It's been nearly 3 weeks since my first post. No new updates really, but new observations. I don't think this is a domination issue at all. Actually of the 3 dogs, Bonnie seems to be the most dominant – she leads on a walk, is the first through the door, etc. But she isn't part of the problem. Watching how the males interact they don't seem to be fighting for position. Ramsey and Smitty are normally fine together. They can eat near each other, chew on bones right next to each other and sleep side by side. BUT when Smitty and Bonnie play, Ramsey nervously shakes and looks very worried. It may be a behavior he's not use to for the last 9 or 10 years.
For example, just a few minutes ago Ramsey's anxiety was building. Smitty and Bonnie were just playing. Smitty actually didn't want to but Bonnie wouldn't stop biting Smitty's neck. Smitty kept coming to me as though to say, "can you get her off my neck!" I couldn't get Ramsey to calm down and knew were it was going. So I crated Bonnie in this case. She is now laying down in her crate and the 2 males are by my side asleep after 3 minutes. Quiet, calm and nice!
95% of the time it is due to playing, but we don't always know when they are going to play. I've taken some steps to address the behavior. I try to calm Ramsey down (never works). If he growls I'll correct him. If he nips as the others run past, I make him sit and don't let him go until he is calm. If he acts like his about to attack I force him to lay down. If he just can't handle it I put him in a crate in the other room apart from the others (I can't hardly crate 2 excited playing . Now if Smitty shows ANY bad behavior, I tell him NO! and make him lay down right away. He has a zero tolerance policy with that! But after 3 more weeks its only getting more frequent -- not exactly what I had hoped.
Our vet suggested trying an anxiety medication. I hate to drug up the old guy, but we've had some close calls with the kids. So we're going to try Clomicalm. At $50 for a 2 month supply its not cheap, but what are you going to do? Our vet said to try it for 6 weeks before we come to any conclusion... though if it doesn't work I'm not sure what is next. Ramsey may just have to be crated any time the others want to play.