Managing Dog Aggression
Dog Aggression is a very serious thing. Dog to Dog aggression in your home is incredibly stressful.
It can happen out of the blue — sort of. Meaning, they may have been friends for years, until one day they weren’t.
So what goes wrong? Why do dogs suddenly become incompatible?
It could be rooted in medical issues or pain as they age, stress/anxiety, changing dynamics of the environment, etc. It could have been a big explosion of a series of small events that have been festering for a long time — even one’s that you didn’t see coming or didn’t think connected together. And sometimes — $@%# just happens with out a lot of explanation.
In the absence of medical issues — most of the issues I have seen cause disruption between dogs in the house are rooted in one of the following
- Lack of Leadership and Structure from the humans. There are no clear rules and boundaries and way too much freedom
- Lack of exercise and tapping into the natural instinct and needs of the dog, leaving them bored and frustrated
- Lack of proper socialization and experience with other dogs
- Resource guarding unchecked
- Insecurities and lack of confidence left unchecked
- Playing favorites and not creating the relationship needed with the dog to create trust and respect (see the first bullet)
In most cases if the issues are addressed early and effectively, the dogs can learn to coexist. But it takes work. Lots of work. And Time. Lots of time. And their relationship may not ever be the way it once was.
So, if you’re ready to put in the work to get things back on track — Roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Safety Protocols for Dog to Dog Aggression
Crate and Rotate is no fun. But it’s often an essential way of life to keep everyone safe. It’s tiresome, worrisome, and still fraught with anxiety and risk.
Safety Protocols Fail when we get lazy about supervision, forget to secure doors, or think that just this once they will be ok for a second. So you can’t slack off with the efforts, protocols, and training.
When Kids Are In the Home
The stakes change significantly when there are young kids in the house. It’s easy for humans to get caught in the crossfire when the dogs get rile up. It’s dangerous — especially to infants, toddlers and young kids who may not know to or be able to get out of the way.
Kids in the home should be carefully considered if you are planning to rehab dogs who fight or bite. Even if you decide to rehome your dogs who fight, you must disclose the history to the new owners AND it would behoove you to still train the dog before rehoming — instead of masking the problem by just avoiding it. The problem won’t go away — it just may not be on the surface in a new environment.
How to break up a dog fight
There is no point in me recreating the wheel here. Leerburg has the best video on this subject around. Watch here: https://leerburg.com/flix/player.php/893/How_to_Break_up_a_Dog_Fight
Ok, I know we all just jump in and start pulling dogs apart. That’s often where we get bit ourselves. So be careful!!!!
After the Dog Fight
Most people make a big mistake after the altercation. They tend to immediately separate the dogs completely out of sight of each other. And don’t bring them back together at all. That’s the mistake. A better option is to bring them together under control (two handlers, two leashes/tethers, etc) and keep them together until they calm down. Really calm down and relax. Patience is a virtue here.
After the incident and everyone settles, then yes, you should implement crating, tethering, and possibly even muzzling the dogs, but you can’t isolate them from each other. You must begin right away with training protocols that require the dogs to follow your structure and leadership around the other dog. Your goal isn’t play at this stage – -but respect and clam state of mind.
Your leadership is essential. Obedience, consistency, structure, supervision, and house rules are absolutely non-negotiable.
Preventing The Dog Fight (or Another One)
Supervise, Supervise Supervise. Supervision means adult, awake, alert, actively engaged eyes on the dog at all time. It does not mean sleeping nearby, reading, TV, computer, yard work, or other activities that distract you from the dog. Things happen fast. A dog can bite in about 2/10th of 1 second. And you just can’t react that fast.
Obedience, Obedience and Some More Obedience.
This doesn’t mean robotic dogs. But it does mean sit means sit. Commands are not negotiated, delayed, or let of the hook. You’ll want to work each dog around the other (safety of course with tethers, muzzles, etc. You’re doing to do a ton of duration work for down stays and place command until each dog is so bored being around the other, they no longer care about the other.
Clear communications. Clear expectations. Clear consequences.
You can start to learn body language and see early warning signs. Interrupt them early and effectively. Nonsense is non-negotiable. Your dog needs to see you as the leader who doesn’t put up with nonsense. (Most people need 1:1 training to help to learn how to be effective at leadership, training, corrections and solutions for your dogs. Rehab is NOT easy. Get professional help.
Give your dog an instinctual outlet for activity and mental stimulation. Build a relationship with your dog doing something fun and freeing for his mind and body — with you! Not just alone in the yard entertaining himself. Take a herding dog to an agility class, or even better to herd something. Can’t afford it – -no excuses buy some soccer ball and him herd those to the center of the yard. Play scent games with your scent hounds. Build tunnels for the terriers and dachshunds to run through. Have sight games for your greyhounds and other sight-hounds. There are a million things you can do to embrace the natural instincts of your dog’s breed and to start having fun with the dog. Getting rid of pent-up energy, anxiety and frustration will build a better dog everywhere else!
Hire a Professional who specializes in Dog Aggression
Don’t wait until there is a second squabble. Don’t hope it won’t happen again. Dog fights are ugly, stressful and dangerous to everyone. When dogs start fighting, you need to recognize there is a real problem in the dynamics of the pack and it’s not going to go away on it’s on. The more often they fight the worse things get. And if you’re missing the early warning signs, they will do it again. It is rare that they just work it out on their own.
And know this — it takes as long as it takes. Weeks, Months, Years, and sometimes it is never 100% resolved.
With commitment and consistency you can create a more manageable environment and less stress for everyone.