Why dogs fight – or what is with sibling rivalry

If you have sibling rivalry going on amongst your dogs, you need to understand how you are creating that problem. 

Family dogs that fight


What’s Your Role?

Maybe it’s time to take a look at why your dogs have taken to fighting each other. 

As you think about your relationship with your dogs, see if you can recognize any of the following that could be evidence of your own sibling rivalry.

Competition for your attention: Have you noticed that when you are petting one dog, the other comes over and splits the two of you apart?

Fighting over who’s the boss:  Usually two housemates of the same sex trying to exert their dominance over the other by controlling valuable assets like food, space, toys or your love and affection. 

They will often times get into a fight exiting the back door when being let out to the yard to play or potty.

An initial poor introduction to each other: When you got the second dog, did you properly introduce them on neutral ground to optimize their success?

One dog having established territory and resenting the other as an intruder

Redirected Aggression:  Do your dogs really want to attack the mailman or the dog next door? Not being able to get at their primary target to release this aggression often times causes them to turn on each other in frustration.


Remember, your dogs are pursuing aggression, not because they are not “nice”, but because aggression is:

  • Working for them to get them something they think they need i.e. access to resources (food, space, articles of play and attention from you), status etc.
  •  Working to keep someone or something away they desperately want kept away i.e. a housemate who would otherwise strike first


1.   Redefine your relationship with your dogs

Discover what have you and/or your family been or NOT been doing that may be contributing factors to your dogs fighting?

Learn how to build a healthier relationship with your dogs by establishing better rules, boundaries and expectations. This will provide you with a stronger framework with which to begin working on your dog fighting problem.

It’s going to be very important to examine your own relationship with your dogs.  Have you been providing your dogs with these?

  • Rules to follow
  • Boundaries to respect and,
  • Expectations of what to do and when to do it?

Are you aware that all dog behavior problems are usually stress related?  What’s causing stress in your dogs?

  • Not enough or no consistent and predictable structure in your home?
  • Not providing your dogs with enough structured walks for exercise?
  • Too much doting?

Any one of these or other reasons can be causing stress in your dogs which in turn contributes to the fighting.

Know that maintaining a healthy relationship is critical for long term success in keeping stress to a minimum and keeping peace in the pack. The rules you establish today must be reinforced tomorrow.

Before you begin to work on resolving the issues between your dogs, fix the relationship between you and your dogs.  

2.   Strengthen your dog’s obedience commands

Receiving a fast response to obedience commands from your dogs – especially in the presence of each other is critical to the success of your program.  Responding to your commands gives your dogs a sense of working for you rather than you following their lead.

Do you know how to be successful here?  

Clear expectations by your dogs, of what to do and when to do it (obedience training) will begin to foster more pleasant experiences in each other’s company.   It relieves stress. 

Less stress = less fighting—eventually.

The more stress you can eliminate, the easier this will be to accomplish.  

In the meantime, keep fighting from recurring while you are in the process of fixing issues between your dogs. 

Keeping dogs and people safe should be your #1 priority.  You can do this by using crates, gates or keep them separated with leashes if in the same room together.  


Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog

Jim Burwell, professional dog trainerJim Burwell is a “thanks for making the impossible, possible” professional dog trainer having trained 20,000+ dogs and counting and serving more than 7,000 clients.  Jim’s easy to follow, common sense, and positive methods have made him the “dog trainer of choice” for 30 years.  One of his clients says it best: 

There are people who are so good at, and passionate about, what they do, that in their presence, one can’t help thinking that they have found their true calling and are doing exactly what they should be doing on this earth. Jim is one of these rare people. His quiet and understated manner, his effective technique for training dogs (and their families) is something which I feel fortunate to have witnessed and in which to have been an active participant.  Jane Wagner

(c) 2012 Jim Burwell




239 replies
  1. Sheila Pugh
    Sheila Pugh says:

    My daughter brought her dog into our household not long ago, I had a dog already, they were getting along just fine, until they had a litter of puppies at the same time, now they fight like they are trying to kill each other. I have them separated now, but I do not know what I am going to do once they start weaning these pups, any advice would be great. Thanks

  2. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    I have two pitbulls, one is 9 and the other is 6. They’ve gotten into a few fights before caused by ringing bell, smoke alarm going off, basically there was a reason. But now it’s to the point of where if the older one runs out of the room or scratches or moves, the younger one is on him ready to go. A lil background info on the older one, he follows me everywhere I go(separation anxiety), he always walks around with his tail high up and hackles slightly raised, will come into the room and basically challenge the younger one when he’s minding his business, kinda really pushing the envelope while the younger one gives him the respect. Older one could be lying down sleeping around my family while we’re talking and starts this low pitched growling. The younger one is a pretty mellow dog. Is the older one causing the issues and the younger one just reacting to him? They walk together fine outside, no problem. They used to be able to be next to each other in the house without any problem but now if the older one runs out of the room, the younger one is basically on his heels ready to go. He won’t attack him right away, he sidles up next to him barking and won’t fight unless the older one reacts. Any ideas or suggestions? The older one has had seizures before. Could this have anything to do with this behavior? This behavior has started some time recent in the past month with the younger one.

  3. Leila Martin
    Leila Martin says:

    Lane: hire a positive reinforcement trainer with a minimum of 10 yrs doing this for a living.

  4. Lane Woodall
    Lane Woodall says:

    Aloha! I have a male chihauha pomeranian pinscher (father) who is 12 and never neutered. He had five puppies and we’ve kept 3 – 2 male and a female. The female was spayed. The two male sibling starting getting more agressive with each other after one year and the Humane Society had a trial of ZEUTERIN which would reduce testosterone 90%. Everything was A-ok for the past two years since, but lately the fights have started up again between the brothers to the point of having to separate them. We took them in to the vet to have them neutered, thinking the Zeuterin had worn off and not finding any information on it as it has been taken off the market. (Heads up to all the other Zeuterin users who thought their animals were sterile!) The dogs got in a fight at the vets office for the pre-check before surgery! The assistant was enroute with a sedative just as we pried them apart, blood all over as usual. The good thing is the vet moved up the surgery to the next day! So it’s been a month since neutering and we’ve kept them separated. When they see each other through the closed sliding glass door they are up on their hinds just like the picture at the top of the page, growling and wanting to kill. When my son and his girlfriend are home, they allow them to all play together without incidents. Yesterday I walked in, not knowing all the dogs were in the house, and within a second, major dogfight. I love my dogs but I can’t handle the stress of this going forward. Any solutions beside muzzles and separation?

  5. Jim
    Jim says:

    It would certainly help to start implementing things I went over BUT, what you read is a blog post. It does Not encapsulate everything there is that needs to be done. I would definitely hire a positive reinforcement dog trainer to work on this.

  6. Jim
    Jim says:

    Hire a positive reinforcement trainer to come to your home and work with you – sooner than later

  7. Marisa
    Marisa says:

    Hi Jim, I have a 10yr old female bloodhound,5 yr old female rottie and a 1 yr old female Austrailian shepherd/bordercollie mix we think anyway she was a rescue,as of lately the boodhound and the shepherd have been fighting and i think its because of me, they compete for my attention, as you said above if one is by me the other nudges in, they just seem to be getting very aggressive, one fight was when my husband and I werent even home when we
    came home there was blood every where from my hounds ear, since they hang low the shepherd goes for them, how do I stop this behavior, I have been bitten many a time tryinf to break them up.Please help.

  8. Jim
    Jim says:

    Shana: Best thing for you to do is to get a positive reinforcement trainer with MINIMUM 8 years experience doing this for a living, to come work with you.

  9. Shana
    Shana says:

    Hi! I have four boxers..2 females and 2 males..they are the mom and dad (I had the mom and dad from the time they were six months old) and then the other two are brother and sister from the mom and dad.so they are all family and have all been raised together…my two females are now fixed. The males are not..so for the past two years these dogs have all lived in harmony but in the last week the males have become very aggressive towards one another. I am not sure what is causing this or what to do to get this to stop. Neither male is fixed so I am wondering if this could be because there is a female dog in the area that is in heat and if this will ever end..I have been keeping them apart and don’t know what else to do? Please advise.

  10. Jim
    Jim says:

    Amy: Your female is in in-tact and goes into heat. Your males dogs will fight. Get them fixed if you don’t want this issue or keep them separate

  11. Amy
    Amy says:

    Hello, I have a 2yr old olde english bulldog male, 2 yr old female bullador and my teenage son has a 2yr old blue healer/Australian Sheppard mix. Since my female started going into heat the 2 males fight fiercly when they get near each other. Its so bad I have to keep the males seperated at all times. Any helpful tips to try because I’m at my wits end over them fighting. My husbands been bitten several times trying to get between them. THANK YOU

  12. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    April: Did you sign up to get the free hour long audio class on how to approach this problem? If not pls. go back and sign up for that. If you
    still need more help we can do some training in your home if your live in Houston or via live video coaching if your don’t. Go to the link below
    and see a testimonial from a client who had 4 dogs fighting and how we worked on that using the Live Video Coaching http://www.petiquettedog.com/dog-training-hangouts/

  13. April
    April says:

    I am writing to you to see if you could walk me through how to help my pups. I rescued 2 pits. Daisy 2 years ago at 6 weeks old and Maybelline a year ago at around 15 weeks old. They instantly bonded, but a few months back, Maybelline started trying to “catch” Daisy when my pack (I have a 9 year old Fila Mastiff, a 9 year pt mix also) would run after something like a squirrel or someone walking the road. Yesterday it escalated and Maybelline hurt Daisy and Daisy snapped. It took me shoving a water hose down Daisy’s throat and drowning her to break her off of Maybelline. She even circled around trying to come back at her again. Thank god for the water hose. Everybody is telling me that once they hooked up like that I will never be able to stop them from fighting. I am heartbroken. I love them all so much. I just need to know if there is a way of trying to fix this or is everyone right and I have no chance?
    Sincerely brokenhearted,
    April thomas

  14. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Vallarie: Thanks for your email. I see you commented on the Why Dogs Fight blog post. In that article I get very specific about why family dogs fight. There is also the opportunity
    to sign up to received a FREE hour long audio class I did. Pls. go back to the article, re-read it, and then sign up for the free audio class. The answers to your questions AND more
    are right there

  15. Vallarie Porteus
    Vallarie Porteus says:

    my daughter has 2 18 month old rotwielers. They are sisters and ha e never been apart for more than 30 minutes.they even sleep together. I have a 9 year old female pekechi and a 8 year o!d male Italian greyhound. 4 days ago the Rotts started fighting ( Aurora is the agressor)They have actually drawn blood. The pekechi tries to separate them ( if they have just started she can, if they are more than a minute I to the ” fight” we have to physically pull them apart. The only change has been my daughter and her boyfriend separated so he is not here every night. It is heartbreaking because they are such lovable playful babies. Wehave sseparated them using a gate & crate, but they simper and cry. We cannot figure out what causes the fights, so we cannot prevent them. It is very random.
    The pekechi is fixed but the Rotts are not. Also the male is still intact but ignored by all the females( he is very shy and does not even acknowledge the other dogs and they don’t even notice him)

    my daughter thinks getting them fixed might stop the aggression. Do you have any advice?

  16. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Carolyn: you read all the comments, but did you read the entire article and put the steps into place that I suggested? Did you also sign up for the FREE hour long audio training that
    I offer in that article?

  17. Carolyn K
    Carolyn K says:

    I have read all the comments. I have a 12.5 yr old Shepherd and a 1 yr.old. Everything was ok until the pup turned 1 yr & reading the comments it was the testosterone kicking in. Their fights have escalated and are very very fierce. I have purchased gates to keep them separated and yes the frequency became closer if they got in close proximity. I cannot use leashes as I am the only one home. The older male is neutered the pup has one testicle so I would rather not neuter. it would be major surgery and risky to remove.
    I am at wits ends both are 90+ lbs and strong. Ther eis not way I can “train” new behaviors myself and way too risky for all of us.
    Any wisdom other than keep separated permanently. I know better than
    to have 2 males let alone GSD but the older one was on a definite downward trend and I never thought he would live to the pup’s puberty.
    I love them both dearly; this is an escalating problem. They are both indoor dogs. thanks!

  18. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Jamie: It appears your dogs are running the house and making the rules. That being the case you will have exactly what you have. You need to understand how to use positive reinforcement
    training (nothing harsh) to teach your dogs that to get what they want they must: ask you for it, earn it from you AND get it on your terms and timetable. Here’s how to do that:

  19. Jamie
    Jamie says:

    I have a 1 year old Lab/Shar pei mix and a 4 month old Beagle. They got along great in the beginning however now they play really rough and fight over chew bones ( even though they both have their own). When we go out for walks they constantly jump on each other and play rough. Our Beagle is into everything in the house, we crate trained her but when shes out, shes in trouble! I have been doing trainings and taking them on multiple walks everyday. I just don’t know what to do at this point, my husband is ready to re-home our beagle if things don’t change quick!

  20. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Stephanie: thanks for your comment. I truly do not have enough information to give you a solution. I see you read my article why dog’s fight what’s with sibling rivalry. Even though
    your dog is not fighting with another family dog, the things to do STILL MATTER The relationship your dog has with you and you have with your dog MAY be a big factor in this. There was
    also the opportunity to get an hour long free audio training in this article. Did you sign up for that?

  21. stephanie
    stephanie says:


    I have a 5 year old shih tzu who is usually very well behaved and tolerant of other dogs. I walk her daily 3x and she is well fed and loved. I live in a building and I notice that whenever we are in the common areas she becomes aggressive with other dogs, even those that she plays with outside. I have had a few run-ins with a pit bull that lives upstairs. He is not fixed and him and my female seem to despise each other and attack whenever they get a chance. I’ve been chased down by him, but horrifyingly my dog went after him tonight after she slipped off her leash upon entering the building. My dog ran after and bit hers (who wasn’t on his leash…not sure why) and it was a small wound but she freaked out and took him to the hospital. I’m sure that he will be fine (and she will forward me the bills) but what can I do to prevent this from happening again? I will def invest in a harness. The leashes don’t always last 100%. Mine is pretty well trained, and hers is constantly in behavioral sessions because he has bitten a few times. Am just frustrated as they live upstairs and it’s unavoidable having to see them and this makes me so anxious every time I have to walk her.

    I will await your suggestions and thx in advance.

  22. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Aimee: In the article where you placed this comment, I gave multiple actionable steps to take. You also had the ability to sign up for a hour long tele-class recording where I go
    into great detail. Pls. go back and take the steps I suggest and sign up for the free hour long class I did on this.

