Interestingly, my dogs fought two days ago.
So, it is with great authority that I write this article.
I mean, I suppose I should be ashamed, or I should keep that information to myself so people don’t ever realize that even professional trainers’ dogs have issues.
But, I would rather help people handle dog aggression.
Actually, it is kind of my fault.
My dogs have never really liked each other.
They are going on five years of living together, but their lives together are very structured.
They never spend time together “alone.”
I just don’t trust them.
I see them give each other “stink eye” fairly frequently.
And, the reason that they don’t fight is because they respect me as their “owner”, “mom”, or “alpha” (although I HATE that last term).
In the past five years, they’ve only had one small altercation when my boy, Zippy, stole a cheese wrapper and my female, Fury, went to see what he had.
It happened so fast, and I had just stepped into another room.
Luckily, no damage was done, and they are pretty good about listening to me when I yell (which I don’t often do).
This time, I am pet sitting, and I fell asleep on the sofa.
Fury was cuddled next to me, sleeping, and Zippy (he is named appropriately) playfully, and accidentally, pounced us.
Fury was enraged, and she lashed out.
He, of course, fought back.
But again, it maybe only lasted 30 seconds before I was able to intervene.
Luckily it was just one tooth mark.
But, it was one too many.
And, even though the last incident was YEARS ago, I can see that their relationship has deteriorated because of it.
It was my fault.
I should have crated my boy when I felt drowsy.
When Dealing With Dog Aggression in a Multi-Dog Home, I Think it is Critical to:
1. Take the Behavior Seriously
The biggest mistake is to write off how one dog feels about another, or to rationalize it.
I don’t know why my male does not like other dogs, but he has always been that way!
It isn’t my “fault,” I did my best to give him social opportunities.
I understand that the behavior exists.
I don’t ignore it.
And, even though it has been years since there was an issue, I don’t believe that the dogs, or their feelings, have changed.
You see, not all people like one another.
I would like to think that everyone likes me… but I know that is not realistic.
It is also not realistic to expect all dogs to like one another.
I can’t force everyone to like me.
And, I can’t force my dogs to get along.
Trust me, if it was possible, I would do whatever it takes.
My two are never going to fall in love with each other, but with some control, and some rules, I can make sure that we have years without any problems.
2. Control the Dogs
I have given Zippy a lot of structure and control.
Through obedience, I give him healthy coping mechanisms, so he knows what to do when he feels uncomfortable.
He knows that aggression is not acceptable.
He is also familiar with my commands, so when there was an altercation, it didn’t last long because he is so used to listening to me.
Ironically, he has competed to very high levels in dog sports, and although I can tell when he is uncomfortable around other dogs (because he gives me extra strong focus), no one else could tell.
It is also crucial to work with the other dog in your pack.
This gives me control over both of them in an emergency.
Obedience is the most important element when you are dealing with an aggressive dog!
Rules That Help With Aggression Within Your Pack:
1. Never Let Dogs Out Alone Together
I have a strict rule in my house.
If the dogs are together, I am with them.
Remember me mentioning “stink eye”?
How am I going to tell them to “leave it” or “knock it off” if I don’t see the first sign?
Plus, any altercation will last much longer if I am not there to stop it.
I don’t want to have to rush my dogs to the vet for stitches or let one kill the other.
My dogs go outside in shifts.
One dog outside, one dog with extra snuggle time, inside, with me!
And, try not to fall asleep when they are out together 😉
2. Sharing is Not Always Caring
Dogs that don’t get along already, often don’t share well.
I feed them separately, in their crates.
If I give them chewies or anything of value, they go in their crates.
There is no reason that two dogs who already don’t like one another would want to share their most prized possessions.
The whole reason my dogs fought is that they weren’t okay sharing ME (even though I was asleep, meaning I missed the first stink eye).
3. Train Separate, Train Together
It is critical, as we mentioned, for the dogs to have training.
Train them separate so that they have some one-on-one time with you.
This also keeps them from feeling like they are in constant competition with one another (a downside to training together).
But, also train together! It is important for them to listen to you when they are together and get used to doing so in everyday life. Be sure you are fair in your training to lessen feelings of animosity.
4. Admit When You Are Outfoxed!
Admit when you are outfoxed.
Seek the help of a boarded veterinary behaviorist if your dog’s aggression is severe!
There are occasional dogs that want to KILL each other.
These dogs cannot be safely worked or socialized together.
If you decide to keep two dogs that want to kill one another on sight, you MUST keep them totally separate!
Dogs kill one another.
It isn’t worth the risk!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.