Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
What Predisposes Dogs to Fight?
This is one of the biggest problems affecting owners of multiple dogs, and sadly one of the most difficult to manage. Despite the fact that dogs are often depicted as being social animals, squabbles and even serious fights are likely to occur.
The circumstances are various and several dynamics may be going on. Two dogs that got along well as puppies may suddenly engage in vicious fights as they mature. A younger dog may suddenly attack an older dog despite having lived in harmony with it for quite some time. A new dog added to a household of two dogs with a history of getting along for years, triggers fighting.
Sadly, these situations are not all uncommon. Countless dog owners deal with them and sometimes even on a daily basis. Why is it this way? What causes dogs to fight?
There are many causes for inter-dog aggression (aggression between dogs) affecting dogs sharing the household. It's therefore important to recognize the exact triggers. Sometimes, as it happens in people, it appears that two dogs may just not get along. This should not be surprising.
Below are listed just some of the most common causes of dogs fighting.
If you own two female or two male dogs, fighting is not unusual at all. Some dog breeds are prone to being same-sex aggressive. For instance, Alaskan Malamutes, American Pit Bulls, and Boxers are breeds of dogs known for being same-sex aggressive.
According to Nicholas Dodman and Alice Moon Fanelli in an article for Petplace, terriers may be prone to fighting because as a breed they have been purposely developed to work independently.
However, any breed of dog, given the right circumstances and predisposition, may develop inter-dog aggression. Generally, these dogs may get along well when they are puppies, but once they reached social maturity (generally between 12 and 36 months) things dramatically change. Luckily, there is an explanation for this shift.
In nature, it would be quite unnatural for two females dogs or two male dogs close to the same age to live in the same social group. In nature, once the females and males mature, they leave their social groups to form their own group.
If they remain in the group, they must respect the breeding right of the other female or male. According to Gail Fisher, a dog trainer and breeder with over 40 years of experience, "A pack with several adult males and females of the same age would rarely, if ever, be found in the wild."
This is further confirmed by the Merck Veterinary Manual:
"At social maturity, in free-ranging packs, dogs that challenge the established social hierarchy may leave and form their own groups if they do not succeed in altering the extant social order. This situation may be analogous to one form of inter-dog aggression that occurs in multiple-dog households. Social maturity is also the time during which problem aggressions and anxieties develop. In multi-dog groups, the highest-ranking animals may be the only ones to breed."
If the dogs are not spayed or neutered, there may at times also be a hormonal component to the fights. In female dogs, the hormonal changes taking place during the estrus cycle and pregnancy may particularly elicit fights. However, fighting may endure due to hierarchy and breeding rights even when the dog is not in heat or pregnant. Learn more about this in "Why Are Intact Females Fighting?
In male dogs, the hormone testosterone may facilitate inter-dog aggression. Once spayed and neutered, dogs prone to inter-dog aggression may no longer fight due to hormones, but they may still viciously fight for other reasons that we will examine below.
Access to Resources
Social hierarchy is one of the main causes of inter-dog aggression in multi-dog households. According to dog trainer and owner of Peaceable Paw, Pat Miller, "Social hierarchies do exist in groups of domesticated dogs and hierarchy can be fluid". By nature, dogs are pretty good conflict solvers. indeed, they are masters in ritualized aggression.
Ritualized aggression takes place when dogs resolve conflicts without biting. Growling, raising hackles, showing teeth, as dramatic as they are, ultimately help avoid actual confrontations. In nature, spending lots of energy fighting on minor issues is counter-productive as animals must save their energy on more important issues such as hunting and survival.
So what causes actual fighting in multi-dog households to take place? Why are dogs biting and actually breaking skin if they are good conflict solvers? Let's take a closer look into hierarchy in dogs.
According to Karen Overall, rank is contextually relative. A real high-ranking animal would normally be tolerant of lower-ranking members. The behavior of the lower ranking members towards the higher ranking member is what determines the social hierarchy. In other words, by "withdrawing", lower-ranking members make the hierarchical status clear.
Higher ranking members are those who regulate and maintain access to some resources, however, such access is contextual. A certain resource may be highly maintained at certain times when at other times it is not, or other resources may not be maintained at all. Resources, therefore, can be both contextual and subjective. What are some common resources from a dog's perspective? The following are some:
- Attention from the owner/guests (greeting the owner, interacting with the owner)
- Food (respect space when feeding dogs, or better, crate the individually for safety)
- Toys (especially the newer ones or toys that have not been around for some time)
- Sleeping areas (this could be a favorite bed, a higher spot or a favorite place)
- Bones (these are seen as high value even among dogs that get along, so practice caution)
- Space (many dogs have a space threshold, an invisible barrier that if surpassed may yield a dispute)
Generally, a high-ranking dog will maintain access to resource through a ritualized display, however, problems start when such displays are not effective. This is why we often see fights in dogs of similar or equal rank when the ritualized displays are ignored.
At times, ignoring a display may not be voluntary. Lower-ranking dogs may ignore a display because it is over-ridden by an event that temporarily blurs the hierarchical status. We will see such circumstances below.
As mentioned, at times social boundaries can be blurred by events. For instance, if both dogs have not seen the owner for a long time, the lower ranking dog may not defer to the higher-ranking dog's desire to access to the owner first because it cannot contain its excitement or it could be he feels safe and that the owner will protect him.
When over excitement takes place, this is often a trigger for big fights to occur among multi- dog households. It is easy for the excitement to blur social rules/etiquette causing a fight to ignite. At times, when dogs are playing, the high arousal levels may also elicit a fight.
Another example is territorial barking. When two dogs are highly aroused by a trigger heard or seen behind a fence this may elicit a fight. The fight may be caused by re-directed aggression due to high arousal levels.
In re-directed aggression, the highly aroused dogs go into an hyper-vigilant state that triggers reactive responses which would not take place in a normal setting when the dogs are calm. Because of this possibility, it is always imperative that owners of dogs who tend to fight, never physically get in the middle of two fighting dogs for the purpose of separating them.
With high arousal levels, the dogs are in fight mode and anything between them could trigger a bite, which of course, is not delivered voluntarily.
Changes in the Social Group
A typical scenario affecting social hierarchy takes place when a higher-ranking dog starts becoming weak or old. A younger dog that has reached social maturity may, therefore, ignore the ritualized displays of the older dog which will elicit a serious fight.
At times, the senior dog may want to give up top position but is unable to defer in an effective way due to loss of sensory or motor abilities, and this may cause the eruption of serious fights. Because a dog's social group in nature cannot be successfully led by a weak member, at times the fights may turn out quite bloody and even fatal in some cases.
Another situation where social group changes take place is when a new dog is added. In such a scenario, the dogs will require some adjustments. Often, fights may ensue, but they can be temporarily until an agreement is found.
The way the owner handles the situation may sometimes exacerbate the situation. Giving too much attention to the new dog may only create more conflicts. At times, when a dog has been away for some time and is then re-introduced to the pack then there may be some problems as the social order may need to be re-established.
At other times, dog owners may further exacerbate dynamics by intervening. Often, the owners do not have any idea they are creating problems by defending a lower-ranking dog. By protecting a lower-ranking dog and correcting a higher-ranking one, the owner escalates the problem.
Dog behavior expert and obedience trainer, Stan Rawlinson, also known as the ''Dog Listener'' suggests dog owners to not fuel the fire by feeling bad and ''rushing to protect the would-be subordinate from being "bullied".
This can cause problems and potential fights. Nicholas Dodman calls this form of aggression "alliance aggression" and states it typically occurs when the owner interferes with the establishment of a stable hierarchy.
What About Dog/Human Interactions? The "Alpha Myth"
While a social hierarchy is seen in multi-dog households, it is important to point out that, humans are not dogs, and therefore, it is pointless to assume the "alpha role" to earn respect.