  23. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Alicia – I see you are commenting from the article Why Dog’s Fight. Pls. go back and re-read it because it gives you things to do AND sign up for the free MP3 tutorial on how to work on this.
    Your answer is there

  24. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Lori: when you have a dog behavior issue you can NOT separate that behavior issue from 2 things: the environment in which the dog (s) live AND the relationship the dog (s) have with the owners. I stress
    over and over again in the MP3 that was available for you to sign up for from that article. Leadership is critical, Leadership is NOT being hard on your dog. Leadership which again is NOT being physically
    hard on your dog at all, is the KEY to helping your dog successfully live in your world.

  25. Lori
    Lori says:

    We have 7 year old basset mix and a 5 year old beagle mix (both rescues). We recently took in a 18 month old beagle whose owner passed away. Today, the 7 year old attacked the new pup with no reason that we can determine. Is reinforcing leadership the key? Now I am afraid to have them free in the same room, but our home is not large enough to keep them separated at all times. I’m worried the older dog is showing too much aggression. Up to now, she had been ‘mom’ to the younger dogs- barking to alert me if play became too rough. I don’t understand what changed. I appreciate any advice you may be able to offer.

  26. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Janell – you must get better control and structure in place with your dogs. No fence fighting allowed – period. There was the ability to sign up for an Hour Long recording of specific
    steps to take. If you did not sign up for that I suggest you go back to the article and get that free training.

  27. Janell Hajdo
    Janell Hajdo says:

    Hi Jim
    I have 2 females (2yr and 1yr) and a male (1.5yr) plus we are foster parents for a local rescue. The 2 females and male they are our fur kids we adopted from rescue which they are all less then a yr apart. My older female which we had first is fighting with other foster females and now with her sister. It started out at the fence with the dog next door my female was barking like crazy and my foster female pup at the time snapped at her. We had our female under the command to OFF, it worked got her away from the fence but then she turned her aggression to the 6 month old pup when leashing the pup. The foster pup was adopted out the next day but now my female is fighting with all females plus her own sister. We have them separated and rotating them every two hrs my question is how long do you suggest to keep them separated and how to re-introduce them…

  28. Kim Brits
    Kim Brits says:

    Hi, I really hope you can help. I have 2 small dogs, a maltese cross (male) and a dachshund cross (female). My maltese (patches) has been with us since he was 8 weeks old, he is now 18 months old. My dachshund (cheeky) was adopted (4 month ago), we found her wondering around and we have been unable to find out who she belongs to.
    The have always gotten along and played together.

    Unfortunately cheeky has fallen pregnant, could have only been with patches. All of a sudden patches is getting very aggressive with her especially when it is feeding time. Even tho he has his own food bowl he will finish his food then go lie by her food bowl and attack her if she tries to come and eat. He never eats her food just wont let her eat it.

    Another problem is if cheeky is lying down and someone tries to rub her then patches tries to bite them.

    Could this have to do with her being pregnant as patches has never been an aggressive dog.

  29. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    Not exactly what you mean when you say your “female will just bulk at the door.”
    If what that means is that she stops and sits in the doorway, then the next time you take them out for a walk, bring along food treats to lure her in the front door. Make sure the treats are extremely high value. Once you’ve done that a few times then create an “event” of going to the kitchen for an “after walk treat” in the kitchen. Hopefully they will both love the new routine.

    Let me know if this solution works for you.


  30. Heidi
    Heidi says:

    Something strange has been happening lately. I have two Basset Hounds the female is 7 and the male is 5. I’ve had them both since they were puppies, they are both fixed and they have always gotten along very well.

    There is only one time that they will fight.

    Every now and again (usually once every couple of months) I will be bringing them in from taking them out to pee and my female will just bulk at the door. My male dog and I are already inside, but when he sees that she has stopped at the door he growls and starts a fight. They go at each other until I can get them both in and close the door then they’re just fine.

    I walk them regularly – multiple times a day since I live in an apartment. Neither one of them have ever fought with another dog and most of the time they get along with each other so well that they don’t like to be separated.

    Why does this happen? How can I recognize the signs of when it will happen so I can try to stop the fight before it happens?

    Thank you so much!

  31. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Alicia yes get them BOTH fixed. Will it stop it from escalating? I see you read the article on sibling rivalry. IF you got the free MP3 I offered than you know that having them fixed is
    not a total solution. I am happy to help you with live video coaching that we can do no matter where you live.

  32. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Marco: I see that you read my article on Why Dog’s Fight, or What is with Sibling Rivalry. But based on your comment it does not appear that you signed up for the free hour long MP# where
    I talk about causes for family dogs fighting. I would suggest you get that MP3 and if after that you still need some help I am happy to do live video coaching with you if you live outside of Houston

  33. Marco Shephard
    Marco Shephard says:

    Mr. Jim Burwell,
    I am running out of options on how to stop my dogs from fighting and decided to read up on it and I see you are pretty much a dog expert and I was wondering if I could get some advice. I have two small dogs which are poodle, yorkie and pekingese mixed. They are both male, iggy is 2 years old and rupert is 1. Ever since these dogs were old enough to be in our possession they have been outstanding and loving dogs. I mean these guys were best friends and never fought about anything. They did not bite, growl,or misbehave in their entire life at our home. My dogs do not grow a lot of fur, well one does and one does not. So I recently took rupert , who grows a lot of fur, to the groomer for the first time to get his hair cut. I usually do it myself since iggy is rather bald as far as hair growth goes but it is a tough process with rupert so i decided to take him to a groomer. Ever since he returned home my dogs have been misbehaving. When rupert got home he was anxious, shaking and afraid. He would scoot his but across the floor and put his tail between his legs and often hide under objects such as the couch for long periods of time and growl. He also often lifts one of his back legs and stares nervously like he is always on edge. My dog seems to be comfortable around me and my girlfriend again, after two weeks of babying him, but his relationship with my other dog iggy is very troubling. When rupert got back from the groomers they would still lick each other or play for a minute before they would start growling and resenting each other. But everyday it seems to get worse. The minute they are in the same room they start attacking each other for no apparent reason. The second rupert sees iggy he begins to growl and they yell at the top of their voice and wont stop fighting even if i spray them with a little water. I can no longer keep them in the same room together and it has gotten so bad that i have been sleeping on the couch for the last two days with one dog and my girlfriend sleeps in the bed with the other so they are treated equal and not left alone. I have tried to bath both dogs to eliminate any possible scents left on rupert from the groomers, I have tried it all but nothing seems to help. Online i read that often times dogs can be traumatized from their first trip to the groomers and that those issues usually fade within days as my dog regains his comfort level but my dogs are getting worse. They have no issues with us but they now hate each other. Is it possible that my dog was mistreated at the groomers? Could he maybe be ill or did he maybe catch a disease from another dog at the groomers? He has been completely beside himself ever since he was groomed. I see no physical scars but mentally he is completely unsure of his every move and he is so afraid that he shakes every time we try to touch him. I am completely out of options and it has been two weeks and I don’t want my dogs to hurt each other or die from a panic attack because they are in constant fear and on edge. We feel like horrible dog owners and it has been so much negative energy in my household since we took rupert to the groomers. If you can offer any advice it would be more than appreciated.
    Thank You

  34. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Kathleen – too many unknowns but to be on the safe side, yes don’t let them play. The more they fight they more that becomes learned behavior

  35. kathleen
    kathleen says:

    me and my neighbor both have males dogs mine as been neutered his has not i also have a female been neutered my concern is we have a shared garden and both were young when they met and get on really well but lately the other male dog as been starting fights with my dog, but they play so well for a while a first, how can i prevent this from happening, or do you think it would be wise just to not let my dog play with the other dogs again i such as shame as the other dog is such a lovely dog just dont understand why he wants to fight all of a sudden

  36. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Tina: Thanks for your email. In the blog post you were reading, there is the ability to sign up for a free 1 hour audio training that I did on steps you
    can take to address this issue. If you did not sign up for that, I strongly urge you to do that

  37. Tina
    Tina says:

    I adopted two rescues that were kenneled together. As time has gone on with them i have notice more sibling rivalry that has surpassed the toy and food control. Its become aggression just by being anywhere near him. Once the second one responds with a growl all hell breaks loose and they get nasty where i pick one up to deflate the situation. Im not sure why its getting so intense. They were found and kenneled together. They freak if they are separated but are violent with each other at other times. I dont know what to do with them. Fyi they are 5 year old chihuahuas, possibly brothers.

  38. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Dylan: thanks for your email. on the blog post you read Why Dog’s Fight – or what is with sibling rivalry, there was the opportunity for you to get a Free

    1 hour MP3 of steps to take. If you signed up for that, there are many many answers to your questions. I urge you to get that FREE MP3

  39. Dylan
    Dylan says:

    Hello Jim,

    I have 4 pitbulls, 2 males and 2 females. All are spayed/neutered. My one male just turned 4 and the other male will be 4 in a couple of months. The females are both alittle over a year old. Everyone has gotten along fine, never had a problem except my males got into a bad fight last week and it resulted in a trip to the vet. Luckily I was able to break up the fight but it went on for at least 2-3 minutes because I was home alone. My 4 year old male had deep cuts to his front leg caused by the 3 year old and the 3 year old had a couple punctures to his face and ears. I have been keeping them seperate so they both can heal but everytime my 3 year old sees my 4 year old he growls/grumbles at him which causes the 4 year old to wine and more than likely would escalte Into another fight if I did not remove one from the other. Ive had them both since they were puppies and my heart is torn on what to do, I dont know what triggered the fight and im on a very consistent schedule with feeding order, handing out treats, etc. If you have any advice please share because I dont want to have to euthanze my 3 year old because hes a great dog and is good with the females he just has this issue with my 4 year old that has honestly occured overnight it seems like.

  40. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Hi ERicka: I would say that you do not have enough structure in your life with your dogs. By that I mean your dogs are being allowed to make too many decisions about
    the relationships – those decisions need to be made by you so it doesn’t matter who is “dominant” because just like parents with kids, the humans make the decisions. Have
    you looked at my Ground Rules for GReat Dogs? It’s the perfect solution for your issues: Here’s the link http://www.petiquettedog.com/ground-rules-great-dogs/

  41. Ericka
    Ericka says:

    We recently adopted another male english bulldog (8 years old). We already have 1 female (5 years) and male (8years). Our female was the dominant one before we adopted our third bully. But now with our third bully, the new male gets along with our other male because he’s very passive but doesn’t like my male. They fight for toys and he growls at her when she walks close to him. I don’t want my female to be afraid of him so I’m not sure how to help. Our new male bully gets more aggressive with his toys and bed. What should we do?
    Thank you.

  42. Leila Martin
    Leila Martin says:

    Michael. Did you get the MP3 that was offered for free? If you did, the reasons dogs fight is fully explained in that MP3. If you did receive that, listen to it multiple
    times as there is an incredible amount of information in there and you really need to hear it more than once.

  43. michael Brumfield
    michael Brumfield says:

    Thank you for insigth on this dog fighting .But if you have more on why a 6yr lab father of the 4 yr old lab would all at once start fighting I would like to know. We do have a 3rd lab the mother of the 4 yr old shes 5yrsand fixed. So if someone could help me please feel free. Thank you mike

  44. Leila Martin
    Leila Martin says:

    Hi Chris. I see you received our free hour long MP3 on some exact, specific steps to take to begin fixing the issue of your family dogs fighting. I encourage you to listen to that multiple
    times. If you feel you need more help from Jim we also do telecoaching. You can read about that here: http://www.petiquettedog.com/telecoaching/

  45. Chris
    Chris says:

    Hello, I have two rottweillers, they are brothers and are both fixed. Almost every day they get into a minute or two long fight and then nothing. 1 is the aggressor almost every time . The one is also alot more likely to nip at someone(I say nip because he is a big dog of 150 pounds) and usually it is because of strangers moving too fast or touching him inappropriately. But back to the fighting. They both get into it and it stops almost as fast as it starts and getting in the middle of these two is the only way to separate them before it runs its course. Neither has walked away with as much as a scratch, but the fighting is causing my wife to think about putting down the more aggressive of the two. PLEASE HELP.

  46. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I have 3 female dogs. The two older ones are my boyfriends dogs. After I moved in with him I decided to get a dog for myself. It’s been two years and they were fine with each other. I took my dog camping with us and ever since then she’s been starting fights. It’s over food or me petting one of the other dogs. I love all of them and don’t want to get rid of mine. What can I do to stop this and should I be worried that its a behavioral disorder?

  47. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Hi Kimberly, thanks for joining in on the discussion. They’re fighting over who owns whom. It all gets back to the structure, boundaries I talk about in the MP3 that went along
    with that article. Hope you had a chance to download it, it’s free. You have to understand how to structure life with your dogs. If your dogs can get anything they want, anytime
    they want it from either of you then your relevance as their leader, parent whatever you want to call, that relevance is Zero. You are now their property. If you truly want to
    fix this I suggest you get my Ground Rules for Great Dogs or continue on as your are. http://www.petiquettedog.com/ground-rules-great-dogs/ This will give you the tools to change this

    Hope this helps. Jim

  48. Kimberly
    Kimberly says:

    2 jack Russell/Chihuahua female sisters, only fight in me and my husbands presence. We have a dog sitter and the dogs get alone fine when hes here. Once we come home they cant be in the same room together. Any Ideas on how to treat this?

  49. Michele
    Michele says:

    Thank you for this great article. We have a multi-dog household due to having a room mate (3 females–11 yr old MinPin (Marty), 9 month old Chiweenie (Twinkie), and 1.5 year old Lab/SharPei mix (Thora) and all were spayed as puppies. As with many peoples’ stories here, all has gone well until…

    Marty developed cataracts has become grumpy these past months. We supervised her around the other dogs, as she would snap at them if they came too close. I assume that’s fearful aggression? We would immediately tell her No and send her to her bed when she did that, and praise the others for not reacting to her. They began to avoid her, not as if they were afraid, but like they were totally ignoring her.

    Long story short, Marty was laying under my desk while I was working last week, and the other 2 dogs came to see me. Before I had time to do anything, Twinkie stepped too close and Marty snapped her. Twinkie snapped once and ran off but then Thora lunged in growling and grabbed Marty. This all happened within seconds. She didn’t shake her, but she was “gnawing” and growling and wouldn’t let go. It took my son and I (and a dousing in the face from a nearby bottle of water) to make Thora let go. Immediately, Thora was scolded and escorted outside to sit alone. I know she knew she’d done wrong, because she cried at the door the whole time we left her there.

    Marty sustained 3 minor puncture wounds, and didn’t require medical attention. We have since been keeping her completely separated in another part of the house, and we do not let the other dogs anywhere near her. They are supervised in another room when we take Marty out to play and go to the bathroom. I have many questions. First of all, is this the correct thing to do with Marty? With her age and health, it seems more humane not to have her around younger dogs and situations where she could become frightened, but I may be wrong.

    We’ve been working Thora *and* Twinkie on the same “nothing is free” type training method you mention since the day this happened and are already getting very good results, but I’d like to ask you about some things I find confusing with the program.

