Bitch fight!

Why keeping several German Spitz bitches can become a serious problem

German Spitz Giant Wolfspitz bitches fight
More Spitzes, more fun. At least most...

Anyone who has acquired a taste for keeping dogs will at some point consider getting a second dog. Because bitches are, according to popular belief, more affectionate and easier to train, an additional female dog is often purchased to complement the existing bitch - sometimes with noble breeding plans for the future. However, the keeping of more than one Spitz bitch can become a serious problem, so that many owners of bitches have found themselves confronted with an unparalleled catfight almost overnight. Or, as the author and hunter Rudolf Frieß said: "Dogs only fight when there is a good reason. Bitches don't need a reason!" 😉


Problems can arise with two or more male dogs if there are bitches in heat nearby; everything else is usually just the ritualized rank-fighting of two puffed-up, peacock-proud hotspurs. Bitches can experience crises before, during and after heat. Although, “crisis” isn’t really accurate. Anyone who has ever assisted in a fight between two feuding bitches will immediately understand what my favorite Friedrich Schiller meant when he said “da werden Weiber zu Hyänen” (women become hyenas). Not only are the bitches much more bloodthirsty (and straight from the cold start) at each other than the men, they are also as unforgiving as elephants. That's not enmity, that's blood revenge!


Don't misunderstand me: although I keep male dogs, I have absolutely no problem with bitches; according to Konrad Lorenz, they are "[...] much more loyal than a male dog, their emotional impulses are more complicated, richer and finer, and also in most cases their intelligence exceeds that of the otherwise equivalent male dog. I flatter myself that I know many animals very well, and I say with the utmost conviction: the one below all non-human living beings, whose mental life in terms of social behavior, in terms of the fineness, the thing that comes closest to that of humans in terms of feelings and the ability for true friendship is a fully-fledged bitch (from Konrad Lorenz: "So kam der Mensch auf den Hund"/ That's how humans got dogs)". 


Breeders who have numerous dogs in the house are often confronted with the problem that two of their ladies become bitter opponents overnight. Because bitches either don't fight at all or fight relentlessly and in a frenzy. Unfortunately, the resulting aversion often turns out to be irreversible. Attempts at reconciliation are futile. As a rule, the highest-ranking rival is harassed first, then the lowest-ranking rival is targeted.


The attack often comes out of the cold and completely by surprise for the dog owner. The small signs are often visible long beforehand: there is jostling (when dog A is being petted, dog B gets in between them). There are fights because a treat was snatched away, there are hidden power struggles for the best seat, the soft pillow... The attempts at suppression by those higher up are usually shown first in the game. If the lower-ranking dog cannot fend off the attacks, the game becomes increasingly aggressive.


Once the catfight has started, subordination or consistent separation of the ladies will not get you anywhere in the long term. Someone who claims that the “reading of house rules” (i.e. subordination) is done is falling far short here. As long as both bitches live together, there will never be peace, because with bitches it is not a question of giving in for the sake of peace. In male dogs, yes, they have an intraspecific inhibition against killing or biting when they are “clean”. “Clean” in the sense of inhibitions that have not been bred away or trained away. Female dogs, on the other hand, are not only more resentful but also more clever than male dogs; They wait until you go to the basement or to the store for a moment and then "discuss" the topic again. Nice gift that awaits the owner when he returns. 

Why do they treat each other like that?

When it comes down to it, the bitch defends existential things, which makes her more merciless. Her home, her territory, her nutritional basis. Her puppies - even if she doesn't have any at the moment. And everything she potentially needs to raise her puppies. Some bitches still have the instinct that there is only room for one boss bitch and her puppies. However, such bitches are not behaviorally disturbed; on the contrary, they are very instinctively confident and therefore also very good mothers.

German Spitz Wolfspitz puppy mother litter killing primitive
Spitz bitches are the most devoted mothers

Of course, it also happens that the ladies get into trouble now and then - especially during heat. This is then a so-called “sexually motivated competitive aggression”. Especially at the beginning of the heat, bitches can be extremely upset (as we know from the human world 😉). And the less clear the dominance gap, the more likely it is that there will be a fight between the bitches during this time, but also in general. This means that the closer the girls are in rank, the more conflict there is about it.


Unfortunately, bitches rarely get along after a serious biting fight, as bitch fights are usually serious fights. Serious fights are fought without inhibition of biting. Humility on the part of the defeated is of no use in this case; the winner usually continues to attack unrestrained.


