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Dog Aggression | Merit Puppy Training

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Dog Aggression

This article will cover dog agression and what entices your own dogs to fight among themselves. The specifics on each item delve into the reasoning behind them and how to avoid the problem. Please remember, these are taken from personal experience, training, and trial and error over many years, and are not meant to be indicative of all interactions you may encounter. Nor am I purporting them to be the only answers to these questions. You can help everyone, including myself, continue to learn, by submitting your own thoughts and experiences at the end of this article.


As indicated in other sections of this site, the Malamute family is composed of just that, a family. Within that family, there has to be an order established to maintain discipline. This order starts with the “Alpha” dog (the boss), at the top. Second in command is refereed to as the “Beta” dog. Others under them are usually pack members, but in larger groups, there can be one or two more steps down the ladder from the Beta dog, before the regular pack members.

The establishment of this order is essential for the smooth operation of the pack, and your kennel. The order should never be implemented with human intervention. In other words, let them establish their own order. Trying to bolster the position of one special dog or another, to help them become one of the upper echelon, will only lead to constant strife within the ranks, as the true leaders will always be attempting to take their rightful place, producing internal turmoil.This order’screation, can bring frustration, anxiety, horrendous fights, small scrimmages, and a plethora of other unwanted actions and reactions within the kennel, as long as it is being formed. Human meddling can harm if done to extremes, and also, asstated above, if done to attempt setting the order against natural selection. It is however, incumbent upon you to control the severity of attacks on subordinates and submissives. Leaders should never be allowed to over-state their presence and authority. This is covered in the LACK OF LEADERSHIP BOTH CANINE AND HUMAN section.

Once the order is established, periodic, minor incidents will be normal.


After the order is established in the pack, there will be times when underlings become more brazen, and try to assert themselves. This assertion can come in the form of snarling fights, over the smallest of things. Actually, a regular pack member, trying to take control away from a higher ranking leader, doesn’t need any other excuse to jump that leader than a distant glance in his direction.

Males are the most notorious for this obnoxious behavior, but females can also strive to take over or advance to the higher levels. This is especially true for small groups, where there are more females than males, or the males are just not that domineering. Also, when the Omega dog is a female, and “belongs” to the Alpha dog this can be the case.

There are ways to reduce the severity of the conflicts, and they are outlined in other pertinent sections. As with all things worth having (including a bit of harmony), it takes hard work, and perseverance, even after you have a good
grasp of what to do, when to do it, who to do it to, and how much of it to do.

Aggressive Dogs

This topic is fairly self explanatory, just by the heading. Some dogs, not all, have the need to defend a specific area. For arguments sake, let’s say they call it theirs. When the area of concern is the entire kennel, usually, the entire pack will consider it theirs as a whole. When this happens, any other dog that approaches that area from the outside, will be met with a combined
aggressive greeting.

In the case of Malamutes, after a period of time, you may find that the aggressive posturing turns to curious and almost invitive attitudes, once the approaching transgressor is identified as not being a threat. Curiosity is always a part of their behavior. They will always want to know what is happening around them. Sometimes, the extent of the aggression displayed toward other dogs from the outside, is directly proportional to the breed of that dog. There seems to be no rhyme or reason for the selective aggression toward distinct breeds of dogs, and it is not every Malamute that displays it.

Internal territorial protection is a bit different. This comes when an individual dog believes that some particular section of the kennel has been deeded to him. If this place happens to be his very own kennel run, that you have designated for him, then the preponderance of the blame for his actions are on you. In many cases, allowing any individual dog within a pack, to believe that any single dog run or area is his alone, invites trouble. We’re not talking about two or three dog kennels, although it can happen there too, but larger kennels usually.

Ever heard of fence fighting? A perfect excuse for a dog to start it, is over territorial protectionism. Other dogs that get too close, and invade the comfort zone, are fair game, even when neither of the dogs are in the runs. This aggression cannot be tolerated. To avoid this type of scenario, rotate dogs in runs. Rotate dogs in dog houses. Combine dogs that get along well in runs and exercise areas as often as possible.


Another easily identifiable topic heading. I’m making it too easy. Everyone that has had kids, or has interacted with them will understand this one. Actually, if you ever where a kid, you’ll get it real easily. Mommy, mommy Johnny’s got my ball, and I want it back! Well, Malamutes skip that part. they take it right to when Johnny doesn’t give the ball back, and Johnny gets a black eye.