    First I have some questions about your impressions of Thora, but to give you a better idea of her… I’ve spoiled her because she’s been such a sweetie, and feel what happened is my fault because of that.
    She’s never bitten anyone or anything before this, BUT she will bark fiercely at the fence when people walk by (and yes she does come to us when we call her to backoff). She will growl if a new person visits the house, but as soon as we tell her “Be nice” she’ll either go lay down or let them pet her… no more growling. She is nervous when strangers approach outside of our home, as evidenced by a tenser posture, but as soon as I say “Be nice” she will relax and let them pet her. Every time we go to the vet clinic she sees an unfamiliar vet (they rotate them a lot) and is docile while they examine her and trim her nails. She has never had problems laying near the other dogs with a chew toy, or being hand fed treats side by side with them, even with Marty. She *used* to wrestle-and-nip play with Twinkie, and it never got out of hand, but we’ve called a halt to that sort of play now.

    The bad points: She gets very wiggly excited and still has stubborn moments when you give her the “Back” command (as in back away from the door before going out) and she’ll just snort or whine instead of obey, and it can take several commands or even a guiding hand on her chest to get her to comply. She does sometimes still try to charge on out the door once it’s open too. Notice I said “try.”
    During feedings, the dogs are in the kitchen on opposite sides of the room. She does not mind people walking in and out of the kitchen while she eats, BUT if there is something super special in her bowl, like turkey, she will growl while eating it if she thinks another dog is wandering her way, unless I stand in the middle of the room and play “referee.” That stops her growling, she just eats fast. Me standing there seems to relax her, but she will tense up and/or give a short growl if I try to add anything to the bowl in that situation too. She doesn’t do any of this if she’s eating regular dog food, and I can freely add extras to her bowl while she’s eating it.
    She has, up until this training regime began, been known to shove toys in our laps to get us to play or push her head under our hands to get petted. This no longer works for her so she’s doing less of that, but it gives you a better idea of some of the owner-induced problems we’re having to overcome.
    My biggest question is… Now that she’s attacked another dog is it likely that she will always be prone to attacking other animals now? Should she be separated from Twinkie too? Do you feel, based on what you’ve read, that she’s one of those dogs who might some day “turn” on me or my family? The whole situation really shook me and I’m not sure what to think.

    Now my questions on the Nothing-is-Free training program are:

    * Is there a viable alternative to the “sit” command? Thora can and will do it, but she had a knee injury as a young pup and I feel cruel asking her to do it so many times a day, as it seems to be harder for her to get back up after awhile.

    * IF it’s still ok to let Twinkie & Thora play together, what are safe ways to let them play? I’ve heard that tug or chase aren’t good things to let them do, but now that we also don’t let them nip-and-wrestle, what?

    * If both dogs are together and I say sit, and one does while the other refuses, won’t treating the one who obeyed cause jealousy? And how long do you keep giving the command and the chance to earn a reward before you walk away, opportunity lost?

    * What if the dog performs the desired task before you ask for it? For example, today Thora walked to the door with me, took a few steps back, and waited patiently for me to open it and give her the “Ok” before she went out (which is what is required of her). Do I still treat/praise her when I don’t give her any commands?

    * How do we prevent jealousy if one dog wants on my lap and the other hasn’t asked? Example: Thora was laying on her bed. Twinkie asked (with a sit and “beggy eyes”) to be allowed on my lap. This is rather normal for her late at night. Thora watched with half-interest but made no move to join Twinkie. I invited Twinkie up and praised Thora for being “Good Thora” but I’m worried that kind of situation might create jealousy at one point in the future?

    I realized I’ve made many mistakes with them in the past (and probably still am) and I really don’t want to make things worse.

  50. leila_admin
    leila_admin says:

    HI Tanya:

    I see you found our article on Sibling Rivalry. Did you take the wonderful opportunity to get the free 60 minute audio we offered? That has actionable steps in it.

    That will help you a lot

  51. Tanya
    Tanya says:

    I am at my wit ends. My older dog is wanting to fight the younger dogs. He never used to be like that and lately it getting worse. if the younger dogs are playing together he would jump off my lap or couch and fight them. I would have to pull him off them before he seriously hurt them. I scold him for it and say bad. It not like he getting any less attention for he is my dog and the others are my son. We all live together in the house and the rest of the dogs do not bother him because he got them afraid of him. I am afraid to leave him alone with the other two for fear he might fight them when I am not home. What can I do?

  52. Darren Ridgway
    Darren Ridgway says:

    i have two dogs (male springer spaniels) they sort link there heads. kinda hard to explain. both head resting on the others neck and they growl at each other. if you try to pull them appart they growl more you just have to leave them to it or distract them to end it. is there anyway to lessen this behavior.

  53. Nova Fonner
    Nova Fonner says:

    We have three dogs. Female Boxer mix and two Yorkies male and a female. The dogs get along very well and are very loving to each other.

    Whenever the two Yorkies hear or see our neighbor dog, that is friendly, they began to fight with each other. They really go after each other.

  54. stacey
    stacey says:

    I have 3 dogs. a female boxer, a male boxer and a mixed female. The 2 females have lived together for 5 years we added the male a 1 1/2 years ago. The 2 females get into fights sometimes the most recent was this weekend. somebody pulled into our drive and all the dogs went crazy barking and the 2 females started fighting, I am assuming with all the excitment from a stranger pulling in the boxer felt as though the other female was in her territory and a fight resulted. Even though this has happened before the last one was over the food bowl which has never been a problem in the past. I tried to break them apart which I know I should not have done and the result was I got bit. I now am so nervous that this will happen again and do not know an effective way of breaking them up especially if my husband is not around to help. I have 2 kids and do not want them to get hurt in the mix. They know that when a fight breaks out to just get away so that they do not get hurt. Any suggestions on how to break them up when I am by myself would be appreciated. Thank you!

  55. leila_admin
    leila_admin says:


    Thanks for your comment. At the end of that article there is the opportunity to enter your name and email to receive a FREE hour long recording Jim did with over 100 people. There are actionable steps given to you in that recording. Pls be sure to get that

  56. leila_admin
    leila_admin says:


    Thanks for your comment. If you have not done so already, please go back to that article and download the FREE hour long MP3 that Jim did on this topic

    It will give you some steps to take immediately. We’ve had hundreds of folks download this and it has helped each of them

  57. nancy lasala
    nancy lasala says:

    Hi we have 3 dogs all shitz’s 2 females and 1 male all have been fixed, 1 female and the make are almost 6 years old while the newest is only 2, recently she has started fighting with the older female only when I’m home, recently I was by myself and they started going to the point where I picked up one and the other was still hanging on, it came to a head when the youngest dog who started it took a bite out of my left arm.Now I’m afraid to stayhome alone with them.

    How do I get these 2 dogs to stop fighting??????????????

    Please help

  58. leila_admin
    leila_admin says:

    Ronda: Thanks for your comment/question. I see you read our article Why Dogs Fight – what’s with sibling rivalry. At the bottom of that article was the ability to
    receive a ONE HOUR free teleseminar on this exact subject. My hope is that you signed up for that as that is the beginning of fixing your dog’s fighting. It’s free
    so pls. take advantage of that.

  59. leila_admin
    leila_admin says:

    Lindsay: If you have not signed up to receive the free hour long MP3 that was at the bottom of the Why Dogs Fight – or what is is with sibling rivalry I would
    suggest you do that. Your next step is to begin doing what Jim say in the teleseminar and you can get that here: http://www.petiquettedog.com/ground-rules-great-dogs/

    This is not a quick fix problem, but the sooner your put rules and structure into your dogs lives, the faster you will turn this around. Hope this helps.

  60. Lindsay
    Lindsay says:

    i have three dogs two olde english bulldogges (both males from the same litter.) and one boston terrier (female). The two brothers get into it all the time over nothing. They jump up on people attack other dogs and cats. and there just horrible and out of control. what should i do?

  61. leila_admin
    leila_admin says:

    Kathy: to receive the teleseminar, you must opt in with your name and email on the form provided at the bottom of the article. Then once you confirm you requested
    the information, you will be sent to a page to download the teleseminar.

  62. leila_admin
    leila_admin says:

    Kathy: to receive the teleseminar, you must opt in with your name and email on the form provided at the bottom of the article. Then once you confirm you requested
    the information, you will be sent to a page to download the teleseminar.

  63. leila_admin
    leila_admin says:

    Erin: On this article there is the ability to sign up to receive a free 1 hour teleseminar MP3 that Jim did addressing why family dogs fight. I would get that
    and listen to what Jim says. Lots of great help in there

  64. Erin
    Erin says:

    Hi, my 7 year old Aussie Shepherd mix has just this last week started attacking my 12 year old Shepherd/Retriever mix (2 times in 5 days). I’ve had them both for over 5 years and this is the first time it’s happened. I realize what’s going on but I’m just wondering what the best thing to do to keep this from happening is? It only happens when I’m at work and in their “bed” area. I was thinking of getting a crate for my older dog so that he’s safe while I’m gone. Is this the right thing to do? I’ve missed 2 days of work because of this happening and need to be able to go to work knowing that Oso is safe from Artie. I’ve been told that dogs have been known to bite through doors to achieve their dominance and a baby gate doesn’t work; younger one just knocks it over and attacks. Is the crate a good idea? And should I crate him and put it in a different room? I’m in a one bedroom apartment so if I lock the younger dog out of a room he barks endlessly so I’m not really sure how to do the crate thing. Please help!!!
    Thanks soo much!
    Erin 🙂

  65. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    Here’s my recommendation:
    1. STOP setting them up to fail. Do not, under any circumstances, allow them to fight twice daily or at all. That just reinforces the fighting to become a stronger learned behavior. This means separating them permanently or putting the small one on leash when they go potty to insure she can’t go pick a fight with the other.
    2. Begin to teach “Off!” or “Leave it!” command to use to interrupt the thought of a fight. They can learn – even at that age. Call the small one to you and send her back to play – but no fighting. Supervised leash/long line work should be mandatory around your home when the puppies are out of their crates. Eyes-on, hands-on close supervision is required until you can get a qualified trainer or behaviorist to work with you and your pups and better sort things out. The last thing you want is this behavior to continue through adolescent and into adulthood. The play style is not appropriate. They were taken away from litter way too early. Go here to read more on why this may be happening: http://www.petiquettedog.com/puppies/puppy-biting-stop/
    3. Short of that the only other solution would be to re-home one of the dogs – for their own safety/protection.

    Hope this helps.

  66. Bobbi
    Bobbi says:

    I am desperately needing help. We have recently acquired 2 sister bull terriers that are 8 weeks old. One is slightly bigger than the other, yet the small one is the pup that starts the fights most of the time. I know what play fighting is and they do play fight occasionally. What I am concerned about is their very aggressive fighting. These pups draw blood and are very serious. It happens about twice daily. I am worried that the bigger one (that has to finish the fight) will end up hurting the smaller one (that starts the fight) very seriously. The pups fight so intensively that I cannot physically remove them from each other. They are in a “red zone” and don’t let go. They always go for the throat, ears or front legs. These fights last around 8-10 minutes on average if they are left alone. I think the only reason that they stop is because they are so exhausted. I have tried many different ways to get them to let go of each other and the most effective way so far (which isn’t really effective) is to grab them both by the scruff of the neck until they give up and turn loose, sometimes this can take up to 2 minutes. It is odd because they can play together for the whole day and not have a problem, but in a second they could be trying to kill each other. I have never heard of such young pups fighting this seriously. They are only 8 weeks old. I thought that jealousy could be causing an issue with toys or our presence, but mostly the fights start when they are outside romping around in the yard without a toy or one of us present.
    I am very worried about their health and safety and realize that I need to get this under control now before they become big dogs. After the fights they are so slobbery from each other and so exhausted they pass out with each other and everything is fine. Please help!!

  67. Tiajana
    Tiajana says:

    I have 5 dogs. My youngest dog who is 2 just started showing high aggression towards the 3 yr old. He attacked him very brutally and I had no choice but to break it up and remove him from the pack. There was so much blood shed. Even though he is apart from them he still trys to attack the 3 yr old through the kennel fence. I’m lost on how to work him back into to the pack without him trying to kill the other dog. I might have to give him up but I don’t want to. Is there anything I can do?

  68. leila_admin
    leila_admin says:

    Marybeth: return to the article on our blog, scroll down to the end, watch the short video and Jim explains everything. If for some reason you
    can not watch the video, look right below the video window and you will see HIGHLIGHTED and in BIG TYPE the words: Join the Journey. Click on
    that and it will take you to a form where you enter your name and email. That automatically signs you up for the teleseminar

  69. Marybeth Patterson
    Marybeth Patterson says:

    I would like to sign up for the “Join the journey to stop the fighting” seminar on January 30, 2012.

  70. leila_admin
    leila_admin says:

    Erika: did you sign up for the teleseminar? If not I think that would be a great way for you to begin to understand how to address this.

  71. Erika
    Erika says:

    I have two dogs who just recently started escalating aggressive behavior. I’ve had them both since they were puppies, one is an 8-year-old German Shepherd Mix (Bandit), and the other a 3-year-old Pit Bull (Olik). Obviously they’re both fairly aggressive breeds, but they made it clear from the beginning that Bandit is to be the dominant one. Bandit is food aggressive and always eats first, and Olik always allows her to do so. Since we have moved into our new home they first started getting aggressive when other dogs or cats would walk by the windows. That was the first time Olik ever displayed any sort of aggression (about three months ago). It was always easy to separate them with strongly spoken words at that point, so we foolishly dismissed it. Tonight they truly went after one another and we were forced to separate them. Luckily no one was truly injured, although they both drew blood before we got them apart. They’re now sleeping in their kennels which are side by side and have not bared teeth or displayed any aggressive behavior. We’re unsure of the proper way to reintroduce them to one another as well as how to prevent this in the future. Thank you for your time

  72. leila_admin
    leila_admin says:

    Mr. Hamlett:
    Thanks for responding. At the end of that article is the ability to sign up for a free call we are doing on this exact problem

    I encourage both you and your daughter to attend. It is on January 30, 2012 and it’s free

  73. James Hamlett
    James Hamlett says:


    Both myself and my daughter bought an alsation/husky cross and although we reside at different addresses we do take both of them out for a run every night.

    They are 1 year old now and although they are great with other dogs they tend to play fight with each other. This has steadily got worse over the last 3 months and although they have not drawn blood they do sometimes appear to be quite intense.

    If you could give me some advice on how to calm this behaviour I would be most obliged as we do thoroughly enjoy taking them for walkjs together.

    Kind regards

  74. leila_admin
    leila_admin says:

    It appears you have not opened your email to confirm you want to be registered. Look for that in your email

  75. Margie Massaro
    Margie Massaro says:

    I have tried twice to sign up for this teleseminar on dog fighting as it is killing me to crate and rotate, But i have not gotten any confirmation links??

