Features April 2010 Issue

Multi-Dog Household Aggression

The challenges of defusing intra-pack aggression.

[Story updated February 3, 2016]

Knowledgeable dog people are quite aware that not all dogs get along with each other, despite the fact that canis lupus familiaris (domestic dog) is a social species. Hey, we humans are a social species, and we certainly don’t all get along! Dog-dog aggression is unhappily common in our world. As a professional behavior consultant who works with aggression cases, I probably see more than my fair share of it. By far the most difficult and most distressing presentations of dog-dog aggression are intra-pack aggression cases: dogs in the same family who aren’t getting along with each other.

Multi-Dog Household Aggression

Sarah Richardson, the Canine Connection

This is the picture that most of us have in our heads when we choose to adopt multiple dogs: a big, happy pack of dogs who get along. When, instead, we get one who doesn't like another, it can disrupt the entire family and cause heartbreak.

I’ve had a spate of these clients in recent weeks. Even our own Lucy and Missy, a Cardigan Corgi and Australian Shepherd who don’t always get along seamlessly, seem to have experienced an increase in relationship tensions this winter. I can’t give you a tidy explanation as to why, but I’m beginning to put more stock in the explanation jokingly offered by my colleague, Jennifer Swiggart, CPDT-KA, PMCT, at Loudon County Animal Care and Control, when she called it “snow aggression.”

Stress Happens

We do know that aggression is caused by stress. With the very rare exception of idiopathic aggression – at one time called “rage syndrome,” “Cocker rage,” or “Springer rage” and grossly overdiagnosed in the 1960s and ’70s – aggression is the result of a stress load that pushes a dog over his bite threshold.

You can compare it to incidents of “road rage” in humans. When you read about the man who pulls out his .38 revolver because someone cut him off on the freeway and blows away the unfortunate offending driver, you can bet there was more going on for him than just a simple traffic violation. This is the guy who was likely laid off his job, lost his retirement investments to Bernie Madoff, had his wife tell him this morning that she was leaving him, and just got notice in the mail that the bank is foreclosing on his home. Getting cut off on the freeway is simply the last straw – the final stressor that pushes him over his “bite threshold.”

So it is for dogs. When tensions increase between Missy and Lucy, I need to look for possible added stressors in their environment that are pushing them closer to, and yes, sometimes over, their bite threshold. From that perspective, “snow aggression” is a real possibility: with recent record snowfalls reaching a total of 50 inches here, the resulting decrease in exercise opportunities as well as higher stress levels of human family members who aren’t fond of snow (guilty!) can be stressors for the canine family members.

To resolve aggression issues between your own dogs, you’ll want to identify not only the immediate trigger for the aggression – fighting over a meaty bone, for example – but also everything in your dog’s life that may be stressful to him. The more stressors you can remove from his world, the less likely it is that he will use his teeth – the canine equivalent of pulling out a .38 revolver.

Triggers

It’s often relatively easy to identify the immediate trigger for your dogs’ mutual aggression. It’s usually whatever happened just before the appearance of the hard stare, posturing, growls, and sometimes the actual fight.

Tension over resources is a common trigger. Dog #1 is lying on his bed, happily chewing his deer antler, when Dog #2 approaches. Dog #1 tenses, signaling to #2 Dog, “This is mine and I’m not sharing.”

In the best of worlds, #2 defers by looking away, saying in canine speak, “Oh, no worries, I was just passing through.” When things go wrong, however, a fight breaks out. Dog #2’s approach was the trigger for #1, even if #2 had no interest in the chew item. Perhaps Dog #2 failed to notice or failed to heed #1’s warning. Remember that resources include more than just food; a guardable resource can also be a high-value human, a coveted spot on the sofa, or access to a doorway. The stressor in these cases is obvious: the dog is anxious over the possibility of losing or having to share his treasured possession.

Other triggers may be less obvious. If a dog is in pain, but not showing it, the mere proximity of a packmate who has inadvertently bumped her in the past could be a trigger. Dogs can be notoriously stoic about pain, especially slowly developing arthritis, or unilateral pain (where you may not see a limp). The undiagnosed arthritic dog may become defensively aggressive in anticipation of being hurt by a livelier canine pal, trying to forestall painful contact in what looks to the owner like “unprovoked” aggression.

“Status-related aggression” can result when neither of two dogs in the same family is willing to defer to the other. Note that this type of aggression is more about deference (or lack thereof) than it is about dominance. A truly high-ranking member of the social group, like our Scottish Terrier, Dubhy, doesn’t engage in scuffles – he doesn’t have to!

When you have identified your dogs’ triggers, you can manage their environment to reduce trigger incidents and minimize outright conflict. This is critically important to a successful modification program. The more often the dogs fight, the more tension there is between them; the more practiced they become at the undesirable behaviors, the better they get at fighting and the harder it will be to make it go away. And this is to say nothing of the increased likelihood that sooner or later someone – dog or human – will be badly injured.

Stressors

Stressors, in contrast, can happen anytime and be anywhere. Remember that it’s the sum total of a dog’s stressors that push him over his bite threshold, so the more of these you can identify and get rid of, the more you’ll ease tensions between your canine family members.

