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Dog Fights - What To Do And How To Prevent It In A Multi-Dog Home
Why Dogs Don't Always Get Along
Dogs are much like people...specifically children in some ways. When one pet dog becomes part of a bigger 'pack', the energy surrounding each dog is completely different on a constant basis. It's not always about who wants to be 'top-dog' or the 'alpha' either. Sometimes it is simple jealousy or accidental startle. With my three, there are so many triggers or situations I have learned to pick up on. This makes it possible to intervene before their physical form of bickering becomes an all out fight. First I want to talk about what the physical signs can actually be, so maybe it will help someone in the future who is having problems in their home.
Body Language - The Warning Signs Of Aggression
- Hackles rise up (The hair on the neck, back, and can be all the way down to their butt!)
- Tail position (This is usually while the hackles are up, so both together is a definite warning. The tail may stick out much more firmly than usual. Either in a tense up position, straight out, or even tucked under if fear has come into play.)
- Ear position (Some dogs vary with the ear warnings. My pit bull always brings his way up and forward when he is getting upset. So, it may be hard to distinguish since dogs often perk up their ears for good reasons as well.)
- Muscle/Body Stature (This can vary. My pit will stand with his legs firmly pushed behind him, legs grounded farther apart than usual. My Catahoula arches her back so much that she reminds me of a cat.)
- Clenched Teeth/Raised Jowls (This can be subtle enough to miss sometimes also. Some dogs raise up their jowls/lips very noticeably. Of course the growl that usually accompanies that should get your attention.)
**It may take months, even years before you can truly know your dog and their personality traits. Only then will it be clearer to you what may be your dog's unique warning signs.**
Some Helpful Resources
Dog Fight - What Do I Do
This can be a topic with a wide range of facts, opinions, and even judgements. Therefore I am not going to get into the specific handling do's and don'ts during an actual dog brawl. My teenage daughter and I have both been 'accidentally' bitten in attempt to break free a fight. However, a strong and understanding relationship with your dogs is first and foremost. Then prevention will be key. I've found that startling noises to break up my dogs can backfire. My pit bull in particular is often put into fear mode and turns more aggressive toward any dog near him if he hears a scary noise. So use sound cautiously, depending on your dogs' personalities. Water has never worked for me...even with dogs who are definitely not water fans. But you can always try it if you have quick access.
One thing I have definitely learned NOT to do, is pull on each of the two dogs who are 'jawed together.' The picture of my Marlie to the right is of her leg after the first big fight between her and my pit bull. The tears may possibly have been less intrusive have we not pulled back on them while latched. (Please keep in mind, the picture at the far bottom is of the them playing like they do on a regular 'happy' basis.)
Some people will recommend a behavioral specialist, but lets get realistic. We don't all have hundreds of dollars for counseling. Nor will I ever re-home a rescue dog who has never known what a true 'family' means. Stick together through thick and thin.
My Gate Recommendation
Dog Agression - What You Can Do As Prevention
- Metal Gates - A NECESSITY for separation before, or definitely after, signs of aggression. If there are any squabbles in my house, small or big, my pit needs to have his own space for a good day or two. Learn your dog's emotional characteristics.
- Duplicate Toys/Bones - Jealousy of simple toys can trigger fights. Make sure each dog has the same possessions! Some packs cannot even handle sharing the 'same' toys, such as my crew. For their own safety now, they can only play outside individually or when the my dominant dogs are in passive moods.
- Bedding/Blankets - Dogs all need to know where that one comfortable, safe place is in the house to call their own. Make sure each dog has one available.
- Separate Food/Water Bowls - This is the whole 'what's mine is mine' concept again. Some dogs with food aggression like my pit, MUST be gated off in a separate area for meals.
- Muzzles - There are also many different types of dog muzzles available over the Internet that are not so offensive. Depending on your problem dog's breed, there are some non-invasive options out there that can keep your dogs safe when you want them all together.
- One Crate/Kennel - I recommend having at least one crate. I have three dogs, and there are sometimes dangerous situations where I just need to know that one is in a certain area of the house, and not coming out.
- Multiple Leashes - Whether they normally leave the house or not, you NEVER know when an emergency may arise for trips to the vet, etc.