  76. Liz Devery
    Liz Devery says:

    How right you are regarding mixed messages, especially as I do not let them on a bed & my husband does. When I get home they automatically jump off, unless they are with me which is most of the time. They are out for at least 4.5 hours daily being walked with other dogs and then I feed them all together in the kitchen. I do all the training,as my husband tried it once but did not enjoy being told what to do.They sit on him in the evenings on a chair and Tilly he feeds from his hand, especially fingerfuls of wine! They normally sit by my feet & occassionally ask to come up, which is rare. I give each 10 minutes, then get them to jump off. Molly & Penny have more training as they are very high energy wise, whilst Tilly prefers to stay inside with my husband.
    They all react to me when I have to tell them off straight away, and ignore my husband. I have tried to get him to take better control but at 73yrs he will not change.

  77. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    I live and work in Houston, Texas but also do teleconferences with dog owners who live out of town. My teleconferences have been very successful – especially with you receiving mp3’s on each conference call we do. This you have to re-listen to what we talked about as often as you like.

    I will also be doing tele-seminars on Sibling Rivalry starting next month.

    Let me know how I can help you.


  78. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    Seems to me that your dogs are getting mixed messages. You say/do one thing and your husband says/does something else.
    Do you provide your dogs with any structure in the home? If so, then what rules, boundaries and expectations do you have in place that your dogs haven been following?
    If not at all or if only sometimes, I would expect that would be a good starting point. Read my article at this link: http://www.petiquettedog.com/dog-behavior/fixing-dog-problems-begins-relationship/
    In addition to doing everything I recommend in this article, I would recommend that your husband stop doting on the dogs. Throttle way back on love and affection.

    By the way, who feeds, trains and walks your dogs?


  79. Alina Melendez
    Alina Melendez says:

    Hello Jim,
    You were recommended to me by my Community Outreach Director at Pets Alive (PA), a no kill sanctuary. We have 4 dogs. Zoe, a St. Bernard adopted 3 yrs. ago from PA has been a challenge. After being with us for about 2 months, she attacked our 14 Yr. old terrier, Sadie. From that point on, I kept them apart due to their difference in size and power. Sadie passed away (natural causes) in January. Our other 2 dogs, Sheba (a great pyrenese mix and Nevada a Rottie mix), she didn’t show any aggression, until recently. On Christmas Day, we were walking them on leash, and when our neighbors came out to greet us, I let go of the leashes (over 500lbs of power) and unfortunately with the excitement (I think) Zoe latched on to Sheba (the 4 Yr. old Great Pyrenese mix). We had to break them apart. I then brought them to our front yard and let both of them lose. Zoe came up to her, Sheba stood still and Zoe again latched on to her neck. We broke them apart. We have been keeping them apart (being told Zoe needs to get rid of her adrenalin rush that comes as a result of her attacks) except on walks, where I started walking Zoe ahead on leash and Sheba with my husband behind. I was so impressed to read about your article on why dogs fight. We are, however, in need of support in overcoming this situation. We’ve purchased crates, bull horns, muzzle but I am very alert to ensuring their safety (and ours). Would love to hear from you, not sure where you’re located. BR, Alina

  80. Liz Devery
    Liz Devery says:

    Thank you for replying so promptly.I have tried re directing their aggression with sit, stay,down stay which most of the time works.The problem arises every time when my husband is around as he fusses 1 more than the others, but he will not change his views, even though I have told him that he is causing this major problem. When they start posturing and growling at one another, I say ‘pack it in’ and they go in opposite directions. They do not fight over possessions or food, but cannot be left in the same room for any period of time. They also have to be separated in the car. As both sisters have joint problems, my husband is trying to humanise them, which is obviously incorrect behaviour from him, but what can I do. Iam not prepared to have one re-homed, as so many collies end up in rescue centres, especially as they have elbow displacia and one has an irregular heartbeat and is on tablets daily.
    I separate them in the house and keep a watchful eye on them in our fields. They are also great hunters,Tilly in particular and goes into quite a frenzy and bites anything in her way. We had them from 6 months of age and they were not socialised before we had them.Molly who has always been more dominant even as a puppy, has always made Tilly feel insecure, but when we got Penny (Australian Kelpie) I think she thought she had an ally to gain dominance over Molly, but in fact Penny runs away,shakes and wets herself and comes to me for reassurance.When we got the Kelpie there was no aggression from Molly & Tilly treated Penny like her puppy, and they both enjoy playing with her on a daily basis. I use muzzles on them in the house only for short periods, Molly is fine when it is removed, but Tilly then goes on the warpath to try and pick a fight, I hasten to add that when I am around it does not happen. I take other dogs for walks with my 3 and they do not mind any of the other dogs in the car or in our home, it is purely with themselves.I do obediance work with Molly to try and distract her, which normally works, Penny does Agility, whilst Tilly just wants to watch David Attenborough on TV. She is not the brightest.

  81. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    I am confused. As a qualified pet behaviorist and you’ve tried everything, I’m not sure why you think there is possibly anything left to do? but I might be misunderstanding your question.
    It would also be helpful if I knew exactly what you’ve done that’s not worked and why you think it hasn’t worked.
    I could also use some information on how life is structured with your dogs. This would help me understand more about you, your dogs and the training you’ve done with each one and how they respond to you around each other (relevant distractions) .

    I look forward to receiving more information on you and your dogs.

    Happy New Year!

  82. Liz Devery
    Liz Devery says:

    I am a qualified Pet Behaviourist, but am having major problems with my own 2 Sister Border Collies. They have always tolerated each other, with the occasional fight, but fights are occuring on a regular basis at home and on walks. They have both had stitches and frequently draw blood. It is now causing much concern with our Australian Kelpie who runs away, shakes and urinates in terror. I have tried everything, including muzzling them in the house, but once removed they just go in for the ‘Kill’.Apart from re homing one, can you suggest any other method to try and bring some harmony back into our home.

  83. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Chastity: I don’t have a lot of info here from you but based on what you’re saying it appears they are fighting over resources i.e. food, possibly you. Ideally those little fights should not have been allowed and I don’t know if
    they are intact or neutered. In reading this article I speak a lot about why dogs fight. They can be many intertwined reasons this can happen as I talk about. There should not be a contest amongst your dogs as to who is “alpha” as
    it is imperative that the humans are leading the pack – not the dogs. Sounds like that is not happening. You have work to do on your relationship with your dogs. If you don’t want to do that work, then you have to look at other
    alternatives. There is NOT an easy fix, this will take work on your part – no way around it. First you fix the relationship you have with your dogs then the dogs begin to change with proper structure, obedience training, boundaries etc.

  84. Chasity
    Chasity says:

    My dogs (Two 1yr. old Aussies, Duramax and Cummins) have been raised together as puppies (they are brothers) and they have always had little fights, like nipping each other, but lately they’ve had full blown fights where you have to throw water on them, and separate them. Sometimes they scare each other away from there food by growling at each other… And they have also been growling at each other through their kennels. And lately I have had to separate their kennels. I would like maybe an explanation of why they do this, like it is because they are determining alpha?… and what I could do to make them not fight. I really do NOT want to sell one, or both. Please help!
    Thanks, Chasity

  85. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Jean: the first thing you must do is not allow them to be able to fight. You must change your routine of leaving them out together alone all day long. This is your first step.

    We will be having a free teleconference call on this exact problem after Thanksgiving. Since you have added a comment we have your email and you will receive an invitation to sign up for the call.

    Space will be limited so we advise signing up as soon as you get the notice.

  86. Jean Brooks
    Jean Brooks says:

    We have two 4 year old male dogs that were litter mates and have always been together. They are very large – 100 pounds – and have now both been fixed (after having had some really bad fights). They fight primarily when we are not home but sometimes when we are in the yard with them. They are both outside dogs. We thought having them fixed would stop this behavior but they fought again today, drawing blood but luckily not doing too much damage to the other one. What can we do? We love them both and want to keep them both but the fighting has to stop. Since it is usually when we are not there, it is hard to know what sets them off and even harder to stop it – it is usually over by the time we get home. We don’t have money for expensive training (having already spent thousands on surgeries after fights) but want to do something. Help!!

  87. stephany goodwin
    stephany goodwin says:

    i have TWO 22 weeks old Schipperkes. when im sitting down the meek, lowly one (oliver) comes over and sits by me with his ears back. when i start to pet oliver, his brother rambo (very outgoing) comes over and starts a fight with him. i dont understan why they cant get along when im petting them both at the same time! help?

  88. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Thanks for visiting our site and contributing to the conversation.

    Questions: are your males intact or are they neutered? are the always outside dogs or just occasionally? No, I don’t think they will work this out on their own. Exercise is great, but it is not going to fix this issue. Please re-read my article and apply the
    information on leadership.

  89. Margaret Kilyz
    Margaret Kilyz says:

    Our year old 90lb male labs are brothers. Have been together since day one. 99.9% of the time they get along fine. But when they don’t it seems like they will fight to the death. Either one can be the initial aggressor. Will they work it out on their own? We have 12 acres and they get plenty of running around.
    Thanks, Margaret

  90. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    Thanks for visiting our site and participating in the conversation. You don’t say how old the mother is but sometimes dogs will attack another dog that is ill. I would have her checked out by your vet

    Secondly, I would encourage you to NOT allow your male dogs to play like that. As I talked about in my article, you must look at your leadership role with your dogs and make sure you are doing everything to
    let your dogs know that the humans are in charge, not the dogs. Are you doing that?

  91. Brittany Brandemihl
    Brittany Brandemihl says:

    I am having some serious issues only this last month with my dogs. i have 2 boys(brothers), that i had in our home first, and then one boy and one girl that were my husbands older dogs (mother and son) that have been living here since january or so. The dogs were not very social at first but after a month or so i could finally feed them and let them into the yard at the same time, and its been great for months. But this past month, one of the brother dogs and possibly the son has attacked the mother dog, and the first time, i did not catch it soon enough. She had to get stitches for a bite. After that happened i have been keeping them seperate at anytime i am not home, and supervise them out in the yard. Today was the second incident, where i had gone back in the house for less than one minute and they tried to get her again. They are all fixed and have never shown any kind of aggression like this before and its very scary to me because the dogs are the most loving dogs ive ever had, and this has all come out of the blue. Do you think it may be a dominance issue or a scent from another dogs that is causing this horrible change? All of the dogs including the attacked (short of being a bit shaken up) act like nothing happened almost immediately after, all wagging tails and smiles. the boy dogs play ruff like that, putting eachother on their backs, and biting at eachother, but the girl has never been a participant and they have never tried to get her excited. I guess my question is , do you have any ideas on what the sudden change is about????? I love all of my dogs and they all all good dogs,i just cant believe whats happened. And my husband is away with the navy right now so its just me and my mom keeping them all on track…
    Thank you for your time! Please and thank you!

  92. Chasity
    Chasity says:

    My dogs (Two 1yr. old Aussies) have been raised together as puppies (they are brothers) and they have always had little fights, like nipping each other, but lately they’ve had full blown fights where you have to throw water on them, and separate them. And they have also been growling at each other through their kennels. And lately I have had to separate their kennels. I would like maybe an explanation of why they do this, and what I could do to make them not fight. I really do NOT want to sell one, or both. Please help!
    Thanks, Chasity

  93. Fredericka
    Fredericka says:

    I really need some help with sibling rivalry between my dogs. They just had a fight this morning. I am very stressed about the whole situation. I did call the your help line and received some good info. Anything more would be highly appreciated!

  94. leila_admin
    leila_admin says:

    Jill: it was my pleasure to help you. I hope you got some good guidance from the article and we will keep in touch and let you know whe we release the product for sibling rivalry.

  95. dorothy
    dorothy says:

    I have two dogs, 1corgi at 5yrs,and a mutt of 4 yrs. all of sudden they have become aggresssive to each other .we have to pull them apart. unsure why but it has to stop please help

  96. Heather Smith
    Heather Smith says:

    I have a question (not fight related). We have a rat terrier (1 year and a few months old) that urinates every time we give him a command he does not feel like doing at the time. Do you have any ideas why this is happening? He has been like this from day one that we got him. Not matter how nice and baby talk we try to be when he is like this, nothing seems to help unless we just ignore him…

  97. cheri
    cheri says:

    I have a young BC from rescue. She’s jumped both Papillons in the car {last night and this am after a long walk].

    Thanks for the article. I am going to invest in a muzzle for her so I can trust her around the others. She has attacked each of my dogs [five in total] and I’m an exp obed and agility trainer.

    I put it down to her age, opportunity and resources BUT she’s scaring the hell out of the papillons because they are so small and don’t instigate anything. I cannot have her draw blood on the rest of the household, so I think you advice is great. She does get lots of attn and “work” – she is also a very different dog when alone with me.

    Thank you for the article.


  98. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    As mentioned in my article on Sibling Rivalry, dogs can guard your love and affection as a resource. Your Akita is seemingly guarding you as a valuable resource – not to be shared. Put structure in your dog’s lives. They need rules to follow, boundaries to respect and expectations of what to do and when to do it. Your Akita needs to know that your love and affection will be given out as “you see fit” – not her. Start by having her down/stay before petting the boxer, then reward her for tolerating your attention to the boxer. This musts all be done on leash.


  99. Derek
    Derek says:

    Jim, I have an Akita that is two years old and I have had her since she was 3 months. 4 months ago we adopted a 1year old boxer. They have been completely fine until the last weeks. The boxer has always been an attention hog but now any time I’m near the Akita or if im in the same room as the Akita and the boxer comes near the Akita jumps at the boxer and becomes very aggressive. The Akita has never showed aggressive towards humans other dogs or even kids till now. How should I help to stop the stress

  100. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    It’s not uncommon for same gender dogs to compete for pack status. In your case, your adolescent might be jockeying for leadership status-especially if there is a lack of structure in the home requiring rules to be followed, boundaries to be respected and expectations of what to do and when to do it.

    Keep your older dog safe until healed and take this time to work on all of the above with both dogs.


  101. Josh
    Josh says:

    Jim- Thanks for the great article and responding to so many peoples comments.
    My wife and I have 2 dogs both female. Lacey (a border collie mix) is 5 and anna ( a pug husky mix) is 4 we have had both of them since they were 6 months and they are neutered. They have always been so good together since we got them, they sleep together (in laundry room), eat together ( out of the same bowl) and play all day together.  My Wife is pregnant and she is due next Week! The dogs have been getting into random fights in the house. Sometimes you can see it coming, The older one Lacey seems to get jelous of anna and she will growl if you are petting her and Anna comes by you. If that happens there is usually a fight within a day or so. The last one that happened my wife was in a different room and she heard them both growling and they had a 3 minute bloody fight. Lacey had bitten Annas ear so bad that it was bloody. This one we could not see coming, they were very good the whole day. We do not know what to do, the baby is coming any day now and we are worried about what could happen bringing a baby into this. We do take them for walks a couple times a week.  They are also good at commands Sit, stay etc… But they are both very hyper and it is hard to walk them at times. They will track instead of walk. and get angry if one is ahead of the other.  
    We are also bringing Lacey to the vet and a behavior specialist in a few days. (If the baby dosnt come) It seems like Lacey is the more aggresive instagator of the fights.
    ANY advice would be much appreciated. Thanks so much for listening!