Sounds like kids, but reality is that Malamutes don’t just punch, they bite. This type of aggression is common, especially in adolescents. Geeze, I’m sounding like a child physiologist. Curbing this problem is not always simple, but there are many things you can do to prevent it from happening in the first place.

First, don’t introduce any new item into the kennel (ball, or play thing), without introducing it to the entire kennel populous. Let’s just call all of these items articles to make it easy from here on out. Let everyone know that all articles are for everyone, and if they belong to any one individual, that individual is YOU. Never leave the articles out in the main kennel area where more than one dog has access to them, unless supervised. Never introduce an article that has the aroma of food, or anything that the dogs consider food, or ingest. Example: play article that smells like liver, and you feed liver to your dogs as bait at a dog show. This type of thing can start a fight right in front of you. They won’t even wait till your back is turned.

These actions suggested, may sound radical, but if you are looking for answers to existing problems, these are areas to investigate and try. Many dogs will get along together with articles, and never have a problem. The suggestions above are for those who are just starting out, and those that are having problems, and can’t discover the reason behind them.

Possession protection needs to be controlled as well as regulated. If not, the aggression can easily be transferred from other dogs to humans. Children especially do not understand the nuances of the workings of a dog’s mind, and can inadvertently create a potentially dangerous incident. Your dogs must be trained to tell the difference between other dogs and humans, when it comes to protecting things. This takes time, patience, and a skill at catching an offender in the act of being aggressive. Actually catching the act, and reacting immediately with the proper correction, will ingrain on the dog, much faster, the correct attitude you are seeking from him.

Corrections, training, adjustments to the mind set of the dogs in your kennel, all will make living with them a much more enjoyable experience. Just think, you can spend more time playing and working with them, than correcting and being upset with them. They will also make friendlier neighbors.


Any time you bring a new dog into the kennel, you are introducing him (her), into the pack. This can and usually will bring immediate response from the existing pack members, and especially the leaders. To add to the potential misery, the general pack dogs will sometimes stand by and wait to see if the leaders are about to assert themselves, to show the newcomers who is in charge. Should the leaders not take the forefront in this regard, the general pack dogs may take it as a signal to try to assert themselves on the existing leaders, especially if they have been testing the waters prior to this latest opportunity.

Knowing the possibility of not only the introduction problem, but additional behavior twists, it is essential that you take all measures to prevent, or at least minimize the danger. This introduction is an affrontage to the existing dogs sensibilities. Their territory is now being invaded from within. Introducing puppies will not generally bring this type of resentment, but adolescents, and adults will.

The following is a basic introduction method example: Enter the kennel area with the new dog on leash, only after placing all the existing dogs in separate runs. Do not take the new dog next to any of the run fences, this
will only antagonize the occupants. Do not tolerate any aggression from the newcomer. If possible, let the newcomer out lose in a separate run, not directly adjacent to any of the other dog’s runs, and preferably in full view of each other. Things should calm down after a few minutes, as each one gets used to the other’s presence.

We will assume for our example, that the newcomer is a male. Release one (1) of your most friendly females, and be sure it is not the Alpha’s favorite, or the Omega female, unless that’s all you have in the line up. Let her have the run of the kennel area outside of the others, and separate from the newcomer. This should excite everyone for a few minutes. After things calm down again, put the newcomer on a leash and release the female into the free area with the newcomer. Keeping a close eye on both, you will notice once again a renewed anxiety in the rest of the dogs. This will subside as well.

Assuming you have no trouble with this simple introduction, you can release both dogs into the kennel area. I must stress here, that there are many variables which could have taken place up until now, but they cannot all be dealt with here. That’s what novels are for. I will assume for the sake of expediency, that all is proceeding as planned in this process, but remember, there may be bumps in the road along the way.

Place the newcomer back on the leash, and release another female. After everything is calmed down, let the newcomer off the leash. Does this sound like a lot of work? You bet, and worth every second of it. Do not rush any segment of this introduction. Do not force any segment. Do not allow aggressive attitudes during any segment. Do not continue with the progression until each segment is satisfactorily complete. If you do continue, and you have not established harmony, or at least total order, during one of the segments, there WILL be a problem later, as the antagonism will rise to the top.