When I sit down with a client for an aggression consult we create a list of all the stressors we can think of for the dog or dogs in question.

After identifying stressors, we discuss possible strategies, assigning one or more strategies to each of the listed stressors. These strategies are:

- Change the dog’s opinion of the stressor through the use of counter-conditioning and desensitization.
- Teach the dog a new behavioral response using operant conditioning.
- Manage the dog’s environment to minimize exposure to the stressor.
- Get rid of the stressor.
- Live with it (most appropriate for low-level stressors). Next, I help the client make a management plan that will go into place immediately, to help defuse the tension until she is able to start work on behavior modification. Then we create action plans for two or three of the stressors on the list, starting with the one the client is most concerned about – in this case, the dog-dog aggression.

 

Here is a sample list of stressors we've put together:

STRESSOR STRATEGY
The other dog Change the aggressive dog's opinion of the stressor through the use of counter-conditioning and desensitization (CC&D).
Passers-by outside the living room window Change dog's opinion of the stressor through CC&D; manage dog's environment to minimize exposure to the stressor (i.e. close blinds, close off dog's access to that window)
Threats to resources (food/toys) Change dog's opinion of the stressor through CC&D; use operant conditioning to teach dog a new behavioral response
Doorbell ringing Change dog's opinion of the stressor through CC&D; use operant conditioning to teach dog a new behavioral response
Car rides Change dog's opinion of the stressor through CC&D; live with it (most appropriate for low-level stressors)
Trips to the vet Change dog's opinion of the stressor through CC&D; live with it (most appropriate for low-level stressors)
Nail trimming Change dog's opinion of the stressor through CC&D; use operant conditioning to teach dog a new behavioral response; teach dog to scrape his nails on an abrasive surface
Thunder Change dog's opinion of the stressor through CC&D; manage dog's environment to minimize exposure to the stressor; live with it (most appropriate for low-level stressors); possible use of an appropriate anti-anxiety medication
Fireworks Change dog's opinion of the stressor through CC&D; manage dog's environment to minimize exposure to the stressor; live with it (most appropriate for low-level stressors); possible use of an appropriate anti-anxiety medication
Arthritis  Manage dog's environment to minimize exposure to the stressor; ask your vet whether pain-reducing medication is appropriate
Recurring ear infections  Get rid of the stressor: explore medical treatment and your dog's diet (ear infections can result from dietary allergies)
Underground shock fence  Get rid of the stressor
Prong collar Get rid of the stressor 
Use of physical and harsh verbal punishments Get rid of the stressor 
Owner's stress Manage dog's environment to minimize exposure to the stressor; get rid of the stressor

There are many other possibilities. My clients usually list 10 and 20 identified stressors. Be sure to include things that may cause even mild stress. The more stressors you can eliminate, the better. 

First Option: Aggression Modification

My first choice with most clients is the first strategy listed above: changing the dogs’ opinion of each other through counter-conditioning and desensitization (CC&D).

CC&D for intra-pack aggression involves changing your dogs’ association with each other from negative to positive. The easiest way to give most dogs a positive association is with very high-value, really yummy treats. I like to use chicken – canned, baked, or boiled, since most dogs love chicken and it’s a low-fat, low-calorie food.

Here’s how the CC&D process works:

1. Determine the distance at which your dogs can be in each other’s presence and be alert or wary but not extremely fearful or aroused. This is called the threshold distance. If one dog has a greater threshold hold distance than the other (often the case), work at the greater distance.

2. With you holding Dog A on leash, have your helper appear with Dog B at threshold distance “X.” The instant your dog sees the other, start feeding bits of chicken, non-stop. Your helper will feed chicken to her dog, too, the instant he notices your dog.

3. After several seconds, have the helper step out of sight with Dog B, and you both stop feeding chicken.

4. Keep repeating steps 1-3 until the sight of the other dog at distance “X” consistently causes both dogs to look at their handlers with a happy smile and a “Yay! Where’s my chicken?” expression. This is the physical presentation of the dogs’ conditioned emotional response (CER); each dog’s association with the other at threshold distance “X” is now positive, so they can deliberately look at you to get their chicken, rather than staying intensely focused on each other.

5. Now you need to increase the intensity of the stimulus by increasing the length of time Dog B stays in sight. Continue to feed chicken when they are in view of each, occasionally pausing to let them look at each other again, and immediately feeding chicken when they do.

6. When length of time seems to make no difference to either dog – you’re getting a consistent “Yay, where’s my chicken?” response regardless of how long Dog B stays in view, increase the intensity again, this time by increasing Dog B’s movement. Have the handler walk back and forth with her dog, still at distance “X,” slowly at first, then with more energy, even adding in some other behaviors such as sit, down, and roll over.

7. Now you’re ready to starting decreasing distance by moving Dog A a little closer to the location where the Dog B will appear. When you obtain consistent CERs from both dogs at each new distance you can decrease the distance a little more, until both dogs are happy to be very near each other.

8. Then return to your original threshold distance and increase intensity stimulus by having Dog B move around more and more, as you gradually decrease distance and obtain CERs from both dogs along the way, until they are delighted to be near each other.

