Free Consultation


Preventing Fights Between Dogs in Multi-Pet Homes

Preventing Fights Between Dogs in Multi-Pet Homes

Managing the Chaos in Your Canine Coexistence

As I sit here in my living room, I can’t help but notice the subtle tension in the air. Lucy, my Cardigan Corgi, and Missy, my Australian Shepherd, are eyeing each other warily, occasionally letting out a low growl. It’s been like this for the past few weeks, and I’m starting to feel like a referee in a never-ending doggy wrestling match.

You see, I’m no stranger to the challenges of maintaining harmony in a multi-dog household. Over the years, I’ve worked with countless clients who’ve faced similar issues, and I’ve even had my fair share of relationship troubles with my own canine companions. But through it all, I’ve learned a thing or two about preventing and managing these types of conflicts.

Understanding the Roots of Canine Conflict

Far from a case of simple sibling rivalry, the reasons behind dogs attacking each other in the home can be complex and multifaceted. As my colleague Jennifer Swiggart jokingly puts it, we might be dealing with a case of “snow aggression” – the added stress of decreased exercise opportunities and higher human stress levels due to the recent record snowfall can push our four-legged friends over their bite threshold.

You see, aggression in dogs is often the result of a buildup of stress, much like the case of “road rage” in humans. When a dog’s stress load reaches a certain point, they may lash out, even in situations that may seem innocuous to us. It’s not that they’re inherently “aggressive dogs,” but rather that the cumulative stress has pushed them to the breaking point.

Identifying Triggers and Removing Stressors

The first step in addressing aggression issues between your own dogs is to identify not only the immediate trigger for the aggression – such as fighting over a meaty bone – but also everything in your dog’s life that may be causing them stress. The more stressors you can eliminate, the less likely it is that they’ll resort to using their teeth as a last resort.

As Lauren Tsao, a certified professional dog trainer, points out, tight spaces, slippery floors, and clutter can all contribute to a dog’s stress levels and increase the risk of conflicts. By making simple adjustments to your home environment, such as removing furniture, adding rugs, and keeping entryways clear, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of fights breaking out.

Changing Their Associations Through Counter-Conditioning

Once you’ve identified the triggers and eliminated as many stressors as possible, it’s time to tackle the aggression head-on through a process called counter-conditioning. This involves changing your dogs’ emotional associations with each other from negative to positive.

The key is to start at a distance where your dogs can be in each other’s presence without becoming fearful or aroused, and then slowly, systematically, and positively reinforce the sight of the other dog with high-value treats. Over time, you can gradually decrease the distance between them while maintaining their positive association, until they’re happy to be in close proximity.

As the experts at Whole Dog Journal explain, this process of counter-conditioning and desensitization can be challenging, especially if the relationship between your dogs has become severely strained. But with patience, consistency, and the help of a qualified positive reinforcement-based trainer, you can often repair the bond and restore harmony to your home.

Incorporating Operant Conditioning Techniques

If counter-conditioning proves challenging, or if your dogs’ aggression is more deeply rooted, you may need to incorporate operant conditioning techniques into your training plan. This is where methods like Constructional Aggression Treatment (CAT) and Behavioral Adjustment Training (BAT) come into play.

These approaches aim to teach your dogs a new, calm behavioral response in the presence of the other dog, using the other dog’s movement or location as a reinforcer. As the Whole Dog Journal article explains, the goal is to help your dogs associate the other’s presence with good things, rather than with conflict.

Medication and Environmental Management

In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend medication, such as fluoxetine (Prozac), to help reduce your dogs’ anxiety and aggression levels. However, it’s important to note that medication alone is not a silver bullet – it should be used in conjunction with behavior modification techniques to achieve the best results.

Additionally, as the experts at TLC Animal Hospital advise, managing your dogs’ environment is crucial. This may involve the use of crates, baby gates, and other management tools to keep your dogs separated during high-risk situations, such as mealtimes, greetings, and playtime.

Prioritizing Individual Needs and Equity

One key lesson I’ve learned over the years is that treating your dogs as individuals, rather than strictly as equals, can go a long way in promoting harmony. As the team at RSD Training points out, harmony doesn’t necessarily mean equality – it’s about recognizing and addressing the unique needs of each dog so that everyone can thrive.

This might mean allowing one dog more access to resources or asking an older, more trained dog to move away from a tense situation, while being more patient with a younger pup. By focusing on equity rather than strict equality, you can create an environment where your dogs feel safe, secure, and free from chronic stress.

Seeking Professional Guidance

At the end of the day, maintaining harmony in a multi-dog household is no easy feat. There will always be some level of conflict, and it’s important to recognize that this is normal and expected. But with the right management strategies, behavior modification techniques, and, if necessary, the guidance of a certified professional, you can create a safe and nurturing environment for all your canine companions.

So, as I sit here watching Lucy and Missy eyeing each other warily, I know that with a little extra effort and a lot of patience, we can get through this. After all, I have dogs, and I’m not about to give up on them – or on the promise of a harmonious multi-pet home.

Tags :
Share This :

Get Updates with our



Join our passionate community of dog lovers. Embrace the journey of companionship with Ihavedogs, where every dog gets the best of care and love.