Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Adversarial Brethren

By now you all should know that my husband and I somehow found ourselves with a fifth dog. We have had him for a grand total of ten days. He was neutered today and has spent the evening resting... and probably wondering why he feels hung over and his balls are gone!

All kidding aside, Jayne is getting a lot of attention and I'm glad so many people care about him. One question keeps getting asked with some regularity though, so it seems fitting that I address it on the blog.

How do Jayne and Ronin get along?

As a rule, male Dobermans are aggressive towards other male dogs. It is an inherent breed trait, and is not dependent on training or socialization (or lack thereof.) You cannot train it out, you cannot socialize it out, you cannot neuter it out. The belligerent attitude towards other males can sometimes be controlled and masked, but you will never make it disappear in the Doberman Pinscher. A Doberman that is male dog aggressive is not the mark of a bad owner. Some of the most well-trained and highly titled Dobermans I know are still not allowed to interact with their male housemates due to the breed's dog aggressive tendencies.

Let me reiterate - this is a breed issue. Male dog aggression is deeply rooted and extremely complex in this breed, it always has been. Most responsible breeders (and many rescues) will not place a male with someone who owns another male dog, or plans to get another male dog in the future. Trust the breeders, they know what they're doing - they fully understand how serious male/male aggression is in the breed. Case in point - I have known and worked closely with my Doberman breeder for ten years, and only now has she permitted me to permanently bring in another male - and it was literally a "do or die" situation.


(Ronin doesn't mind 6 month old Sooner... yet!)

Never assume that your males will be the exception, and never set yourself up for failure. Yes, there are people out there that have multiple males that get along - but those situations are few and far between. Multiple males will often be fine at first if one of them is a puppy, but eventually there will be trouble. This usually occurs once the younger male reaches sexual maturity at 18-24 months. If you do decide to own multiple males, you need to be prepared to manage your household accordingly if the male-male dynamic goes south. And rest assured, it probably will. Take precautions and have a management plan before you end up with a fight on your hands, because when two males decide to fight for the first time they may very well kill each other.


(Ronin and one of his only male friends, an English Setter named Jack.)

We will be CNRing Ronin and Jayne for a long time. CNR is "crate and rotate" - meaning that when one male is loose, the other is securely shut in a crate. The only time Ronin and Jayne will see each other is through crate bars - and they will not be crated next to each other. We debated using ex-pens but decided against it for the time being. Ex-pens and baby gates can be jumped or knocked down, and that is not a risk we're willing to take this early in the game. We'll give it a few months to a year, and see where we are then.

Ronin has already had extensive training, and he will tolerate other males as long as they leave him alone. Excessively rude behavior or posturing will cause him to react. He can be next to males for sits and downs, but to put him in a casual situation with other males would mean a bloodbath. I can count on one hand (and still could if I lost three fingers in a farming accident!) the number of male dogs that Ronin is even marginally safe with off-leash.

Jayne is an adolescent male who lacks training, self control and respect for other dogs. It will take him a long time to get to the point where he and Ronin can be loose in the house together. They'll never be loose in the yard, no matter how well they do in the house.

We will give them a chance to peacefully coexist indoors, but we will never trust them to abandon their instincts. To do so would be grossly irresponsible.

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