The dominance myth has been debunked, and the latest studies suggest that dogs are for the most part not status-seeking entities attempting to rule the home, but simply opportunists that will do whatever behaviors are reinforcing to them.
Poor Social Skills
Not all dogs are blessed with great social skills. If a dog has been poorly socialized, there are chances it may not readily recognize normal social behaviors. These are dogs that feel compelled to attack other dogs for simple things such as panting, wagging their tails or sniffing under tails. These dogs are socially illiterate and must learn the ABC's of normal social language.
While some dogs may have been socialized with dogs as puppies, they often forget the language if their inter-dog socialization ends at some point.
However, some breeds by nature are not social butterflies, and this must be respected. They may never be happily romping at dog parks but at least they should be able to tolerate walking by dogs without acting aggressively.
Escalation of Stress
Sometimes, aggression among two dogs occurs as a result of a phenomenon that is known as trigger stacking.
Basically, what happens is that, small triggers a dog is exposed to, accumulate over time causing the dog to sometimes appear as if he "attacked the other dog out of the blue."
For sake of an example, imagine that Bloom is easily stressed by noises and changes in routine, while Maggie can care less. On Monday, Bloom ensures a thunder storm which is perceived as a very scary event, leading to hiding in a closet and trembling. Maggie visits her in the closet out of curiosity and Bloom "greets" her with a snarl,showing her pearly whites.
The next day is little Bob's birthday party (her owner's child) who invited a dozen of friends over. Bloom spends the day hiding under the couch while Maggie socializes with the kids.
The next day, a construction worker stops by to fix a leaky sink. Bloom barks at the worker and hides under the table. When he is gone, Maggie heads under the table inviting Bloom to play with a play bow. Bothered, Maggie comes out of the table, and as soon as Maggie rushes up to her in hops of playing, she is attacked. Fortunately, her bite was inhibited, causing just a little tooth scrape, but their squabble was loud and scary to witness for the owner.
"Sometimes, inter-pack aggression is the result of a phenomenon called “trigger stacking”, in which small, sub-threshold triggers add up over time and finally the dog is out of patience for the day.... Each trigger causes a reduction in the dog’s patience level for the day, and when they all stack up in a short amount of time, the dog has the equivalent of road rage."
— ~Michele Godlevski, ACDBC, CBCC-KA, CC, CPDT-KA
Why Call the Pros
As seen, dog fights are serious issues that can be exacerbated if the owner does not intervene in the correct way. Trying to make the dogs "sort things out" is not recommended. There are countless owners who attempt to "step aside" only to report weeks later their dogs got into a dangerous fight that cost hundreds of dollars of vet bills for stitches.
If your dogs are fighting, call a professional, that is a reputable dog trainer well versed in dealing with dog behavioral problems, a veterinary behaviorist or a certified applied animal behaviorist.
Disclaimer: if your dogs are not getting along, make management your top priority and consult with a reputable professional. This article is not to be used as a substitute for professional advice as only a professional can give advice upon assessing and evaluating your dogs in first person. By reading this article you automatically accept this disclaimer.
For Further Reading
- Medical Causes of Aggressive Behaviors in Dogs
medical causes of aggression in dogs, It is an unfortunate fact that often dog owners feel compelled to give up on their canine friend as soon as he displays aggressive behaviors by either giving him away, or...
- Dog Behavior: Considerations for Re-homing Aggressive Dogs
Learn why re-homing an aggressive dog can be downright wrong. So what to do with an aggressive dog? There are some options, but there is little left to do with dogs with a bite history.
- The Risks of Raising Two Female Dogs
Learn why female dogs may not get along as wished. Same sex aggression is common in dogs and at times, the fights between two females may get fierce. Learn why good leadership is important.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: My dogs get along 95% of the time, and then all of a sudden out of the blue, they start fighting and don't get along. It seems to last a week or so then they will go back to getting along. I have no idea what causes it. What can I do to get them to get along again?
Answer: It would be important finding out what triggers the behavior Although it might not seem like there is a trigger, most likely there is one and work needs to be done based on that. You would need the intervention of a behavior professional for an evaluation and behavior modification.
Question: Two of my dogs have been best friends for five years. In the last four months they have had a few fights which are the likes I have never seen. They have literally tried killing each other. And a bit like you said above on the last two occasions the smaller dog has been to the vets twice where my other dog has cut her badly. I have phoned a couple of professionals but am yet to see one as they are busy at the moment. Is there anything I can do in the meantime that would help?
Answer: Yes, management is your best friend as you wait to see a professional. Basically, keep the dog separated. This may mean in crates or in separate areas of the home where they can't reach each other. Baby gates may be another option. You may need some sturdy ones and put some mesh wire between the gaps to prevent access to each other.
Question: I have a male and a female dog. They are just two-years-old and are also brother and sister. They have suddenly started fighting. What can I do to rectify the situation?
Answer: Dogs can fight for many reasons. Often, they are erupted by some form of resource guarding or access to a resource. It is important determining if these are actual fights or just noisy "discussions" or if they are actually real fights. At this age, both dogs have reached social maturity and disputes are not uncommon. You may need to consult with a dog professional on this one, especially if the fights are real and not just ritualized aggression and there is a risk for tension among the dogs and potential injury.
Question: After a recent loss, which resulted in leaving behind a lonely 6-year- old greyhound, we decided to introduce her to another dog. For the past couple of weeks, they have been playing and have been fine with each other. However, there were two instances when they didn't get along. Why could have caused this?
Answer: There can be many possibilities. It is important to analyze in what context this happened. Was it around toys, food, bones, or a sleeping area? Was one dog resource guarding you? Was it through a doorway or a small space? Did one dog insist on playing while the other wasn't willing? Most of all, was it just a noisy squabble that ended there and nobody got injured? Many dogs living together have small "discussions" which are just part of communication, but you need to keep an eye on these interactions in case they escalate to something more. If both dogs were engaged and there seemed to be a real intent to harm each other, in such a case, it would be best to have a professional evaluate the situation.
Question: My dogs fight and we stop them, but then one or the other starts it up again. It is getting too hard for me. What can I do?
Answer: You have several options: You can keep them separated all of the time, rehoming one or consulting with a behavior professional. It would be important providing the professional with details on what seems to trigger the fights, in what context they occur and whether there is any history of injuries. The professional can then assess the situations and provide suggestions on what course of action is needed. This is important at a safety level as well considering that, when stopping dogs who are fighting, there are always risks for a redirected bite.
Question: My dogs, who used to get along okay, have been breaking out in fights when I am gone. It used to be the females that fought so they are now separated but recently, two of my males have been fighting viciously when I am gone and the weather is bad. Everyone is spayed/neutered. Why are they getting aggressive now after six years of living together?
Answer: This is hard to say as there can be various dynamics going on. Often, dog-to-dog aggression starts becoming apparent as dogs mature, and therefore we see a lot of changes once dogs reach social maturity around the age of 2 to 3 years. However, since you mention these fights take place when the weather is bad, there may be chances that they may be anxious about thunder and this lowers their aggression threshold.
Question: I have a 3-year-old male French bulldog neutered & a 2-year-old bitch, but she’s not yet been spayed. They have always gotten along fine, indeed, they often play fight but nothing serious. However, in the past week, the male has attacked my female twice over treats. Why has my dog suddenly started getting aggressive over treats? They get 3 treats a day and they both get exactly the same. I don’t understand why he’s started to become vicious over it. What can I do to stop my dog's aggressive behavior?
Answer: We may never know exactly why dogs sometimes act this way. All we can do is make some assumptions. Things that come to mind are that in many households, once dogs reach social maturity (anywhere between 12 to 36 months of age) there is a tendency for relationships to shift and for aggressive behavior to raise their ugly head. Other things that come to mind are that maybe there may be something medical going on that may cause increased hunger in your male or perhaps he is not feeling too well which can lower the aggression threshold. Maybe one day when you fed the treats, the dogs were too close to each other and your male felt threatened by your female.
