Help! My Younger Dog Attacked My Elder Dog!
"Hello Kate. We just had a scary event. Our young shepherd attacked our older one and we're having to keep them separate. I'm so upset! Will we ever be able to reintegrate our family?"
This was a frantic call I got from a client seeking to find out if animal communication could help her learn what happened to her previously peaceful pack and what to do to restore harmony. It turned out that animal communication was an important key to finding out why Belle, the younger female, attacked Stella, the older female.
Here's what I did:
Step 1: Talk to the youngster, Belle, and find out what happened between her and Stella, the elder. Belle let us know that she felt it was important for her, the younger, more "fit" pack member, to "replace" the older "infirm" elder as pack leader.*
Step 2: Ask Stella her thoughts on the situation. Stella was annoyed and hurt that Belle was challenging her. She didn't want to be in conflict with Belle. Stella did nothing to encourage the attacks and was now a bit scared of Belle, which brought on more aggression.
Step 3: Talk with both dogs about the importance of getting along and ask if they were both willing to do so. This is where counseling skills play an important part. I was able to explain that it was NOT okay with their human family for Belle to "replace" Stella. I asked both dogs if they were willing to make changes in order to restore pack harmony. Happily they both agreed. As in all conflicts, this was essential to success.
Step 4: Ascertain what support they need from their human "mom" (This takes many forms -- changes in HER behavior, including asserting herself as #1, and including Flower essence support, dietary tune ups, energy balancing, etc, from me once we got the dogs' input.)
* Who is Alpha?
There are quite a few misunderstandings in the human/old school dog training world as to what constitutes being "alpha" in a dog pack. Trainers who focus on a model of physical dominance are missing so much, AND, if they teach humans to "roll a dog on her back" to establish their dominance, are teaching the human to foster a relationship of fear over trust, creating a serious defensive bite risk!
According to Dogs
Dogs have taught me that the Alpha leader is 1) Clear, 2) Consistent, 3) Kind, 4) Calm. Obviously, a person who yells and physically "attacks" a dog is not demonstrating true alpha behavior. An alpha dog will only attack a pack member as a last resort if it's the only way to stop a damaging or dangerous behavior, or, as in this case, to assert control of the pack. (BTW, this is corroborated by behaviorists who have studied wolves).
Mom as Alpha
It is critical in a human/dog family that the human knows how to be the benevolent alpha her dogs can depend on. In the situation between Belle and Stella, Belle replacing or "taking Stella out" was not okay with their human mom. So, we needed to reestablish Mom as the pack leader. We carefully crafted activities to...
1) Show Belle that Mom is in charge. She needed to take charge by showing Belle that she was "second" to Stella. To make this clear, Belle had to lose her position on the couch next to Mom and had to sit and wait for Stella to eat first, as well as wait to receive a "release" command from Mom before eating, going outside, getting in the car, out of the car, etc. This demonstrated that Mom was the pack leader, not Stella or Belle.
2) Mom needed to tell Belle in no uncertain terms that Stella was the pack elder and MUST be respected and protected.
3) Mom must consistently show Belle and Stella that her rules are LAW. Consistency, something that can be difficult for us humans, was essential to the success of reorganizing the pack hierarchy. Note: if the pack consists of a couple of humans, everyone need to reinforce the rules. In a wolf pack, the alpha pair are joint leaders and are always in agreement on pack protocol.
4) Good behavior is always rewarded with love, an earned privilege and occasional treats.
With Belle and Stella's agreement, I put together a Unity Essence remedy to help support re-balancing their relationship, helping Belle make good choices and supporting Stella's self-esteem.
Mom, Belle and Stella did a great job working together for the good of the pack. Mom stayed strong, clear and consistent with her rules, training and rewards. Belle accepted Mom's alpha authority and became a sweet, loving girl again. Stella felt safe at Mom's side and even started playing with Belle again. Peace and Harmony were restored.
This is why I LOVE what I do! Gratitude to Mom for reaching out to me, and for Mom, Belle and Stella for cooperating out of love for each other. Through our "Team Work", a happy, balanced pack was restored!
With Love, Your Voice of Animals,