How to solve inter-dog aggression If you have a pair of brawling dogs like this, it’s like...
Category: Dog Aggression To Other Dogs I Own
Solving aggression between dogs I own
Dog to Dog Aggression is dangerous when it's in your own home
Solving dog to dog aggression when the aggression is occurring between dogs you live with is difficult. It's like living with the Krakatoa volcano in your lounge room - you are just waiting for the next eruption to occur.
Have heart, there are solutions to this problem and the steps involved are:-
- Assess your dog's problem first and in particular assess the risk
- Then implement the solutions that target the problems you identify in your assessment
- Then re-assess your progress as times goes on to ensure you are getting to where you want to be.
Assessing your dog's aggression and the risk involved
Aggressive behaviour with dogs is risky. When solving aggressive behaviour your first step is to assess the risk of the behaviour and once the risk is clear, then you need to implement the solutions that will reduce the risk as your first priority.
This sheet, Biting the Hand, goes into the risk in much more detail.
The risk of aggression that occurs to between dogs you own depends on:-
- the severity of the aggression
- whether injuries to the dogs are occurring
- whether injuries are occurring to you or your family as a consequence of fighting (this is very common)
- And how often the fights are occurring (daily, weekly. or only occasionally)
Can your dogs be left alone together at present? If not, the risk is significant and management of such a problem is difficult.
Sometimes, the dogs are evenly matched with their ability and sometimes one dog is a bully and the other a tragic victim, living its life in fear and trepidation.
For a good case-study on inter-dog aggression, this page Fearsome Fighting is a very good beginning.
If you are really concerned about your dogs' aggression complete this assessment form and we will review that and help you personally.
But why is my dog aggressive?
That's not an easy question to answer on a website but we will try. A proper assessment will lead to a diagnosis and your own veterinarian can help with that or we can help if you prefer - to do that start with this assessment form.
Firstly, it's likely some well-meaning folk are telling you that one dog is just 'being dominant' over the other.
You need to discard any thoughts of dominance. It's a non-scientific and simplistic view of domestic pet dogs and their interactions with each other and with us humans. Whatever you do, don't try to fix the aggression by trying to make one dog more or less 'dominant' than the other.
The most common causes of inter-dog aggression are:-
- Resource guarding aggression (over food and other resources your dog values)
- Pain-related aggression where a robust dog hurts a dog that is more frail
- Hierarchal aggression where an up-and-coming younger dog is challenging a more established dog
- Transferred (or referred aggression) when a dog is aroused by one stimulus (such as chasing a dog through a fence) and then 'transfers' that aggression to its companion dog although this companion dog is not the cause of the aggression
- 'Abnormal' or 'out of character' aggression caused by diseases within the dog's body.
There are certainly other causes of inter-dog aggression and sometimes there is more than one cause.
There is one situation where aggression between dogs is very common.
That's when you have a social gathering in your home when friends and family (some with children) come into your home. This is often a stressful time for dogs. There are many reasons why but this article describes why dogs are aggressive when people group together.
One feature in common with all of the above is that aggression teaches one or both dogs to be anxious about future interactions and sometimes inter-dog aggression can be like the human condition called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When a dog is anxious it 'predicts the doom' of being near the second dog and will often go into the well-known flight/fight response - but dogs usually show the fight version.
To structure your solution to this problem, consider this useful key which will help you to ensure all aspects of your pet's behaviour are considered.
- Are medical problems relevant?
- Can your pet learn, and, if so, how can you teach it to behave?
- How is the aggression best managed and thus avoided?
- Will medications or pheromones be needed for this problem?
Are medical problems relevant?
Many medical conditions can make aggression worse.
While pain-related aggression would not be a common cause of aggression to people you meet, it could be a feature if a person you meet goes to pat your dog in a painful area or tries to pick your dog up when it is in pain.
This would be particularly so for a senior-age dog with, for instance, arthritis.
Other pain-inducing conditions such as itchy skin and ear infections can make a pet 'cranky'.
Your veterinarian can advise on treatments for all of these conditions.
Now here's a job for you. If you are intending to ask the team at Cam Day Consulting to assist with the solution, or are being referred by your own veterinarian, we prefer pets to have a health check and MBA blood test done before your consultation with us.
Ideally a thyroid function test is also useful especially if your feel the aggression is 'abnormal'.
Please ask your vet to complete those tasks before attending your referral.
How can you teach your dog(s) to be non-aggressive?
Teaching a dog to stop being aggressive to another dog is a complex matter.
Firstly though, dogs cannot learn to be non-aggressive when they are immersed in the 'emotion of the moment' . That means, when your dogs are brawling, no amount of yelling, screaming or hitting will prevent them being aggressive next time. You may need to yell, scream and hit to stop the brawl but please don't presume that will solve the problem.