  102. leila_admin
    leila_admin says:

    Amy: We are still working on the product. We are trying to incorporate some videos in the product to provide a visual aide of how you do the exercises. Ideally we would like to take the videos using
    dogs who DO indeed fight, however, right now, since we’ve fixed the ones who came to us, we don’t have a client with the problem We might just have to use two regular dogs.

    If you get on our mailing list we will send out an announcement of when the product will be released. You can go to our behavior page http://www.petiquettedog.com/train-your-dog/dog-behavior-problem-training/
    sign up for the free report. In doing that you get on our list where we announce product releases and all kinds of good stuff. Stay Tuned

  103. Amy
    Amy says:

    I’m looking for the my dogs fight product. Is it somewhere that I am not looking. We are getting ready to take one of our four to a behaviorist as he has taken to going after our other three. It starts with a stare or sometimes he paces before he moves forward. However we are controlling the situation and watching the body language of all four dogs. We have an 8 year old male JRT, a 3 year old female boxer mix, a 1 year old male boxer bully mix, and a 11 month old female basset mix. All are rescues. We have fostered numerous puppies with the male boxer bully mix and he had adored the babies. However things have changed and he is entirely anxiety ridden outside on the leash and in turn this has also turned in our home. We hope the bahavorist can help us but we would also love the My Dogs Fight product for guidance. Wish we lived closer as we would definately head your way. I have also purchased a muzzle as the 1 year old boxer male mix is the initiator of these issues. We hope to write again after seeing the behaviorist! Thank you for all the wonderful articles! Keep them coming!

  104. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Many dogs play rough like you describe. My question to you is, “How many trips to the vet and how many stitches in each dog?” If the answer is none then it’s play – albeit a bit rough.
    Playing is playing. Fighting is fighting.
    You say Mya gets into “play position” and then “they fight.” So you are mixing it up as to how you describe it. My guess (not having evaluated your dogs) is that they are playing. It’s just rough play.
    Mya is just teasing Mowgli into trying to dominate her just so she can do what you described. Dogs can also use play to do many things: exercise (burn predatory energy), stay well socialized and work on leader/follower relationships.
    You should work on training your dogs to “Off!” or “Leave it!” (stop the play) and redirect to come and sit. Then release them back to play. In other  words do more obedience training so that you have better personal control of both dogs. Work consistently on sits and downs with each dog so that they more clearly “get it” – they work for you rather than you following their lead. Consistently show both dogs – but especially Mya – who’s calling the shots around the house. And the message needs to be crystal clear. You call the shots. The more she hears this message, the more compliant she will become.

  105. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    We have a 3 year old male lab mix named Mowgli, and a 1 year old lab mixed name Mya. Mowgi was adopted at 2 from a shelter, and Mya from a rescue at 6 months – both are fixed.
    Mya has LOTS of energy and Mowgli is more mellow. Mya loves to bark at Mowgli and gets down into a playing position (butt in the air) and they fight… when he pins her to the ground (has his mouth around her neck) she plays dead. As soon as he begins to walk away she jumps up and bites his back leg and the fighting begins again. She does this over and over again. Something else that I’ve noticed is that she will sometimes turn her back towards Mowgli for him to mount her…then as soon as he begins to mount her she flips around so quick and beings to fight with him again. She’s never just stayed still while he mounts her (always does this super quick side-flip to get away).

    My question is, does this sound like dogs play fighting OR does it sound like dogs who are constantly fighting to establish dominance? They curl their lips up at each other and it looks tough…but have never hurt each other yet.

    I have wondered if Mya is just burning off energy…or if they are fighting over a resource (being us). They fight a lot when we are in the yard with them…but they fight just the same when they don’t know we are watching from inside.

    I’ve heard the Female is usually the dominant one out of a male/female pair. Becuase he came first and because he LOVES people sooooo much (and gets jealous easily), he tries to tell her (very gently) that he’s the boss. She’s so submissive (the type of dog that lies on her back exposing her belly to new dogs), yet, is being the female in this house making her feel like she should be higher up than Mowgli?

    I’m just confused as to what their behaviour sounds like. Mowgli never initiates the fighting and tries to put her in her place and walk away…but she is the one who drags it on and on (kinda of like my explanation here!) haha..I’m done. Thank you so much for any help in this matter! I’d love to know what your thoughts are and if we should be stopping the fighting.

  106. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Nicky: you must not allow them to play in this manner at all. by the time you are going over to break it up – it is way too late. Also take a look at how YOU are managing their energy. If you don’t manage it constructively,
    they will decide how they are going to manage it – which they are doing already. The minute you see any posturing or body language that tells you this behavior is starting, redirect them to something to do like simple sits
    and downs. Do that for 3 to 4 minutes with each dog and that will help stimulate them mentally.

  107. Nicky
    Nicky says:

    Jim- Thank you for all your information. Six weeks ago, we acquired two 8 week old male labrador retrievers-brothers. On occasion but getting more frequent they will fight. Not over food, toys or attention. They are constantly playing and running around wrestling with playful growls. They will be be playing and chasing each other and at some point it turns into a mean growling and fighting match. I cannot determine which one is dominant and they both are equal to blame in these brawls. Minor cuts and scratches before I can break it up. One dog seems to have more cuts than the other but equally as aggressive.
    My husband and 10 year old have both been bitten ( definite dog bite) trying to break them apart. It seems like they are in such a frenzy they are uncontrollable. We have tried loud noices and keeping a leash on them so they are easy to pull apart. They have such sharp puppy teeth and a very tight grip on the other dog that pulling them apart (I think) is actually causing more cuts.
    All four kids can take food or treats out of their mouths and walk them, so the dogs seem calm and adjusted. Any advice would be welcome as we are considering getting rid of one of the brothers as the kids are very distraught over dogs fighting.

  108. leila_admin
    leila_admin says:

    Answers to your questions
    1)when they fight there is aggressive biting and growling. One or both end up with minor scratches.ANSWER:The first protocol in stopping fights between canine housemates is to completely prevent the fighting by controlling both of your females. Don’t set them up to fail – while you are working on changing their behavior.
    2)the mother starts the fighting. Usually because of jealousy over toys, one of the beds or bones. The mother dominates over the all the boys and pretty much has since we got her and now there’s another female in her territory ANSWER: It sounds like if you control the mother, things will be more easily handled.

    3) we stop the fighting by pulling them apart and seperating in different rooms. We put the mother in her crate as a time out
    4) we lack in leadership with our 5 dogs but after reading your website we have started implementing some of the basics. ANSWER: Read everything you can on my website on leadership to provide your dogs with consistent and strong leadership – all non-confrontational non-physical ways. Don’t just implement some, implement all of my recommendations. Inconsistency in only picking and choosing some of the leadership qualities – for whatever reason – will keep the mother pup in emotional conflict. Be consistent across the board with everything and with all dogs.
    5) after yesterdays go around, when we let the girls off their time out we had them lay beside each other ANSWER: allowing them too close too soon is not a good thing. Start off farther away and put them through the exercises I recommend in my article on sibling rivalry.]. It went OK until the boys wanted to join in.[Keep the boys out of the mix completely. Way too soon for this.] But we have also restricted all the dogs any rough housing inside or out yesterday or today which has kind of calmed thing today [For the foreseeable future – no rough housing at all.]

    One other thing, the mother is close to going into heat so we think she is hormonal ANSWER: [Spay your female – all your dogs should be neutered/spayed. Hope this helps.]
    Any other suggestions would be great appreciated [Spay your female – all your dogs should be neutered/spayed. Hope this helps.]

  109. michelle reyes
    michelle reyes says:

    Answers to your questions
    1)when they fight there is aggressive biting and growling. One or both end up with minor scratches.
    2)the mother starts the fighting. Usually because of jealousy over toys, one of the beds or bones. The mother dominates over the all the boys and pretty much has since we got her and now there’s another female in her territory
    3) we stop the fighting by pulling them apart and seperating in different rooms. We put the mother in her crate as a time out
    4) we lack in leadership with our 5 dogs but after reading your website we have started implementing some of the basics
    5) after yesterdays go around, when we let the girls off their time out we had them lay beside each other. It went OK until the boys wanted to join in. But we have also restricted all the dogs any rough housing inside or out yesterday or today which has kind of calmed thing today.
    One other thing, the mother is close to going into heat so we think she is hormonal
    Any other suggestions would be great appreciated

  110. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    Thanks for your email. I would need some more information on their fighting. What’s going on when they fight? Who or what starts the fight? How do you break the fight up? What are you doing to reinforce leadership with your 5 dogs? How are you setting structure, boundaries and expectations for your dogs? Also what do you do to correct her fighting?

    If you could answer these questions, I’d have a little better picture of life at home.

  111. michelle reyes
    michelle reyes says:

    We have 5 Siberian huskies. Mom and dad 1son from first litter and 1 son and 1daughter from the second litter. 2 months ago we took the daughter back from the people that bought her due to their health issues. Mom is 6 years old and the daughter is almost 2. Most of the time they get along but recently they’ve been fighting a lot. The daughter is high strung as she went a year and a half on her own. She plays aggressively with all the others and continues after the others have had enough. Any suggestions to stop the fighting between mother and daughter?

  112. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    I don’t have enough information to really evaluate your situation. You mention that you haven’t really started treating the dogs differently yet you haven’t mentioned exactly how you treat the dogs. By this I mean, what kind of structure for leadership do you have for the dogs that allows them to develop a strong sense of place in your pack? Do they earn the attention you give to them both at the same time?
    What are you doing to reinforce your leadership and provide them with the structure they need to feel less stressed and anxious?

  113. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    There are ways to start helping them get along. The first step is to control the environment. Keep the dogs from fighting AT ALL. Put your JR on leash in the house when you are there and crate him or your other dog when you cannot supervise their time together. All behavior is stress related. Find out what is stressing your dogs. If you’ve already read my article on sibling rivalry, then you have read down the list of things dogs fight about which includes status related conflicts and guarding resources like yourself (the love and affection you give your dog.) More structure is a good place to start – all on leash of course – for a while. Begin this with putting your JR on a learn-to-earn program: sit and down for everything he wants: pets/praise, food, toys, access to you on the couch, walks, etc.

  114. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    There are ways to do this. The first step is to control the environment. Keep the dogs from fighting AT ALL. Judging by your email, you are already doing this. All behavior is stress related. Find out what is stressing your dogs. If you’ve already read my article on sibling rivalry, then you have read down the list of things dogs fight about which includes status related conflicts and guarding resources like yourself (the love and affection you give your dog.) More structure and less love and affection is a good place to start – all on leash of course – for a while

  115. Linda G
    Linda G says:

    Hello Jim,
    After reading your advice, I still have a question. I have 2 dogs, both female. The older one is about 5 years old and the younger one just over 2. We’ve had the older one since she was a puppy along with another female who died almost 2 years ago. None of the dogs have ever fought. The younger female we’ve had for about a year and they’ve been the best of friends. Within the last month they’ve started fighting, usually when nobody was watching. The older dog is smaller, bot is trying to be the dominant dog and ends up losing the fight because the younger dog is larger. It starts with the older dog grabbing the other at the neck and then they get too rough and have to be broken up. We haven’t started treating the dogs differently, and give them both attention at the same time. They are pretty well behaved and listen to commands, except when they now start to fight. Is it typical for dogs to get along for so long before getting aggressive or jealous? I just can’t figure out what change might have occurred and worry about the older dog. I feel the younger dog is only fighting in self defense and doesn’t mean to hurt the other. They are mostly outside dogs, but occasionally come inside the house. They’ve never started any fights inside. They can be together in the same room without issues. I can feed them together without issues. They don’t seem to fight all the time, but in the last 4 to 6 weeks, it’s happened twice where the older dog has had lacerations on her leg causing her to limp.
    Is there a special way to address the dogs when they are caught fighting so they know that it is not tolerated. I don’t want to handle it wrong to cause more aggression or jealousy – depending on what might be causing it.

  116. william
    william says:

    I have a jack russel he is 8yrs old, 2 yrs ago we got him a companion, a jack russel/whippet mix. My JR hasn’t really taken to him, but now after 2yrs the JR has started to attack on site, no real dmg has been done to either, just some bloody mouths from teeth clashing. I dont know how to make them stop, the mixed dog is super submissive he tries to get away and run when my JR looks at him and make threatening jestures, but the JR just jumps him. My JR is highly intelegent, I’ve tried training suggested above, but it doesnt seem to work. I really need help, my wife wants me to get rid of the JR cause we have a 1yr old, but hes been my good buddy for 8yrs..

  117. Heather D
    Heather D says:

    My friend Marie and I recently got a house together. She has a 1 year old pit bull terrier mix and I have a 4.5 year old border collie/lab mix. They are fighting 6-8 times a day. My border collie mix is the one who physically starts every fight, but the terrier mix instigates the situation by taking toys or trying to steal my attention. They get along very well when they are not fighting, which is about 95% in the time. I am very concerned about this situation as it is creating stress in the house. We are not sure what to do. We put the dogs apart, the terrier has a kennel and my border collie goes in a bedroom. Is there any way to show my dog that the house is to be shared, and not her house alone anymore?
    Thank you,

  118. victoria
    victoria says:

    hi i have three dog two girls one male they are jack russels but just lately the two girls keep fighting , also when i leave and come back the male and one girl gang up and keep trying to bite the others back legs i have to keep seperating them i dont know what to do because now i am two nervous to have them all in the same room i think they are fighting over my attention but how do i stop it so we can become a family again

  119. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    Your puppies are only 11 weeks of age. They are playing like they played in the litter. If, you think it’s too rough, them simply break it up and don’t allow that kind of play.
    Puppies do not have good connection between their brain and their bowels and bladder to closer to 4.5 months of age. Your job as new puppy owners is to understand
    what YOU must to teach them to be housebroken. My advice is to hire a positive reinforcement trainer ASAP. Go to http://www.apdt.com and find a trainer on that site.
    The dog professionals who are members of that site ONLY use positive reinforcement. Pls. do this sooner than later.

  120. Dorian Roohi
    Dorian Roohi says:

    Hi Jim,

    I just got 2 Bichons. they are brother and sister. They are about 11 weeks old. They were together when we got them but about 2 weeks ago they started fighting with each other. They share a large crate at nights. We give hem equal attention and we get to of every toy however they fight over one and then the other one.

    We are having a difficult time training them to be housebroken or dog obedience.

    any help would be really appreciated.

    Thank you,

  121. Deb Caponera
    Deb Caponera says:

    Thanks Jim!
    I appreciate your help!