9. Now go back to your starting distance and increase intensity again, by having both dogs move more naturally as the distance decreases, offering CERs at each new distance before you come any closer, until they can be within six feet of each other, moving around, still relaxed and happy about chicken.

10. Finally, find ways for your dogs to engage separately in mutually enjoyable activities together. If they both enjoy car rides, take them for a drive, but be sure they are seat-belted or crated far enough apart to avoid any tension. If they love hiking, take them on “parallel” walks, one with you, one with your training partner, with humans between them at first, and eventually with dogs between humans when you’re sure their emotions are appropriate. Parallel swims, for dogs who love the water, can work well too.

When you feel the dogs are ready to finally interact with each other again, be careful not to undo all your hard work. You might first let them greet through a barrier, such as a baby gate or exercise pen.

Multi-Dog Household Aggression

Chronic stress and unrelenting tension reduce the quality of life for your whole family; sometimes rehoming is kinder.

It’s useful to desensitize both dogs to a muzzle over the period you’re desensitizing them to each other (in separate sessions), so the first time you’re ready for them to actually interact together you can muzzle them and be confident they can’t hurt each other.

The more intense the relationship between the two dogs, the more challenging it is to modify their behavior. The more negative interactions they’ve had, the more injuries, the longer the tension has been going on, and the stronger their emotions, the longer it will take to reprogram their responses to each other. If they were good friends at one time, it’s likely to be easier than if they’ve always been aggressive with each other.

Remember to seek the help of a qualified positive behavior professional if you don’t feel competent and confident about working with your dogs on your own.

Second Option: Operant Strategies

The second option is to teach your dogs a new operant behavior in response to each other, using the “Constructional Aggression Treatment” (CAT) procedure developed by Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz and Kellie Snider at the University of North Texas. (See “Modifying Aggressive Behavior,” May 2008, and “Constructional Aggression Treatment,” December 2009.)

In daily life, dogs learn to offer aggressive “distance increasing” signals in order to make other dogs go away. Every time this works, the “go away” behavior is reinforced. The CAT procedure teaches the dog that calm behavior can make the other dog go away, and as a result, the aggressive dog can ultimately become friendly and happy about the other dog’s presence.

A variation on the operant approach is the “Behavioral Adjustment Training” procedure (BAT) created by trainer Grisha Stewart, MA, CPDT-KA, CPT, at Ahimsa Dog Training in Seattle, Washington. BAT is similar to CAT, but uses a variety of environmental reinforcers rather than the location and movement of the other dog exclusively.

As in CAT, the BAT procedure reinforces behaviors other than aggression in the presence of the other dog. In this case, however, your repertoire of reinforcers is larger, including the use of food reinforcers and having the “subject” dog (the aggressive one) move away instead of the other dog.

If one or both of the dogs are ready to do battle on sight, they must be strictly managed and kept separate from each other except when you’re doing your controlled modification procedure with them. If the aggression is more predictable and situational, the dogs can be together as long as you can manage and prevent the trigger(s) from causing conflict.

Third Option: Management

What does it mean to “manage your dogs’ environment to minimize exposure to his stressors”? Simply put, it means making changes to your dog’s environment in order to keep your dogs away from the stimuli that stress them.

If the dogs are stressed by each other, of course, the first task is to keep them separated, through the assiduous use of doors, fences, baby gates, crates, and tethers. Smart positioning can help; locate the dogs’ crates or tethering area out of the other dogs’ sightline. Take them outdoors to potty separately, and separate them well before feeding time, to reduce tensions that arise when everyone is jostling to be fed first.

Next, try to minimize your dogs’ exposure to other stressful stimuli. For example: Say one of your dogs goes over threshold when she sees the mailman approaching your house through the living room window, and her barking display of aggression seems to agitate your other dog. Installing shutters on the window might work (to block your dogs’ view), but closing the door to the front room (to keep the dogs as far away from the sight and sound of the mailman) would be even better. Or you could move your mailbox to toward the sidewalk, instead of next to the front door – the farther from the house, the better. Be creative!

More Management Tools: Stress-Reducing Strategies

There are a host of other things you can do to lower general stress in your dogs’ environment.

Exercise can be immensely helpful in minimizing overall tension. Physical activity uses up excess energy that might otherwise feed your dogs’ aggressive behaviors, (a tired dog is a well-behaved dog). Exercise also causes your dog’s body to release various chemicals, including endorphins and norepinephrine, helping to generate a feeling of well-being; an exercised dog is a happy dog! Happy dogs are simply less likely to fight.

Even the food you feed your dog can have an impact on his behavior. Poor quality protein can interfere with a dog’s ability to make use of the serotonin that occurs naturally in his system. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and sleep, and also affects memory and learning. Foods containing high-quality protein can contribute to your dogs’ behavioral health and physical health.

Basic training enables you and your dog to communicate more easily with each other (which is less stressful for both of you), and helps your dog understand how his world works, which reduces his stress. A good training program emphasizes structure and consistency, both of which make a dog’s world more predictable. Predictability equals less stress; unpredictably is stressful.