Kennel the second female, leaving only the newcomer and the first female out. Leash up the newcomer, the first female, and also a kenneled male. Take them all separately out of the kennel area completely. Use your front yard, or where ever you can, but nowhere that could be regarded as the kennel area. Bring them all closer, slowly, keeping them apart. This will require help, strong arms and backs, and intestinal fortitude. If you have instilled your dominance over your dogs, and show no outward sign of fear, half the battle will have been won already. Discipline any aggressive behavior from any of the dogs.

Taking the dogs outside of the kennel accomplishes a couple of things. First it is common ground and should not be revered as territorial by the existing dogs to protect. Second, it takes away any possible frenzied environment that may develop from the rest of the dogs, which could be transmitted to the ones you’re try to get aquatinted.

When you have successfully introduced the first male, without any aggressive behavior, take him back to the kennel run, and bring out another. Start the introduction process all over again. Do not reduce your expectations for this
introduction or any others. In other words, do not accept less than what you attained from the first grouping. This should be done with each and every member of the kennel.

When done, put the newcomer in a run of his own with the first female. This run must not be immediately adjacent to any other runs with dogs in them, but visible by all. the first night there should be uneventful. The next day, start all over again, in the same manner. Once again, do not rush, and do not tolerate aggression. This process should be done at least three times, in order to give you a real idea of underlying feelings, and any building animosity.

After this, it should be possible to place 2 females and one male together with the newcomer. Chose the middle of the road dogs, not the leaders, and not the real submissives. the leaders will be harder to control at first, and the real submissive’s may give the newcomer the idea of asserting himself over them, causing a problem with the newcomer and the leaders right off the bat. You are looking to keep all things equal for as long as you can.

Of course, this will not stay this way. Once you have introduced the leaders, they will undoubtedly present the newcomer with their dominant side. This must be tolerated to the extent of allowing them to prove their dominance, not their superiority. the difference, is in the level of aggressive mannerism (not behavior), allowed.

You will always have to be on the lookout for potential problems. Do not think that everything is wine and roses from this minute on. There will be problems, altercations, and of course posturing. The make-up of the pack may have to change. You may not like it, but it may be necessary, depending upon the newcomers assertiveness, and ability to either fit in, or take over a certain position. The make-up is about to change one way or another, and you must be prepared for the time it happens.

This is why it is all important to know your dogs. Their attitudes, body language, and general demeanor. Fluctuations in these can indicate potential problems, and changes that are about to occur. Never underestimate the ability of your dogs to convey these feelings, and look for them all the time. When you are not able to supervise, separate the ones, you feel to be the potential problem makers. Do every thing you can to eliminate things to fight over, and take away as many of the reasons they may fight as you can.

Do not allow the newcomer to be placed in a position where he may trespass into a territorial protection area. All your good, hard work, may be lost in a single unthinking move on your part. If this should happen, check out all the possibilitiesfor the altercation, and discover the real reason for it, if possible. This will give you clear insight into how to deal with it again, when you work your way back through the introductions one more time, from scratch.

For those who have had one dog for a while, are about to introduce another, the application of introduction can be quite different. Usually, the single dog is a house dog, and as such is greatly attached, and protective of your feelings toward them. This can create one of the most difficult problems to deal with, jealousy. It can manifest itself in the original dog, in different ways also. What appears to be spiteful actions like, digging, carpet tearing, soiling in the house, and other things that never happened before, could suddenly begin. Lethargy, escape attempts, fighting, not eating, and a host of non-usual attitudes, and actions can become a part of the dogs make-up, in an attempt, for the most part, to
be noticed by you once again.

For these special attached dogs and owners, the introduction of another dog has to be done, with the feelings of your dog at the forefront at all times. You must make your dog feel that the attention you have always given, will still be there. Little things can help, like feeding him first each time until the newcomer becomes a regular fixture to him, taking him for walks on his own as well as together with the newcomer. If there are two human members of the family, and one is more attached to the original dog, be sure that that is the person that walks the original dog, and the newcomer gets the lesser attached human.


Often, it is necessary to take only one, or a few of the kennel members on an extended trip away from the rest of the group. Dog shows, obedience trials, and many other types of trips will sometimes demand this. This section deals with the reintroduction of these dogs, back into the regular kennel line-up. Those of you who have had to bring a dog back from a trip, know what the consequences can be. The problems of reintroduction do not always happen, but can produce considerable antagonism and violence if not foreseen, and handled properly.