While dogs may get along fine, not many dogs will accept another dog too near to food and valuable treats. Distance is important to ensure everybody is comfortable and relaxed. I suggest giving them more distance when you feed treats so that they don't have to be worried. Even better, give the treats in separate rooms or in crates. Careful, as these episodes tend to repeat and may sometimes happen over toys or other valuables.
© 2012 Adrienne Farricelli
Why are your dogs fighting? Post your comments
Emily on August 31, 2020:
It’s been years since I’ve brought a new family member in and am having trouble correcting what seems like random acts of snapping/biting between my resident Olde English Bulldog and my newly rescued English bulldog. Background: I’ve had my OEB since she was a puppy-6 years. She is incredibly patient, had a big rotti-Sheppard brother until recently, helped me foster adults and puppies, never meets a dog she doesn’t get along with, she’s 80lbs- her name is Leela. I stumble upon new dog, English bulldog (“N” for this story). He doesn’t seem to really do well with dogs walking by his kennel but the introduction with Leela goes really well. N is neutered, 4ish years old, 50lbs and I’m working on all his bully skin issues... (he was surrendered because elderly lady couldn’t take care of him and his Boston brothers any longer). Now- the aggression- 5am both dogs in bed with me, N pops his head up from sleep, tenses up and full crazy, teeth and sharp growls goes at Leela’s face. She kind of fights back yet tries to restrain. This has now happened more than once- not always in bed or over me. Sometimes they are laying on the floor with space between them and N will pop his head up and go after Leela. I’m trying to find the source or spark of these bits of violence since they typically get along and play well together. Finally, my question, how do I properly correct/deter this behavior from continuing to happen?
ChxcxCvry on July 27, 2020:
I have 2 female dogs, 1 of them is pregnant and then she suddenly started to fight and attacking another female dog (they kept growling whenever they saw each other), who used to get along pretty well. So I separated them in a different room hoping they will forget what happened.
After a week, I tried to make them get along by taking them for a walk, and make them interact, but it didn't work. We also have another female dog which is 5 months old, but the pregnant dog didn't growl or fight with the 5 months old. Also, the pregnant dog won't listen to me when they're about to fight, but the one that didn't start the fight listen and now she's a bit scared of the pregnant dog. The one that got attacked almost bleed in the eye twice. What do I do?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 20, 2020:
Hi Haley, this is difficult to foresee as although the altercations were mostly due to the hormones, there is also a learned component at play when dogs fight. Not to mention, many dog-dog interactions tend to deteriorate around social maturity. Only time can tell. Please note that hormones still circulate in the dog after dogs have been spayed and neutered for some time.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 20, 2020:
Hi Reagan, it's unfortunate but the addition of a third dog at times seems to break the harmony. This can be due to the stress of the new addition and/or the social group dynamics changing. Seeing a dog behavior professional using force-free behavior modification can help you get an idea on what options you may have based on observations.
Jen on June 10, 2020:
I have 4 dogs different ages. They fight at the fence when another dog is on the other side or when they think someone is at the door. We took away the door bell. We can not stop the dogs from being in the other yards. How do I stop my dogs from fighting at barriers when their is a trigger that I can not control? They all attack each other, its not just 1 or 2. They all do it. They dont stop from verbal queu, we have to step in and pull them apart. I am afraid that they are going to hurt each other. They all are fine every other time and even sleep all over each other... only issue is with barriers. Any suggestions would be great.
Haley Burge on June 08, 2020:
I have 3 labs. We bred our male and female and kept a male puppy. The puppy is now 1.5 years old and he and his father have started fighting it seems out of the blue but the female was also in heat. We have had all three fixed now (our fault for not doing it sooner) and the boys are recovering in separate homes. My my question is do you think they will be able to get along now? And how do we go about re-introducing them? The fights were scary and I am very anxious about getting them back together! Thanks!
Reagan Schwirian on June 02, 2020:
I have 2 male Belgium Malinois (one 3 the other 2) Who have been together since they were puppies. recently we got a female German Shepard puppy about a few months ago (she’s now 4 months). The older male has been very standoffish to the puppy ever since we got her, but slowly warming up to her. The younger male and the puppy have become inseparable since we got her, but recently the two males have been viciously fighting each other and we cannot seem to figure out why. We’ve been trying to keep them separate at their most active time of the day (when most of the fights have broken out) but the older male has been starting the fights when we let the younger male in from going to the bathroom outside so we began playing musical dogs by placing them all in separate rooms to try and reduce the problem but I don’t want to do this forever. I miss my boys being friendly with each other and don’t know what to do.
Jackie Branco on January 14, 2020:
I have two male rescues, both AmStaf/Blue Heeler mixes, one is @7yo 60lbs, and the other 5yo 85lbs. I also normally have one smaller female foster dog. My dogs have lived together for over 4 years, and within a weeks time, have gotten into a fight at least three times. The older one is the even keeled, confident one, the younger is not, but has always followed the older ones lead and looked to him for confidence. It seems it's the younger one starting the fights, but of course the older one is not backing down. I've had my current foster for 6 months, they all get along, and she is crated during the day. This even happened once at my boyfriend's house when I was not there. They've never been food or resource aggressive, as they will even play tug of war with the same rope, or lay down and chew on the same toy.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 14, 2020:
Unfortunately, when there are new additions, these situations of conflict are not uncommon. Fights are more common among same-sex dogs. Short of having a dog behavior professional assess your dogs and determine whether intervention is necessary (a few loud discussions here and there where nobody gets hurt may need no intervention), it's important to determine whether there are hopes for behavior modification, there's not much left to do other than management (crate-rotations, keeping in separate rooms, muzzling (ask a trainer to help you choose one of the proper fit) etc.). Some dogs can be separated by training a fluent response to a cue if they are caught at the first signs of tension, but it is difficult to always catch them at the first signs so safety needs to be considered, especially if these fights are more than just noise and lead to injuries.
Kim t on January 13, 2020:
We have a pack of two Male Frenchies and a old lady Boston terrier. We adopted another male frenchie. He is into between the two male ages at 3.5. For no reason the older male and him have a stare down and start fighting. I break it up every time and separate them. Problem seems to be he has attached himself to me since I too him in. I try not to give him must attraction to make anyone jealous. None of the Frenchies seem to be my babies. My Boston is and has been the pack leader but the older male has tried to take over it since the Boston has been sick. But he hasn’t won that title yet in my opinion. The male and the new guy play all the time but random times they fight and draw blood. I’m not sure what to do... do I rehome him again??
Savannah on January 09, 2020:
I recently got a lab puppy and my 8 year old male dog that is a Havanese. My male dog is 8 pounds. They Have gotten along for 5 months and now that it’s 6 months they are fighting and she’s going after my male dog. I don’t know what to do.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 25, 2019:
These are difficult situations. Short of having a behavior professional assess your dogs and determine whether there are hopes for behavior modification to be implemented, there's not much left to do other than management (crate-rotations, keeping in separate rooms, muzzling (ask a trainer to help you choose one of the proper fit) etc.). Some dogs can be separated by training a fluent response to a cue if they are caught at the first signs of tension, but it sounds like your dogs are too over aroused to listen at this point and it is difficult to always catch them at the first signs so we need to consider safety first.
RJKnott on November 11, 2019:
We have 5 dogs. 4 of which are rescues. All are spayed and neutered. A female lab, as male Samoyed, a female shih tzu, a male pit, and a male boxer mix
About a year ago we rescued Our boxer mix (we think mixed with bull dog) who was in an abusive situation. He is very submissive and fit in great. He and my pit bull (also a male) have been inseparable. They play. They sleep together, and, even though they all have separate bowls, they eat out of each other’s food
Wife and I went away for a week and our daughter watched the dogs while we were gone. Ever since we came back, literally as soon as we came home and I let them out side, my pit and boxer started fighting. Sometimes the boxer starts it. Sometimes the pit. And it gets bad. I have gotten them apart usually a firm “heel” command or spraying with water gets their attention.
