When Your Dogs Fight

The Resource for Everything About Dogs

When Your Dogs Fight

by Sanford Finley

Two dogs can either be twice the joy or double trouble. If your experience falls into the latter category and dogfights are the cause, then perhaps I can be of help. We tend to view our dogs as children and when dogs squabble, growl, snarl and even ferociously bite at each other, it is perturbing.

Generally, when this type of behavior occurs, the root cause is unresolved issues in the pack ranking. Or, a simpler explanation is that your dogs are merely establishing who is "top dog".

Dogs live in packs and consider their fellow dogs and humans to be a part of their pack. There is an Alpha dog or pack leader and every other member of the pack has a well-established status in the group. You, as the human should be the unequivocal Alpha member of the pack. If your Alpha status is questionable, I'd suggest you refer to my article on "Training Tips" at http://www.perfectdogtraining.com/perfect%20manners and immediately take steps to assume your proper leadership role. Below you in the pack are your dogs. They too will take measures to find their proper position in the pack. This jostling for position will often lead to fights. Although these status driven squabbles may be of unbearable distress to you as a human, please consider that Nature is wise in the instinctual behaviors it bestows upon our pets.

Canines have survived for centuries because their caste system works exceedingly well. The fit and strong rise to the top, thereby insuring the survival of the pack. Our values of altruism toward the weak and deserving are ill suited for life in the wild. Our dogs are not human and they do not share our values of fairness based on kindness toward the weak or disadvantaged.

So how does this all relate to stopping your beloved Muffy and Matilda from seemingly wanting to kill each other?

Well, first they are not in a battle to the death. Dogs will snarl, growl and even bite each other without danger of serious injury. To humans, such aggressive behavior appears seemingly lethal. It is not. Dogs have a complex system of communication that includes rather benign signaling like yawning or sneezing, all the way up to growling and biting. These signals communicate dominance and submission, which are all sorted out amongst them in proper order. Although it may seem "fair" that Muffy receive special attention because she is older and has been with you longer, your other dog Matilda may not agree. By supporting what evolution and natural selection have instilled in your dogs, you can end these squabbles and bring peace and balance to your household.

Although it may seem counter-intuitive and violate your sense of fair play, you should bestow special privileges on the winner of these dogfights. Observe your dogs. You must mentally note which dog assumes a submissive posture toward the other. Disregard which dog is the oldest or strongest or displays the most "cuteness". Give the dominant dog special favor by allowing her to eat first, receive affection first and other shows of your preference. Reinforce what their natural instincts are telling them is the proper order of the universe.

With your acceptance of nature's wisdom, order and peace will be established, in the only manner that your dogs find understandable. Attempting to intervene and misguided attempts to bring your sense of fair play to the world your dogs inhabit, will only lead to more fights, and possible injury to your pets and your peace.

Sandy Finley, Dog Trainer and owner of Perfect Manners Dog Training, Naperville, Illinois. Visit us at http://www.perfectdogtraining.com for articles and information regarding dog behavior and training.

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