Having many dogs is a dream, but what happens when your dogs don’t get along with each other? If your dogs are fighting with each other for no reason and being consistently aggressive, then here are some tips for how you can help the situation and make them buddies. Today’s article is all about how to Stop Dogs from Fighting in the Same Household.
Getting Two Dogs
Getting two dogs is often a difficult decision. It can either be highly rewarding or highly stressful! Many people say that having two dogs is not much more difficult than having one – the walking and feeding routine is the same. But, if they don’t get along it can create a highly stressful environment for both dogs and owners. Never bring a second dog into the home without allowing it to meet your dog first on neutral territory. Even then, dogs may still fight on home ground.
It may be easier to get two dogs that are already living together or pups from the same litter. Remember that getting two dogs that are related such as getting two sisters or brothers as puppies doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to get along in adulthood.
Why do they fight?
The most common reason for aggression in dogs within a household is down to stress. If your dog is stressed then it makes them more likely to act out and become aggressive. A way to combat this stress is to look at what is causing it in the dog’s environment and target that instead. This includes triggers of the aggression, such as fighting over food, but also eradicate other stressors in the dog’s environment such as the hoover for example.
However, some dogs will just not get along and will need to be separated and sometimes if there is no resolution to the fighting it may be kinder to permanently split them into two separate homes.
The more stressors that you address, the less likely your dog/dogs will be aggressive to one another. Ways of combatting your dog’s stressors include:
Change your dog’s perception of the stressor. In terms of this, say your dog is stressed by the hoover. Introduce them to the hoover by sitting it in the middle of the room and not turned on, let your dog investigate it. Then after a while turn the hoover on and leave it sitting still, make sure that you show that you’re not afraid of the hoover. Perhaps encourage your dog to investigate it by placing treats near the hoover for your dog to go to.
Do this frequently until your dog is evidently not scared anymore. Then you can walk around with the hoover without your dog running away in fear. You can even give your dog a treat every time you bring the hoover out. Doing this teaches the dog that the hoover is not something to be afraid of or stressed about and will encourage a neutral or positive response to it.
This is the same for people passing by the window, if your dog gets stressed at this, then maybe think about closing the blinds/curtains. Even doorbells ringing you can help your dog to associate it with something more positive. For example you can give them a treat when the door bell rings.
If this doesn’t work, then limit your dog’s exposure to the stressor. Again, if it is the hoover then you can let your dog go out in the garden while you hoover, or even hoover while they are out their walk. However, if your dog hates car rides, then it is possible to limit their exposure to car rides.
In some cases, you may even be able to get rid of the stressor, such as closing the blinds so that your dog can’t see people walking past outside, or even getting rid of a toy that gives them stress.
Sometimes it isn’t possible to combat the stress from an object or experience and so you just have to live with it in terms of stressors that don’t bother your dog too much, such as going to the vet.
It is common for your dog’s aggression to your other dog to show at meal times. A way to help with this aggression is by noticing the signs that mark the beginning of a fight, this can include growling, snarling, staring, raised hair, and a tense posture, and then defusing the situation before it leads to a fight.
Stressors in your other dog
So, what is it with your other dog that causes your dog to snap? It can be multiple reasons, but with the other stressors in the household it can lead your dog to become on edge. This can lead to your dog associating your other dog’s actions in a negative way. In other words, your other dog can become a stressor to your dog and this is why there is an aggressive reaction.
This sort of event can occur if your dog is lying chewing its chew happily and then your other dog comes along to say hi, or perhaps wanting your dog to play. Through mixed signals and misunderstanding this can lead your dog to become aggravated with your other dog because it thinks that your other dog is wanting to steal the chew, then leading to a possible fight. It doesn’t just have to be food though, this can be over a seat on the sofa or in the dog bed, or even over being in a position that is closer to you.
A less obvious stressor to notice is if your dog is in pain. Having arthritis for example may lead to your dog being protective of themselves. This is common if you have a younger dog and an older dog, where the older dog becomes aggressive if your younger dog gets too close.
How to help your dogs to get along – Positive Reinforcement
In simple terms, you have to make your dogs associate each other with more positive qualities. If they are getting along nicely, reward them with tasty treats. Other ways you can do this is by you holding one of your dogs on a lead and your helper holding the other on a lead at a distance in which normally triggers a response from your dogs. When they notice each other both you and your helper can feed the dogs for a few seconds, and then get the helper to step out of sight with the other dog and make sure that both of you remove the food. Then when they step back in sight, feed them the food again and so on.
Once they do this well, you can keep them in sight longer by feeding them more treats and then taking the food away while they are both still in sight of each other, this encourages them to look at each other and when they do, give them the food again, you can then gradually decrease the distance between the dogs. You can also find activities that both dogs enjoy and can partake in together, for example a car ride, as long as you keep both dogs in seatbelts and at opposite ends of the car seat from each other. You can also walk them together, one at either side of you.
Eventually, when your dogs become more used to each other’s company, you can let them be in contact with each other. On first introducing them to each other, either make sure that they have muzzles on, or that there is a fence or gate between them.
Another way to prevent aggression is by removing the aggressive dog from the situation. So if you notice the signs that your dog is becoming stressed with the other dog, such as growling, then remove the aggressive dog as a sort of punishment. This will encourage them to not react in this way.
Another simple way of minimising aggression is through exercise, make sure that both your dogs are tired at the end of the day and this will mean that they have had plenty of energy burned off and will minimise their chances of being aggressive.
Some Dogs Unfortunately just Cannot Live together
If it is that you have two dogs that simply cannot stop fighting, it will create a seriously stressful environment for them and for you. A friend of mine had two Jack Russells that were brothers. Their fighting was so severe that when she got home she would find them both covered in blood. When separated, they would bit through gates and doors to get to each other to attack. The kindest thing that she did was rehome one of them and although it was a very sad and upsetting decision to have to make, in that situation it was for the best.