Also, punishing your dog or dogs AFTER THE EVENT is a total waste of time.
YES your dog will 'look guilty' after the event but it's not guilt the dog is showing and that does not mean the dog has learnt it has done wrong.
It is usually not helpful to concentrate on punishing the aggression because in most cases that makes the aggression worse, especially as so many aggressive dogs are anxious anyway and punishment makes them more anxious . In addition, if you are punishing the wrong dog, that can escalate the aggression between the dogs as one or both dogs begin to realise they can use you as a lever against the other dog.
So, solving aggression is best done in incremental steps that are successfully achieved 'before' the dogs are aggressive and better still, when the dogs don't have aggressive thoughts in their cute little skulls!
Remember that dogs with anxieties and fear-based behaviours have difficulty learning and aggression creates an anxious state.
We use a reward-based technique we have developed called the circle of rewards and the leave routine. It's like a speed-teaching system that's created from reward-based cognitive therapies. It simple terms, it's a fun-based game play routine where the dogs learn that the human English word 'leave' means the Dog-ish action of 'don't bite'. But there's nothing magical about the word LEAVE unless you know how to use that to reward a targeted and defined outcome behaviour.
That's way to detailed to be shared here so follow the links in the last paragraph.
However, sometimes with aggression, teaching dogs to be non-aggressive is very difficult and extremely risky, especially if the aggression is directed towards your children or aged people who may live in your home.
If your dog's problem is serious, we advise you to seek professional help from our team at Cam Day Consulting - start by completing this assessment form.
How is the aggression best managed and thus avoided?
Management of a behaviour refers to those things you may do that won't solve the underlying 'emotion' that causes the problem but stops the problem from occurring usually by AVOIDING it.
This article talks about managing aggression in detail.
To give an example, with inter-dog aggression, management often means keeping the dogs separate until you establish a cure. Some dogs benefit from a Den to create this separation and some need better fences to keep them apart.
If you are keeping your dogs separate, then they will need a richer 'alone' lifestyle to make them content with their isolation and that's where the No Bored Dogs Routine is a treasure trove of information. Boredom-relieving toys such as the Kong Wobbler are worth their weight in dog biscuits.
Will homeopathic preparations, pheromones, or medications be needed for his problem?
Some aggressive dogs need calming and reduction of their anxiety.
Often this cannot be produced by training alone, just like some anxious people cannot learn to be non-anxious.
For low-level cases of anxiety that cause aggression the homeopathic preparation Homeopet anxiety relief may be beneficial.
Pheromones such as the Adaptil Diffuser can be useful for inter-dog aggression if your dogs are mostly indoor pets. They are
simple - plug in the diffuser, flick the switch and walk away - there's nothing else you can do that is easier.
If the aggression is occurring in particular predictable scenarios where you can pre-plan for the problem then the Adaptil Spray may work for that - but it only last for about one to two hours.
What about medications?
While they are not always needed, for the right problem medications can be life-saving.
Medications used for pet behavioural disorders are true mood-modifying medications and, when used correctly, should have minimal to no side effects.
However, all medications are prescription-only preparations and you will need to see your veterinarian or the vets at Cam Day Consulting for the supply of medications. Click here for more information on medications for pet behavioural problems.
A summary of the process
So, solving aggression between dogs that you own involves the following:
- Being aware of the risk involved and avoiding aggression at all costs to minimise that risk. Remember, people are often injured when dogs fight with each other.
- Considering any medically-related problems such as painful conditions and having them treated as needed.
- Carefully teach your dogs not to be aggressive by teaching your dogs what they need to know with the leave routine and then applying that sequentially to the problem
- Consider if one or both your dogs need medication to aid a change in their behaviours.
- Reviewing your success honestly to ensure you are progressing
- And seeking professional attention if you can't do it on your own.
- Watch your dogs interaction over food. Resource guarding aggression is a significant complication with inter-dog aggression
- If you are seeing 'Death Stares' then be very careful as you are often moments away from a dangerous situation.
- There is no safe way to separate fighting dogs but one method that often works is to throw a heavy blanket or rug over the brawling dogs. One of my clients has an empty 'clam shell' sand pit and he pushes that over his brawling dogs to gently push them to the ground so he can extricate one or other.
DISCLAIMER Any form of aggression involves risk. Your most important duty is to manage that risk effectively to protect other people, other dogs and other animals from risk. Risk is also manifest in that the Council could take action to declare your dog dangerous and there is the risk of litigation and injury claims if your dog hurts a person, another dog and another animal. Never presume an aggressive dog is cured and manage the dog for life to ensure that injuries do not occur. Be particularly careful and vigilant if aggression is directed towards children, elderly people or people who are convalescing from illness or who are on medications.