- Always neuter and spay your dogs.
- Feed every dog in the house a separate meal.
- When outside, keep dogs on leashes.
- If your dog has a territorial personality, stay away from dog parks. Additionally, keep in mind that not every dog park user will be considerate, and even a friendly dog may get into a fight.
- Keep toys that are most coveted out of reach.
- If at all possible, choose the opposite sex of the current dog when bringing a new dog into the family.
- Be considerate of visiting family members and canines, and give each dog some alone time.
A veterinarian behaviorist may need to be consulted if fights are happening more frequently. Ask your family veterinarian about the possibilities for a specialist referral. In addition, while aggressiveness is building up before a fight, the owner may be able to stop it by delivering different orders, altering the dog’s focus. Keep in mind that dogs learn to listen to owners better with basic obedience training. Behavior modification programs need dedication, patience, and should always be customized for each family and pet.
At the Dallas Hillside Veterinary Clinic, Dr. Christine New treats animals.
Why are my female dogs fighting so much?
Dogs are sociable creatures with the capacity and willingness to live in packs as a result of their evolutionary history. The wolves who were the progenitors of dogs were able to cooperate to hunt, raise their young, and protect their area by living in groups. A dog communicates with other canines of its species mostly through quiet, energy-efficient bodily cues and body language.
“It would be counterproductive for group members to engage in physical conflict with one another and risk harm.”
Members of a group should not engage in physical conflict with one another or risk getting hurt. In general, the majority of well-socialized dogs want to avoid aggressive or physical confrontation. These canines may, however, be residing close to one another with little opportunity to prevent conflicts or being forced into regular competitions over desired supplies, resting areas, or human interactions. Poorly socialized canines or those who struggle to understand or communicate with other dogs are more likely to engage in combative interactions. Not all canines are adept or natural communicators with members of their own species, just like not all people are.
What is a dominance hierarchy, and does this explain why dogs may fight?
In the past, the majority of common dog-dog interactions were explained as a hierarchy of dominance in which one dog was vying for control of resources like food, territory, and prized objects in an effort to seize authority. These fundamental motives are contested by modern theories of canine behavior as an appropriate description of how canines approach these situations. Dogs do, in fact, display a gradient of preferences and a fluctuating demand for particular resources, and it is possible to forecast how well they will be able to hold onto or secure these items based on observation of previous encounters and conflicts. Food, resting spots, mates, territory, and prized possessions are some of these resources. The ability to access these resources is typically expressed through movements, bodily postures, and facial expressions. The more assured, brave, and assertive dog could think he has a good chance against a meeker, less assured, and less successful foe. Fighting is uncommon because the more courageous animal usually gives up the challenge as soon as the other dog concedes or defers. In some homes, these displays may be minimal or nonexistent, while in others, they may be dramatic and appear to indicate a distinct hierarchy. Depending on health, prior experience, and relative drive to get or preserve a resource, the apparent victor of these contests may alter (i.e., who wants it more). While the idea that there is a linear hierarchy and that dogs are bent on successfully taking over the pack are not in question, communication of intention and submission are. Observations of wolf packs in the wild suggest that there is not a struggle for power among the wolves but rather that the wolves interact with their young in a similar way to human parents, providing for them, taking the reins when necessary, and instructing them until they are old enough to start their own packs. But because our family dogs are unrelated, they are unable to leave a group of people with whom they do not get along. This may lead to miscommunications, persistent social stress, and even potentially violent interactions between dogs (see Dominance, Alpha, and Pack LeadershipWhat Does It Really Mean? & Interpreting Dog Language and Canine Communication).
My dogs have lived together for some time and now they are fighting. Why?