If you’ve ever had a massage, you know how calming touch can be. Dogs aren’t that different from us; you can calm and soothe your dog with physical touch, both through canine massage and TTouch. Combine your calming touch sessions with aromatherapy, by using a therapeutic-quality lavender essential oil in an electric nebulizing diffuser in the room while you massage your dog. Then you can build your dog’s “ahhh” association with the lavender scent to help him be calm in more stressful environments, by putting a few drops of essential oil on a bandana that you tie around his neck or on the bedding in his crate.

Other environmental stress reducers include: Comfort Zone (also known as Dog Appeasing Pheromone, or DAP). This is a synthetic substance that is supposed to mimic the pheromones emitted by a mother dog when she’s nursing puppies. Available through pet supply stores and catalogs.

- Through a Dog’s Ear. This set of audio CDs consists of bio-acoustically engineered soothing classical piano music, which has been shown to reduce dogs’ heart rates. 

- Anxiety Wrap. This product helps dogs (and cats) overcome their fears and anxieties using the gentle technique of “maintained pressure” – similar to the effect of swaddling for a human infant. 

Options Four and Five

Sometimes you’re lucky: it’s easy to either get rid of your dogs’ stressors or just live with them. Stressors you could get rid of easily include choke, prong, or shock collars (even those used for electronic containment systems); physical or harsh verbal corrections (punishment), and treatable medical conditions. Without these present in their environment, the dogs’ stress level will decrease.

We all have some stress in our lives, and it’s pretty near impossible to get rid of all of it. Just because you’ve identified a stressor for your dog doesn’t mean you have to make it go away. You probably don’t have enough time in your schedule to address every single thing on your list. As you look at your dogs’ list of stressors, the ones they can probably live with are those that don’t happen frequently, that cause only a mild stress response, and don’t appear to escalate over time. You can also refrain from eliminating your dog’s “fun” stressors, such as squirrel-chasing sessions. If you make your way through the rest of your list and still have time on your hands, you can always address the “live with it” items later.

If All Else Fails

Intra-pack aggression can feel overwhelming. In fact, it can be dangerous, if fights erupt regularly and you try to intervene. Many an owner has been bitten trying to break up fights between her own dogs. The stress that the constant tension generates can damage the quality of your own life, as well as your dogs’ lives.

When a situation feels beyond your ability to cope, your first best option is to find a qualified positive behavior consultant in your area who can help you implement appropriate management and modification procedures, to keep everyone safe and to start making change happen in your dogs’ mutual relationships.

A consultation with a veterinarian who is well-educated in behavior, or even a veterinary behaviorist, should also be on your list, not only for that all-important medical workup, but also for the consideration of psychotropic behavior modification drugs, if and when appropriate, to help your dog’s brain be more receptive to your modification efforts.

If you feel you’re done your best and peace isn’t in the cards for your pack, it’s okay to admit that some dogs will never get along, and you have had the misfortune to adopt two who don’t. If that’s the case, your options are:

- A lifetime (not just a temporary measure) of scrupulous management
- Rehoming one of the dogs
- Euthanasia

Some trainers say, “Management always fails.” In truth, management does have a high risk of failure, perhaps with potentially dire consequences. The risk is even higher if there are children in the home – not only because they’re more likely to forget to close doors and latch gates, but also because they are at greater risk of injury themselves if they are in the vicinity when a fight happens. Still, I know of several dog owners who have successfully implemented lifetime management protocols for dogs who didn’t get along, and felt that their own quality of life, as well as that of their dogs, was above reproach.

Rehoming can be a reasonable option, especially if the dog being considered for placement has no other significant inappropriate behaviors, and if he can be rehomed to an “only dog” home, or one with dogs he’s known to get along well with. Of course, it can be challenging to find an experienced, appropriate home for a dog with a known aggression behavior problem, but it may be possible, particularly if he’s otherwise wonderful.

No one wants to think of euthanizing an otherwise healthy member of their canine family. Still, if you’ve done all you can reasonably do given the limits of your abilities and resources, and you’ve not been able to create a safe environment for your family and one of the dogs can’t be rehomed, then euthanasia is not an inappropriate decision. It will be terribly painful for you, and you may always feel guilt and regret about not finding the solution to the problem, although perhaps not as much guilt and regret as you would if one of your dogs badly injured or killed the other, or worse, a person.

It’s now 43 degrees outside, and for the first time in many weeks the snow has melted enough I can actually take my dogs for a long hike around the farm. I’d best finish this sentence, turn off my computer, and take our dogs out to stretch their legs so we can all enjoy a very peaceful, aggression-free evening.

Pat Miller, CPDT, is WDJ’s Training Editor. Miller lives in Fairplay, Maryland, site of her Peaceable Paws training center. Pat is also author of The Power of Positive Dog Training; Positive Perspectives: Love Your Dog, Train Your Dog; Positive Perspectives II: Know Your Dog, Train Your Dog; and Play with Your Dog.