    To clear things up a bit: we have a long, railroad style apartment. the dogs initially go into separate rooms with their respective Kongs as a distraction from us leaving the apartment. then they roam freely in the apartment. Neither of them do well in crates and until just the past 2 weeks or so there have been no incidents. so the Kong thing has been used to keep them from getting anxious when we actually leave. with no incident for over 2 years it’s making me look at what might have changed otherwise.

    Discipline: meaning limits and boundaries, sits and stays when new dogs approach (outside), maintaining focused walks, sitting before meals and treats, and when they react to another dog the are immediately put into a sit or lie down and stay until they are calm, redirecting when they focus on an approaching dog to a calm sit and stay then rewarded with a treat when they are released, etc. Basically letting them know that we’re the leaders and don’t allow certain behaviors while promoting others.

    Since my original message we have been to the vets and the doctor has found that Ruby has some mild arthritis and might reacting to Verlaine trying to bully her out of her position in front of the air conditioner as it’s also sweltering hot here in Brooklyn. We’re putting her on some natural remedies recommended by our vet and since my original message both dogs are responding to our efforts with more exercise and “discipline”.

    The vet also suggested that because Verlaine is coming into adulthood and, as mentioned in the original message, challenging other dogs, that in challenging Ruby, when we aren’t around, she might just be fed up with him and letting him know who’s boss. Nothing has happened (that we know of) since my earlier message and they’re both getting along famously once again. Still, i’m sure the issue is not completely over and will most definitely be looking into your home study course.

    Thanks for your time and help!

  122. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    It’s hard to say what might be causing the fights. My initial take is that they are fighting over the Kong toys.

    You might want not to pass out Kong toys as dogs can fight over resources. It could also be that Verlaine is reacting to Ruby’s stress (separation anxiety) when you two leave and Ruby, becomes reactive to Verlaine by redirecting her anxiety on him – possibly… I cannot give a good evaluation without evaluating both dogs as well as your relationship with the dogs.

    Also, some of what you wrote is unclear. If they are in separate rooms with Kongs when you leave, how is it that they fight? Additionally, I’m not exactly what you mean when you say you are ramping up the training, exercise and discipline. What’s the “discipline” that you do?

    At least for the time being I would begin by separating them when you leave to prevent further fighting. I need a little more information before I can comment further. I’m finishing up a downloadable home study course on “My Dogs Fight” that will be available on my website in the next few weeks. This may interest you so keep checking our website. It will be listed under our Products Page.


  123. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    It can be a long road to desensitizing them to a compatible relationship – only to turn around and adopt him out. I would say re-home him for fostering would be ideal but short of that – managing
    is your next best option but you know how exhausting that can be. It is critical to the success of any behavioral modification program.

    Do not let them fight as it just makes fighting a stronger behavior because it works for them. As far as behavior modification for either dog, I’m finishing up a downloadable home study course on “My Dogs Fight” that will be available on my website in the next few weeks. This may interest you so keep checking our website. It will be listed on our Products Page.


  124. Liz Charles
    Liz Charles says:

    What can I do? I have an 8year old female and 5year old male Rohodesian Ridgeback(s) and have been fostering a recently-celebrated-his-first-birthday Amstaff/Cane Corso pup for nearly 5 months. While there has been some tension between the males, it had been managed with firm rules and human interference – until last week. I know I bear full responsibility for not anticipating the minutes long (and first ever for each of them) fight between them. No real damage was done (Amstaff: couple of nicks; Ridgeback: couple of bites to leg that took couple of stitches, and injury to chest tendons/muscles which is healing with observation).
    They have been separated since – which is exhausting.
    Is there any hope for bringing them back together – not that I think they wlll ever be ‘friends’ – in a way that lets us manage and preclude the tension?
    If not, what are the options for my foster boy – who clearly needs to be in a single dog household (the rescue organization has no shelter/foster netwrok only, and is looking for a replacement foster home – but you know that’s not easy…)?

  125. Deb Caponera
    Deb Caponera says:

    Hi Jim,

    I’ve been reading through all the questions and solutions and think i’ve pretty much figured out what to do with my 2 dogs (1: 8 year old, spayed female Akita/Pit mix named Ruby and 2: 3 year old neutered male Wild Cayman dog named Verlaine) who’ve been living very happily together since we brought the Cayman dog home from the shelter 2.5 years ago. Both are rescues. Ruby is a stray from the park near by whom we brought home 7 years ago. she lived with our previous dog with no incident for nearly 6 years until the previous dog (a 6.5 year gentle, neutered male doberman named Jasper) died suddenly. Ruby and Jasper were inseparable. Ruby also has severe separation anxiety where when left alone, without another dog, she has hurt herself, jumping through windows, digging through doors, bending the metal bars of her crate back (she is no longer crated as she doesn’t respond well to closed spaces) to get out and find us. upon the death of Jasper she was, as my husband and i were as well, devastated. we couldn’t leave Ruby alone at all. and at one point i needed to leave the house while my husband stayed with her and she still flipped out. we consulted out vet who suggested a neutered, male puppy to be brought into the house quickly as Ruby also has had issues with dogs her own size, age, etc. her background was not a good one and we’re pretty sure she escaped from fighting breeders or was dumped there after having a litter of puppies (upon bringing her to the vets when we found her our vet said she had just had puppies, which we never found, and had been informed that there were a few breeder rings in the area that were breeding fighting dogs and disposing of the mothers so the puppies wouldn’t bond…) so she’s always been fond of puppies but challenges larger, older dogs.
    anyway, we followed our vets instructions, brought Ruby to North Shore Animal league and met with various puppies of whom she and Verlaine (then 5 months old) took very well to each other. upon reaching our house we took the dogs for an extended walk, tiring them out. Ruby was reluctant to let Verlaine in the house but we, as the leaders, showed what was expected and calmly got them inside. With leashes on for the next couple of days and rules put in place along with lots of exercise and training, we got them acclimated to each other and within the week they were best friends.

    fast forward 2.5 years.

    Verlaine is now 3 and asserting himself more in and out of the house. he’s come to challenge new dogs he sees (especially un-neutered dogs) but refrains from actually fighting, letting Ruby be his back up, which we discourage with redirecting her behavior as well as putting her and Verlaine in a sit and stay (very calmly) until the approaching dog has passed and, with a few bumps in the road, it’s working out pretty well. Ruby and Verlaine have gotten along famously, playing, rough housing, eating together, sleeping together, grooming each other, etc. They do vie for our attention with a bit of jealousy but we control that with the same methods you describe in earlier comments.
    But in the past 2 weeks it seems things have changed. Ruby has taken to going after Verlaine as soon as we leave the house (we can hear her as we walk out the door). We give each dog 2 kong toys with treats inside them in separate rooms and have never had a problem before.
    as of the past 2 weeks this has changed. We don’t get to see exactly what happens but we hear the barking and the scuffle and once we get inside to see what’s happened they’re apart, usually sitting or standing next to each other and Verlaine is scared. Yesterday we left the house, heard the barking/altercation, came back in the house to see what was going on, saw nothing, left again and came home later that day to find Verlaine’s nose covered in blood. Ruby was acting shy and Verlaine was nervous and now, so are we.

    I’ve made an appointment with our vet to make sure there’s nothing physically wrong with either dog (that might change behavior as well as have Verlaine’s nose looked at) and are ramping up on the training, exercise and discipline but i’m worried that the fighting will get worse and what to do if it does.
    do you think there’s anything else I might try or look out for?
    i want them to be as balanced and happy together as possible and am struck by this new behavior. thanks for any help you can offer, it’s greatly appreciated.

    Brooklyn, NY

  126. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    Your dogs need to be physically kept apart until you can get with a behaviorist that is qualified to work with you on your serious male dog issues – territorial issues.

    DO NOT under any circumstances allow your male dog to get close to the pup. Too much damage has already been done. What your male dog did to the pup was not unprovoked.

    He is resource guarding (protecting what he perceives is his: your love and affection, space, food, etc…Protect the pup at all costs by keeping them separated.

    Hire a behaviorist or trainer that is qualified in this area. This cannot be fixed via email. Sorry. Go to ttp://www.apdt.com and do a trainer search for a reward-based trainer in your area.

  127. Helen
    Helen says:

    Hi Jim,

    I have a 3.5yr old male Great Dane x Staghound (he is chemically castrated) and we recently got a puppy (female staffy x mastiff 15 weeks now) as we lost our other dog to cancer. For 6 weeks since we go the pup the two dogs have gotten on really well. The male has been very gentle with the pup and has never showed any sign of agression towards he. We can pat them separately and together and they play well together. I was taking my male dog walking as the female had to wait for her vaccinations to be up to date. Last week the pup had a punctured trachea and had to be separated from our other dog for the week so she could recover. My husband took her to work but we made sure they got contact each morning and night (she sat on a lap and they other dog licked her) We put them back together after a week and supervised them for most of the day. As we were putting them to bed the male came over to where my husband was with the pup and had a sniff then just attacked the pup as my husband was putting on her coat. He would not let go of her and it took as a while to get him to let go. She has multiple puncture wounds (not life threatening) and after seeing the vet she is on another week of rest. I am worried that I cannot trust my male dog as the attack seemed totally unprovoked. Can you please offer any suggestions as I do want to have to get rid of one dog and I cannot keep separating them forever.

  128. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    I would purchase gentle leaders for both dogs – or at least the one that seems to start the fights. Once he has been desensitized to the gentle leader, via walking separately – at least for a while – put him on your strong side and the other dog on your other side. Begin your walk and control the older one with the gentle leader. You may have to have someone help you by walking your other dog with you so that you can gauge distance between dogs to keep the safe and from fighting. Gradually close the distance.
    Hope this helps!

  129. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Van and Julie:

    So sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved pet. Do not get another dog, at least until you are able to sort things out with Laska. Have your two dogs spayed. I suggest you have Laska evaluated by a positive reinforcement trainer qualified to with multiple dog households. Keep Laska away from the other dog to keep the smaller dog safe and not allow Laska to become reactive. Get a trainer in sooner than later so that she can be properly evaluated. This is not a problem that can be addressed over the internet. Check the website for the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, http://www.apdt.com, and do a trainer search for your area. That I would do first thing. Hope this helps!

  130. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    I think probably you are not being consistent. Stop being aggressive in your corrections – that won’t work The very first thing is to control the environment so that she is not allowed to relentlessly attack your other dog. You can have them together but keep her on a leash so that you can interrupt bad behavior with your other dog then praise and treat her for appropriate behavior. It does take time. Work on her responses to your commands of come, sit and down. Every time she starts to become reactive, interrupt and call her to you then get a sit and then a down. Praise/treat for compliance. All of this is to be done on a leash or long line in the house.
    Hope this helps!

  131. Jessi
    Jessi says:

    Hi Jim,
    I have a very sweet and submissive 4 year old male Golden Retriever (neutered) named Abraham. We adopted a 6 month old female Labrador Retriever (spayed), named Lucy, approximately 3 weeks ago. She is extremely sweet and a very good girl….when she is the only dog around. However, whenever she is around Abraham, she is slowly become more and more jealous/territorial over our affection, toys, his food, etc. and has been, most recently, charging at him. At first, she would just get between us of nip at his ears, but the more we try to correct the behavior, the more aggressive she has been getting.

    The weird thing is… when they play, it seems as if he is “dominating” (she ends up on her back and he walks away with the toy), but then she charges him again biting his legs, neck, face, ears…even his penis! When he whimpers or cries, she does not stop the way I have seen other dogs do. He has always been very gentle and has never been a possession guarder, but when we first brought her home he did snap at her face and mounted her (2 behaviors I have never seen him do with any other dogs). We corrected this behavior, and because she had just been spayed, we also discouraged any rough playing… focusing on Abraham because he actually listened. I think this may have the signal that he is not allowed to correct her?

    She has also become more dominating over us (walking in our path, trying to climb over us, “playfully” snapping at our hands when we correct her, ignoring us when we give her commands) and, whenever she doesn’t get her way, she does this crazy thing that we call the “Tasmanian devil”, where she runs around the house with her butt to the ground and her tail between her legs. We correct this by either picking her up from the ground until she calms down (which is getting harder as she is almost 70 lbs) then making her sit, or pinning her to the ground until she submits. Both seem to work in the moment, but we are seeing no decrease in the amount of occurrences.

    We have been giving her structures exercise (2-3 walks per day) and we were crate training her, however, she is housebroken and very good when she is on her own (no chewing, etc), so we leave her out of the crate when no one is home (my husband takes our older dog into the office during the day) and at night to sleep (she stays downstairs and Abraham sleeps upstairs with us). We tried to let her come up with us too, but she could not handle it (more Tasmanian devil).

    We have stopped playing tug-of-war, are controlling the toys, feeding them in separate areas, and discouraging attention seeking, making them sit for everything (which she is very obstinate about…especially to go outside)

    I feel as if I have tried everything…from positive reinforcement, to being the alpha dog, to even being a little aggressive myself (which I don’t like at all).

    Perhaps, I’m not being consistent in my approach? Sending conflicting messages?

    I would appreciate any and all advice!

    Thank you, Jim.


  132. Van Cardwell
    Van Cardwell says:

    Dear Jim

    Laska killed Eugenie.

    We bought laska last summer, when she was 6 mo old. She is a well bread German Sheppard with German Czech and American lines. We wanted a dog my wife could take to work to carry things for her and make her feel safe.
    Eugene was a 14 mo old Silken Wind-hound (long hared whippet “submissive”) we got in January.
    We also have a two year old Japanese Chin Kai.

    Laska and Eugene played no stop for a month until a squabble had Eugenie depressed and unwilling to play. In three days laska tried letting Eugene dominate and be on top and things went back to play. Things were OK for two months until another squabble. After three days of depression Eugene became the typical sight hound, play for 15 minutes sleep for three hours.

    Laska began guarding the back door and crawling under the coffee table and growling at the slightest sight of Eugenie. We came home from the store and found Eugene in her bed the floor covered with blood. We got her to the vet just in time. her trachea was torn, the muscles in her neck were torn both rear legs were torn. Almost 3,000 dollars later Eugene came home after 5 days. Four days later she died.

    We are afraid Laska could turn on Kai who is less than 10 pounds. We also want another dog.
    All these girls are intact.
    What do we do? Do we put Laska down? We can’t find Laska another home Help!

    Any help would be appreciated

    Thank you

    Van and Julie Cardwell

  133. Irene
    Irene says:

    I have a 4 year old jack russel/border terrier cross and a 15month old border terrier, they have got on well until about 2 weeks ago when they started to fight. I have had then neutered and watch their body language, praising them for tolerating each other at home. They do not fight when I am not home and can now tolerate each other in the home, they have never fought over toys or chewies and will even playfight. My problem is I cannot walk them without a vicious fight breaking out. I am sure the older one causes it and he gives very little little warning he just seems to launch himself at the other dog. I have no idea what the fights are about and there is no obvious cause or pattern. I am at breaking point with this.

