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Ace

Mischief is my- middle name
 
 
Barked: Fri Jun 29, '12 9:50am PST 
Off topic, but Nare is just a gorgeous boy!

That's all. Carry on smile
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Bella

Miss Boss
 
 
Barked: Fri Jun 29, '12 10:03am PST 
Sabi never thought of that but I could see Bella ganging up with another assertive female to torture her brothers even more effectively. We always tease that it is Bella’s house and she just lets us live in it with her. Don’t get me wrong she actually is a very obedient dog but she is smart and knows how to manipulate us all to do her bidding.

I do agree that it is up to how vigilant the owner is. Unfortunately I found my limits the hard way and that is why I would never even consider bringing in another female into my house at least while I am in my current situation of having a full time job that keeps me away from home Monday - Friday.
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Lucille

I am the Sock- Bandit!!!
 
 
Barked: Fri Jun 29, '12 10:15am PST 
" Inter-bitch aggression is more common, WITH noting that it TENDS to be more so with other Shepherds or dogs of similar type, or between intact bitches. You'd have a much more harmonious time, I'd say, trying with a female GSD and a female Golden (for instance), than you would two female GSDs, or a female GSD and female Belgian (so on and so forth)."

That has totally been my experience as well. When I think of it in terms of biology, it's logical. A female will see another female of the same species in her vicinity as a threat to her because they compete directly for the same exact resources, when it's another species sometimes they barely notice. (True of intact males as well, ofcourse). Things can be much more copacetic when they're not the same breed, even if they're same sex and intact.
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UCH Onyx TT,- CGC

Do you even- lift?
 
 
Barked: Fri Jun 29, '12 1:39pm PST 
The one thing I've heard across the board is that when females fight, it's generally a worse situation than when males fight. I hadn't heard the female Shepherd on Shepherd theory, but it does makes some sense. I have heard in general for most dogs, female/female is the riskiest combination.

I think where a lot of people get confused, is they put two high drive, intact, assertive males together and wonder GEE, WHAT HAPPENED when things go to hell and back, when in reality it probably had nothing at all to do with the dog ACTUALLY being SSA.

That makes a lot of sense, Mulder. Onyx and the bf's GSD are both intact males but his dog is very submissive so they get along really well. I can see how if they both had Onyx's personality, it could go badly. They don't live together though (and are never left alone together), and of course Onyx is only (nearly) 13 months and his dog is coming up on 18 months so that dynamic could change.

The obedience class I do with Onyx is taught by an instructor who's pretty well known in the area for working with aggressive dogs (mostly dog aggressive), so most of the dogs in his classes are, or were originally, there for DA issues. In fact, every dog in the advanced class except Onyx came to him because of dog aggression. And since he works closely with a GSD rescue, about half the dogs are GSDs. So it's easy to start to think DA/SSA is a big problem in the breed based on the dogs I see on a regular basis. Plus all the GSDs we've ever gotten near outside of class have tried to lunge at Onyx. Most of them have been Am. GSDs but the worst I've seen was a working line dog that started to redirect onto the dog it was with when it couldn't get to Onyx, and we weren't even close to them.

The owner's management playing a big role makes a lot of sense too. I don't let Onyx and Fenrir play in the house because their roughhousing gets on my nerves, and because Onyx will push Fenrir's buttons to get a reaction. The only time they really interact is when I take them both on an offlead walk, and Fenrir usually leaves Onyx behind in the dust because he's faster and willing to go farther from me.
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