Comments (21)

I enjoyed the article. May need to read it a few times. My 2 female poodles are now 1 and 11.6. We lost the older poodle before Ella came. I have never experienced sibling rilvary before.
They were very cuddly to each other initially. They play happily - rough - in the morning.
The older dog is anxious, arthritic, has gaba pentin. Is better when i add prednisone.
It started when my sister in law and bil came over from uk last Christmas.
In reading your article. - the pain factor stood out. The stare thing. I know when its going to happen. Ella puppy is energetic.and Needs walking. Its wet in melbourne.
I play fetch with them. Up and down the hall. I would think the reasons may be - me -
Ella gets hyper - she attacks. Its really nasty. Jazz rolls over (submissive) but this black toy poodle keeps going at her. Really nasty. Its not like her. Both have been trained.
I mind my sons Griffins. She loves the one closer to her age. They play the same. She is affectuonate with him. But not the other male dog. Who is well behaved. She is happy with them.
My question is. If Ella had a play mate closer to her age - would that help?
I have had 3 dogs before. Should i get another poodle or different dog. We have a cat.
Ella may also be reacting to other people taking my attention.

Posted by: Rhonda b | September 24, 2016 9:14 AM    Report this comment

Ms Miller, I have an aggression issue that you didn't cover in this particular article, one that I cannot find discussed very much on the web, and that is "sleep aggression." I'm not certain if it is limited to greyhounds or not, but mine is pertaining to a 5 year old male, recently retired racing grey, November of 2015 in fact. It wasn't an issue until we adopted another mix from our local Humane Society, approximately 5-6 months after we adopted him. Grey's often sleep with their eyes open so it is somewhat difficult to tell if he is sleeping or awake. At first, he would only react aggressively towards the other dog, but it has progressed to where he growls and snarls at humans as well. So far he has only lunged out the other dog and never at anyone or thing else, but never connected. The other dog is half his size at 40ish pounds and you can tell he is fearful of him. Any help or references would be appreciated.

Posted by: BiteMaster | September 12, 2016 5:39 PM    Report this comment

Hello, I want to thank you for writing this article. My husband and I are going to attempt reintroducing our aggressive dogs to one another through the CC&D method because the "management" is just not working. We have five dogs. Labradoodle, shizpoodle,husky/german mix, yorkie mix and another large dog that is a mix of everything. The labradoodle and other big mix dog does not get along with the husky mix. They all use to be friends. We have no idea what went wrong. But now when they see our Obi (husky) they instantly want to get him. We are hoping this will fix the problem. Currently we kennel everyone and have a rotation schedule for exercise and play time. It worked for a period of time, but now it is not working. The dogs are stressed from the tension and just last night our labradoodle Vader urinated all over myself and husband while we slept. If you have any other suggestions it would be most appreciated. This has been going on for a year now. Again tho, they were once friends.

Posted by: bbqmonster | September 6, 2016 1:33 PM    Report this comment

I have 3 chihuahuas, a korgi chihuahua mix and a 3 year old pit bull. My pit bull has jealousy problems (even though he gets more attention) even though he gets more attention than the others just cause of how he is. We did do a muzzle and a lot of separation. I would love to have all my dogs back together again and I just don't know how to make that happen. Any suggestions? The last fight left one of my chihuahuas in terrible shape but after spending a 1000.00 dollars he's good now. I am definitely going to do more treats but I just don't know what else to I won't get rid of my dogs!!!

Posted by: Mesterfamily2003@yahoo.com | August 5, 2016 7:53 PM    Report this comment

I had an older female giant breed dog who was jealous of my daughter's mini Aussie who we inherited due to allergy. They got along most of the time but I realized that every time I took the Aussie for a ride(my big girl didn't generally want to) that soon she would find a reason to go after the Aussie and try to bite her. Luckily it was easily managed; I stopped taking the Aussie for rides. Dogs can hold grudges!

Posted by: ccrow | July 19, 2016 1:34 PM    Report this comment

Hello. We have 2 male dogs, brothers, and raised together since puppies. They are lab-pit mix. Today, Bruno, was just laying down sleeping by my feet and Samson started attacking him to the point where he would not let go and we had to pry his mouth open to release him. We went out and got muzzles for them today, but I don't believe that is the way to keep our dogs. 90% of the time, they are fine, and there are no issues. There have been 2 other incidents when this has happened, and my husband wants to get rid of Samson. I've raised these guys since they were about 6 or 7 weeks old. This last incident drew blood on both sides, and I am afraid that Samson may end up killing Bruno. We also have an older pomeranian, she is about 11 or 12 years old, blind, and is never in these incidents (thank heavens). My boys are about 2 years old now, and I am looking to see if there is any way that we can curb this without having to remove one from the household. Thank you. ~Lisa

Posted by: naturalstyles | July 9, 2016 9:18 PM    Report this comment

Help!! I have 2 resident lhasa apso's d.o.g (male 5) Jerzy (female 4)we recently (about 2 weeks)rescued Harley( intact male 2 y/o) shih-chon from a breeder with health issues who could no longer care for her animals .we intoduced all the dogs properly on neutral ground everyone greeted with butt sniffs and such and we were able to walk all together peaceably.we then came home and everyone seemed fine. I kept the new guy separated in another room with a gate so they could interact safely.he is crate trained and his crate was his safe haven however he was being protective of it with my resident male barking at him if went near it which then increased to my resident male not being able to enter the room the crate is in but my resident female was fine..i started to close and cover the crate during the day to try to eliminate some tension.he also showed some possessive behaviors with me toward my hubby..he would let hubby pet him and he would lay on him but if i was near and hubby tried to touch me harley would quickly jump up and bark.so i stopped him from being on the furniture and my bed so he had to earn the privilege by behaving..we have also had him neutered to eliminate any issues associated with that..he is a good little dog and is smart and very trainable all 3 dogs are able to eat together and can coexist in the same room without issue but seemingly with no warning harley will "attack" d.o.g and last night he drew blood from his ear..he seems to play and get along with jerzy female could this be male dominance/agression?? I love the little guy but i also love d.o.g and i dont want him to be uncomfortable in his home.i dont know what to do...please help

