dog training, dog behavior, dog health

Understanding your New Dog - Dog on Dog Aggression

Often we think of aggressive or fighting dogs when we see one dog attack another - but we are wrong in that assumption.  Dogs trained to be companions may often exhibit such behavior toward other dogs.

Though it's fun to own multiple pets, if you own more than one dog, it is likely you've encountered dog on dog aggression yourself.  It is often a simple spat where two dogs growl, bark, or tussle for a few seconds and the problem is then over.  As long as the dogs are evenly matched and it is over quickly, this isn't a major problem.

If you own large and small breeds, you can be in dangerous territory before you know it.  It's crucial that you understand your animals and identify the reason for fighting.  Most common, of course, is a simple territorial dispute over a food bowl or a favorite dog bed.  It may be as simple as one animal being awakened from a nap quickly by another and automatically going into a defensive mode.

Serious aggression can occur when the object being protected or claimed is the owner himself or when, in dog body language, one dog has asserted rights the other animal is not willing to concede.  Some breeds will be so involved with their owner that they will take it upon themselves to reinforce the owner's commands to other pets.  One example of this I've seen is a dog guarding the trash container.  The owner had previously disciplined that dog because it was getting into the garbage.  Later, when another pet approached the container, that dog would immediately growl and threaten.  The animal had learned that area was off limits and took it upon himself to project his owner's wishes. 

A small dog can cause aggression by placing himself higher than the larger dog in the household.  This is instinctive pack behavior and not easy to control.
Crises can be averted when an owner understands what is occurring and stops it immediately.  If your pets are fighting or a larger animal is attacking a smaller one, you must get the problem under control.  This is not optional and must be done carefully as owners have been bitten severely in attempting to stop a dog fight that is out of control.

It's easier to understand if you realize the bodily clues given by your dogs.  A large breed will often establish dominance by standing over the smaller animal.  This is a clue to the little guy to shut up, move or stop whatever he is doing.  Many dogs will get the hint and subordinate immediately and thus fighting never becomes a problem.

Other small breeds will recognize the threat and growl in response.  The growling may be fear rather than challenge, but the result may well be an attack from the larger animal.  Once an attack has begun, the smaller animal will often be the harder to control as the fear and pain can drive them to an hysterical response of biting anything that is near them.

Fighting between dogs unevenly matched in size simply cannot be tolerated at all.  There will be injuries and once such a fight occurs, it is likely to happen with increasing frequency.  Owners have an obligation to prevent this from happening and in some cases the only alternative available is to keep the animals separated.  This is especially true if the aggressive behavior is caused by devotion to their master where two animals are competing for the space closest to the owner.

  .   Discussions with a trainer of attack dogs will help you learn methods of preventing or stopping such dog fights.  One of the most common methods recommended is to lift the back legs of the attacking animal, thus throwing it off balance and getting it's attention.  This technique is most useful when the larger animal has a firm grip on the one being attacked.  Keeping his balance and maintaining the grip is not possible and will almost always result in a release.

Extreme cases of dog on dog aggression may require re-homing of one of the animals.  In most cases, it is possible to balance the presence of the animals by use of a wire cage muzzle for the larger animal when it is in the presence of the smaller one and a room, kennel or crate where the smaller pet can spend some time.  Knowing how to stop a dogfight can keep the owner from being bitten by accident