Dogs may become aggressive towards each other for many different reasons, unfortunately we may not always understand why. One of the reasons that we may not understand is due to the fact that dogs have a different social system than humans, and can fight for various reasons. Sometimes these dogs fight within a house hold and other times they show aggression towards dogs outside of the home. Learning how to deal with these situations is a very important aspect of learning. But most importantly, early training and management are a must in order to prevent this type of situation from occurring in the first place.
Males living with Females:
Within the house hold, fighting and aggression mainly depends on the sex of the dogs who cohabitate together. Dogs of the opposite sex have the best chances of living comfortably and happily together. They may still have minor fights over food or favorite toys, but this will normally only result in mild injury at the worst. The reason that dogs of the opposite sex may get along better may be due to the fact that they each have their own hierarchies within a pack. When they live together, the female will be the top female dog and the male will be the top male within that household. This is the absolute least stressful situation for a dog to live in with another dog.
When dogs of the opposite sex live together, you may still notice a few behaviours that might appear confusing, such as:
Urine Marking: You may observe the male urine-marking along the periphery or fence line of your yard/territory, or urinating on top of the female’s urine. Why would he do this? To show possible predators, as well as the female, that she is under his protection from harm.
Pushing: You may also notice the male knock into or push the female occasionally near items such as toys for example, as a way of showing that he is protecting the pack. This doesn’t normally result in a quarrel; if you observe the female closely you will see that she isn’t overly bothered by his actions.
Same Sex Cohabitation:
When dogs of the same sex live together, there may be more issues arising which involve aggression towards each other. This even rings true for dogs that have grown up together, such as: litter mates, or offspring and parents living together.
Although, male dogs living together may have an easier time than females. Females may have more severe bouts of fighting resulting in injuries or even death. But, if male dogs do live together, there can still be a negative impact, usually on the dog that is lowest in the pack. This dog may suffer in the self esteem department.
But why, if dogs live together in the wild, is it so difficult for them to live together within a household? The reason it is so hard for dogs to work out pack order in homes is because they are trapped in this situation, whereas in the wild they would leave to form another pack or join another pack. It is up to us as responsible owners to ensure our dogs have a safe and stress free environment to live in.
Other reasons why dogs may fight:
Maternal instinct: The mother dog is programmed to protect her pups, and hormones may trigger a defensive response. Keep the pups nest area calm and quiet, away from other dogs and people.
Resource guarding: Resources are a major reason for aggression towards other dogs. Resources can include: Food, chew toys, breeding rights, and even you as the owner!
Too many dogs: Every extra dog you add into your household increases the risk of serious fighting
Human interference: Human interference can increase tension between dogs and cause a situation to become much worse. Sometimes a dog may just be “fussing” over another dog, but if a human becomes involved, the situation may escalate from bad to worse.
Fearful experiences: If a dog has had past fights or bad experiences with a dog of the same sex for example, they should not be placed within this particular living situation again. He or she will fear it happening once more, and that fear makes it more likely that it will actually occur.
Illness/pain: Pain or illness can be a trigger which can cause fighting between dogs of the same sex within a household. This is due to the fact that the dog experiencing pain/illness will try and self-protect. Self protection comes from the dogs’ natural instinct to hide their weakness; in the wild, weak pack members are killed.
Any changes in the pack-Many aspects within the pack can trigger aggression and fighting behaviour, such as: the death of a dog, a female dog going into heat, a dog becoming ill, a dog returning from a dog show or vet clinic or adding a new dog into the household.
Breed characteristics: It is important to look into all breed characteristics before considering adding a new dog into the home. There are a few breeds that have the problem of same-sex dogs not being able to live together peacefully. Even if your dogs are mixed breeds, issues can still happen as it is a very strong trait.
