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LGDs: Fighting between gender matched dogs

LGDs: Fighting between gender matched dogs

The female of the species is said to be more deadly than the male, and that goes for most intact LGDs. I have 4 Anatolian Shepherds: 3 intact females and an intact male. My male has never fought with another female dog, and the only male dog Sammy has fought with is my intact male English Mastiff, before he was neutered, and that was only once. Sammy is a true gentleman, who will even yield his food to the girls and play with them like a puppy.

 

And then there is the matter of our girls.

 

We have a management issue regarding our females, but that doesn’t stop us from keeping at least 3 at all times. We have a dam, Sugar, age 5; her daughter, Domino, age 18 months; and then an unrelated female, Holly, age 3. Now none of these dogs are aggressive toward the stock, and are only predictably aggressive toward Sammy when they are in heat but not standing. With one another it is a different – and sometimes difficult – issue. It requires some attention and management, and we have dodged a few close calls, but our experiences may be valuable to those keeping intact LGDs of the same gender.

 

Sugar and Domino never fight. Not even over food. They play together and enjoy each other. Holly will play with Domino if Holly is on a cable, but will stalk her a bit if they are both unconfined. Food and affection cause Holly to become aggressive if Domino is in sight (resource aggression), but all in all, Holly and Domino are manageable in one space.

 

Not so with Holly and Sugar. These two cannot be pastured together–not on one acre and not on a thousand. They will fight to the death. Sugar, the Alpha female, would stalk Holly around corners and pin her by the throat when she was a puppy. It was a lot of yelping and growling until we rearranged them, but as far as injuries, Holly was usually nicked in the face all the time, but nothing more. And until Holly reached full size, it was a momentary altercation that could be stopped with a command. We thought it was just a pecking-order thing and that it would work itself out. Don’t be led into this false sense of hopefulness: we learned otherwise.

 

When we moved across the country to our West Virginia farm, we had the option of keeping the two dogs separated. One day while the kids were doing barn chores, poor timing with a loose clip and an open gate led to a near disaster. The lead snapped from Holly’s collar and she raced around the barn toward Sugar, who was chained (feeding time involves chains and pens to keep food aggression between goats and dogs under control). Sugar’s chain looped around Holly’s neck, and the dogs were chained, face to face, with teeth flying and sickening growls, churning like a whirlwind, while blood spattered the snow. I broke a broomstick 3 times trying to separate them. I finally got a leash and looped Holly and pulled with all my strength to separate them. Fortunately, there were no injuries other than nicked ears and lips (which bled horribly, but clotted quickly in the cold air). I am grateful there were no eyes bitten–or worse, throats. The angels at Angel’s Haven Farm were on the job that day, but it pays to be careful to keep your fight risks separated at all costs.

 

Chains at feeding time, visual barriers, secure fences and gates, and careful feeding time practice pays off if you have females that don’t get along well. And if you can help it, have backup at feeding time. Food is a source of aggression among many LGDs and the stock, particularly goats and chickens, which tend to be curious and highly food motivated. Train your handlers and kids to NEVER break up a dog fight with their hands. Use a heavy stick to pry the dogs apart (do not hit the dogs, or you may injure them or provoke them to turn on you). Keep extra leashes on hand, and always keep a collar on your dogs for handling purposes. Young pups are properly bonded to the stock and not one another, so will naturally treat one another with more aggression as their protective instincts are developing. Once the LGDs are a year old. Fighting may seem harmless or natural, but it is a mistake to trust your intact LGD, so loving and gentle with with the smallest and weakest of creatures, with a gender-matched intact dog of any species, especially another LGD. Those same instincts and physical traits for which we value these dogs in the barn and pasture can quickly be deadly when used on one another.

 

Nikki Merson
Angel’s Haven Farm
Harman, WV

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  1. by eliya
    Comment made on: October 16 2013

    We had a very similar experience with our female LGDs. After that fight where they would have finished each other off if we hadn’t stopped them, we had to keep them in separate pastures for the rest of their lives. Thankfully, I had just been reading on an LGD list about the best way to separate fighting dogs. They recommended (and it worked GREAT), having two people and each one grabs the tail of the fighting dogs and slowly pull them apart. Scary yes, but they are so focused on each other that they don’t even notice you. It is MUCH safer than trying to get between them or separate them any other way. My dad and I had to pull as HARD as we could to separate those two (never jerk the tails, just a slow steady pressure). Once the dogs were about three feet apart, we were able to lead one of them out of the pen while the other was held back.



  2. by heatherwhite32
    Comment made on: October 16 2013

    I raise Great Pyrs and that level of aggression has never been seen.
    I don’t think it is fair to say this is an issue with all LGDS of this nature, they may just not like each other. It happens.
    My intact girls have a dominant nature but never fight. They are both almost 4 years old and guard the same herd in the same pens.


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