Posted by: ppntaz | August 4, 2015 12:16 PM    Report this comment

We have five dogs, 2 male, 3 female. Two of the females just do not get along. Initially there were lots of fights so we separated them and worked on the CC/DS with them. It went okay but we couldn't reach a point where they wouldn't initially react when they saw each other. Plus, I'll admit, we weren't diligent enough with the training. Plus, the dogs would go along with it but did not seem to enjoy it. So instead we opted for management which has worked really really well. It becomes a habit after a while but you do have to be VERY committed. We make sure they have plenty of exercise and highlights in their day. We block windows where we have to. The house is pretty stress-free for all of is as a result. Management is most definitely possible. Great article, thank you.

Posted by: susanjn | October 24, 2014 7:31 PM    Report this comment

I have a 4 year old French bulldog\Boston terrier mix named Roxie who is by far one of the best dogs I ever had, but recently I moved back with my parents who adopted a 5 year old Chiguagua named Nana who is extremely affectionate and very well trained too. Anyway all was peaches and cream when we first got there and now not even 2 months later I am writing with bruises on my legs and bum, and a bleeding scraped elbow from stopping fight # 12. Roxie was a very good dog, my kids, husband and I show her lots of love, but most recently I have been so tired of her aggression towards Nana. she cant be in the same room with her without wanting to bite and squeeze her until Nana screams so loud. its very scary to witness she has gone as far as biting when I try to stop it. And always makes my mom cry (how horrible, my mom had a puppy that was attacked and killed in front of her by a stray dog less then 3 years ago). Roxie can't even be in the same room as her without going nuts trying to attack Nana and Nana either shivers and cowards away or barks and snarls either way if Roxie gets away Nana will be attacked no question and it is always stopped I believe Roxy will finish her if she had the chance. I won't put Roxie down that's cruel to me, I have her isolated upstairs where she is fine, but I have to place Nana in a room in order to let Roxie outside or someone must carry Nana. I do believe Roxie might be bitter about the kids welcoming Nana's affection and because Roxie has seen the kids carrying around Nana because she is tiny, I admit I too show affection to Nana as well but I do to all dogs I love them. I just need help on what i can do to make these 2 years easier for them both.

Posted by: almost helpless | August 12, 2014 10:40 AM    Report this comment

Hi, I have a 2 year old maltese x silky female. She's not desexed as I have a breeder with a male interested in breeding her. (this breeder is also a friend). However, I have noticed that since the addition of two larger puppies (which are now 10 months old and 8 months old - one female maremma and one male labrador) she has become increasingly aggressive toward those two dogs. She frequently interrupts their playing by biting the maremma until she lies down and then my dog stands over her growling. My dog also tends to have no tolerance toward the labrador and snaps and growls at him 90% of the time, however she defers to the eldest dog which is maremma. She doesn't get a lot of socialising as I live on acerage. But she frequently visits family with me and goes to a local groomer where she socialises with other small dogs. (the groomer has informed me that once I leave she is fine, almost instantaneously she stops being anxious and starts playing). I'm worried I am the problem with my dog. I have taken her to puppy school and was told I have trained her to be an aggressive and anxious dog. But my vet severely disagreed and told me the trainer (which was another vet) has not known my dog long enough to make those comments. I would love to breed her but I am afraid she will be far too aggressive with the other dog and could cause problems. I also want to know if I am the problem, what can I do to fix this? Also I should note that when i got her at 10 weeks of age she slept with me in my bed up until one year old, then she was placed in an outside kennel which was built for her. This was done because the trainer told me that allowing her to sleep with me was a bad thing to do.

My dog doesn't have any issues with eye contact and has been trained to look at me on command, come when called, to sit on command and to jump on/off my lap on command. She returns to her kennel when told and I always use positive reinforcement - food treats, positive and encouraging talk as well. I never smack her or yell at her nor do I allow anyone else to display violent behaviour toward her.

My dog has never bitten anybody - not even a stranger. Nor has even tried to. She loves kids and is always very gentle with them. She has never shown any type of aggression with any person - except that one time where she put herself between the trainer and myself because he invaded my personal space ranting about my being an irresponsible owner. She has always been more interested in sitting on my lap then playing with other dogs - even as a puppy. she follows me everywhere and even loves going for little drives. I have noticed a difference in her behaviour since the arrival of the other two dogs. She tends to never leave me alone and gets jealous if I pat them. I am worried I am making her stressed and unhappy, is there anything I can do?

I am wondering if you have any advice for me?