This behavior is also evident within wolf packs: only the highest-ranking female wolf comes into heat and is then mated, which is why it is important for the female wolves to eliminate competition as much as possible in order to be able to pass on their own genome (keyword: species preservation). With wolves, very similar differences in the relationships between males and females can be seen as with dogs: in the conflict between the females, attacks were aggressive from the start; without inhibition of biting, without threatening, without imposing and without the other ritual displays of strength. All females took part in the attacks, and the loser of the fight was attacked unrestrained and sometimes even killed. With the male dogs, the arguments were far less aggressive; they were dominated by threats and showmanship. There was hardly any hard biting, and therefore serious injuries were very rare.


But what distinguishes our dogs from wolf packs is the fact that the defeated animal can wander off in the wild or live as an outcast whipping boy in the outskirts of the pack. Dogs living in the household rarely have this opportunity, which is why those involved inevitably force the death of the opponent. In the case of enclosure wolves - which cannot leave - the female wolf in question often has to be taken out because of serious injuries, otherwise she will either die from the injuries or be killed in a subsequent attack. Sometimes they have to be euthanized because of this.


However, this behavior described here (mostly) only affects bitches that are not related to each other. Mothers, daughters and granddaughters can usually be kept together without any problems - even if you breed with them. 


In general, it can be said that the basic nature of a breed determines the likelihood of whether unrelated bitches will get into serious trouble with each other or not. The more independent, self-confident and sharper (i.e. more primitive) the breed, the more likely there are problems. The less sharp the dogs are and the more social they are in pack behavior, the less likely such attacks are and the easier it is to keep several intact bitches in parallel. Therefore, Beagles, Spaniels and Aussies should generally get along wonderfully. For Terriers, Border Collies, Shibas, Hovawarts and Malinois from working lines the case is more difficult.  

Puppy killing

It can also happen that everything is going smoothly between the bitches until one of the bitches (in the worst case, the lower-ranking bitch) has puppies for the first time, and you are suddenly faced with the problem of one bitch wants to kill the other bitch's offspring. Even if this triggers deep disgust in (almost) every person, it is still not unnatural and in no way shows that you own a "behaviorally disturbed" dog. Wanting to eradicate foreign brood is a very sensible process in nature, since the preservation of one's own species is above all else - and this drive to preserve the own species always implies killing the "other".


Cynologist Eberhard Trumler said"It happens quite often that bitches kill other bitch's puppies. This is normal, that one should actually speak of a failure of instinct if a bitch does not want to kill strange puppies. Again, with many reservations, one can perhaps say as a rule that a bitch under 18 months of age will not kill puppies, and a bitch over the age of seven will usually not do this either. However, at the actual reproductive age, you have to expect it to happen. Especially if the bitch is currently raising puppies or is in heat. The otherwise so reliable routine through infant pattern that triggers brood care activities is rendered ineffective by the foreign smell .... You can see how many circumstances have to be taken into account if you want to predict the behavior of such a mentally complicated and sensitive living being..... If you want a fully grown bitch to raise a strange puppy, you have to make sure that the puppy loses the foreign smell and, if possible, takes on smells that are familiar to the bitch." (from Eberhard Trumler: “Hunde ernst genommen”/ Dogs Taken Seriously).


Things are completely different with male dogs:


"A bitch killing strange puppies is normal behavior and has nothing to do with aggression. However, a male dog who kills puppies does not have normal behavior. A normal male dog uses his brood care behavior non-specifically. He doesn't know that he may not be the father at all, he will feel like one. This is a biological safety factor for the preservation of the species. The male dog is always open-minded to all puppies. He naturally has a generalized need for care and even has a schema extension. For the male dog, the “Children's Scheme” is generally valid.”


Bitch and bitch can of course get along (they usually do), but if not, then the puppy will be dead at the first opportunity - both the newly purchased one and the puppies from the other bitch's own litter. 

Experience report from a long-time breeder of the XYZ breed:


"I bred with two very different lines of the breed XYZ. The male dogs used had work tests, but they were all very friendly. These dogs always felt comfortable in large groups with changing structures. They avoided conflicts.


My second line of the breed XYZ was very dominant, not very social and demanding. This dominance was already evident from the 5th week when feeding, where it could happen that the puppies forgot to eat because of all the arguing. When raising these puppies, the old dogs were much stricter and much more massive than the old dogs of the other line.


