Dog Fighting within the family

I wrote a post on this blog on Why Dog’s Fight months ago, here’s the link: sibling rivalry why dog’s fight

This post has received more responses and questions than anything else I’ve written which tells me it’s a big problem. It’s a big problem because 99% of the time dog fighting within your family is caused by lack of leadership on the part of the dog owner, lack of structure in the home, and lack of structured exercise of the dogs.  So let’s take these one by one

  1. Lack of leadership:  this does not mean dominating your dogs.  This simply means that you understand how dogs think, what’s important to them and how do you, as the dog owner, control those things so your dog receives the things that are important to him on YOUR terms, not his.  Training your dog using leadership is very much like raising a child, the child must understand that mom and dad are in charge, certain behavior is expected from the child and the child will get what it wants on the terms of the parents – not the child.
  2. Structure in the home:  again, dogs are much like children.  If you as the dog owner provide structure in your home, you dog will understand the expectations, what is allowed and what is not allowed.  Everyone’s dog should at a minimum do a “sit” before their food bowl is placed in front of them and then be released with an “OK” to eat their food.  Dogs must understand that you get to decide when they get pets and love – not them.  Your dog does not get to act like a wild man in the house, bolting out doors, knocking you over to get in front of you etc.
  3. Structured exercise:  this is something people do not think about.  It’s very simple, wild abandon play outside leads to wild abandon behavior inside.  If playing in the backyard, and running the fence and chasing squirrels is the ONLY exercise your dog gets then he does not understand this same behavior is NOT ok in the house.  A structured walk where you control the walks is one of the best and easiest ways to practice leadership with your dog.

When these things are in place, a multiple dog household has structure. The message to the dogs is, We (the humans)  are in charge, not you, things are on our terms, not yours and the “rivalry” between the dogs to figure out who is running the show between them is gone.  Also – intact males release the smell of testosterone which affects the way other dogs (male and female) perceive that dog and you will have issues!  And remember, a tired dog is a good dog.  Get out there and take your dogs on structured walks, minimum once a day, even better is twice or WOW! 3 times a day would a happy dog make! Jim Burwell, Jim Burwell’s Petiquette

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2 replies
  1. BMcManus
    BMcManus says:

    I just came across your blog and have been reading it all night. Especially the Fighting in the Family. I have two dogs. A five year old American Bulldog/Rottie mix (Zelda) and a 20 month old American Bulldog (Dexter). Zelda was three months when we rescued her and Dexter was six months. In July 2008 we lost our two year old from Leukemia. In October 2008 we rescued Dexter. We always knew that Dex was alittle bully, but the past few months have been a nightmare in our house. Dex has never liked other animals of any type. We knew that from the beginning, but he got along great with Zelda. She is very mothering. When Dex was about a year old he started redirecting toward Zelda. But in the past four/five months he’s been redirecting on us. We hired a trainer years ago for Zelda and our other dog, and also Dexter. She said that he’s redirecting. Which I already knew. He is also very jumpy if he hears a loud noise, or if he’s startled. Also around a year he started barking at the TV at other dogs. After a short time it turned into full on trying to attack the TV when any animal came on, even a bird, and it doesn’t matter who’s around him, he will redirect. When he has these episodes, they can last for 30 secs to five minutes or more. Then he falls into a deep sleep. I have an appt with him to get him tested for anything medical, but in the meantime, have been working with him with a haltie collar on and leash. He is doing better, but it’s not a huge improvement. It’s been close to three weeks now.

    He also has a a strong prey drive and will go out and seems like he’s trying to kill anything that’s in the backyard. He’s already mangled a bird.

    I know part of this is lack of respect and leadership. We are quickly trying to get that under control. Zelda we have no problems with, other then her running now when he has one of these episodes.

    Any advice you have would be helpful. If it’s not medical, I was thinking of trying to take him swimming in a hydro pool maybe once a week or something. I don’t have the money, but will come up with it. We also do two walks a day, unless it’s pouring raining.

  2. Cathy Lautenbach
    Cathy Lautenbach says:

    I have two dogs and have been reading your articles. My dogs seem to get along fine in the house. My “structured walks,” however, are a real mess. I am at wit’s end. I push myself to walk three times or more a day, at lest two hour-long walks, but things are getting so bad with them ,I don’t know if I can keep it up

    They either get barking and ,lunging at other passing dogs or they decide to play with each other, forgetting Im at the other end of their leashes.

    I used to work with them on pinch collars. Thinking that I was using them incorrectly and that the tool was actually accellerating the issues, I switched to nylon grip collars (not choke, but they slip over the head to prevent dogs from backing out of them…) Things were going better, but now…

    I really dread having to walk them by myself. With husband working more than me, it is me who does most work with the dogs. I need help.. Any advice before I break down ? I have been trying to keep them at heel, but the younger one simply overpowers me.

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