While a dog is gone from the kennel for short periods, this problem usually will not occur. However, there is always the exception. It depends greatly on what is happening at any given time in the posturing for rank. If there is heavy posturing, any amount of time that a leader is taken away can produce aggressive behavior towards him, from the potential usurper, when he returns.

The longer the time away, the more the potential for trouble. Over time, the remaining dogs in the kennel, will start to rearrange the pack leadership structure. They do not understand, for the most part, that the dog who was taken away, is coming back, or when. All they know, is that he is gone. If this happens often, the pack remembers that the dog will come back at some time, but time differentials mean nothing to them, and they cannot distinguish one
leaving from another.

Even if the changeover of leadership does not actually have enough time to take place during a dogs absence, it’s in the works, and will create aggressive behavior towards the returning dog. This will be the only instance in which I will recommend human intervention of the type that helps to set the order. The returning leader will surely help himself, but you must instill your own leadership over all to divert aggression from the returning dog. Aggressive behavior must not be tolerated. Control of the situation by you, is mandatory. If left to their own devises, the dogs will have it out in the attempt to re-establish
the pecking order, and you can’t let that happen. Not a pleasant thought for even one time, but if you remove and return dogs all the time, you must set a
president, for control, for every time.


For many, this should be another self explanatory section. Unfortunately, food is still a big problem for some. Food comes in a few different categories under this heading. When dealing with aggressive behavior over food, we must consider not only the normal everyday, one or two times of physically feeding meals, but also times of preparation, food odors, play items in the kennel that emit odors similar to foods or treats, and treats themselves.

Feeding your dogs at mealtime can become whatever you want it to be, either a pleasant chore, or a nightmare. Some owners have no trouble feeding all their dogs together, while others can’t even rustle the food bowls without fights breaking out, thus having to feed separately. The reasons? They’re as many and diverse as the dogs themselves.

Some owners do not have the control over the dogs they should, nor do they have the time to gain that type of control, based on many factors. To feed dogs together, it takes a concerted effort, much time, discipline, and a regimented system you must implement and adhere to. If this is not possible, then separate feeding is the only answer to avoid conflict. To those that feed in a group, and maintain control, you have my profound admiration. We do it from time to time, and have in the past, done it often, and know the work that you must put into instilling and maintaining that type of control.

There will sometimes be one or more dogs that are “food hounds”. These are the ones that go absolutely bananas over the mere fact that it’s food time, well before the food is actually served. Not a problem, as long a control is maintained
over any aggression from them or others. Aggression should not be confused with exuberant behavior.

Some dogs have a fear of others taking there food, even when kenneled and fed separately. These are the ones that eat like a vacuum cleaner, and keep a watchful eye out at the same time, peering over their food bowls. There may be no way to rearrange this type of thinking, but is incumbent upon you to slow the scarffing of the food down to a minimum. Bloat and other problems can occur from eating in this manner. Feed these types of dogs further away from others, to try and quell their worry. This may slow them down a bit. This would normally not be a problem, except with the types of dry food we feed our dogs now-a-days, the potential for water absorption of the kibble is greatly enhanced, thus distending the stomach rapidly. Be sure that the kibble for these dogs is pre-soaked and expanded, prior to feeding.

If your dogs are lose together, and you can’t keep an eye on them while you prepare their food, prepare food where they can’t hear it being done. Sometimes the excitement of waiting builds, and tempers can flair. Keep food odors from
reaching the kennel for the same reason.

The above suggestions are only stated as a means of preventing potential problems. If worked on, these problems may never come to fruition, and being able to feed dogs together can bring a real feeling of accomplishment. It can also bring the pack together in a more congenial manner, possibly making the oft times, trivial arguments, less severe.


External, for purposes of this section, indicates forces beyond the confines of your kennel or yard. Examples would be stray dogs, wandering cats, other outside animals, people that are not known to the dogs, etc. There are at least two distinctly different types of reaction to the external forces.