  134. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    J-S: It could be health. One dog could be hypothyroid as an example so it’s best to rule out all medical possibilities.All behavior problems in dogs can be linked to stress and anxiety. If you can pinpoint the stressors and eliminate them. How do we do that? Put structure in their lives by requiring them to earn everything by doing a sit and a down. Throttle way back on love and affection and train them 3 times daily for two minutes doing come, sit and down between family members. Lack of structure, earning everything like food, love and affection or toys can create stress because there is no consistent expectation of what to do on a daily basis.And certainly, family stress can be a huge contributing factor.

  135. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Ada you are correct with redirected aggression. First Rule in behavior modification: DO NOT let your dogs engage in this activity (setting them up to fail) while you are in the process of fixing it.If they are in the back yard while you are at work, this is not good. Running the fence line and barking allows your dogs to rehearse territorial aggression in your absence. You would never be able to make progress if the behavior was allowed to continue when you’re not home. Here’s what I’d begin with:

    1. Throttle way back on love and affection to both dogs.
    2. Require them to earn everything: meals, going outside, coming back inside, toys, walks, etc…(you do walk them, right?)
    3. Do come, sit and down with each dog individually 3 times a day for only two minutes. Call them back and forth and when they come – then require a sit and down. If they don’t know all the commands, teach them the ones they don’t know. Work them separately.
    4. Begin to do set ups with dogs on the other side of the fence. Control your dogs on leashes for ALL exercises. Watch your distance – move way back at first then closer as you being to see good results. The second they begin to “think” about becoming reactive, correct and redirect to a sit. Praise and treat (must be extremely high value food treat.)

    There are a couple of other options but lets try this right now to see if you can make some headway.

  136. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    Thanks for your question.

    As I mentioned in the article, dogs can guard resources: food, space, toys and love and affection (yes, you can be a resource too!) Your wife or the couch could have been the object of intentional guarding.

    For the time being, do the following:
    1. Control them in the house with leashes. If you can pinpoint which one is the instigator, leash that one for control in the house.Otherwise, leash both until you can get things under control.
    2. Disallow them access to all furniture
    3. Throttle way back on love and affection to both dogs.
    4. Require them to earn everything: meals, going outside, coming back inside, toys, walks, etc…(you do walk them, right?)
    5. Do come, sit and down with each dog individually 3 times a day for only two minutes. Call them back and forth and when they come require a sit and down. If they don’t know all the commands, teach them the ones they don’t know. Work them separately.
    6. Then finally AND ON LEASH, do the exercises I mentioned in the article on sibling rivalry.

    Hope this helps.

  137. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    It appears there is a lack of structure in your home: is there is too much unearned love and affection? are they not being required to sit for EVERYTHING?: food, access to furniture, love and affection, going out to go potty, coming back in the house and sits/downs for walks (you are walking your dogs, aren’t you? If your answer is no, start today.).

    And then – you’re pregnant, hormones changing and your emotions going up and down may have triggered your dog’s behavior. Dump the prong collar and in addition to earning everything mentioned before, get back into working your dogs on sits and downs 3 times a day for only two minutes. That is only 6 minutes per dog. This will put much needed structure back into their lives. If you do not do this now it will only get worse when your baby arrives. Set a routine with your dogs today that you can keep up when your baby arrives. Get all family members to help. They deserve your attention. Hope this helps.

  138. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    hi ! So I been having some problems lately.

    We have a boxer (Lady.) Toy poodle (Hooch) and two cats (Oreo & Jasper) ..

    Now, we just found out we’re pregnant not too long ago, and since then, of course my attitude changed toward Lady ! I don’t want her jumping on me anymore when coming through the door, etc..

    However, I didn’t think this would affect her, BUT she’s been attacking Hooch at the most random times ! For no reason (or so it seems to me) he could be just laying down and she’ll run and pin him under her chest and growl. She’s never ever ever bit an animal and never even came close to growling at a human !

    Since she’s been doing this to Hooch, he’s been doing the same thing to our kitties 🙁 .

    Now we hired a trainer, and all they did was bring a prong collar and say they all need socializing. Okay, well for the past like month we been taking them out socializing with various other dog’s and nothing has changed! The trainers also said this was just “rough play” HOWEVER she’s showing every single sign of aggression ! (Standing very still, fur on her back stands up, growls, the pounces toward him and throws him under her chest until he submits)..

    They said it’s only rough play, but if we want to correct it, we take her off him, put her on the ground on her side, and hold her on the ground until she is calm. Now it’s great that works for about 5 minutes, but she’ll do it again her next chance!

    After reading this, it has taught me quite a few reasons why she could be doing this and makes me understand it more. I was keeping them in seperate rooms but after reading you’re article I felt comfortable enough and went and brought them both into the living room, put Lady on her bed and Hooch in his bed. They both layed down and I’m making sure they are ignouring each other. They seem to be doing amazing ! Even with the cat’s roaming around 🙂 .

    Now. One thing though, is when I first walk in the door from coming home from wherever, Lady will attack Hooch . Any idea what this could be from? How should I correct this? I’ve researched it’s because pregnant women have a new “scent” and she is trying to protect me, but how can I correct her and show her that I am safe and that hooch can NOT do anything to hurt me ! He’s a very small dog! lol.

    Thanks soo much 🙂

  139. Carl
    Carl says:

    Greetings! Thanks for such a wonderful article. I have 2 English bulldogs, male and female, litter mates.
    They are three years old, they have been “fixed” 😉
    Over the past year they have started being aggressive taped one another and we can not pinpoint what is causing it. It began when one thought the other got a morsel of food left over on the floor, and now they get in to it for unknown reasons. Recently Max was sitting close to my wife on the floor, she was sitting in a chair from across the room where Maggie lay on the couch Max began to look over at her and stared growling, the next thing that happens was Maggie leaped from the couch across the too
    And the Egan to fight very aggressively. Knocking over furniture and heeling items on the end table.
    My wife is very scared of them when they d this. And this behavior seems to be increasing. Most times they interact with each other in a caring and friendly way and even sleep in the same dog bed or on the couch together. They were raised in a loving home with equal attention. Although when I am at home they generally behave better. We do not want to have to split them up by giving one or both up but we also can’t tolerate this behavior.

  140. J-S
    J-S says:

    Hi Jim,
    I have two dogs (one male and one female) who have been living together with no problems for 5 years. There is a very occasional scuffle that works itself out after a few seconds, which is to be expected from any dogs (or people for that matter) living together. Throughout their time with me, my dogs have always come with me to my mother’s house for ALL holidays with no problems. The last two times at my mother’s house, however, the dogs have gotten into horrible fights (blood drawn) for no apparent reason. I would like to provide specifics to see if you can give some opinion as to the reason or let me know if you believe this is a health issue.
    – Both times, my brother was there, but he often is. He has recently moved to Phoenix, but he has been home prior to this with no dog issues.
    – Until these most recent times, my mother’s cat was in the house, although locked in a different room, and there was never any contact. She has since passed away.
    – One fight occurred while we were in the living room watching TV for with no apparent reason (no treats or toys). The other fight occurred while my mother and I were upstairs and my brother was in a separate room. The fight occurred out on the patio with no one around. We all ran out back (which took some time) and it took all three of us to separate them.
    – There is some emotional stress in the house as my grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer a couple months ago.
    – There is a very clear alpha and she is treated as such – again no issues other than the expected dominant displays previously. Each clearly know their place.

    So could this be a health issue? family emotional stress? my alpha getting older?

    I’m concerned because I will be, obviously, heading to my mother’s quite often to spend time with my grandmother. Should I be leaving them at home? I truly hate leaving them behind.

    I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts.

  141. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Lisa: Answer: As long as there is no blood – and based on your description of other good or neutral behavior when together, I think you are okay.. If it is getting too much you should stop the rough-housing and redirect to a more acceptable behavior like stuffed Kongs. Practice calling them out of low and medium level play so that when you really need them to break up, they will listen better. Possibly put him on a leash during mealtimes and teach him to stay away from her bowl. If done consistently, he will eventually do this. Keep me posted.

    PS Thanks so much for the kind words and we’re thrilled to have you as part of our community, even as far away as the UK.

  142. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Jim, I live in UK so can’t consult you directly and so far your blog has been the most helpful and positive I’ve found online. I do not want to use punishment with my dogs so won’t follow advice I’ve seen online such as shock collars, prong collars etc and do not want to resort to crating them. I feel I just need to understand their behaviour better. My dogs only met a week ago and my boy who is 6 months old was just neutered two weeks ago. My girl is spayed and is 18 months old. I had the boy first. The initial meeting on neutral ground went great, walk round the house before entering was fine, brought both into house together. Problem we are having is that they are snapping at each other, biting (but not with force) at back legs and ears and generally rolling round in balls of fur. I just can’t decide whether it’s playing or sorting out who is who and as such I don’t know when to step in and stop them or whether it’s something I need to leave them to work out. They don’t hurt each other and have never done anything that has caused the other to yelp in pain. They are also perfectly capable of sitting and lying down together and playing nicely in garden. One is a setter and one is a lab/staffy so both high energy dogs and I do make sure they get plenty of exercise.

    I feed them separately as he is a guzzler and she is a very slow eater so he would just eat all of her food as well as his own but I can sit them side by side for treats, they can sit beside each other to enjoy a stuffed kong or bone each. They both try to push through doors at the same time and I’m working with them to make them both sit before I’ll open door to let them outside for play or walks etc and that I have to go through the door first. They have water bowls each but do sometimes decide to drink from same water bowl but with no aggression.

    I felt like last night and this morning that the rough play had more growling and snarling and was more akin to fighting than playing. In past 2-3 days she has started mounting him.

    They both sleep in the same room without any issues and can walk on a double lead together.

    What worries me is where is the line between play and fighting? Do I need to let this behaviour occur so that they can sort out who is dominant or am I just reinforcing bad behaviour by letting them do it at all and if I should stop the behaviour how do you recommend stopping it?

    Would greatly appreciate any advice you can give.

  143. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Kimberly: I did answer your email. Is it important to understand the trigger – yes. As I always say, when you have a dog behavior problem first thing to look at is how are the owners putting structure
    and leadership into their home with their dogs.

  144. Kimberly
    Kimberly says:

    Thank you so much for this incredibly helpful information. I will be going to work on this ASAP. We have two very large dogs and defiantely a one sided agression issue (older goes after younger) which we have managed fairly successfully but with a few slips here and there which have led to attacks (fights would suggest the other fights back which she doesnt.) It’s very hard to figure out the trigger, but it’s not food, since we feed them next to each other without incident. Is it absolutely necessary to figure out what the trigger is in order to correct the agression? The agressor is spayed but the younger girl is not. I also sent a seperate email asking for recomendations for a good trainer in our area, we haven’t had much luck yet finding someone with your frame of reference when it comes to training.

  145. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Jae: ONE of the problems is you are allowing an intact male to play with your other dog. All dogs, male and female alike perceive an intact male as a threat. Get the other dog neutered. If your brother will not do that then you simply can not allow them to play. A shock collar can easily ruin your dog or his dog. We do not recommend doing that at all. You can actually make everything much worse.

  146. Jae
    Jae says:

    My Dog and my brothers dog Keeps fighting. not over food. not over a toy. Just straight cant cliam dominance. My dog is fixed but my brothers isnt. Is there anyway to stop the fighting before it happens?? and without a shock collar?
    No matter what we do. they keep fighting. The min. they look at eachother they go at it! can anyone help?!?!

  147. Cassandra
    Cassandra says:

    I have 6 dogs. The older female labrador Bo Peep is 9 years old and she is very aggressive towards Sammie the younger female labrador only. She doesnt mind the other 2 males or the other 2 younger females. When I rescued Sammie and her brother they were about 6 months old and my partner did not want them to stay with us – there was a huge fight. From then Bo Peep absolutely detests Sammie – she terrorises her on sight! Bo Peep lives in the town and Sammie lives on the farm. I now want to integrate them all on the farm as I plan to spend more time there. Sammie is very submissive and traumatised when Bo Peep is around – she runs and hides far away from everyone and wont come near. When Bo Peep terrorises her she freezes and cowers. I have a 2 weeks off and want to train them to live together in peace. I will try your advice above, and any further tips will be greatly appreciated.

  148. Deanne
    Deanne says:

    We have three small dogs, Chloe (a female Yorkie age 5), TJ (a 1 year old male bichon) and my daughters dog, Phoebe (3 year old female Lhasa Apso) All have been neutered. Chloe and TJ sleep with us, Phoebe sleeps with my daughter but the dogs are together in the house all day long and eat together as well.

    Over the past few months, Chloe and Phoebe have been getting in fights. This only happens when my husband and I are around and when one of the females is getting attention of some type, like at bath time. In reading your site, I have realized that Chloe is the Alpha. And, yes these fights ususally happen in a small area like the hallway to the back yard.

    I realize by reading that I should greet Chloe immediately first when I come home. The others usually come to me first. We will also work on giving Chloe priority and not treating them alike as we did with our children. I also understand that we should feed Chloe first and not allow Phoebe to clean her plate.

    Any other tips would be greatly appreciated

  149. jim_admin
    jim_admin says:

    Dawn, thanks for your email. There are quite a few comments just like yours regarding family dogs fighting. Please read those as it will help you understand leadership. Your dogs should not
    be making the decisions who gets what – you should. You need to read everything I’ve said about leadership and the exercises to address your problem.

  150. Dawn
    Dawn says:

    We recently rescued a dog from our local humane shelter. His name is Mackey. We also have another dog that I have had for 6 years now who is also a rescued dog. As soon as we brought Mackey home, he fit in perfectly. We have no complaints besides he ate my daughter’s new underwear. lol She is not an animal person and does not care much for my other dog because she says I baby the dog too much but she adores Mackey and even lets him on her bed and lets him hang out in her room.
    Coco has been attacked by 4 other dogs so we were concerned about bringing a dog into a home because we worried she would try to attack the dog. After the last dog attacked her, she became aggressive when she saw other dogs. Since she had been attacked I had given up the idea of bringing another dog into the home. But at our old house a dog got loose and came into our yard. Coco and him would play together for hours on end. Then she fell through our screen window one day while barking at another dog that was in our yard. Once we chased her down and found her she was just playing with the other dog and was happy as could be. As soon as Coco and Mackey were introduced to each other, they sniffed one another up and were immediate friends.
    Since day one, they are always together and always playing. If Coco is shut up in my son and her room, Mackey whines to get her and Coco will whine and scratch at the door to get to Mackey. We have a hard time watching tv because they are always playing and rough housing with one another. They have been a perfect pair. We do have 2 feed bowls for them because Mackey tried to steal food from Coco one day and she bit him. They snapped at each other once over a tennis ball that they both wanted…..to be honest Coco was the aggressor in all occasions except for when Mackey tried to take her food. They have gotten into small “fights” where they growl at each other and snap at each other but it is a quick thing and nothing to have caused concern.

