Canine Rivalry – Dogs fights – Pet tip 100
When we have more than one dog in our household we can sometimes see rivalry or fighting between the two dogs which is fairly normal. Dogs are pack animals that live in a social group, each member has its status within the group and dogs will often jockey for position within the group. Fighting occurs when one dog tries to move up to a higher rank held by the other dog.
Dog lovers often tend to think of their dogs as their children and affectionately call them their babies. However dogs are not human babies. We SHOULD treat our human children fairly and equally and we should intervene when they fight amongst themselves especially when they are really young. However when it comes to how we treat our dogs and how our dogs treat each other it should NOT be equally. One dog will always have a higher status than the other dog even if you don’t witness this difference in status. This status is determined through a complex series of behavioural gestures and body postures and you generally don’t want to mess with it. These behaviours can also include growling and snarling. Human households run smoothly when each dog knows its place, when each dog knows who is the higher in rank and who is subordinate. The highest ranking members in the household should ALWAYS be the human members. If there are multiple dogs though, each dog will have its rank below the human members and below each other. Humans should respect the dogs’ rank by petting the highest dog first, for example. Failing to do so might get a lower ranking dog thinking that it is higher in rank than it is, and problems can arise.
Even when we think that everything is under control fighting between dogs can start at anytime. This can happen when one dog that is higher in rank than another dog becomes older and sicker than the other dog. The lower ranking dog might then try to move up the ladder through gestures that we humans see as unfair. Again we should just let it happen, let nature follow its course. Let the dogs work it out for themselves and the household should be running again smoothly in no time. Other situations where this jostling for position can occur include when a new dog enters the household.
Most times the cues of the social hierarchy are subtle and unless we know a bit about dog behaviour, we are likely to miss the signs. These signs can include licking of the lips, one dog leaning over the other dog, one dog rolling on its back etc. Escalation of these signs will include snarling, growling and maybe full on fighting. Unless you are certain that the dogs will injure one another, don’t intervene. If you must intervene only do so indirectly by making a loud noise or squirting water at the dogs. You can easily get bitten if you intervene directly.
Spaying and neutering is a great way to help curb aggression in general so this is an essential thing to do. Same sexed, same breed and same aged dogs also tend to fight more than if the characteristics of the dogs are mixed. If you ever notice the aggression becoming frequent and ESPECIALLY if any dog exhibits threatening gestures toward a human family member, it’s time to immediately call your vet who should refer you to a good trainer or behaviourist. Dogs that know their place are happy dogs and sometimes they need a little help when we don’t understand why they are behaving badly.