One reaction is excitement. Someone comes to the fence, and the dogs are excited to see them. They’re all jumping up to see and be the one to receive attention. With this, comes the potential for argument and eventual fighting. Especially when there is an internal conflict brewing for leadership changes. The excitement generated by an outside force when several dogs are lose in the same yard, can lead to a snarling match, and violence. If you come home and find wounds, or discover them several days later while grooming, there is the possibility that someone got into a fight from such an occurrence. There are probably more small altercations when you are not home, than you realize.

The other reaction is one best described as anger. Since we do not know exactly what the dog feels, I can only put it in a human feeling, and equate it to this. This can happen once again,when the dogs are lose together. A stray dog comes to the fence or near the yard, and the dogs (possibly due to protection of their yard), go crazy trying to get to him. They are not looking to have a neighborly chat, they actually act as though they want to rip him apart. This reaction can be different for different breeds of dogs that come by as well. In any case, the dogs can lose control of their aggression, and turn it upon
each other.

There is absolutely nothing you can do to prevent these types of reactions, and violence, with the exception of placing each dog in a separate kennel run or area, when you leave home. There are probably certain dogs in your kennel that will never fight over either one of the above scenarios. These dogs could remain lose together through just about anything. We do it all the time. It takes careful forethought, and a commitment to consistency when making the arrangements before leaving, but it can be done.

If these types of altercations occur when you are home, they should not be allowed. The dogs should be aware that you will not tolerate this type of behavior, and react accordingly. This is covered further in


What can be said about this issue? To read the title is to know what I am about to say. In season bitches can wreck havoc with males in a kennel. Even having only two males can become a problem. For the most part, the males lose their collective minds. Some more than others, and then there are those that are never phased.

An in season bitch should never be allowed lose in an open yard. This will help against your dog or some other dogs jumping in or over the fence, or dig their way under to get at her. You may never know it happened, until it’s too late. All the males have on their mind is mating. Putting the dog in a chain link run or kennel will not solve the problem. There have been breedings right through chain link fence fabric. Remember, the female is not trying to get away from the breeding, so working together, they can do just about anything.

Certain males can have the impression that the female is THEIRS. This can lead to continual tension during this period. The sure way to avoid conflict, is to keep the males completely separate from one another. Another trick that helps, is to place the male that believes the female is HIS, and is going crazy from another male being around her, closest to her. Not next to her in an adjoining kennel run, but closer than any other male. The positioning of the dogs during this time, can
help tone down the aggressive and protective emotions.


There is one certainty, out of all the possibilities, in the majority of sections under Preventive Altercation Measures. There must be leadership within the ranks of the pack. One dog must stand out in a group and be in control, and the others must submit to that dog. At the same time, there must be only one leader of all of the dogs, including the pack leader, and that one MUST be a human. It can be one or more within your family or kennel, but there must be the human hierarchy presence, instilled in the minds of the pack and leaders.

Without this control, aggressive behavior, antagonism, and violence will be left unchecked. The severity of the fights will also be greater. It will
also be more difficult to gain control of, and stop fights in progress. Many owners of multiple dogs find that it is absolutely impossible to have more than a few, together in one area at a time, without fighting. (For the most part, these fights are between males and males, or females and females.) The basic reasons for their inability to put them together is, they either do not have the time nor energy to spend becoming the governing leader and controlling factor, they do not have the knowledge to implement their leadership in the proper manner, or they do not believe it can ever be done and thus perpetuate the myth. The myth being, Malamutes cannot be put out lose together under any circumstances.

Breeders and owners that do not know how to take this type of control, are not able to pass it along to their puppy buyers. The myth is then propagated to yet another generation of Malamute owners. It is however, not appropriate to tell puppy buyers that they can put their dog together, and not be able to explain how. This can and does, lead to problems for the puppy buyers, down the road. The information and instructions on this type of control, must be clear, concise, and flexible for each individual situation. It must also be implemented from day one. Much more time is involved in bringing an existing pack under control, once established.

This human control can make life with several dogs, a much more pleasant experience. In the event a fight does break out, it is common to be able to control it (including breaking it up), with verbal commands, and very little physical intervention. This is made possible due to both the reduction in severity of the fighting, and your placement in the hierarchy of the pack as an outside force, over the leaders.

Above all else, this lack of control will contribute to the majority of problems within a kennel or pack.


