Does your dog want to “be the boss” of the other dogs in your family? Is one of your dogs a “bully” and gets grumpy if the other dog just looks at him wrong? Do your two female dogs get into nasty fights with each other? Do fights erupt that you don’t see coming and can’t understand?

These are just a few of the many types of problems that can develop between dogs who live together. Traditional wisdom labels all these problems as “dominance problems” , but this is simply not true and is dangerously misleading.

Many fights sound worse than they are, and often neither dog is injured. This is a good sign, but you should seek expert help to prevent the problem from escalating. If one dog has already been injured, you may be better off separating them until you can consult with a competent behavior consultant, preferably a certified applied or veterinary behaviorist who can help you.

Supporting one dog’s “dominance” over the other can sometimes be helpful, but can also actually cause an increase in conflict, because it is the wrong thing to do. Many dog-dog problems are not about dominance.

Using the right techniques to introduce dogs to one another can prevent some fighting problems. Avoid just putting your new Fido with your resident one and “letting them work it out”. For the best outcome, with the least risk to the dogs, introductions need to be carefully managed.

The first step is to manage the problem by not allowing fights to happen. If you can predict what causes a fight (perhaps when one dog has a prized chew toy and the other approaches), then for now avoid those situations. If you can’t predict when the dogs will fight, you may need to separate them temporarily. The more the fights occur, the more fear and animosity build up between your dogs and the lower the chances your dogs can learn to live peaceably together.

You MUST take steps immediately to ensure the safety of both dogs. This is especially important if you have a big dog-small dog pair, a young adult dog-elderly,frail dog pair, or a puppy with an adult dog. If necessary, muzzle one or both dogs if you cannot separate them. We recommend wire basket muzzles from NEVER leave a dog alone while muzzled.

These are potentially serious problems. Not seeking timely help may put one or more of your animals in danger of injury or death.

Our online course on Creating and Maintaining Healthy Relationships Among Family Dogs is a good place to start.  If you need custom help, contact our office about a consulting appointment.