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Why have my 2 dogs started fighting with each other?

dog sibling rivalryDoes this sound familiar? Maybe it’s time to take a look at why your own dogs have taken to fighting each other. As you think about your relationship with your dogs, see if you can recognize any of the following that could be evidence of your own sibling rivalry:

  • Competition for your attention. Have you noticed that when you are petting one dog, the other comes over and splits the two of you apart?
  • Fighting over who’s the boss. Usually two housemates of the same sex trying to exert their dominance over the other by controlling valuable assets like food, space, toys or your love and affection.
  • They will often times get into a fight exiting the back door when being let out to the yard to play or potty.
  • An initial poor introduction to each other. When you got the second dog, did you properly introduce them on neutral ground to optimize their success?
  • One dog having established territory and resenting the other as an intruder
  • Redirected Aggression. Do your dogs really want to attack the mailman or the dog next door? Not being able to get at their primary target to release this aggression often times causes them to turn on each other in frustration.

Dog figtingRemember, your dogs are pursuing aggression, not because they are not “nice”, but because aggression is:

  • Working for them to get them something they think they need, i.e., access to resources (food, space, articles of play and attention from you), status etc.
  • Working to keep someone or something away they desperately want kept away i.e. a housemate who would otherwise strike first

The actionable steps to develop a solid plan of action:

  1. Redefine your relationship with your dogs. Discover what have you and/or your family been or NOT been doing that may be contributing factors to your dogs fighting? Learn how to build a healthier relationship with your dogs by establishing better rules, boundaries and expectations. This will provide you with a stronger framework with which to begin working on your dog fighting problem. It’s going to be very important to examine your own relationship with your dogs. Have you been providing your dogs with the following:
  • Rules to follow
  • Boundaries to respect and,
  • Expectations of what to do and when to do it?

Are you aware that all dog behavior problems are usually stress related? What’s causing stress in your dogs?

  • Not enough or no consistent and predictable structure in your home?
  • Not providing your dogs with enough structured walks for exercise?
  • Too much doting?

Any one of these or other reasons can be causing stress in your dogs which in turn contributes to the fighting. Know that maintaining a healthy relationship is critical for long term success in keeping stress to a minimum and keeping peace in the pack. The rules you establish today must be reinforced tomorrow.

Before you begin to work on resolving the issues between your dogs, fix the relationship between you and your dogs.

2. Strengthen your dog’s obedience commands. Receiving a fast response to obedience commands from your dogs – especially in the presence of each other is critical to the success of your program. Responding to your commands gives your dogs a sense of working for you rather than you following their lead.

Do you know how to be successful here? Clear expectations by your dogs, of what to do and when to do it (obedience training) will begin to foster more pleasant experiences in each other’s company. It relieves stress. And less stress equals less fighting — eventually. The more stress you can eliminate, the easier this will be to accomplish. In the meantime, keep fighting from recurring while you are in the process of fixing issues between your dogs. Keeping dogs and people safe should be your #1 priority. You can do this by using crates, gates or keep them separated with leashes if in the same room together.

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