There are different forms of dog-on-dog aggression. The type we’re discussing this month is aggression between dogs living within the same household. Anyone who has witnessed a fight between his or her dogs knows how disturbing the situation can be. Not only do dog fights upset the happy balance in the home, it can lead to injury to your dogs and any family member trying to break up the fight.
A study performed by the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine determined the following:
• Female dogs are more often involved in fights;
• Instigators are often the newest dog to the household;
• Younger dogs start fights with older dogs; and
• Thirty-nine percent of the dogs they studied get along most of the time.
The above statistics are not only interesting, it confirms how important it is for owners to obtain obedience training for new dogs joining the family.
For families experiencing dogfights within the home, the first step in managing the problem is to recognize the triggers. Triggers can range from illness, stress, fearfulness and separation anxiety to excitement, food aggression and outside influences.
Let’s begin with outside influences. If the mail carrier coming up to the house irritates one dog, causing her to redirect stress onto the second dog, then owners may decide to relocate the mailbox away from the front door. They could also close the shades during the day to block the dog’s view. Separating the dogs will also prevent a fight. The most effective way to solve this problem is to counter-condition the dog’s behavior.
Within the last few months, my dogs have had several fights. Just like most dog owners in this position, we were shocked the first time a fight took place. The dogs sleep together, they eat together and my female dog spends most of the day grooming my male dog. We pushed shock aside and worked on determining the trigger through the process of elimination. We determined that illness was the cause of the fights. My female has IBD (irritable bowel disease) and stomach ulcers. Just before a full-blown flare up, she experiences stomach discomfort. She never verbally expresses signs of discomfort, however, I noticed that she does the downward dog pose (that is when the dog lowers the front half of her body toward the floor) several times a day leading up to the dog attack. The moment we notice her stretching in the downward dog pose, we separate the dogs anytime I cannot closely monitor them. The moment I notice agitation on her part, I “place” her until she relaxes.
Regular exercise is important to reduce fights within the home. Walking your dog releases endorphins and nor-epinephrine, leaving your dog relaxed and a bit tired. A few drops of lavender oil on a cloth tied around your dog’s collar can help relax your fearful dog. So will defusing the lavender oil while gently massaging your dog.
Regardless of the methods you choose, obedience training is key to break naughty or aggressive behavior. Obedience training teaches your dog that you are the pack leader. While your dog already loves you, he needs to respect you.
If you are dealing with dog-on-dog aggression within your household, call Sublime K-9 Dog Trainers to help solve this issue. You can reach us at (631) 241-6482.