Aggression towards dogs outside of the home:
Getting along peacefully with dogs outside of the home can be a bit of a different scenario, since it’s only a temporary situation. But, If your dog does happen to have some aggressive tendencies towards dogs when outdoors, on walks, visiting other dogs or at dog parks, then here are some tips for you:
-Always end play dates on a positive note- This needs to be done before the dogs get over tired
-Leashes and tie outs will only make a dog feel trapped, and unable to escape. This tends to cause more fear and therefore an increase in fighting.
-Make sure that other dog owners agree to interactions between their dog and yours before allowing your dog to interact/approach.
-If your dog has an issue with going to dog parks, deal with the issue as soon as possible. This can be done by seeking expert help. The longer you wait, the worse the problem will get and the harder it may be to fix.
-When visiting other people who have dogs, keep both/all dogs under supervision at all times. Another option is to keep all dogs separate if needed.
-If you have a working dog around other dogs, you can take all pressure off of him or her by getting your dog to focus solely on their job.
How to handle a dog fight:
It is most important to work on preventing aggression issues from occurring in the first place rather than breaking up a fight. But, if you do happen to end up in this situation, you will want to take some necessary precautions. Here are some tips:
-Punishing the dogs by yelling or hitting may escalate the fight, sometimes it is best to just stand back
-Make sure you leave your hands off and away from the fighting dogs; this is how people get bit. If someone gets bitten, not only can you become injured, but the dog will also be in more legal trouble.
-Use physical barriers to help separate fighting dogs if needed. Items such as: doors, fences, crates, or even pop open umbrellas are good choices.
-You can try using water from hoses or spray bottles to interrupt a fight.
-If you need to pry clamped jaws open, you can try using 2 wooden stick like objects (such as a broken broom stick) to use as levers, you may need help.
-Loud noises, such as slamming a door, dropping something, or shaking something in a jar may help to distract the fighting dogs.
Training and Management tips
Good management begins when your dog is a puppy. Fearful experiences at a young age can
predispose them to aggression as they get older. The best way to prevent anything from happening
to your puppy is by making sure they are supervised with other dogs on a constant basis. Other tips
about how to manage and prevent bad experiences are as follows:
Over tired dogs:-Remember that dog fights are more likely when dogs are overtired
Spay or neuter your dog:-It is important to know that female dogs are more likely to fight to the death than males. The reason for this is that females have a harder time with working out pack order. Having your dog spayed or neutered may help.
Confinement can create fear-Keeping dogs within close quarters/close confinement/leashes/tie outs makes fighting more likely
To punish or not to punish?-People tend to punish the dog who appears to be the aggressor, but this is a mistake. It is up to the dogs to establish this pack order, and it is usually done fairly quickly.
Structure and equality within the pack-If you have multiple dogs, give each one of them some time alone with you, out of the house and away from the other dogs. As well, make sure to treat all dogs equal, if you give one a treat-give them all a treat!
Be present during training-Make sure you are always present when your dog is being trained. Benefits result when YOU can learn to handle your dog.
Have good recommendations-Make sure trainers and other behaviour specialists are recommended only through reputable sources such as veterinarians.
Responsibility-Make sure everyone within the household can handle the responsibility of keeping two dogs separate if the need be , this may need to be done permanently in situations where dogs have had serious fights in the past.
Re-home if needed-Sometimes it may be in the best interest of everyone involved, to find a new
home for one of the fighting dogs. The dog who is easiest to adopt or least bonded to you may be the
more appropriate choice.
When it comes to the world of dogs, it is important to remember that aggression towards each other can occur for many different reasons. Unfortunately we, as humans, may not always understand why dogs fight! This may be because dogs have a completely different social system than us, which plays a role in the formation of packs. Sometimes these fighting dogs may live within the same house hold and other times aggression can occur with dogs outside of the home. Learning how to deal with these situations when they arise can be very important, but prevention is the best. The best prevention involves early management and training. Please consult your veterinarian or contact the Lansdowne Animal Hospital for recommendations, or on referring you and your dog to a reputable trainer or behavioral specialist today!
Reference: Veterinary Partner