By Karen A. Soukiasian
Usually when two same-sex dogs in the pack fight it is for dominance and/or your attention. That is not to say it is not serious…it can be severe and even fatal!
The most ferocious fights are frequently between two females, two intact males or one intact male and one neutered male. The motivation for this kind of fight is pure and simply, pack leadership.
As the true leader of the pack, it is YOUR responsibility to demonstrate your Alpha status firmly and immediately. Alpha NEVER tolerates subordinates displaying aggression.
At the first sign of posturing or aggression, YOU must make your correction confidently. Do not think they will work out their differences if left alone. It could be a bloody, heart-wrenching conclusion.
Dogs learn by associations…positive and negative. Each time your dog does a particular behavior; good or bad, it reinforces that behavior. Each time one dog attacks another; the duplication of that negative behavior reinforces it, making it more of a habit. That rapidly leads to serious negative behavioral issues. It is easier to prevent unacceptable behaviors, than to modify them!
Management and prevention of unacceptable behaviors is vital for successful behavior modification. It should also be noted, certain breeds, have a stronger predisposition to same-sex fights. You, as the Alpha member of your pack, must be in control of your dog(s) at all times. Here are suggestions on how to the respected leader of your pack.
Humans are always at the top of the pack. Your dog must learn to acknowledge their place will always be at the bottom of your pack. No exceptions! Develop strong leadership skills, to control all aspects of your dog’s life. That includes mealtime, walks, playtime, bedtime and when they receive attention.
There is “NO FREE LUNCH” in your pack. Before you feed your dog, make them “earn” their meal by making them sit and wait. Before taking your dog for a walk, make “earn” the walk by making them sit and wait to be leashed. If they don’t obey, walk away; give them a minute or two to the make the association. Return and repeat the command. They must do what they are told, before they get what they want.
Make them move out of your way…don’t step over them or walk around them. Make them sit and wait until you have walked through the doorway, both going in and out. Feed your most aggressive dog last. The dog that display submission and respect to you and other members of their pack are to be rewarded for that behavior. No aggressive games such as wrestling or tug-of-war! You never want your dog to challenge you. To them, you must be bigger, stronger and smarter!
Be fair, firm and consistent. Never let your dog win. A dog that will challenge you can be a dangerous dog!
Never leave two dogs that are prone to have “issues” unsupervised. Often, most displays of aggression are done to gain your attention, and over food or toys. However, every so often there will be incidents for reasons real or imagined.
If the warring dogs must be left alone, separate them in crates or rooms, where they cannot make eye contact. If the crates cannot be distanced, cover each with a sheet. To protect yourself and your dogs when working on desensitizing exercises, muzzle them if you are the least bit uncomfortable. Your dogs will sense your hesitancy and fear.
Apply positive reinforcement, punishment-free training methods. It teaches your dog that certain behaviors are appropriate, and they will be rewarded with praise, for that particular behavior. On the flip side, it also teaches them certain behavior will not be tolerated.
Your dog should never be allowed to sleep on your bed or get on the furniture. To their way of thinking, it elevates them in pack status. Never feed your dog from the table. Praise your dog for signs of submission. This is particularly important with assertive/aggressive dogs. Again, your dog will associate that behavior brings rewards.
Socialize your dog as much and as early as possible. One of the leading causes of fearful and or aggressive dogs is the lack of socialization. A puppy that is socialized during their first 20 weeks, unless there are medical or genetic problems, will most likely develop into a well-mannered, well-adjusted adult dog.
Desensitize your dog to their fears. Remain calm. If your puppy or dog appears nervous, ignore them. Go about with whatever you are doing. Your dog is watching you, their pack leader, for cues on how to behave. If you remain calm, they will associate the situation is not as dire as they first thought. If you pamper or baby them, you are rewarding negative behavior. You will have a paranoid, nervous, neurotic, fearful and possibly aggressive dog on your hands.
Don’t wait until your puppy/dog develops dangerous, socially dysfunctional issues. Enroll in a positive reinforcement, punishment-free obedience class. Find a dog trainer that offers positive reinforcement, punishment-free Puppy Kindergarten classes for puppies 8-weeks old and up. There you will learn how to hone your leadership skills, and share quality bonding time with your puppy/dog.
Some dogs are severely aggressive. Often they will “doggedly” (sorry poor pun!) resist change. If that is the case with your dog, consult a professional dog trainer or dog behaviorist, who instruct you on how to modify your behavior.
Bottom line: The well being of your pack depends on your leadership skills. By your modifying your behavior, your dog will modify their behavior.
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