Fighting Among Household Dogs
Few things are more unnerving than dogs you love trying to hurt each other. These attacks may seem to happen out of the blue but there are important reasons for interdog aggression or, what some veterinary behaviorists call dominance related aggression. Be assured that without appropriate management the problem will worsen. Waiting or punishing only courts disaster. One beloved family dog can kill the other.
Start by separating your aggressive dogs when you’re not there to supervise.
- Better still, I recommend keeping them apart for 2-3 weeks to reduce tension.
- It’s a good time to get them acclimated to light weight, comfortable vinyl basket muzzles (http://www.upco.com or, in Albuquerque, retailers like Long Leash on Life 505-299-8800).
- Your dogs can earn a treat or a pat on the head by relaxing while wearing this high style accessory.
- Initially leave it on for just a few seconds and distract her with a sit or down command if she tries to take it off. Remove it only when she’s relaxed. Repeat on each dog hundreds of times.
While your canine pugilists are on simultaneous sabbatical they can learn to accept a drag line-a 6 foot leash that is dragged from the collar.
- Every now and then give it a tug as you say “Barbarian, Come!”
- Reward with a tasty treat and repeat hundreds of times.
- As your dogs learn to associate positive rewards with their drag lines and comfy basket muzzles they will develop the habit of watching you, the grand dog master, for instructions.
Do you feel ready for a canine meet and greet? You’re not.
- Dogs are very hierarchical. Dominance related aggression is about competing for king of the hill or, in some cases, for access to a coveted resource-often the owner’s attention.
- As supreme commander your job is to determine which dog will get the extra stripe on his sleeve.
- It can be a hard call, based on assertiveness and overt dominance, but not on congeniality. The guy who blinks first gets second position.
- If you try to support a higher rank for the wrong dog you will get all out civil war.
Once you’ve established which of your dogs is more dominant you can support this hierarchy by giving all good things to the high ranking dog while the lower ranking dog gets-nothing.
- This is hard for a lot of us. You love them both and it seems unfair to ignore the dog who’s the, well, underdog.
- Shouldn’t that one get more attention? Maybe, if they were people.
- Dogs are different. Their pack hierarchies can be strict. Many canine head honchos believe their subordinates should only get attention from their immediate superior, never from their boss’s boss. Political leap frogging is a punishable offense for a canine warlord.
- As the supreme leader you can cause the violence to worsen if you give your low ranking dog attention in the presence of his superior.
- You can sidestep this rule anytime by putting the tough guy out of sight while sharing a few laughs with your lower status dog.
When they’re together have your dogs wear their vinyl basket muzzles and drag lines.
- Watch carefully for indicators of impending hostility, like staring or the aggressor confronting your low ranking dog from the side.
- At the earliest sign of imminent violence (growling, a subordinate who does not look away from a stare) grab the drag line of the lower status dog and banish him to time out.
- If your low ranking dog has good obedience skills you can verbally send him to a designated place so the top dog can interact peacefully with you.
Interdog aggression is difficult, short term and over the long haul.
- Medications like fluoxetine and paroxetine help some dogs; punishment and harsh corrections, on the other hand, only fan the flames of hostility.
- Your best hope is to get started early-when your dogs are still just calling each other names.
- A history of injuries, especially severe wounds, makes for a poor prognosis.
Be very careful.
- Grab the drag lines to break up a dog fight. Using your hands is almost guaranteed to result in a serious bite.
- Children should not be in the room when dogs like this are together.
- Allowing your dogs to “fight it out” is a formula for catastrophe.
- I am available to help.