Dogs fighting in a home may be caused by a number of factors, including:
1. When a younger, larger, more agile dog challenges an older, self-assured dog in an effort to change the current pattern of resource division, fights may break out. This is more likely to happen as the younger dog ages or gets more frail. It may also happen as the elder dog ages or matures. Fighting can continue if the elder dog does not give up resources; but, if the older dog concedes, everything will be alright. Additionally, owners might not desire the transition and step in, which causes anxiety, could make the fighting worse, and might unintentionally encourage the dog who is better suited for a submissive relationship.
2. Alterations in the family, routine, or home may cause the pets to behave differently. This could be a result of the animals’ incapacity to adjust to the shift or underlying nervousness in one or both of them. In addition, once aggressiveness between dogs occurs, regardless of its origin, the resulting learning may have an impact on subsequent interactions between the dogs.
3. The incapacity of an older dog to react with the proper postures and signaling when engaging with a younger dog may be the cause of fighting between a younger dog and an older or unwell dog. Their expected relationship might change as a result of this. If a pet’s behaviors, such as hostility, are the result of an underlying medical condition, the medical issues must be resolved before attempting to rebuild a peaceful relationship. Unfortunately, many medical conditions, especially those connected to aging, may not be completely curable; in these circumstances, prevention rather than treatment may be all that can be anticipated. For instance, when approached or handled, dogs with medical disorders that cause discomfort and agitation may escalate their aggression. Canines with cognitive impairment, sensory decline, or movement issues may no longer be able to successfully communicate with other dogs through the display of signals or through reading the signals of others (through facial expressions, body postures and actions). Many dogs become more uneasy and unable to handle the older pet’s altered behavior, while some are fairly tolerant and easily adapt to the changes in how the older (or ill) pet responds (see Senior Pet Behavior Problems and Senior Pet Cognitive Dysfunction).
4. Existing dogs attempt to reconstruct and anticipate their new social ties when the social group undergoes a change, such as the departure of the forceful, self-assured dog or the arrival of a new dog. This can also happen when dogs raised together try to rebuild their friendship as they mature socially.
5. In some circumstances, aggression between the dogs may be redirected (i.e., when one or both dogs become highly aroused by an event or stimulus unrelated to the other dog, such as the arrival of the mail carrier, the owner’s departure, or the owner’s return home), it may direct its aggression toward the other dog because it is nearby or accessible).
6. Underlying anxiety, such as separation anxiety or noise sensitivity, can also cause fights. If this is the case, fighting might not stop unless the underlying issue is found and treated.
7. Access to resources that are seen more crucial to one dog than the other (resource-holding potential) is where fights are most likely to occur (see AggressionPossessiveObjects and Toys and AggressionPossessiveFood Bowl). Food, resting spots, territory, prized possessions, and social contacts with the owners or another dog at home are a few examples. The majority of the time, but not always, these fights include canines of the same sex and seem to be most violent when involving female dogs. Aggression may be facilitated by high levels of arousal and resources that are particularly alluring or unfamiliar. Fighting would most likely start if both dogs had a strong desire for the same resource, if the more subordinate dog had a higher want to keep the resource (especially if that dog got to it first), or if the owner supported the dog that was being challenged.
8. As they get older and more mature, some dogs that had previously harmonious relationships start to act and pose inappropriately in social situations. In some scenarios, it’s possible that the once-subordinate dog fights back when it had before showed soothing and respectful posture. Dog A, who is more self-assured, on the other hand, might carry on attacking despite proper subordinate signaling from its housemate. In contrast, when confronted, dog A might not engage in any pre-attack posturing (growl, snarl, stiffening), but instead launches a full-on assault. Dog A is acting inappropriately in both cases. These situations can present diagnostic challenges because letting the animals sort things out on their own or just encouraging the relationship’s natural growth could result in serious harm. These canines would no longer coexist in a free living environment; instead, they would distance themselves enough to prevent constant hostile conflict. People are understandably concerned when their dogs do not get along, but in reality, we should be genuinely impressed if our eclectic mix of canine personalities actually works well together.