Posted by: Heidi M | March 18, 2014 8:46 AM    Report this comment

We have an 8-9 yr old female boxer, Loki (rescue dog), 10-11 yr old male pit bull, Lenox (rescue dog) and a 15 month old female Chesapeake Bay Retreiver, Chelsea that we got as a puppy last year. When we got Chelsea, Loki immediately started mothering her. I was so happy how well all of them got along. They always played, ate and slept together. When Chelsea was about 10-11 months old Loki started attacking her. Chelsea submitted but Loki did not accept her submission and continued to attack like she wanted to kill her. Chelsea is now bigger and stronger than Loki and started fighting back. At this point we have to keep them seperated for fear that she would kill Loki. Had to make a run to the emergency vet with Loki to repair an eye injury. Chelsea has been terribly spoiled by my husband, she is very pushy and disrespectful, but the fighting seems to be over me or anyone new in the home. We have been working with both dogs, especially getting Chelsea more obedient and respectful but they both are ready to fight as soon as they see each other. I am willing to try the chicken method but not sure how well it will work with Loki as she is one of those dogs that has to do some extensive sniffing and examining food before she takes it. Are there any other tips you can give me? Any help would be appreciated.

Posted by: Mary M | August 26, 2013 11:33 AM    Report this comment

I just got a new pup, abused and abandoned. They said 4 but she's teething. she wants to play with KoKo 15 Dauchie. He doesn't want to play. no biting but teeth showing and growls at times. He's a couch potato and she has energy.
I try to play with her as much as possible and for the first week, now she goes for walks-she was deathly afraid of the leash before. He still has a very sore rear and she was in a shelter since Feb so I have no idea how they abused her. She has become the Queen of the house. When she isn't playing; she and KoKo lay on top of each other, next to each other, no problem with food; neither one plays with toys, you can things out of either ones mouth. Age related energy.

Posted by: Daizie59 | July 27, 2013 1:48 PM    Report this comment

I just read the article and all the comments and now I am more hesitant to bring a second dog into our home. We have a wonderful very well socialized Cocker who is 11 and in great health and goes just about everywhere with us. I take him frequently to the Dog Park and a popular beach with both dogs and humans to play water fetch. I have never seen bad behavior from Dexter.
So my worry is if I do get another dog I might want a bit older dog as they have say between 4 to 9 years old. My heart goes out to the older dogs as they don't appeal to the people looking to adopt. I have had multiple dog households before and never any trouble. May have to reconsider or seek more advice.

Posted by: Dexter Puccini | July 27, 2013 10:58 AM    Report this comment

Sadly we left our 2 dogs alone together on Thursday night, and nothing could perpare us for what we saw when we got home. Our one dog Lucy met us at the door head down and covered in blood.we put her in the garage. I imediately start calling for Lady and she had enough strenth left in her to slowly walk to me. She was covered in her own blood ,her front right leg hung, I was horrified, we wrapped her in a soft carpet put her in the car and I knew id have to put let her go. Ladys wounds were extensive. The vet agreed it was the right thing, she was in shock. I have so many regrets and what ifs. Ladybyrd was about 12 or 13 and we had her since 2000, Lucy was 6 or 7 and showing some of the signs you wrote about. They really always got along tho. They played good together and slept next to each other everynight. Lucy was a block head and was aggressive towards men, so we couldn't always bring her places like Ladybyrd. We trusted Ladybyrd entirely. And sometimes couldn't deal with Lucy. We tried several times to trust her in public but unfortunely her bread and her bark was always her downfall. Now I lost both our beloved dogs and we had to clean up the mess. We didn't know how to let Lucy goN we didn't know what the right way was. We were so mad at her because Lady didn't deserve that . Ladybyrd never hurt anyone she didn't deserve to go in such pain. We left Lucy in the garage the whole night and I woke up several times hearing her cry. And I would cry, my husband won't let me see her again he brought her to the vet and they took her away and she was by herself when she left this earth and I'm so sorry for that. They were both being abandoned when We found both our dogs and we feel like we failed both of them

Posted by: Unknown | December 9, 2012 2:15 PM    Report this comment

I have three Boston terriers. One female and two males. ,the female and one male are three and the other male is two. The two males were just fixed two Weeks ago, the female was already fixed. The two boys use to be good together, play sleep together ect but since they got fixed they cant even see each other without fighting and drawing blood. I realized that there are other stressers for them, my husband just passed away and isnt there any more, they were there as I dismantled our house, the only home they've known, I've moved them to a temporary home with a friends family though I am there with them this behavior is only getting worse. This is a very difficult time for me and I realize it is for them as well and if weren't for them I don't think I could have gotten through to this point. I know I can't handle loosing one of them too right now so thank you for this article I'm going to try what you've said and I pray it works if not I don't know what I'm going to do.

Posted by: Unknown | October 9, 2012 11:44 AM    Report this comment

I have subscribed to your magazine for at least 15 years and I have always thought very highly of the articles and information that you publish. I have to say though, that after reading this article I'm not sure I want to continue subscribing any longer. I can't believe that you would tell people that euthanasia is a suitable option! If, after exhausting all other options, people still cannot break their dog of agression towards eachother (and the situation is dangerous) turning one over to a rescue group would be the alternative...not euthanasia! There are enough irresponsiblel pet owners out there as it is without publishing articles telling them it's okay to euthanize their "best friends" for behavioral issues.

