How to help dog fights when its the humans causing the problems?

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

Kodi Pie - CGC ESA

Why sit when you- could lie down?
Barked: Fri Oct 12, '12 4:19pm PST 
On Thursday, Kodi got in a dog fight with our roommates dog. There were only minor injuries. It really could have been so much worse, considering they are both heavy chested strong willed pit mixes.

I dont want to push off the blame but it seems like Nancy is the trigger.

Nancy had come home a few minutes earlier and had taken Brando into her room. I was outside, taking Bebe potty and Kodi and Midget were in the kitchen eating. Nancy came back into the kitchen to grab something to eat and Brando followed her. I guess Kodi had finished eating and wandered over to them to see what was going on.

From what Nancy tells me, she opened the lower cabinet to grab something and Brando stuck his head in the cabinet. Kodi then stuck HIS head in the cabinet and Brando growled and snapped at him. Kodi snapped back and all hell broke loose. They went after each other (more sound than teeth) and Nancy just started screaming. Kodi seemed to have the upper hand. I rushed in and grabbed a hold of Kodi and pulled him off balance and he let go. At this point Brando went after Kodi and latched on to his chest. Peter, drawn by nancy’s screams, grabbed a hold of Brando and pulled him off. One stern command from Peter had Brando calmed down.

Kodi had several minor punctures on his chest and cheeks. Brando had a scrap less than the size of a dime on his chin.

I don’t want to seem like I am passing the buck, but this is only Kodi’s third fight (in 5 years) and two of them have been with Brando (in the past 3 months). The first fight was over a chicken foot. We gave the dogs a foot each and Kodi finished his first, where Brando was kind just playing with it. Kodi went up to Brando, Brando growled and snapped at him. Kodi snapped back and all hell broke loose.

I thought that we would just have to separate with high value treats, but that has proven not to be the case. The really odd thing is that if you take Nancy out of the picture, the dogs get along great. There might be a growl/grumble but they all allow each other to take bone/toys etc from each other. Peter routinely keeps all four in our bedroom while he works and they just nap.

It seems to be the combo of Nancy, Brando, Kodi and high value items that cause the issues. Is there any way to help with this?

P.S. All dogs are neutered. Brando is 5-7 and a previous stray and Kodi is 5. Bebe and Midget wisely stayed the hell out of it.

Let's play tug!!
Barked: Sat Oct 13, '12 11:08am PST 
It doesn't sound to me like your roommate did anything wrong. Opening a cabinet would not be an obvious trigger to me. Was there accessible food in there? It may be that there's an element of resource guarding his owner, and Brando is a little more defensive around her than he usually is. If there have been two fights in three months, and this one quickly escalated to injury, I would probably keep the dogs separated. If you don't want to do that, you could try some counterconditioning or teaching incompatible behavior. Have your roommate give Brando a treat as soon as Kodi walks into the room (to prevent any problems, just do it when he's still far away, and have her use a tiny, one-bite item like a scrap of cheese, and put it directly into his mouth, and, if possible, you give the same thing to Kodi at the same time). Or you could train an incompatible response. Start calling Kodi to you or to his bed for a treat as soon as he sees Brando, so that he gets used to just leaving the room when he sees Brando. Or teach both dogs to lie on blankets on opposite ends of the living room.

When the night- closes in I will- be there
Barked: Sat Oct 13, '12 6:49pm PST 
I am Sabs trigger. If she is with another dog and I enter that space she will fight. It is possible your roommates dog is the same way. I have had no success correcting it in 11 years. So we manage it,since she is largely well behaved and tolerant it isn't hard. I would keep them seperate around her and see if that solves it but if the fights are escalating you may want to just keep them apart. Keep in mind that not all dogs like all dogs.

Kodi Pie - CGC ESA

Why sit when you- could lie down?
Barked: Sun Oct 14, '12 12:10pm PST 
I am pretty sure that the trigger is Nanci. As we speak all four dogs are either napping or chewing on a bone in our room with us. They are within 4 feet of each other. There is no other resource guarding. Toys and bones are regularly "stolen" with no issues. There is no guarding of food. Seems like we will just have to deal.
Shiver Me- Timbers- "Charlie"

My Little Dog, a- heartbeat at my- feet.<3
Barked: Sun Oct 14, '12 2:07pm PST 
I'm not sure in that situation, but it could very well be that she triggers something for the two dogs.

I, like Sabi's owner, am Charlie's trigger with one specific dog. He is fine with ALL others. But Charlie has been totally fine and loose with my moms Rottweiler Grizz on MULTIPLE occasions without me in the house. As soon as I come into the picture and Grizz comes near me, Charlie goes after him. More noise than teeth - in fact, Charlie has NEVER done any physical damage to another dog. He's all show and no bite. But I've been working on it for the past year and a half, diligently, and I've successfully had them together for short periods of time, twice in the past couple of months without issues from either dog, other than Grizz giving Charlie a 'chill' growl when Charlie got tense. But I moved Charlie away when I noticed his posture and body language and Grizz just laid there and chilled out.

I'll be honest, when a human is the trigger, it can take A LOT of work. My issue that I fully believe was causing it before? I would get tense, because Charlie liked to pick fights with Grizz. Grizz is a 100+lb Rottweiler, who, if he wasn't the way he is(Charlie can go after him and he sits there with a lolling tongue and wagging tail, and MIGHT curl his lips and growl, at most), could snap Charlie in half easily if he got tired of Charlie's rude behavior. So I always got tense around the two after the first couple times and that only helped it to escalate. Once I realized that was the problem and got a major progress in Charlie's other issues(leash reactivity), they've been doing great together.

I have seen dogs resource guard a person before. But this is an issue where a behaviorist would be best, especially with two strong male dogs that could easily render a lot of damage. I would not leave them unsupervised together anymore, especially not alone with Nanci should they every fight and her not be able to break it up on her own.

I would do lots of counter-conditioning and desensitization with them on leashes. LOTS of high value rewards(separate, but able to see one another) when Nanci is in the room. Particularly from her. You want both dogs to associate one another's presence with Nanci's to be positive, and the more they fight about it, the more steps back you'll end up with.

The previous posters gave some great advice.