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How to Master Agressive Dogs (?)

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Dallas Boyd
Dallas Boyd

I have a friend who is the loving owner of a Pit Bull and Brazilian Fila. However when they began to fight aggressively with each other, she sought to prevent them from doing harm and figure out the root of the problem.

Pit Bulls already get a bad rap and if you have never seen or heard of a Brazilian Fila before, go ahead and Google it. Imagine a Tiger with a dogs head. Fully grown, they weigh a minimum of 50 kilograms and have evolved from a Mastiff - Bulldog - Bloodhound mix. Filas were originally used in Brazil to chase down Jaguars. Don’t take this lightly, Jaguars are pretty hard core, being the third largest wild cat with the strongest jaws of all cats - they are often considered to be the most powerful cat, per pound. Having a Fila on the farm handy also had the extra bonus of training them to hunt down your runaway slaves. In New Zealand Brazilian Filas are classified as dangerous and are restricted… so in case you are getting ready to write some sort of abusive comment, just note that my friend and her affectionate dogs do not live in New Zealand. 

So the Pit Bull and the Fila are both spayed females. The Fila loves to spoon and the Pit Bull loves to love. They have fought with each other three times in total, each time their fights were broken up by a person and the third fight was the last straw, due to the escalation in violence and aggression. We wondered if somehow food had triggered the fights, so feeding had been extremely controlled. Although a factor, this was not the root of the problem, as the issue to be resolved was hierarchy.  

In the wild, the matter of hierarchy between animals is usually sorted out naturally enough. However bring a human into the mix who takes the position of Alpha, but then treats all the subjects with equal love and affection, and you’re gonna end up with problems.

The beloved Fila was sent to doggie whispering boot camp, with plans for the Pit Bull to follow, in order for them to receive intensive re-training and for her to become better educated about the dynamic of her furry family.

This particular Dog Whisperer explained that it is obviously difficult to keep two animals with naturally aggressive tendencies under the same roof, but the fact that they are both female and spayed exacerbates the issue. Better to have one male and one female than two dogs of the same sex. We knew that neutering males decreases their aggression but we did not know that the hormonal imbalances created when females are spayed can actually increase theirs. That was Lesson # 1.

Lesson # 2, of course, is don’t break up fighting dogs. This prevents them from establishing the hierarchy between themselves and frustrated, they sought to fight until a stratification could emerge. Confused by being treated as equals, their instincts told them their should be a #1 and #2 in the pack. After each dog fight my friend would especially lavish T.L.C. on the dog that came off worse. The Dog Whisperer explained that in the eyes of the dog who had been winning fight, she wondered why she was not now privileged for her dominance in the pack, leaving her with unfinished business and something still to prove. As for the smaller, weaker dog, who had been losing the fight but was now being spoiled and babied, she perceived this as encouragement not to submit, but to stop licking her wounds and get out there to challenge the more dominant dog again.

Not being used to playing “favourites” my friend now faces the challenge of reinforcing a hierarchy between the dogs by treating the smaller dog (the Pit Bull) as secondary to the Fila.

What do you think dog owners - does this experience and advice sound about right?

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