Dog on dog aggression at home
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 that have lived together, often for many years, suddenly attack each other?”
Let’s explore: Why are my dogs fighting?
I should mention here that I am not talking about little squabbles, growls and minor disagreements. This sort of behaviour is common place and usually over in a matter of seconds with absolutely no damage or injuries to speak of. Any time you have multiple dogs in a home you are going to experience some aggressive issues. A new dog has been brought into the home and it takes time for the others to know or trust him. He may be too energetic or playful for an older dog or two dogs may have bonded with the same person and resent the closeness of a rival near him or her.
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 behaviour 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 only one position available it is often a case that they will simply fight it out. An older dog will not give in to a younger dog but a younger, dominant dog will over time begin to sense the older one becoming weaker and want to become the leader. 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 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 dog’s psychology. In the wild dog do not nearly fight as much as they do in suburbia because they have a well organised pack leadership system.
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. It has to become a new way of life. To understand how to become the pack leader read more here on my website.
You have to be consistent and you also have to be calm. People who are relaxed and happy with their dogs tend to be in charge of animals that are relaxed and happy at play. A leader that is upset or agitated is not likely to be believed in. We use words too much. Dogs are born with a language; a silent, body language that we need to learn. When I go into the kitchen in the morning I don’t look or speak to the dogs. I simply ignore them and they soon settle down and wait for me to call them. I eat first and feed them afterwards. That’s why they never beg at the table.
When going for a walk, on leash, I wait for calm and walk first through all narrow openings such as passages, doors and gates. As soon as the dog starts pulling I stop and guide my dog back around my back into a position next to or slightly behind me.
It is not easy but a battle of wills you can overcome by reading, “Becoming the Pack Leader” and “Stop Pulling on the Leash.”