Aggression Between Dogs In The Home
What Causes This Aggression?
This may surprise you as it is probably not what you have been told. Books and some of the crazy dog programs like the Dog Whisperer Have got it all wrong. These dogs are not fighting to become the pack leader top dog.
It rarely has anything to do with hormones and neutering generally makes it worse.In reality, these dogs are fighting each other over resources.
Every single time I have worked with this problem the one common denominator is they only fight when someone is around.
They rarely, if ever, fight without the owner or family member being present. If they did then you would not be able to cure the problem. However, very few behaviourists or trainers are successful in curing this common problem because they do not understand the cause and effect of this behaviour.
I am one of them that has. I have has almost a 100% success rate in this misunderstood type of aggression. However, I retired a few years ago from dealing with one to ones and as an expert witness under the DDA ad defending dog in court
I was also a dog assessor for child fostering agencies when the foster parents had dogs. I have defended dozens of dogs in court in my breed and temperament assessors role regarding Breed Specific Legislation and the Dangerous Dog's Act of 1991 including dangerously out of control dogs.
So please take note I am no longer taking on new clients. However, I am considering writing a how-to article that may be purchasable in the near future with an in-depth step by step guidelines.
Although a myriad of issues may complicate the situation with regard to at home fighting, when it comes down to it they all require some type of leadership and control. You need to become a resource controller rather than a pseudo-alpha. Read (1) The Alpha Myth
Dogs are social animals, they have rules that dictate how they behave around each other. Left to themselves, most canines easily slip into their roles. The pyrotechnics erupt when they think they are missing out on the greatest resource of all, YOU.
Once it starts it gradually gets worse until they start tearing lumps out of each other
Although there are no absolutes, bringing together dogs with too many similar characteristics - same-sex same age same breed (brothers from the same litter for example) -may spark conflict.
So many commonalities make it difficult to settle who is top dog, hormonal surges also have an effect.
Other times the cause is redirected or frustration-aggression attacking the owners if they try and split them up.
Purchasing siblings or two puppies from different litters and rearing them both together causes many problems inter-dog aggression is just one of them.
Read my insightful (2) Siblings The Worst Of Both Worlds which comes first in Google if you type in Rearing Siblings or Taking Two Puppies From the Same or Different Litters.
Can You Fuel the Fire?
Often, you can inadvertently stoke the fire. People can disturb the hierarchical balance by rushing to protect the would-be subordinate from being "bullied" or granting him liberties, such as being petted first, which your other dog considers his due.
The lower-ranking dog now feels bold enough to challenge the other. We need to understand that dogs have their own set of social rules, whereas most dog owners want democracy, dogs don't understand a truly democratic concept"
How to Douse the Fire
Prevention, of course, is the preferred route. It is important that puppies socialise with other dogs, for example in puppy socialisation classes or in the park.
This way, they learn the unspoken but strict rules of canine society. Neutering can help in very rare cases but never with females. You will only make it worse. Sometimes with male dogs, you can neuter the least dominant dog and that.could possibly stop the fighting. However test it first with a chemical castration such as Tardak or Suprelorin
Neutering both will make no difference and can make things far worse.
Exercise also works wonders and obedience training is also vitally important.
I always set the "OFF" command and the (3) Jingler on all the aggressive dogs I have ever dealt with, and that runs into many thousands..
I can also control them on the lead fat easier once the Jingler has worked its magic. After the dogs have been together a while and are getting along, an insignificant scuffle or two might erupt.
In theory, all dogs should be able to work it out together as long as the owners don't interfere. Owners must heed mounting tensions. Watch for eye-to-eye contact between your dogs, as well as stiffening of the body, slow measured steps, erect tails and stalking.
As soon as you see signs of trouble that you're uncomfortable with, take steps, don't wait for fights to happen because that changes the dynamics considerably. Often the problem can be relieved if, instead of protecting the perceived underdog the owner supports the hierarchy.
Determine which is the more dominant dog and reinforce that position by feeding, greeting or letting the top dog out first. Usually, this will help, but not always. "The problem with that approach is that it's often difficult to tell who should be the lead dog "Secondly, it's really difficult for owners to play favourites with their dogs.
Put Your Paw Down
Experts agree it's crucial that you take a strong role. When owners face a tough sibling rivalry case, I tell them to establish his or her own place as the controller of resources as a first priority. First, I suggest that the owners make both dogs "work for everything." Before they're fed, given a treat or taken out.
Calling In The Professionals
If your dogs are still regularly fighting. I suggest bringing in an animal behaviourist.
Animal behaviourists generally are not Vets. The difference is often akin to seeking the help of a psychologist. versus that of a surgeon
Occasionally, a veterinarian will recommend drugs for one or both dogs.
Usually, medication should be a last resort, as it generally fails to fix the underlying cause - household dynamics.
Until the problem is solved, keep bickering dogs separated an on a lead with my (3) Jingler, attached so you can easily pull them apart if a fight starts.
The bells can be activated by picking up the lead, this can sometimes break the aggression cycle.
It's best not to grab either dog - by the tail/scruff/collar or anywhere else - during a fight.
Stepping between two battling canines can be extremely dangerous and is often the main reason why owners are bitten. So keep the lead and the bells on whilst you are in the vicinity of the dogs
Reaching A Resolution
Siblings or interdog aggression and rivalries usually can be resolved, but not always. Sometimes we are unwilling or unable to implement the necessary changes, or genetics or socialisation shortcomings are intractable. If that's the case, the best solution may be to find another home if possible for one of the dogs.
This is quite a complex area, it is unusual for an owner to alter the underlying behaviour enough to stop the aggression. I have a very high success rate in dealing with these cases. I have found a number of techniques that break the circle of aggression and put you the owner back in charge.
However, I cannot just send you the treatment as to how it is done, as it requires specialist knowledge and exact timing. It is vitally important to understand what is the trigger in this type of aggression. Though in the main it is fear-related, and that fear is all about losing an important resource which is you and your family. Unfortunately, I retired from one to one sessions three years ago to concentrate on my campaigning and writing.
I always used very high value treats to set the Jinger and other devices to stop this behaviour and I always work with the dogs separately before bringing them together. The treats are used are specific to me you cannot buy them elsewhere. This is why they are so different.
I started my own range of Doglistener Premium Treats a number of years ago and the are unique because of the following reasons. I needed to be able to guarantee their provenance of the treats and I needed them to fulfil ethical criteria that I personally believe in. For them to fulfil those requirements, they had to be from free-range animals, all grown as nature intended with no growth hormones, steroids, or antibiotics and non-halal and from EU regulated livestock. They also had to be totally natural without any additives colourants or even spices.
They must be from human-grade animals, not the so-called 4-D meat that gets its name from diseased, dying, disabled and dead livestock, deemed unfit for human consumption. Once I had found suitable suppliers from only EU countries which have stringent requirements regarding animal husbandry I had one final condition they were not sat in warehouses for years before coming to my store both online and physical. (4) Air Dried Ethical Natural Dog Treats
I also have observed and worked with dogs over 45 years and have learned that to be successful you must understand the triggers so as to put a specific program together to match the exact reason for the behavioural problem. In the case of dogs fighting in the home and outside with each other, then I always start by introducing the Jingler and especially the "OFF" command as this is a very powerful tool and should be your very first step to finding a resolution.
©Stan Rawlinson 2005
Updated May 2020