But for the past week since we have gotten home, every day there has been a fight
2 days ago I had them all outside. They were getting along fine. I was doing training with them and they were all lined up. My female lab decided to jump on the boxer and pushed him into my pit, and the pit went off and attacked my boxer viciously. He bit down on his face and would not let go. Would not obey my command to heel and it took a while to get them apart. Thankfully no major injuries and I have been keeping them both crated since.
I alternate letting one out so they don’t get too antsy. And they will lay by each other’s crates. Try to let the other out. Will snuggle up through the bars. Will bring each other treats... but if I let them both out they immediately fight
I have had dogs all my life and am pretty good with them but at this point am getting frustrated with the situation and am open To ideas
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 21, 2019:
Having six dogs is tough as you have dogs with different ages, sex and personalities and squabbles are more likely the more dogs you have. When playing, it is easy for dogs to have high arousal levels and this can easily trigger a fight. And yes, you are right, you can often offer as many toys as possible, but dogs will always want the one the other dog has. For a good reason, many dog parks have start prohibiting toys like balls as they evoked too many fights. The safest and fastest option to address this is to separate the dogs.
Jennifer Richard on August 21, 2019:
I have 6 dogs total. 4 male and 2 female. My most dominant male and dominant female (both neutered/spayed) fight when I try to play with the dogs. I always make sure I have several tennis balls (for example) and we have a large yard. When I throw them they always want the same one and often fight. No injuries, and always lasts less than 10 seconds or so. But it's scary! Do I just need to always play with them separate? Or is there a technique I can try?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 19, 2019:
If the fighting coincides with the heat-cycle, then yes, it is very possible that the aggression is a hormone-induced behavior.
Stephanie on August 18, 2019:
I have run Chihuahua Dash and and Yorkie Maltese one day to another day starting to find it's getting more and more aggressive I have the crates in the living room separate I'm broken-hearted they not spay either one of them and they both on heat it's that the reason why they fighting
Dalton on July 09, 2019:
I have a male boxer (father) who is around 8 years old and a boxer/American bulldog (son) who is about 5 years old. One day they started fighting and haven’t stopped since. We have kept them separated through doors for many years and the split second they are exposed they fight to the death and we just don’t know what to do anymore.
Hi on July 04, 2019:
I’ve rehomed one of my dogs 2 days ago and my guilt and sadness is out of this world. I had 3 dogs, 1 girl and 2 boys all around 3 years old. The boys would fight ALL the time during the first 6 months, at least 3 proper fights per week. We separated them and then reintroduced them later. It seemed to be the Male we had first that started them so the other Male became very fearful so every time the first male looked at him or walked past him he would cry and a fight would happen. We persevered as we loved them more than anything. (They are both neutered). A few months past and no fights happened, then they started fighting over toys ALL THE TIME. we couldn’t have toys in the house. We got rid of all our teddies and anything they could fight over. A few months would past and then another fight and it’s been a continued cycle for 2and a half years. People can’t come to the house because if they go to sniff the person at the same time there COULD be a fight. (Not all the time did this happen but sometimes it did). My partner and I were fearful to have any snacks as this was one of the biggest issue for fights. If they both tried to get through the door at the same time there could be a fight. 90% of the time they were fine, though they kind of kept their distance from each other & would sit at opposite ends of the sofa. It’s safe to say they were running the house and we just wanted peace and to keep them both. Im 4 months pregnant and in the past month have had to break up a few fights on my own as my partner was at work (works later than me) and I’ve got bitten in the process of breaking them up. We’ve been woken up in our sleep to a fight a few times. I just need to know I made the right decision as guilt has taken over me and I’m an emotional wreck. My fear is if something was to happen to the baby and one of the males got put down and it was all because i selfishly wanted to keep him when I know there was risk factors there. I done the right thing, didn’t I?
Cassidy on June 27, 2019:
My 3 year old male dog was fine but now all of a sudden has been jumping our 2 other male dogs. One of the male dogs has been here since he was a puppy for but out of nowhere jumps the dog and was for sure going for the kill. My dog seems to jump the other male dog only whenever their both walking around me in a small space. What can i do to fix this?
Tracy on June 22, 2019:
I have 2 dogs, one 13 (male, Jack Russell X) and one 11( female unknown mixed ), in the last 6 months they have started fighting. It started at bbq's with friends over food on the odd occasion but recently has escalated to fighting/growling over their daily feeds, water bowl, fighting over getting on the lounge chair, who lays under my chair, who gets a pat first etc etc. The female pins the smaller male and hurts him. We are in a small town and don't have access to a behavioral consultant so after any help/advice would be great
Aica on June 20, 2019:
It was raining in the afternoon when our 4 year old male dog suddenly attacked our 1 year old male dog, I heard a cry from our 1 year old male dog and we tried to separate them but our 4 year old male dog still attacking our 1 year old male dog; then the 1 year old dog fought back. Both of them were fighting biting each other's faces and trying to bite each other's neck. My younger brother didn't know what to do and how to separate them and it clicked me that they were fighting for alpha position but I don't want them to receive severe injuries from each other; so, I tried to separate them, after 10 minutes, I succeeded separating them. I wanted to help our 1 year old dog but he was hiding somewhere and doesn't want to be touched by me. I dried our 4 year old dog and checked that he has a lot of wounds (face), he couldn't even walk because one of his legs is injured (small wound).
Our other 1 year old dog (female) and 8 month puppies got scared and hid somewhere even it was raining. I'm worried because all of them were vaccinated (anti-rabies) last Tuesday. I dried all of them except our 1 year old male dog, still hiding from 4 year old male dog.
Carole on June 09, 2019:
My 7 year female old border collie and 10 year old Male cocker spaniel have started fighting, 3 fights in the last 2 months .. I have no idea of the triggers... I already keep them separated when I go out, as 2 years ago they had a bad fight over food, there was blood all over my cocker spaniel.. I threw down the treats for both of them, which was never a problem before, but since then I’ve treated them with food separately.. but suddenly out out of the blue they start fighting, and I have to separate them as don’t know how bad it will get..they are together when I’m home... I’m at a loss as what to do.... it’s making me a Nervous wreck constantly watching their every move when they get close to each other...
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 02, 2019:
You may need to employ a dog behavior consultant for this. Find one that uses force-free behavior modification. Some cases can be managed but some may be more difficult and tricky. It is hard to say what the outcome may be because there are many variables to consider.
Sue on May 20, 2019:
Me 8 year old female attacked my 9 year old male her son twice in 3 months they are both fixed and get a long 99 percent of the time. I had to break them up as it was nasty .Now they are fine, should I keep them separated when I am at work. I have no idea what causes this.
