Dog aggression between dogs living in the same home is an interesting topic for a number of reasons. The main one has to be the question “Why would two dogs who have lived together, often for many years, suddenly attack each other?”
Let’s explore: Why are my dogs fighting?
Now I should mention here that I am not talking about little squabbles, growls and minor disagreements. This sort of behavior is common place and usually over in a matter of seconds with absolutely no damage or injuries to speak of. Over the years you become used to hearing loud eruptions of noise in another room, and sprint to the scene of the crime only to find all the dogs lying around quite happily looking at you as if to say “What’s the problem? No drama’s, we’ve sorted it out.”
The serious fighting that I am talking about is very different – where the dogs are out to injure, dominate or hurt the other dog. It leads to puncture wounds, visits to the vet and can end up very serious indeed. In this situation it is clear that the dogs are not scared of each other, like they may be of an unknown dog that happens to pass by the property. And after a fight the dogs may be wary and display some signs of fear for one another, which generally subsides until the next flare up. But this behavior still doesn’t explain why after years of playing together they have suddenly become arch-enemies.
Triggers are not the key
Even though there may be an obvious trigger that has set the dogs off, do not be fooled into thinking this is the cause of the problem. A bone, a ball, trying to receive pats or cuddles from an owner, or increased stressed levels in a home can all add to the chance of dogs fighting – but it’s not the cause. The real long-term solution does not lie in the trigger.
Power of the pack
To understand a dog you need to recognize the power of the pack and the need to have strong pack leaders. When they are not present the dogs will do their best to fill the vacant position. With two dogs present and often only one position available it is often a case that they will simply fight it out. Of course every situation is different in the details, but in a nutshell, this is how the dogs see it and the solution is no different. You need to become the pack leader. The solution is that simple.
Other factors have an impact
There are lots of other factors and details surrounding every situation. The personalities, characters, sex, age, size, breed, of the dogs, everything comes into it. And sometimes it can play quite a big part in the pack dynamics. For example, a lady who has two male dogs is far more likely to struggle with fighting between them compared to a couple who have a neutered male and female. Why? Because in the pack there is an alpha male and an alpha female, and if these two humans have assumed both these roles then there is nothing to fight for. No positions vacant!
Become the pack leader
Understanding your dog is not rocket science, but there are some very simple but ESSENTIAL rules that you must follow. Whilst clickers and cheese can work for dog training nothing will replace understanding your dogs psychology.
The best news is that learning to become the pack leader is not complicated or hard, and it will become the foundation of everything else that you do. To understand how to get your dog to calm down and look to you for direction before he becomes aggressive, check out my program The Dog Calming Code here!
Have a new puppy instead? I encourage you to try out my Puppy Coach training program first to put an end to aggression issues before they before a real problem.
I have a 5 1/2 year old golden retriever/chow mix. When I first got her, from a rescue organization, she was 2 years old. Nothing was known of her history. She liked other dogs at first, but over the years she has become dog agressive. She goes wild when I walk her and she sees another dog. I used to take her off leash when I was at the river, but she has gotten dog agressive there too. I’m afraid to even take her to a dog park anymore-it’s been 2 years since I took her to one. She likes people (most of the time) and cats. I have spent a couple thousand dollars on trainers. It got worse. I love her but don’t know what to do. I’m 60 yrs. old and she is 53 lbs. Do you have any advice for us?
When dogs move to a new location is can really throw them out of their comfort zone because they aren’t familiar enough with their environment to know if they are safe or not. Other strange dogs are often viewed as one of these potential threats and some dogs can feel really vulnerable and over-react when in these situations. Essentially they panic and the aggression is based on fear! The solution to overcoming her behaviour and helping her feel a lot happier is not overly complicated but there are some changes you need to make to your behaviour as part of that process. My website TheOnlineDogTrainer.com shows you very clearly how to achieve this…maybe take a quick look…its a $1 trial for 3 days…all the best Doggy Dan
Hi Dan, still learning from your wonderful teaching. My five dogs are more settled and calmer but I still have to be aware of Rose with Rusty. They never put thier foot wrong when we both take them for a walk. Like the other morning Rose was going to have a serious go at Rusty but Terry just pulled her away and almost thru her out the door. She is very respectful of Terry. And yet its me that is doing all the training. Rose is perfectly ok when the new dog isnt around and Rusty (little dog) is ok with Rose. Rose became Rusty’s surrogate mother when we first brought him home, she loved him. He plays a lot more with Tim and thats what has upset her.
My other rescue 7yrs old bc from spca came with a barking problem, after teaching from you I have almost stopped it. We have had him for three years. Noise starts himoff. Grating a carrot he barks so I show him the carrot, let him siff and look at it, then I put my hand on the side of his face and hold him close to me, its only for a minute or less. He stops and walk away and dose’nt bark for ages. I just about have this this barking licked! dont talk to him.
We are moving house in three weeks and are building a new house on a bigger farm down the road. I wonder how the dogs will respond to that. I continue with your learning with many many thanks. Carole.
Hi Carole, good to hear from you that Rose and Rusty are much calmer, congratulations. Great thinking about how to stop him barking for a carrot, all the best with your move, Doggy Dan 🙂