stop dogs fighting by Jim Burwell

How Do I Stop My Dogs Fighting

Can you tell me how to stop  my dogs fighting?


Keep dogs from fighting


Wrong question!

The question should not be “how do I stop my dogs fighting.” It should be: how do I prevent my dogs from fighting in the first place.

You probably have at least two dogs who are confused about their pecking order in the home. The result of that confusion is trouble on the horizon, more potential dog fights down the road.

Here’s my take on that.

My belief is that  your dogs have no problems working out the pecking order.

It’s your influencing interactions that can complicate matters and cause fighting between your dogs.
You might need to read that again.

First let’s look at the worst possible set of dog combinations that lead to potential dog fights. The worst first:

  • Mother/daughter combination of dogs
  • Sister/sister combo of dogs
  • Two females – same or different breeds
  • Father/son
  • Brother/brother
  • Two males – same or different breeds


Ingredients That May Cause A Dog Fight

The following are things to take into consideration so that you can prevent fights altogether:

  • Where your dogs are physically. Meaning, their territory.
  • Available resources one or the other may choose to guard. (food, toys, you etc.)
  • What is their level of arousal when they begin fighting.
  • Are you present and are you a resource to guard.
  • If more than two dogs, which dogs are present at the time the fight starts.

How Dog Fights Start

You try to raise all your dogs as equals.

Heads up.

Disagreements and fights between dogs can happen if you do not recognize the hierarchy or status of each individual dog.

A hierarchy that your dogs have worked out naturally!

They may even sleep together on the same bed without problems when you’re gone.

Here’s How Your Problems Start


Let’s say you have a mother/daughter dog combination in your home. You are petting your older, mother dog that is sitting next to you.
Your younger dog enters the room and stares at your older dog. Your older dog takes this as a threat and growls saying to the younger dog, “Stay away.”

Here’s the rub:
You immediately reinforce the younger dog’s position by correcting the older dog for growling. This immediately raises the younger dog’s confidence about her status “when you are present.”

Dogs are Like Children

If that was confusing, let’s look at this using children as the example instead of dogs.

Your youngest son enters your oldest son’s room to play with his prized toys or computer game. Your oldest son now takes exception to his brother’s liberties with his stuff.
Your older son may attempt to threaten his younger brother to leave his stuff alone. Your youngest then comes to you and complains.

Here’s the rub:

If you then storm into your older son’s room and correct him for what he did, you will increase the conflict between the brothers. Your youngest will begin to take advantage of his older brother when you are in the house.

The better approach is to correct your youngest for going into his brother’s room without permission and playing with his stuff. End of problem. No more conflict.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

Eliminate and avoid conflicts altogether. Reinforce your bossy dog’s status by giving it preferential treatment doing simple things like:

  • Putting your bossy dog’s food bowl down first
  • Giving him/her affection first (always on your terms-when/where) and asking for a sit first. VERY IMPORTANT 2 POINTS I JUST MADE.
  • Put his lead on first before going for a walk.

Giving one of your dogs preferential treatment over the other may not be natural for you.

Your dogs will enjoy living comfortable and stress free rather than being in constant conflict when in your presence.

Some of you will feel guilty and conflicted when you do this. I get it.

But, remember the old saying, “Every dog has its day.

One day, as it often happens, your older dog may relinquish his/her status to the youngest.

Together We Can Raise A Happy and Obedient Dog

You got your dog for a reason. You wanted to share your life with a happy and loving dog. But now, your dog has big problems and life is not happy.
I can help you get that happy, well behaved dog back. We’ll work together at your speed and both you and your dog will have fun every step of the way.

16 replies
  1. Sydney Swanson
    Sydney Swanson says:

    We have now 4 French bulldogs in the house. One mother, a daughter and a son, and from her second liter another son. Before the 2nd son was born, the mother and daughter had problems. It just happened out of no where and they would only fight when people were around. They had a couple pretty bad fights and it was not fun, just scary. And we didn’t know what to do. We’ve tried and tried with other but nothing has worked out. This had been going on for almost a year now… the daughter stays my fathers house for the time being. Need help

  2. Jim
    Jim says:

    Hi Barbara, thanks for your comment. To get a better understanding of where you are in fixing this, how many of the 3 links did you click on, read and implement that were in the article?

    That will help me know what you have and have not done. Jim

  3. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    We have two cocker spaniel sisters, Molly and Bailey. They are 3 years old. They periodically fight. We are having a hard tme still determining who is dominate. Bailey leads when going outside. She usually eats first. But she also submits quicker and goes on her back easier. Molly is more laid back but more aggressive which her head over Bailey’s back when they start having problems. Bailey is the more observant dog, and responds better to commands. Both are weary around outside dogs. They both are very loyal to us and love being near us and on our laps. Any suggestions?

  4. Samantha
    Samantha says:

    Thank you for the advice. We have a 30lb one year old female pug-bulldog mix and a 70lb seven year old female olde english bulldog. While the pup came first, at 8-10 weeks, the older female joined us not two weeks later. It seems the pup starts the fights but both fully participate. I don’t know exactly what the heirarchy is. Should we be babying the pup because she seems the aggressor? They fight often and there are wounds, although none have required a vet’s visit yet. We are very alarmed obviously but worry because there is a large size and strength difference between the two. Do dogs ever stop fighting on their own? Or is it an animalistic ‘to kill’ approach?
    Thank you in advance for your reply, I am desperate to find out the pecking order…

  5. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Hi Ruth-Ann. It truly is about structure, boundaries and teaching your dogs how to live in a human world. I don’t know where you live but if you don’t live in Houston I do
    live, face to face, interactive video coaching. You can read it about it here:
    If that sounds like it would work for you, go to the contact page and put in your name, email and phone # and we’ll call you to set it up.
    Georgraphy is NO longer an issue to get help with your dog.

  6. Ruth-Ann
    Ruth-Ann says:

    Jim, I am beyond stressed. I have 2 min aussies that are brother and sister from same litter but different fathers…obviously I got them from a puppy mill to save them. I have had 2 1/2yrs of dealing with leash aggression the two of them fighting. Thry are both high strung dogs ad when they are aroused they end up turning on each other. I am at the point that I cannot take anymore yet I do not think its fair o give my problem dog to someone else so basically my only other option is to have one or both put down and the thought of doing that breaks my heart. I have worked with different trainers, have seen a dog behaviourist and my last resort is going to be a holistic vet. Please help me, I love both my dogs but cant do it anymore.

  7. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Sue: Doesn’t matter who is first is the EASY answer.

    BUT that depends on the structure you have put into place with your “home” dog. If no structure, then issues can arise.
    Dog behavior training always has “yes BUT” in it. Mainly because most dog owners don’t understand how to have balanced dogs and that CAN lead to issues.
    Lots and lots and lots of articles here on my website about structure, leadership etc.

  8. marianne debonis
    marianne debonis says:

    Hello Jim,

    Yes Yes Yes this is great advice. In fact my sister was angry with me for giving my German Shepherd pup preferential treatment over my older Beagle. I put the GS bowl down first ext. I got the message right away when Sax (GS) was pushing the Beagle away from me when we are all together. I am so glad you put this in writing. Now I can show my bossy sister that I am doing the right thing!


  9. sue
    sue says:

    question – what if the “new dog” (a female we adopted) is bossy/the aggressor to our boy dog, whose home it has been for over 2 years before she came along? Shouldn’t she be taught her lower role in the pack? (btw, he doesn’t fight back and is quite a big baby even tho bigger than her)

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