K D PAUL on May 19, 2019:
I have had my 2 Staffordshire Terriers for 3 years. They grew up together (they are not related, 1 is male the other female). The LOVED eachother for the first 3 years. Then we decided to add a new puppy to our family - a 4 month old male pitbull. We did everything right - had the meet n greet in a neutral place, etc. But when we all came home together that day, the next day my 2 Staffies had a terrible fight - their first fight, and nearly tried to kill eachother. We thought it was maybe one was protecting the new puppy?? We were not sure but it scared us so much we gave up the new puppy the next day. Everything was fine again, then my 2 dogs had another fight about 2 months after that -unprovoked . Ever since that first fight it led to them fighting on and off. Then we separated them, and kept close eye on them, everything got back to normal, they slept togegher, played together, then another month went by, it seems one of the dog's got in the other's space, Bam, they fought again. So this happened 6 times where they'd get along then want to kill eachother. We had to pull them apart each time, very difficult. I think my female may have space issues. It appears whenever the male got in her way, that is when the fights start. My female would end up getting hurt. My male did not bit down hard on her, but did hold her neck in his mouth and would not let go causing a couple of puncture wounds to her neck. Yes, they are both fixed. What should we do? Is it better to keep them separated for life?? Or to give one away to a good home and let them have a peaceful life apart?? I really love them both so much but this is a terrible way to live all nervous about what might happen. :(
Debra on May 07, 2019:
I have 3 dogs. A 12 yr old Pekingese, a large Yorki 7 yr old and a 1yr and 1/2 yr old boxer. They have all been getting along till today. My boxer has sort of bullied in a playful way to smaller dogs. Just standing over and mouthing neck. Today my boxer attacked both little dogs I think unprovoked two separate incidents. She has this new toy that she has taken to her kennel and wanting to stay in her kennel a lot. Which is unlike her. She is very loving. She does try to block the little dogs from my attention. Help!!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 05, 2019:
Tamera, your dogs need to be really separated. Install sturdy baby gates for when you are there to supervise and when leaving the home keep them in separate crates in separate rooms. It is not fair for a dog to be attacked this way, especially unprovoked. This leads to tension and substantial risks for the dogs to get injured and even you or your room mate if you get in between then when they are fighting (redirected bite).
Tamera on April 04, 2019:
The really old dog my roommates have snapped at my younger dog, shes done this for months but my dog never attacked. This time my dog tore into her drawing blood and having to get stitches. Now she is attacking their dog unprovoked. The older dog has arthritis in all legs with cancer and cannot defend herself. I dont know how to keep my dog from attacking her.
Sue ann Wilson on March 01, 2019:
My two 4 year jack russells are arguing over me one will sit there and stare at the other one and for no reason she will attack one is 18 pounds and one is 9 pounds we have separated them but if they are together too long the bigger one will start the fight over nothing i think i am the focal point of her aggression. Please help me this is my last resort.i want to keep both of them both.
Worried on February 21, 2019:
I have 2 dogs 1 male a smaller dog mini pin 1 female bigger dog bullsog n boxer they r 5 n 7 yrs old they do everything together n all of a sudden she wants to fight growl with my smallwe dog i have no clue y can u give advice
Lisa Chavez on February 12, 2019:
I have four dogs a male Staffordshire that is 7 years old and three females a labrador 2 and 1/2 a bully 2 and a Pitbull six-month-old the Labrador in the bully have recently began fighting about 2 months ago recently I got the Pitbull pup about 4 months prior to the fights so I don't know what to do I have to keep them separated people are telling me to get rid of my dog's but I can't do that in my kids and I need help I don't know who to turn to I live in Albuquerque New Mexico and there's not too many dog trainers that I wouldn't be able to find that can help me I'm on a fixed income is there anyway I can solve the problem or can you send me in the right direction please this is killing me these are my kids this is my family and I do not want to get rid of my kids I would never get rid of my kids but I don't want my kids to get her or anyone else thank you
Susie on February 11, 2019:
I have 2 dogs German Shepard and German Shepard cross lab, they have lived together fine for 2 years they have had 2 litter of puppies together but recently have started fighting over food and can get quite heated where we have to risk our hands and pull them away from each other, they don’t do this all day once every few days the male will start to growl and the female goes mental and starts the fight any suggestions would be lovely
antandam on February 03, 2019:
I have a 3 year old male and a 6 year old female, both pit bulls. They have lived with each other fine. They had puppies and we kept 1 male, who is now 7 months old. The oldest male has since been neutered. Recently, i have had an issue with the oldest male and female fighting every time they are near each other. The female has always been the most dominant and the other dogs have never challenged her. The oldest male was submissive even before being neutered, but even more so after being neutered. I could understand if it was the 2 males fighting now that the pup is maturing. I could understand even more if the oldest male wasn't neutered. However, it is the male and female fighting. I have considered that maybe my female is getting ready to come into heat, but why would she be attacking the neutered, submissive male? Please help! These are inside dogs and it is so hard to keep them separate. I am at a point where i have even considered rehoming, but they are like family. Would it help to spay or neuter one of the others? I plan to fix both the female and pup, but can only afford to do one right now. Which would be most beneficial?
HML on February 01, 2019:
I have two dogs. One a 5 yr old jack Russell and the other is a 20 month cocker spaniel. They have done everything together without much problem at alland have always got on. But the last few months have started fighting, and sometimes really bad fighting. We’ve just had them both neutered only a few weeks ago and the body language seems a lot better. But they are still having the odd fight which puts us on edge. We have really tried hard to look for a cause, but there is no set pattern as to why they fight
We are at the end of our tether.
Nina on January 13, 2019:
I have 2 dogs, a male cocker spaniel and a female poodle; both are 3 years old. They ignore each other most of the times especially when I am away. However when I put them on leashes and take them out sometimes the male gets super excited licks the female and tries to jump her. The female raises her leg to allow him to lick her. But when he tries to jump her she snaps and gets aggressive; this would last like 3 to 5 seconds and I have to redirect my male to come to me. How do I stop this?
Mallory on January 02, 2019:
… but recently the lab has been relatively having neutral body language before the fights break out. he remains alert of his surroundings but doesn't lip lick, raise his tail or hackles and doesn't hold eye contact with the boxer. The boxer on the other hand pins his ears back attempts to make a very steady eye contact licks his lips and has his tail up and a split second before each fight he lets out a low growl and its so quick that you cant hear it unless your only a few feet away from him. Also the lab usually gets pulled away first and the boxer will lunge and pull to try and get to the lab and when the lab is removed he usually stand next to me but remains alert on the boxer. We live in a bussie house hold with the youngest kid being 6 and I'm the oldest at 18, what every one says they see is the lab attacking the boxer for what seems like no reason but they haven't researched or trained dogs the way I have so they don't know what they're looking for and its creating a very unbalanced situation in where they're coddling the boxer and telling trying to put harsher punishment on the lab which I know can create even more confusion among the social status of all the dogs we have. also the boxer shows himself to be very submissive in almost every situation except minutes before each fight and he often greets the lab with kisses a low head and wagging tail/butt and they play just fine with each other when no toys are involved. im starting to reach my witts end and ready to separate them most of the time if we cant find a solution soon. also my lab is my service dog and has never done something like this before even though he is the dominant dog of the house. we are very in tune to each other and spend almost all of our time together and this isn't how he would react unless he's pushed to his limit. I know because of this I have a bias but I want this to be fixed so badly that i'm trying my best to look at every reason why he would react this way and the main conclusion I have come to is that it's a team effort to fight and he feels like he has to in order to keep his rank. I know this behavior is unacceptable and if he were to show any sign of aggression or dominance while working he would be retired a.s.a.p. and luckily he hasn't done that yet and I hope he never will. I'm also wondering what to do after a fight happens, my family members insist in a alpha roll to force the dog into submissiveness and I usually remove the lab and out him in a down stay to cool off and he goes in a submissive state on his own. if you do read through all of this I am really grateful! I know it's a lot of information and that im not paying for feed back so im honestly not expecting a huge response with a magic cure or anything but I would greatly appreciate opinions and thoughts! thanks so much!
Mallory on January 02, 2019:
hi! I have two dogs out of a pack of four that keep going at each other. one is a lab German shorthaired pointer mix and the other is a bull dog boxer mix. The lab is 3 years old and is the most dominant in the house but isn't aggressive and never has been until these fights. the boxer mix is just under 2 and is the middle man of the pack and is known to be an instigator in many situations and also has never shown aggression until just now. both have trips to the vet in a few days just to check all the bases and make sure there isn't anything going in internally. so the situations in which they fight have been around our sofa, approaching feeding time and soon after, and around chews and bones, and there have been a few instances where there doesn't seem to be an external trigger. I have been doing loads of research and what I see is the boxer mix showing very negative body language before almost every squabble and about 30% of the time my lab will have his hackles up a few seconds...
