Pet Tips

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.

3 Responses to this Article, So Far

  1. Avatar Etta says:

    My dog rocky got nit on his nose by a little dog. what should I put on his nose.

    • Avatar Marko says:

      This dog needs a vet visit not an Internet cure.
      There’s a whole host of questions and answers that need to be asked by a vet and then treated by a vet.

      Wound bites can be serious. Please see a vet.
      Good luck.

  2. Avatar Lynne says:

    We have 2 10 year old Yorkies, and we just adopted a rescue who is about 2 years old (also a Yorkie), the first couple days at our house where fine however I had a medical emergency and had to stop our regular walks for a day. I had left the dogs alone without incident only to come home after a day at work and fight erupted with one of my older dogs and the new dog, I separated the fighters and kept them apart putting the new dog in a kennel over night, the next day we had another fight this time I was unable to stop it right away and our older dog was mildly injured in her front paw, and quickly recovered by the next night. We are back to walking 1 – 2 times a day and they get along fine then, I can even go inside a store for a coffee with out incident. however even after a 4 hour walk today (I was exhausted and they showed signs of fatigue on our return walk) I have had the new dog, start fights (small) with the older dog a couple times today, I always pick out the new dog from the mix and scold her verbally laying her onto her back holding her neck scruff firmly but not in a hurtful manner. The new dog does follow the other older dog some times and she quickly turns and nips and snarls at the new one and it over. We no longer let the new dog roam the house when we are away she is locked into the laundry room with kennel, food, water, pee pad and chew toys. The older dog that the new dog continues to have conflict with is very confident, loves to play, and is just the right balance of affectionate. Since the fights have started she is scared to play on her own like B4 and always looks where the new dog is. I am concerned for the older dog, I want her to be happy and free to play and walk around the house, but am very concerned when the new dog is around her. I know they have to establish their place in the pack but I will not allow anyone of these dogs to fight and injure each other. I am on top of the new dog when she looks at the other dogs and attempts to go over to them but this can’t go on like this forever. HELP!

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