9. It is plausible and advantageous that dogs in a family will employ canine posturing and communication to steer clear of hostile conflicts, resulting in fights that are moderate and restrained. Therefore, conflicts over resources, pain and irritability, misdirected aggressiveness, or sociopathic tendencies are more likely to be the root of dog fighting in a family than they are to be caused by any of the other factors (in which one or more of the dogs have underdeveloped or insufficient social communication skills). In some situations, one of the dogs is acting strangely. To identify which dog is acting abnormally the most, as well as to evaluate the diagnosis, prognosis, and whether medication may be required, a behavior consultation with a veterinary behaviorist is required.
How do I find out why my dogs have been fighting?
A thorough behavioral workup is required since the aggression may be caused by common learned hurdles, health issues, owner responses, excessive anxiety, poor social communication skills, or perhaps a lack of impulse control.
The history you give is frequently the most crucial diagnostic tool in any behavioral condition, though.
Physical examinations, neurological evaluations, diagnostic tests to rule out any medical disorders, and perhaps therapy trials to address the health issues and manage the symptoms would be the first steps in this process. The history you give is frequently the most crucial diagnostic tool in any behavioral problem. The specifics of the issue from its inception to the present, in addition to general information about the family, the home, your schedule, and prior training, are crucial. We can diagnose what is going on between the pets by watching a videotape (see Diagnosing a Behavior Problem). Is it behavioral or medical? and Introduction to Aggression).
Both my dogs are the same age, and after a third, older dog died, they began to fight. Why?
Dogs may fight when their relationships are unclear or when they share the same goals and successful past experiences. Fighting may start among the surviving dogs when an older dog starts to decline, get sick, or pass away, even if one of them is obviously the most assured and assertive. This is due to the fact that all of the dogs may have relied on the older dog to maintain a stable relationship, and they are now attempting to develop relational patterns. In any event, fighting can be dangerous and violent. It’s also probable that the altered dynamics of the home and relationships will cause more worry there. Even though you should often try to let dogs work things out on their own if they are only threatening rather than fighting, you will need to step in if there is a risk of harm. There should never be a situation when the dogs are permitted to “fight it out.” Redirected violent actions or attempts to break up the brawl could do you harm (see below).
When the dominant status is unclear or when the dogs are especially close in rank, conflicts may arise between them. Even when one dog is obviously dominating, fighting may start in the surviving dogs after the decline, illness, or death of an older dog. This is because the younger dogs are now attempting to take over the older dog’s position, which the older dog may have helped to retain. In any event, fighting can be dangerous and violent. Additionally, it’s probable that the shift in the household and pack causes more tension there. Even though you should often try to let dogs work things out on their own if they are only threatening rather than fighting, you will need to step in if there is a risk of harm. There should never be a situation when the dogs are permitted to “fight it out”. Redirected violent actions or attempts to break up the brawl could do you harm (see below).
My younger dog always deferred to the older dog, but now they fight. Why is this happening?
When a more youthful, ambitious dog challenges an older, more established, bold, confident, and assertive canine, this might lead to social hostility. This can take place as the younger dog reaches behavioral maturity at 12 to 36 months or as the older dog ages. It’s possible that this is an effort to change the hierarchy. Sometimes the elder dog will agree, and everything will be well, but other times the owners will step in because they do not like the change. Even while it cannot physically compete with the younger dog, the older dog may not always be willing to yield. This may lead to violent clashes that cause harm. Typically, it would be wise to encourage the older dog and discourage the challenges of the younger dog. But if change is unavoidable, it could be important to halt the elder dog’s support and to deter attempts at resistance. The young dog must be restrained and constrained if, however, it continues to make assertive and distance-widening gestures after the elder dog adopts a submissive or appeasing position. Some younger dogs are bullies who don’t know how to show respect to other dogs in the household and shouldn’t be supported in their role as the alpha dog. (See AggressionSibling Rivalry Treatment for treatment information.)