HL on December 16, 2018:
I have two dogs both boys 2 years they have been best friends and now out of nowhere fight over food space everything. They will stare at each other from accords the room and then attack each other. What is causing this?? How do we make it stop? The 2 year old is a shar pei terrier mix and the 1 1/2 year old is a Pomeranian husky.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 04, 2018:
It sounds like a case of redirected aggression which takes place when arousal levels are high. It is not unusual when you have two dogs who react to a trigger that causes high arousal which then spills into redirected aggression. Avoiding this in the future would require minimizing access to triggers as such.
Angela C on November 04, 2018:
I have two female Pekingnese. They were outside on our balcony when another dog walked by below the balcony. When my younger dog saw the strange dog walking by she started blocking my older dog then jumped on my older dog trying to fight her? They have been together their whole lives! And snuggle together at bed time. Why would my younger dog start a fight with my older dog at the mere sight of another dog? Im upset about it and very confused. Please help me to understand so we can hopefully avoid this in the future. Just a note. The younger dog is the alpha and always has been if that matters?
Jennifer king on April 29, 2018:
Why does my youngest male all of a sudden try to mount my older male dog !!.Both have been fixed???? What di i do??
GrammyP on April 18, 2018:
We brought home a 4 year old pug/beagle mix as a rescue dog about 2 monsths ago. The center where we got Lulu had us bring in our older (12+ yrs.) black lab mix to make sure they got along. Everything was going well until recently. Lulu is getting aggressive with the older dog. The older dog has weak back legs and often has a hard time standing and often has to be helped. When Lulu hears her "scratching" at the floor, she has started to bark and today went after her. I've read your article and was wondering if this is normal "pack" behavior or if I should be concerned. Secondly, Snowball has started to exhibit some "jealous" behaviors of her own. Lulu likes to follow me around everywhere--including the bathroom and now Snowball has to do the same which she never did before! I'm very concerned about both dogs and want to do what's best for both of them. If you have any advice, I would be most pleased. Thank you.
Katie on April 15, 2018:
I have a 9 month old pitbull pitbull and an 8 week old pitbull he's attacked him twice and this last time he hurting pretty bad what do I do
Rose Ann Hall on March 19, 2018:
two females one terrier new as of Nov other is a yorkie poo 2 1/2 with us since 8 weeks old.
They have gotten along until now. I am afraid for the Yorkie she is tiny
I need a trainer help. so stressful when they fight one time big dog actually bit and caused blood on little one.
I want them to go to a trainer if there is a solution, I do not want to
give the bigger one up. actually neither of them
Tiffany on March 05, 2018:
I have 2 male pits. One is 3 the other is only 1 year old. When the youngest was still a puppy they loved each other. Now he is constantly annoying the other pit. Getting in his space, chewing his ears, and nipping. Then the old pit lunges. I break them up and try to stop the youngest from annoying him. But nothing seems to work. The youngest is fixed now as well.
Rodney black on February 22, 2018:
I have a boston terrier thatsabout 10 years old female and a pomerianan female about 6 years old lately the terrier has become more aggressive to the pomerianan now the younger dog is acting timid around the older dog and theyounger dog is less playful and want jump up to sit in wifes lap ty email@example.com
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 07, 2018:
It's difficult to determine what caused this attack. If one dog seems to be mounting the other dog when you are play fighting, it might be that some commotion from your interactions between you, your boyfriend and your daughter (like talking in an emotional way or gesticulating) may have been a trigger. It could be this dog gets stressed by commotion and redirects on the other dog. Of course, this is just a theory. You might have to keep the dogs separated from now on or get a professional in person to offer help.
S- on February 07, 2018:
Hi! I have two male Pit mix about the same age (approx 5 years old.) One is mine and very docile. Love everyone even the cats. Our other came in to the picture about 5 months ago with my boyfriend. He’s always on high alert when we’re outside and hates cats/squirrels or anything that moves fast and is small. He shows dominance by mounting my dog often especially when my boyfriend and I are play fighting. He gets along quite well with my dog, but the other day my boyfriends dog attacked mine when my daughter and her friend were standing close by. He held on to my dogs ear and wouldn’t let go , but it seems like my dog “won the fight” because he barely had any marks on him. The other dog has quite a few puncture holes and was bleeding. I don’t know what triggered it because I didn’t see it happen, but my daughter says that our dog was walking next to her while the other dog walked out of the bedroom and then charged ours. No signs of preaggression were displayed. I don’t understand. Please help. Thanks
Christina on January 04, 2018:
I have to pitbulls my mom raised them but she recently passed I need them since they were babies but now they're starting to fight and I don't understand why they're both in the bed right now I got one out this morning and now I have to get the other one but I'm afraid to bring them back together I don't know what's going to happen!
carol on December 31, 2017:
I have two labs, male. They are from same litter. They are almost 7 years old and my husband and I are the only owners they have had. Up until about 6 months ago they get along. One is way more dominant than the other. The dominant one have been attaching for no reason at unpredictable times. The most recent was due to my affection. The less dominant one never fights back, but instead retreats to his crate out of fear and disbelief as to what has happened. The less dominant one is the one whom instigates Most of the playing between the two of them. They have fought over water bowl, a place to lay down, and today my affection. Any advice?
Paul on December 31, 2017:
I have 2 male whippets 1 of them is getting very aggressive towards the other & has also attacked me on a number of occasions 1 is 18months he’s the 1 that is aggressive the other is just ove 2year & very laid back please help
Angel on December 02, 2017:
I have two old English bulldoggie, they are sisters and they are beginning to fight and each one is getting hurt, they draw blood and wounds, I don’t know what to do pls help. I can not tell what or why it starts, but it is vicious, sometimes I can tell when it is going to start because one of the females will start pressing her nose against the other one.
Kari on November 07, 2017:
I have a question . I have two female pit bulls who have been around each other since they were about 6 month ago. One the them (diamond) we have had since she was about 6 weeks ago. Crystal who we got when she was about 6 months old. All of a sudden now they are probably about 11 months old they fight all the time. They both can be outside in th back yard together and be fine not fight but as soon as someone goes outside with them or even if we let them in the house together they instantly fight .. and it’s like bad fighting they will not stop. We do not want to have to get rid of either dog because we don’t know anyone who can take them but we can’t not have them fight. These last few times of me breaking them up I have gotten bite. Is there anything we can do, please let me know. It’s to the point I’m scared to go outside because I don’t want them to fight.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 25, 2017:
Sandra, your best and safest option is to have a professional come to your home and help you out.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 25, 2017:
It might be they are resource guarding their sleeping spots.Where are they sleeping? If on mats, then you can try to move them farther away or use crates instead. If one is sleeping closer to you, it could be he is resource guarding you. It would help to see the behavior to get a better idea of what may be going on. More distance may help, but crates would be the safest option.
Mary on September 22, 2017:
I have two male pit bulls that are litter mates and got them both week apart. They are 8 months now and they will play together and nothing be wrong, but when it's bed Time they are go to bed great at first but then just looking at each other starts one or both to growling or them fighting . It's worse at night, but they do go at it during the day. But they are usually calm and not playing when they start to fight . I just got them both fixed a few days ago hoping it will help (I know it will take a while to get the testosterone out of there system). I just want them to stop. Any idea what's agitating them at night?
Hannah Bridges on September 09, 2017:
I had a male dog first and he was neutered. A few years later, we got a female dog that was spayed, and they got along right away and got super close. Never used to want to be close to each other, but now they make sure they sleep right next to each other. It's been about five years, but my female dog starts acting dominant when the male just picks up a toy and walks by, she slightly growls or barks. And usually when they start play fighting like they always used to do, it has become more violent the past few months. Last year, I was attacked by a dog at my job, so I'm not sure if I'm just overthinking it when they start play fighting, but I think I focus more on how they play fight because of it, and to me, it has gotten more violent and I don't know what to do. It always scares me when they start.
e. on September 09, 2017:
WHY DOES MY 3YEAR OLD DOG, BITE AND ATTACK MY NEW PUPPY,WHO IS 5MOTH OLD,OLDER DOG IS IN HEAT.
