One of the more common reasons my clients call Bark Busters Fairfield is because their dogs are fighting. This is called sibling rivalry. Just like brother and sisters, dogs fight. Many owners have dogs that don’t fight but for those that do it can be very distressing. Not only can it be dangerous for the pet parent who tries to break up the fight, but the dogs can get hurt as well.
It may seem like your dogs are getting along great and then suddenly, they begin to fight. Most likely the situation has been brewing without your knowledge for awhile. There are many different reasons why sibling rivalry might develop and it is worth ensuring that you understand some of the more common reasons and how best to avoid it.
Dogs who live together spend a lot of time together. We think it’s nice that they have playmates and someone to keep them occupied when we are gone. However, it is important to remember that every dog is an individual and that dogs do not think in the same way as humans.
Even though your dogs may seem like best friends, it’s important to let them spend time away from each other occasionally. Either you can put them in separate crates or in separate areas of the house. You might want to take one for a walk without the other or on a car ride. Be careful to alternate your time alone with each dog.
For the dog that stays home, leave him with an interactive toy to entertain him. Another reason to separate them is to spend quality one-on-one time training them. It can be difficult to train two dogs at once as they lose their focus and one will inevitably get the upper hand. This is why training classes (where multiple dogs are in attendance) in general are difficult. Train each dog separately and ensure that they respond to your commands.
It is very important that you don’t show favoritism for one dog over the other. All training should be clear, consistent and applied equally to all. Your attention must also be equal. Every dog in your household needs to be trained to respond to your commands. If you don’t train your dogs and establish yourself as the “leader of the pack”, they will look to each other for leadership and direction.
If you are introducing a younger dog to your pack, you may notice that the younger dog will defer to the already established older dog. The younger dog will inevitably mimic the older dog, learning where to eat, poop and sleep. However, as time goes on, your older dog’s leadership may start to wain in the eyes of the younger one. The younger one may begin taunting the older one, stealing his toys and bed.
If the situation escalates, make sure the older dog has the opportunity to take himself to a safe place and begin to address these behaviors. Understand that sibling rivalry is not limited to being between older dogs and younger dogs. It can happen at any stage in dogs’ lives when they live in the same household.
First, make sure that the dog who is attacking is not ill. Once this has been ruled out, try to figure out the triggers and remove them. Are they fighting overt toys? Food?
The most important thing to remember is that both dogs must see you as the person in charge. Otherwise, they will vie for leadership and control which is at the root of most sibling rivalry cases. Are you paying more attention to one dog than the other? Do they become more demanding if you try to ignore them? If the answer is yes, then your dogs have been busily training you and now think that you are their hand maiden rather than their leader. They may start to fight over your attention or your belly-rubbing services, or fight over who sits on you on the couch. You need to take back some authority very quickly and you may need to seek the help of a professional dog trainer.
If you need help with this or any other issues, please give me — Michael Konstantaras — a call or email me. I will work with you to end the sibling rivalry in your home and restore peace!