Posted by: SUSAN T | August 10, 2012 9:04 AM    Report this comment

Hi, I'm going through dog on dog aggressions with my two females fixed huskies. It started suddenly when our 6 year old Mia started to lunge at our 3 year old Yuki. And fights broke out. Yuki would back off at times but there were times she just fights back and Mia gets injured. We are going to try your training provided. We believe our main problem with these two are the threshold distance. They get rather stiff when they are close to each other. Currently Mia is isolated from the other dogs because she was wounded badly. During this time of isolation, my bf and I will start desensitiving them with the muzzle so we can then start on the chicken method with the threshold distance. Could you guide me a little more on what we need to do if they try to attack each other when we stop for a second of feeding them chicken? Do we correct them with a command like "no" and pull them back and start over? Do we try to distract them with the chicken when we see any signs of aggressions? Even with the muzzles on, I still feel a little worry. The noise they make are startling. And could you give any advice on how to re-introduce them back? I have total of 4 dogs, Mia (6 spayed female husky), kiba (4 neutered male husky) , yuki (3 spayed female husky) and stoney (3 neutered male golden retriever). We are thinking about letting mia see the other three individually starting with the one that's more neutral and submissive and then let yuki see mia again and both with muzzles on. Please let me know. Thank you!

Posted by: kaychui | December 13, 2010 5:27 PM    Report this comment

Thank you for this article. We've lived this everyday for the past 3 years. We have three dogs, one male and two females - all rescue dogs. One female was the original aggressor and the other is now hyper-reactive. We've consulted regularly with an animal behaviorist but have been unsuccessful in getting the two to live peacefully. The fights they've had are ferocious and both of us humans have had to visit the emergency room when we either got caught in between them or stupidly tried to break them up. We've tried rehoming but were unsucessful - each has their own issues and I can't blame anyone for not wanting to take one of them on. So, now they live completely separate lives. It's been very stressful for all of us - but neither of us humans can bear to put either dog down. We're actually remodelling our house to gain more space and are also having an additional door installed in the hallway so that there is always two doors between the two dogs(yes, one dog broke through a door to get to the other). Such is life. Thanks again, Pat.

Posted by: mirlisa | July 17, 2010 4:16 PM    Report this comment

I watch Cesar Millan when possible and I have come to believe that dogs tend to 'follow the leader'. A person who manages the 'pack' by handling each dog separately as the other dog lies quietly in a 'down stay' is teaching both dogs to relax and pay attention to the leader.

Allowing family members to do things that promote unwanted behaviors is a parents' job for kids. And parents have to agree how to lead and follow whichever parent is the better dog handler. This is why a trainer/behaviorist is so valuable: they are neutral and focused on the DOG!

I did dog rescue for years and took 3 of my own dogs through the CGC certification and basic classes. What I learned is that wimpy excuse-making on the part of dog owners is the problem. Most any dog can be trained in a matter of a few weeks to do his basic commands.

"Train, don't complain" is more that the motto of many dog obedience schools.

Posted by: Douglas H | July 1, 2010 9:39 AM    Report this comment

I want to thank you for this article.In my lifetime Ive managed to take in only 2 dogs who were dog to dog agressive.At the time I had 4 other dogs.1,Gidget, I was actually able to place in a 1 dog only home.She took an instance dislike to my 1 beagle,Sharkey.I tried every thing you suggested,including obedience classes for both.1 on 1 they were great,but they even got a glimpse of each other,it was instant fight.The other was even sadder.I took in a 6 year old dog of a freind .I truly checked her out to be sure there wouldn't be any trouble.Within a month she had singled out another of my beagles,my shy one Maggie.There was no event that triggered it.Maggie could be walking,sniffing ,whatever and this dog would hunt her down.When she almost killed Maggie,I put her down.I still feel bad,for the dogs,for my freind.Her dog had no previous history of aggression and she had her since puppyhood.Your article is excellent.But i don't think some people realize the commitment or work that it takes.thanks,Judy H.

Posted by: Judy H | June 28, 2010 3:14 PM    Report this comment

I want to thank you for this article.In my lifetime Ive managed to take in only 2 dogs who were dog to dog agressive.At the time I had 4 other dogs.1,Gidget, I was actually able to place in a 1 dog only home.She took an instance dislike to my 1 beagle,Sharkey.I tried every thing you suggested,including obedience classes for both.1 on 1 they were great,but they even got a glimpse of each other,it was instant fight.The other was even sadder.I took in a 6 year old dog of a freind .I truly checked her out to be sure there wouldn't be any trouble.Within a month she had singled out another of my beagles,my shy one Maggie.There was no event that triggered it.Maggie could be walking,sniffing ,whatever and this dog would hunt her down.When she almost killed Maggie,I put her down.I still feel bad,for the dogs,for my freind.Her dog had no previous history of aggression and she had her since puppyhood.Your article is excellent.But i don't think some people realize the commitment or work that it takes.thanks,Judy H.

Posted by: Judy H | June 28, 2010 3:13 PM    Report this comment

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