Sandra on September 06, 2017:
We need HELP we have 4 dogs living in our house with us three of them are rescues the other we've had since he was a puppy. 3 are males one is a female they are all fixed. We have three little ones that are Chihuahuas and a larger dog that has a black mouth Cur. About 4 to 5 months ago we adopted our last rescue dog the third Chihuahua and all the dogs got along great until about two months ago the newest addition and the Chihuahua that we had since he was a puppy have started to fight really bad they just stare at each other and go out it instantly I don't know what to do. We separate them and reprimand them and then they could be playing 30 seconds later but it's a constant all day thing and they fight so bad they actually hurt each other.
Hopefully somebody can help us we're at a loss
D on July 06, 2017:
Hey I have two dogs the father and the son they would always get a long and be able to coexist now the father is starting to get a little on the older side and his son is starting to get very aggressive with him always trying to fight and bite him when the chance arrives he's also been trying to run away actually has like 4 times and just jump back inside like if nothing ever happened the dad is a full German Shepard and the son is half German/ half husky
We had a chihuahua that ran away and was never able to find it was 2 weeks ago ever since then they've been fighting a lot and that's when him running away started I don't know what to do so he won't run away and so they won't fight as much
Karley Bassett on June 02, 2017:
I found this article really helpful in understanding what's going on with my two male boxers. A lot of these pin point exactly what's happening in my house. Recently, my 16 month old male boxer has been going at my 6 year old male boxer. This happened 3 times, we separated for about an hour and then put them together again with no issues. This final time, the 6 year old went right at the 16 month old. We have kept them apart since. The 6 year old is neutered, the 16 month old is not. He is scheduled to be neutered on the 12th. I'm hoping that this really helps what's going on in my house. If not - I don't know what to do to help alleviate the tension in the house. Nothing has changed - they went from loving each other and laying on top of each other to not being able to be in the same room in a matter of days. Thank you for writing this article because now I understand why. I just hope that I can figure out what's going on and stop it.
Debra on May 15, 2017:
I got my first female shiv tzu Perrie she had some aversive behaviours from a tiny pup when she didn't like things being brushed and bathed I worked with her she's a lovely dog but when I try brushing she shows teeth and growls when she was a year old I got Roman who's a male shiv tzu at first perrie was jealous again I worked on it now the female is 1year 7months and the male 7 minths. They have had 3 fights so far without hurting each other but there is jealousy mostly from the female and now dominance from the male the male takes everything off the female and sits on her when she's relaxing or barks at her to get up he's also trying to mount her when walking them the make starts jumping on the female it looked like play with lots of growling but when I try to separate them the male seems to be intense and won't listen do I leave them to it or continue to let them know what's not right and the male has not yet been nurtured.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 29, 2017:
A vet check is always in order when there are behavior changes like that out of the blue.
Jessica Reeves on April 28, 2017:
We have 3 dogs in our family. Our oldest is a 7 year old yellow lab. Next we have a 5 year old German Shepard. Lastly a 1 year old Cocker Spaniel. We have had all of them since they were 8 weeks old. In the last few months our German Shepard has been instigating fights with our Yellow Lab. I can't really tell what causes it. Sometimes they will be outside without any of us around and start fighting. I don't know what to do. They have lived harmoniously for 5 years together and now this. They are spayed.
Mary Beckett on March 13, 2017:
Son fights with dad chichuia dad try to back down n they only fight when I'm around I'm getting my youngest one fixed on the 22 he also getting distemper shot n rabies on the 31 I'm getting the father fixed I pray this works I find if I don't pay attention when they growl at each other they walk away from each other so the youngest is probably doing it to.get my attention
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 07, 2017:
Sounds like resource guarding, would recommend seeing a behavior consultant for that.
Rosmery on March 01, 2017:
My dog keeps attacking the other one if there's any food or toys around. Even when she throws up she growls is any other dog get close to it. I don't know how to help her or what to do but yell a command when they are fighting. Would appreciate your help.
Graeme on January 16, 2017:
We have a 9mth old blue staffy female, but for the last month or so she been attacking our older staffy male or 10yrs, sometimes these fights are horrendous to witness, we just dont know where its come from, they got on fabulous at first they would do everything together but since she came on heat for the first time, she's started attacking him, the other day she just attacked him for no reason whatsoever, we've as a family have never favoured one over the other both equally in everything we do and give. But now we've had to separate them which isn't right for either dog. Am really upset has i dont know whats happened for us to get to this. Like i say these fights are absolutely awful to witness, please please if anyone knows what we need to do to make this better am all ears........please help......... Thank you......
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 15, 2016:
Generally, aggressive behaviors do not tend to stop once they have started, unless early intervention is taken. It sounds like there is some competition going on over your presence, which may start from the arousal of greeting you and then spills out to aggressive displays. Sounds like sleeping areas are also culprits. Unfortunately, these things are apt to happen when housing several dogs in the home. Why they have gotten along well for 5 year and now they are fighting may be not easy to comprehend, but sometimes if a dog is getting older he/she may not be able to communicate as well as before. This assuming one dogs is getting old.. You will need a professional to come take a look and gather a history of your dogs and plan something out, but in most cases, keeping the two parties separated is the best and safest option.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 15, 2016:
Nat you need to take action before the behaviors you are seeing put roots. At 2 years old, Rottweilers are in full doggy adolescence, They start becoming discriminative on who to befriend and are no longer the puppies that got along with each other as in the past months. At this age, they are more serious and may no longer tolerate certain behaviors of other dogs. No more dog park but if you know some pals he gets along with that aren't into mounting or engaging in bully behaviors, have some play time with them under a controlled setting. Rotties are always blamed at the dog park no matter what and puts them in a bad light. About the growling of others, it's hard to say what may have started it, but you can work on it, by finding a trainer who uses positive training techniques based on countercondiitoinng and desensitization. My boy also went through a period like that, when he was 2 and a half, never growled at people but then after a stressful period (a move) he started doing that, but we nipped it in the bud before it established. If you look up my profile, my pinterest account Daily Dog Discoveries it has a dog aggression category with all my hubs and lots of tips. Best of luck!
Wendy on December 15, 2016:
We have a total of four dogs in our home, a min pin, a dachshund mix, a beagle mix, and a golden retriever. Recently our golden and our beagle have began fighting. They have lived together for over 5 years together and we have never had any problems.
The first fight appeared to have broken out over a new sleeping area, we were awakened by the sound if them fighting late at night. We were able to stop the fight but our beagle ended up with a small puncture wound to her ear. Thinking it was a one time thing, we closed off the closet they were attempting to sleep in, separated the dogs for the night, and they seemed to be OK the next day. I had been at work but my son said they gotten along just fine. Until...I got home from work. I came in the door and all dogs came very excited to greet me as usual and again a fight broke out between the same two dogs. Again our beagle ended up with a couple of small wounds. Our beagle has always had a little more of an aggressive personality, but our golden has never shown aggression at any time. Though they appear to be getting along fine now, its only been a couple of days since the fighting. I'm afraid that my tension and worry may cause them to be aggressive with each other again. Is it possible that this is an isolated occurance?