I’m sure you’ve been told this a hundred times. “Obedience train your Malamute.” If for no other reason, than to gain some personal control, and not have an unruly monster on your hands. The absence of either obedience or socialization training is a major contributing factor in the inability of owners to control their dogs. This can and often does lead to the incorrect assumption that there is something wrong with the dog, the temperament, the breeding, and the breeder.

The only thing wrong with the breeder, was their inability to make the puppy buyer understand the importance of training. The only way a breeder can force this training upon a potential buyer, is to insert a controlling section into their purchase contracts, with future verification of training enrollment and completion. There unfortunately, are not many breeders that so this.

The only thing wrong with the dog, was the lack of training, brought about by the previously mentioned lapse of intelligence by the owner, in not training. Let’s make it real easy. You would not expect your children to know the social graces, or the proper responses in life, if they were not given adequate instruction. Is this not right? Then why would we ever expect a “lesser” intelligent (and I sometimes wonder if they really are), species to be born, internally equipped with programming in socially acceptable behavior, and a knowledge of what humans consider to be right and wrong? The old adage, “You only get out, what you put in.” is more than applicable in these instances.

Now, back to training, and the effect on aggression control. It stands to reason, that given the above information, training will offer more control of your dog(s). With this, we must concur, that the control will allow you greater latitude in your ability to reduce dog aggression. This is a direct link to the previous section “Lack of Leadership, Both Canine, and Human”

Training is essential in the proper development of the modern Malamute. I use the word modern for a very specific reason. A multitude of dogs being sold today are forced to live in environments they were not intended for, i.e.: apartments, small houses, small yard enclosures, high density population areas, urban developments, etc. These dogs, need even more socialization, of a different sort, than their ancestors ever did. They must tolerate more, learn more, and they are expected to know more than ever. The Inuit never had to keep their dog from waking up hundreds of people in the middle of the night, nor did he have to train him to watch for cars, and Rotweillers.

They had to be trained to do the things that were intrinsic to that moment in time. Nothing more, nothing less. OK, may be they did have to keep them quiet sometimes. I can see now, all the lights going on in the igloos, in the middle of the night, when the dogs started to howl, and Inuits throwing frozen fish at them, to shut them up, so they could sleep.

The bottom line is, train your dog. If not in obedience, at least in the social aspects of everyday life, housebreaking, and /or the acceptable behavior you require for everyday living with yourself, and your neighbors.


Just as in training, socialization plays a large role in the development of the pack, and each individual’s make-up. Your dogs need to be enlightened, as to the ways of the world, people, and just as importantly, other dogs. Disciplines in the human arena are a must, for them to fit in, and be a positive factor to visitors, neighbors, relatives, the mail-person, judges, ring stewards, spectators, exhibitors, etc.

A component sometimes overlooked, even by owners that take their dogs to shows often, is the interaction with other dogs of both the same breed, and other breeds. This socialization process starts from the day they are born, and should be continued throughout their lives. It is a way to help dissuade them from reasoning that any other dog is a potential threat, and thus must be either attacked, or shown an aggressive attitude.

The socialization process should be taught, governed, and fostered by you. You are the one that must teach right from wrong in the interactions with other dogs, in regards their attitude. If it is not properly instilled, that you will not tolerate violent or aggressive behavior, you may have more than you can manage on your hands very soon. Once again, another reason for dogs finding their way to rescues, shelters, etc.

Also, conflict within your own kennel can be softened with the proper socialization of your dogs. Yet another approach to add to the others, in helping to make the kennel and pack more affable.


Dealing with aggressive dogs, and forming an atmosphere of non-hostility, requires creative thinking, and an ability to be flexible in your methods. One of the simplest, and also the least thought of means of reducing violent behavior in the kennel and pack, is the actual layout and design of the kennel itself. Some of these suggestions are meant only for those that are having a difficult time of control.

Kennel runs, should be installed so as to afford separation of in-season bitches, visiting dogs, ill animals, and the like. Not only should they be located for individual separation, but also to keep certain runs in view of others, and certain ones in isolation. You should be able to place your dogs in what ever configuration you need, in order to reach your objective.

Feeding areas, and food preparation rooms should be located either away from the general population, or designed to reduce the possibility of the dogs hearing the food being prepared. This is for those leaving their dogs out in a group during feeding.

Whelping areas should be located away from the general population also. This will reduce the excitement level of the dogs at specific times.


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