I had x females and two males. The male dogs kept the groups together very well and intervened to mediate the arguments between the female dogs. Then the old male died, and the young male became seriously ill at the same time. The two dominant females took over the leadership of the pack almost unnoticed. The peace lasted until a bitch from the other line came into heat, and then the stress began. This got worse with each heat. 


Since I didn't want to continue breeding with the more dominant line, I kept a young female from the other line. A dream in appearance and nature. The first heat was just accepted by the dominant bitches. Certainly, for the breeder then it begins to have a certain level of management to never leave the bitches unsupervised.


Before the second heat, it became clear that the dominant old bitch was going all out! She just provoked it. Despite all my experience - and although every dog was extremely obedient - I was unable to prevent an escalation.


The first fight was not that bad. The young bitch submitted, and the old bitch accepted it. Two days later, the second fight, and I was sure: now it's about the younger ones' live. I didn't have a chance anymore, I grabbed a shovel and separated them both.


There was peace again for a few days, then something the young bitch did wasn't right with the old bitch. That was the worst fight I've ever seen! I tried to separate them, but it didn't work. When I saw that the young bitch's head was in the old one's muzzle, it was clear that she wouldn't get away without worse damage. Thank God, I had so much strength and energy in this situation that I separated them with my bare hands. The result was two very deep holes in the skullcap of the young bitch It was no longer possible to continue living together, and I had to give away one of them.


Each line on its own would have been unproblematic! I had a mother from both lines, and then her daughter or daughters. Both lines go back to the same grandmother. This great-grandmother of my 2 lines killed all eight puppies of her pack competitor bitch one day after birth in 19xx. The breeder was in the garden with the mother to pee for less than 5 minutes. The grandmother bitch opened the door and killed each puppy with one bite."

Why can this be particularly problematic with large German Spitzes?

German Spitz Giant Spitz bitch cat fight puppy killing death

Large Spitzes are still very original and primitive in their behavior, especially when it comes to all facets of species conservation. This drive can be very pronounced in the smaller Spitzes, although it is often not as pronounced as in the larger ones. The large Spitzes in particular were always primarily working dogs that were bred for performance and sharpness, while the smaller varieties (and we remember: there used to only be the sizes “large” and “small” in the past) were always more of a companion dog and therefore were not selected for the same characteristics as the large Spitzes.


But there are also differences within the Giant Spitz varieties: the black Giant Spitzes are significantly sharper than the other colors. In the case of the white Giant Spitzes - which served both as a companion and was also used for herding work - there was not so much selection for sharpness, so that the white bitches can be more compatible with each other than the black ones. The Wolfspitz, which was thought to be more aggressive until the 1970s, became less sharp by crossbreeding with the friendly KeeskondenHowever, I also know Wolfspitz bitches who had to be separated because they had serious trouble with each other.


Even if I think that comparisons of wolves and dogs are "rather difficult", I think that one can fall back on this comparison, especially with such a primitive dog like the German Spitz - especially since the conflict trigger is "the primitive instinct itself", namely that of the species conservation. In a wolf pack, only the alpha female, i.e. the highest-ranking bitch, comes into heat. This old instinct can mean that if you keep several Spitz dogs of childbearing age, serious biting can occur from time to time, especially if they are very close in rank. 


Unfortunately, there is a lot of silence about this topic - and not just in the world of the German Spitzes. There is no material worth mentioning on the internet, nor in books about dog breeding or in books about the Spitz itself. I am currently aware of several cases in which one Spitz bitch had to be given away because the fighting between the bitches got out of hand and the owner had to expect a catastrophe sooner or later. What makes matters worse is that not all owners or breeders communicate this openly, even though such information is very relevant, especially for future multi-bitch owners. Such information is essential, especially for lovers of the German Spitz who are thinking of setting up their own litter - and who would like to acquire several bitches for this purpose. And of course everything can go well (and it usually does), but if not, then the shit is really going to happen! By the way, it looks completely different if you keep your own dog's daughters; there is no competition problem because of the family unit.  


A very good friend of mine who had serious intentions of breeding with his large white Spitz bitches has now finally decided against it because he doesn't have the heart to possibly have to give up one of his bitches if things go wrong. And unfortunately, there is no guarantee that keeping multiple bitches will be successful. It is a great pity for the puny population of Spitzes that these two Giant Spitz bitches will no longer be used for breeding and will therefore no longer pass on their genes. If the bitches' breeder had informed their owner in detail from the start, he would certainly have acted differently.


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