Nat on December 13, 2016:
I've got a 2 y/o Rottweiler who has suddenly started showing signs of aggression. He recently attacked a staffie that had been growling/nipping and mounting the other dogs at the park. I don’t feel as if it was an 'aggressive attack', rather he was trying to tell the staffie off for growling and dominating the other dogs (my dog pulled him off and then dragged him away). However the other dog needed quite a few stitches so I’m by no means trying to say we weren't at fault. He has also started showing fear toward strangers who approach us and will growl at them. We got our dog as a puppy, and he has been thoroughly socialised from the get-go. Do you have any thoughts on what this sudden change in behaviour could be due to? Obviously we are getting professional help from a trainer as well. I was always so proud of our Rottie for changing peoples negative perception of the breed! We have worked so hard to keep him socialised and well-trained but his behaviour lately is so worrying.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 04, 2016:
You can try some different things but it really be ideal to have a behavior consultant guide you through. Feeding in different rooms is great management plan. When your son comes in the door try keeping both on leash, you have one, somebody has the other, keep them at a distance from each other, if they get show any small sign of conflict, son goes out the door. If they are calm, son enters and ignores them. With him ignoring them, the dogs will figure it out there's nothing to fight over. Keep rehearing this over and over several times a day. Dogs should also be trained to respond to an interrupter sign that you can use that tells the dog to stop the beginning of a squabble in its tracks and that means to come to you. This should all be trained with a trainer as it requires several rehearsals and for safety.
Lisa on December 02, 2016:
Feeding time was the biggest ,so we feed in different rooms but the silly things could be a toy,my son walking through the door ,just silly things . Sometimes I know and I can stop it and it's fine other time you just don't and it's the big one. Thankyou for getting back to me .
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 30, 2016:
Lisa, can you describe the "stupid reasons" that triggers their fighting? It might be helpful from a management standpoint.
Lisa on November 28, 2016:
I have 3 Frenchbull dogs,the Dad,the Mum and we kept one of their puppies ,little boy. He is 16 months old . Most days it's peace and calm in the house but occasionally Dad and son fight for stupid reasons,we have to dive in and separate them ,sometimes they have little cuts on them and it's very distressing when it happens .after they trott of together and cuddle up and sleep . I hate it when it happened,they have both been neutered and so has the mum . Any ideas how to stop ,I've been trying to read the signs but it just happens !
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 24, 2016:
Separation, use baby gates to separate the fighting parties or find a trainer/ behavior consultant using positive training methods/behavior modification to help you out.
ciaraisworried on November 19, 2016:
I have two older dogs,one large male who is younger ,like 7 or 8,and one medium female like 8 or 9.The male is a lab, and the female is a begale.They don't fight all the time but when they do ,the female is usually left bleeding . I think its over food but I'm not sure what to do about it.I don't want to have to give up the male ,what do I do?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 14, 2016:
Deb, was it just a "discussion" like a growl with nobody getting hurt, or was there actual biting? If you cannot afford a trainer, your best bet is management, basically simply keep separated, you can get a baby gate
Deb on November 13, 2016:
I have 5 dogs. 3 are pups of one of the males. The pups are now 3 years old. Yesterday the male pup Max started fighting with his father Kota. This was sudden and has never happen before. Now we can not even have them in the same room. My husband is a disabled vet and we can not afford a trainer. Help anyone.
Amanda on November 06, 2016:
I have two female mixed terriers from the same litter. They are five years old now and have never had a problem ever with fighting. Have a two year old female English setter and no problems with her in their pack either. This summer we inherited a two year old fixed male chihuahua and had no problems with him either. Now the two sisters are fighting whenever they are in reach of eachother and it's just getting worse. Our setter though younger even steps in-between them to try and stop the fighting. I have read about breeding and packs and age but I am having trouble just getting a straight answer on what can be done to stop this or help with it besides keeping them separated all the time messing up a five year routine.
Carla on October 23, 2016:
I have two rescue dogs one is a female mutt no real predominate breed (per a DNA test) she looks like maybe a Pit/Shepard/Border Collie mix and the other is a male Corgi/Cattle Dog mix. The female is around 5 years and the male is about 2 1/2. All of a sudden the Female started smelling the Male and then attacking them. Prior to this they would play together all the time no problem. Just to add another thing when we walk them, leave them home or if they are just around the house they are fine. The attacks seem random. Not sure what I should do at this point.
eerin on September 01, 2016:
I have two male poodles both are fixed one is my husbands we have been living together for 5 years the dogs have never had a problem. recently my husband's dog who is older is being highly aggressive towards my dog they haveven never fought before. I notice it is only when my husband is not home they never had this issue before what could be going on ?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 18, 2013:
Thank you solaras! It has been debunked by many websites and professionals, but the concept is unfortunately still alive if you google dog dominance, human pack theory and alpha dog:(
Barbara Fitzgerald from Georgia on February 18, 2013:
Interesting hub with a lot of good information. I give it a thumbs up. Glad to hear that the Alpha human concept has been debunked!
kingkos on January 13, 2013:
I found this article very interesting..i got 4 male dogs now i know why my 2 year old boxer dog suddenly bite my 6 year old shih-tzu..My boxer dog doesn't want any dog come near me. "over protective" And my shih-tzu sometimes when playing with my boxer get angry and they fight.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 13, 2012:
I am not sure what you are doing for punishment, but if it's based on aversion (scolding, pinning dog to the ground etc) it wont' help make matters better. All you really can do at this point is keeping the troublemakers separated. I wished I could be more helpful, but I realistically cannot see an easy way out or a safe way to make them all get along. The dog behaviorist route is the best approach in this case as he/she can assess your dog and see the dynamics. I think management at this point may be much easier and safer than attempting something without the aid of a professional that may have a poor success rate with your dogs at stake of getting injured.. Best wishes.
4mutts on December 12, 2012:
I have 4 dogs - two females (one pure-blooded Australian cattle dog (ACD) ~13 yrs old and one Great Pyrenees/ACD mix, 7 yrs old) and two males (one Border Collie/ACD, 9 yrs old & one Bernese Mtn dog/wolfhound mix, 7 yrs old). All 4 are fixed. The female pure ACD was a stray that we picked up and could not find a home for. The Bernese mix (the biggest one at 106 lbs) was a rescue. The Border Collie/ACD mix is the dominant dog. We have had multiple bloody fights btwn the females (the pure ACD will not fit into the group and thinks she should be the top dog - she was a breeding dog before we found her but we had her spayed right away) with the smaller ACD having had multiple surgeries to patch her up. We now keep the two females completely separated. Yesterday, the two males (border collie mix & bernese mix) had a little spat - then the female pyrenees mix jumped in and all hell broke loose. My husband managed to get the dogs apart (& luckily did not get hurt) but not before the bernese mix had some pretty bad damage done to his left front leg by the border collie mix. Emergency surgery & $550 later he is home resting. The other two (pyrenees & border collie) were under house arrest and confined to the bedroom or backyard until this evening – though we are still keeping them separate from the injured dog. My husband is convinced that most of the problem is the pyrenees mix and that if she had not gotten involved the squabble would not have escalated as it did. I am planning on looking into a dog behavorist, but we frankly do not have a lot of $$ now and are struggling. Any advice or insight into how we might deal with this is welcome. We think that part of the problem is because we have to keep the 2 females separated and they are jealous of one another (the ACD stays in the kitchen with me while I am working). Are we sending the wrong signal with the punishment for the two dogs that hurt the other and by keeping the 2 females apart? Is it likely that the dominant female (pyrenees mix) is the main problem?
wetnosedogs from Alabama on April 19, 2012:
my dogs seem to know "that's enough", but we've had our interesting moments. They all have seemed to learn boundaries and sometimes it's remembering in the excitement of whatever. Great hub.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 19, 2012:
If they are playing there is no need to intervene. When my Rottweilers play it sounds like they are killing each other but it is for the most part drama. If I notice though it escalates a bit too much for my taste I intervene. It helps to train a 'that's enough" command to dogs so they take a little break and then have them start playing again when they are a bit calmer. Here is a helpful hub I wrote a while ago:
Clive Donegal from En Route on April 19, 2012:
I found this article helpful in understanding behaviors I see in our dogs. I am a little less clear on how I might alleviate tension. Young female and adult male pits usually play well together, and when somehing relatively srerious breaks out it usually is over in a minute or two. I am not sure whether I should be doing something to reduce tension.