Visits to the veterinarian to treat injuries obtained due to a dog fight are one of the most frequent reasons pet owners seek veterinary care. Injuries can range from minor to life-threatening. If pet owners have no prior experience with this sort of behavior and suddenly finds themselves in the midst of a dog fight, it can be a very stressful experience and make the situation worse.
According to the famous dog trainer, Cesar Millan, the “Dog Whisperer” from TV, all you have to do to end dog-to-dog aggression is to establish dominance. The dog will recognize you as a leader and stop being aggressive. Just be calm and assertive, he always says.
That may work for him, but most people aren’t Cesar Millan, therefore this technique does not work for everyone. Don’t feel bad; the average person doesn’t have years of experience dealing with dogs or have production assistants to step in if things go badly. The key to living peacefully in a multi-dog household is to find what works for you. There are just as many techniques for maintaining peace among dogs as there are people looking for ways to do it. The key is finding what works for your situation and to stick with it.
One of the biggest problems affecting owners of multiple dogs, and sadly one of the most difficult to manage, is when two dogs generally getting along well as puppies may suddenly engage in vicious fights as they mature. Why is that? There are many causes for inter-dog aggression in multi-dog households and these are just a few:
If you own two female or two male dogs, fighting is not unusual at all. Some dog breeds are prone to being same-sex aggressive. For instance, Alaskan Malamutes, American Pit Bulls, and Boxers are breeds of dogs known for being same-sex aggressive. However, any breed of dog, given the right circumstances and predisposition, may develop inter-dog aggression. Generally, these dogs got along well when they were puppies, but once they reached social maturity (generally between 12 and 36 months), things dramatically changed and there is an explanation for this.
Pet owners have to keep in mind that it would be quite unnatural for two female dogs or two male dogs close to the same age to live in the same pack. In nature, once the females and males mature, they would leave the pack to form their own pack, or if they would remain in the pack, they would respect the breeding right of the other female or male.
If the dogs are not spayed or neutered, this could make the situation worse. However, once spayed and neutered, dogs prone to inter-dog aggression may no longer fight due to the lack of certain hormones, but they may still viciously fight for other reasons.
Food and toys are common triggers for fights. Many dogs are inherently possessive and aggressive of their possessions, like chew bones, food and squeaky toys. Never feed two dogs next to each other. As one dog finishes his food, he may decide to eat the other’s food or may even protect the bowl of food without eating.
It is much safer to feed multiple dogs on opposite sides of the room or even in different rooms. If your dog is possessive about food, it can be beneficial to not leave food bowls on the ground. When the meal is finished, immediately take up the bowls, wash and store them out of the dog’s reach until the next meal.
If you own a dog that displays possessive behavior, all bones and chew toys should be removed from the home. Some environments are more likely to trigger fights, such as dog parks, family vacations or even boarding in close quarters. Dogs at the dog park do not have a hierarchy established, and if multiple dogs are running for the same Frisbee or ball, the excitement can easily get out of hand.
Additionally, some dogs are protective of their owners, and a dog park can be a threatening place, making one feel that he or she must keep everyone away from “his” or “her” owner. If your dog park tends to be crowded, consider going at off-hours or other non-crowded times.
Just as family vacations can be stressful for people, they can create a stressful environment for dogs, something dog owners should be aware of. When visiting, always remember that your pet may need some downtime in his or her own room or kennel. Be mindful of what your pet considers to be “theirs,” and remove these items before company arrives. Feed unfamiliar dogs separately.
There is nothing wrong with an aggressive dog; some animals are just different. If training does not work, though, be sure to keep your dog away from others so that he does not cause any damage.
If violent behavior persists, see your veterinarian, a professional trainer, or consider re-homing.