    Coco is jealous when Mackey or anyone tries to get too much of my attention or my son’s. She is a huge dog and loves to be the center of attention. She is constantly on my lap or laying spooned with me. After my husband passed away a few years ago, she became very protective of my son and I. She has not cared when Mackey is being loved on by us too much, she will make sure and shove her way in to get loved on too. She even will push him with her nose but nothing too aggressive.

    Three nights ago, I was trying to get Mackey on my lap. Coco was in my son’s room with him while he slept. Coco walked out and I told Mackey that he would not be able to get on my lap now because Coco was awake. My son’s room is about 8 feet from the couch where I was sitting. Mackey walked in the hallway and Coco was there. Next thing I knew Coco had him by the side of the neck and we could not get her to let go. Poor sweet Mackey was crying. My son and Steve were both trying to break them up. Coco’s jaw like locked up and she just would not let go for anything. Steve actually had his hand in her mouth prying her jaws apart which I know you are not supposed to do. I think this may be the first time that I have ever spanked her and I feel really bad for it. Mackey has no severe injuries. Just a cut on his lip and by his eye. We kept them separated for a few hours. Since we have let them be together, they are fine but they do act timid around each other now almost like their feelings are hurt and they don’t know what to do. They played together some and even took a nap on the couch together.

    I don’t want this to happen again and if it does, I want to be able to stop it immediately. We have been keeping my son’s bedroom door shut at all times in case Coco is possessive over it. I did not know if she was trying to protect him while he was asleep or just being jealous.

    The dogs got into another fight yesterday. Once again it was in a small hallway. I have 3 small hallways in my home so I don’t know how to keep them out of the hallways. I feel that this fight was totally my fault though. I have to keep the cat’s food bowl up high so that the dogs will not eat it. So I was feeding her in the hallway. I spilled some of the food on the floor. Coco started eating what was spilled. I picked up some pieces and held my hand out for Mackey to eat. Coco immediately attacked. My son and fiance got them apart….Mackey is a so sweet and does not have a mean bone in his body and never fights back. I should never have fed him in that hallway with Coco near by. I feel so stupid, I knew better. When we are in the kitchen, I will hand them both something to eat with me standing in between them and they are fine. For the last 2-3 days the dogs have gotten along great. They are constantly wanting outside so that they can play. Once they are outside, I can sit for hours and watch them and laugh. They are so hilarious. I never would have brought another dog into our home if I had thought Coco was going to attack all the time. The reason I had decided another dog would be okay was because in our old home a dog would get loose and come into our yard. Coco would play with this dog until they both were panting and so tired they could barely move. Then one day another dog got into our yard. Coco fell through the screen window when she was barking at him. She took off running. Once we found her, we were terrified that she was fighting with this dog. Instead they were playing. I thought because of this, she would be fine with another dog. I have had her for 6 years now and I am realizing that I have been negligent with her training because I have raised an aggressive dog without meaning to. Right now we are keeping them separated. We are considering buying a muzzle to keep on her at all times. We were told to buy pepper spray to spray on her when they are fighting to stop it without any of us getting hurt. Someone else said to get a spray bottle with vinegar and water to spray in her nose and mouth when the fighting occurs. I was also told to get a shock collar but when I read up on it, it said that the jolt from it would just make her madder and attack more. I am at a loss here and terrified. I have to resolve this issue and keep both of our dogs safe.

    Could you please help.

  151. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    I don’t have enough info so it wouldn’t be good to second guess the situation. You said they got put in crates “and so forth”-what’s the “so forth?”

    There are too many other unknowns to guess. Have you begun the exercises mentioned in the article

  152. Tiffany
    Tiffany says:

    I have a 9 yr old chocolate lab(diesel), he gets along with any other dog aside from his brother (ducati). diesel plays with other dogs and has no problems. diesel and ducati are brothers, and they are both 9 yrs old. they played together as pups and had no problems, then my brother and laws ex girlfriend seperated them and put them in seperate crates and so forth. they have never gotten along since. they are both nuetered. diesel is our dog, and ducati is my brother in laws dog.

    they cannot be in the same house unless we put up baby gates on both sides of the kitchen and keep them seperated. if they were to be together they would tear eachother apart. theres no haveing them in the same house and only fighting sometimes, its an everytime theyre together thing.

    we currently have diesel living in the house next door with our neighbor, and they bark at each other thru the chainlink fence when they are out at the same time.

    we just tried to put muzzles on them and put them on leashes together and they both would growl and go after eachother all though they couldnt bite. they will walk around each other ok, and then when they catch a glance of each other, hair goes up, they stare at eachother, they stand in that attacking position and then they growl and go after each other.

    ducati is always the one to growl and bark first, and then when diesel barks and growls, ducati turns away.

    not sure on how to resolve the issue but we need them to at least get along to where they dont fight so we can have our dogs both live with us. it is a difficult situation with having to sepearate them all the time.

    any help would greatly be appreciated, thank you,


    another note to add is that my husband and i and my brother n law all live together. another reason why its difficult to have to sepearate them.

  153. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    The move and the new baby could have been the catalysts for this sudden change in his behavior. If there hasn’t been any clear cut structure for leadership (search my blogs for info on leadership) start it now. Begin keeping him on a leash for better control. Do the recommended exercises mentioned in my sibling rivalry blog. You are headed on the right track with food treats as “she” enters the room. Do it on a leash and incorporate a sit, praise treat as she enters the room.

  154. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Frank: Yes, get a trainer. Go to http://www.apdt.com which is the Associate for Pet Dog Trainers. They only use positive reinforcement. Find one who does dog training for a living NOT a hobby
    has minimum 10 years experience. I am ASSUMING bot dogs are neutered. If not, you need to have them neutered. Two intact males is not a good thing. This will take consistent work on
    the part of your wife. It is a process, not a marathon. She must also understand leadership role with her dogs and practice that daily. Leadership is not about dominating your dogs, it is
    helping your dogs understand they are the followers and she is the leader – again only using positive reinforcement

  155. Frank
    Frank says:

    Dear Jim,

    Thank you for your article. My ex-wife has 2 catahoula / Rotweiler mixes. They are brothers from the same litter and she has had them for about 1 1/2 years. About a month ago they started fighting. At first it lasted a few seconds but the last two times they went at it it was scary. After they were seperated one was bleeding from his neck. It has reached a point where they cannot be together without a fight. They are 90 and 70 pounds so when they fight it gets ugly. I now have one at my house until the situation can be resolved. Is there hope of will they have to be seperated for life. Her veterinarian says they should never be together. Would a trainer be helpful? They are wonderful dogs when they are not together and she will be heartbroken if she has to give one up. Is there hope???


  156. Gina
    Gina says:

    Hi Jim,

    Thanks for your article. Our 5 and 6 (female) year old Border Collies have lived together since the youngest (male) was only 6 weeks. They’ve had a great relationship and seem to be OK with there roles dominant and submissive roles, the male seems to display the dominant behaviors. Recently we moved and had a baby. It seems that the boy dog is displaying some issues related to his establishing territory and resenting her as an intruder. It has now escalated to her not coming in rooms with us because he is communicating with her with his eyes, or makes a lunge towards her when she tries to come in a room with us. She now, often won’t come in the room even when we call her if he is there and will look at him and back at us when we call her in the room.
    It didn’t used to be this way and sometimes they are still fine in the same room. But I guess, when he is there first, he sees her as an intruder. This morning he was physically aggressive with her when I let her in the bedroom where he already was.
    Do you have any suggestions? Should we start associating her entrance as a good thing to him with attention or cookies?
    Any feedback would be much appreciated.
    (It doesn’t seem to make a difference if the baby is present or not.)

  157. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    Don’t spend so much time trying to figure out which dog is more dominant. Instead, do the following:

    !. Continue to work on leadership – earn-to-learn (work for everything) or no free lunch.
    2. Put the dogs through 3, 2 minute scheduled training sessions daily of come, sits and downs. This will give them a
    sense of working for leadership rather than feeling responsible for it themselves.
    3. Figure out what you would prefer your dogs do instead of the inappropriate behavior and train them to do just that
    (making a list helps). Example:

    * Do not let her eat his food. Feed them separately if necessary or keep her on a leash until mealtimes are finished.

    * Latch the female’s crate door shut to prevent her from going in – to see if that stops his barking.

    4. Work your dogs through the suggested exercises in the blog/article on sibling rivalry.
    5. Do not put your dog(s) on drugs. This should only be done as a last resort with your vet approval and along with a
    behavior modification program with a positive reinforcement trainer that has experience working with these kinds of
    6. Try to identify all stressors causing the anxiety and eliminate them. Watch your emotional energy. Keep emotions out
    of corrections and stay calm.

    These are just general suggestions based on your email. Things I don’t know are: 1. How you are reinforcing leadership,
    and 2. What are the situations in which the older dog gets so anxious he can’t calm down and vomits.

  158. Elaine
    Elaine says:

    I have just come across this article and found it and the comments very helpful, thank you. We have a sibling rivalry issue with our two Parson Russell Terriers, and are working hard to re-assert our leadership roles. Two areas that concern us: 1. we are not sure which of our dogs is the more dominant, and 2. the older dog, in certain situations, becomes so anxious that we cannot get his focus or calm him down, even vomiting on occasion.

    With regard to which is the more dominant, the larger-build three-year old dog grooms the smaller 2-year old bitch frequently and vigorously, and allows her to win or take toys. He has also allowed her to take his food. He has always been dominant (anxious and vocal) in response to the front door bell (which we are addressing). Recently however, the action of the bitch going into her crate seems to have precipitated barking on his part and subsequent fighting, we think as a fear response on her part, but only when we are present. when we have been in another room but not intervened, the barking went on for around 20 minutes then stopped, and there was no fighting. Does this suggest to you which is the dominant dog? How can we calm the anxious dog down – perseverance and patience on re-asserting our leadership, or should we consider temporary drug therapy? we live in the UK so cannot consult you in person, unfortunately!

  159. pam
    pam says:

    I have 2 black labs male both 21mths siblings who we have had since puppies. They has 2 very big fights hurting each other badly and now dont wish to be together and growling and barking at each other. We have had to seperate them unless supervised. They were normally together at all times, both outside dogs and had previously run of a very large garden and played nicely together and never wished to be apart. They have not been neutered would this help?. Normally the most domineering dog has come off the worst during these fights and now wont accept his brother who has tried to lick his ears etc, both appear depressed re whole situation as we are can you help??

  160. Kat
    Kat says:

    I have two male neutered dogs. One is a rott/shepard mix 1y 5mo & the other is a american bulldog mix 3yrs. When they first got together they played all the time. The rottie was only 31/2 mo. old. Up until the last 6 mo. they always got along. Now the younger of the two tries to heard the older dog around & does have resource guarding issues with him (not with us). 99% of the time the resource guarding is what causes the problems. Not sure who is more dominant but the younger one starts it. The young dog let’s out a low growl at the older dog & the older dog does not need to be invited to this challenge twice. It is lighting fast & they are fighting! They have never broken skin, but I don’t wait around for it either. My husband will take one by the back legs & I take the other by the back legs to separate them. We will put them in separate rooms without scolding and usually give then a kong to settle down with. My question is would they benefit from some vigorous exercise to get out any excess energy? My older dog gets tons of exercise, but the younger dog doesn’t get as much. Would that help out at all? I don’t think it will ever be perfect, but I just want them to be more calm around each other.

  161. Sligh Collins
    Sligh Collins says:

    I have 4 dogs, a 4 yr old pit/lab mix..3 yr old lab mix..3 yrold pitbull terrier…and 1 yr old pit/lab mix. All the dogs have grown up together. I take all 4 out everyday for a jog of between 4 to 8 miles. We also have a large yard with open area for training and games. 2 are boys and 2 girls, all fixed. Since the 1st of the year we’ve had several dogfights. They have only occured when someone is home and have not resuled in serious injury. It appears to me that the older male feels his position challenged and attacks the younger male, that seems to set off the 2 girls. Becuase the boys are larger I seek to break them apart 1st and they drop thier conflict within a minute or so. The girls seem to be more difficult to separate. My question is what I can do to avoid the flare-up in the 1st place. When the younger dog is attacked he is usually in a submissive position. Sitting down or lying down and once he was under the table and obviously not making eye contact at all. I believe all the dogs see me as the pack leader, as they readily follow commands without hesitation. The younger dog is now the biggest dog in the house but willingly submits to all the other dogs. When he is attacked however he does defend himself. I do not fear leaving them alone as there has never been any issues without some one home. I wish to eliminate to outbreaks and stop the cycle of aggression towards each other. Its only happened 4 or 5 times but the fewer the better.

  162. marcia meadows
    marcia meadows says:

    I have 2 dogs.Have had them each about 9 yrs.They are both females one is alpha the othe more submissive.They get along well.We were inside by the fire and they went after each other,the alpha dog went for the more submissive ones neck,I made the mistake of getting in between them,got them under control,but I am now scared that this might happen again.They are my babies,love them so much,and they have always loved each other.One thing that could have caused this ,I had given them some rawhide bones,I have since taken them away.What could you tell me about this situation. Marcia

  163. Emma
    Emma says:

    Hi Jim
    I’ve also got a few problems I was hoping you could shed some light on. I have 2 dogs, one an 18 month old entire male Wire Vizsla, the other a female spayed 4.5 year old English Springer. When I’m at work my dogs go to stay with my parents as I work long shifts. My parents own a 16 month old entire English Springer. Both male dogs have effectively been brought up as siblings and they have been best buddies until these last few weeks. Now my parents Springer has taken a serious disliking of my Wire Vizsla and will attack him at most opportnities if he gets them. I’m wondering if neutering the least dominante dog would help as I’m wondering if this is a male dominance thing? At present the dogs are never left alone together and when allowed access to each other the male Springer is muzzled and if my parents sense a fight is imminent the Springer gets a sharp no to prevent a fight/diffuse the situation. Out on walks they play as they always have. I’d like your thoughts on this if it’s not too much trouble, is there any chance they’ll be friends again?

    Many thanks for your time,

  164. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    Before attempting any training or behavioral modification, check and make sure there are no medical issues with your cocker like thyroid imbalance.
    The next thing I would do is manage your group so that there are no fights. Each time your dogs fight it increases the likelihood that fights will occur again in the future.
    It sounds like resource guarding space and/or food. Wonder what’s next to guard?

    Assuming no medical issues, it’s probably more complicated than a few pointers via email – especially with as many dogs as you have and not having done an extensive evaluation of your family/pack dynamics. Let me know if I can help assuming you are in my territory.

  165. Olivia
    Olivia says:

    Our dogs—-10 yr old yellow lab(male), 6 yr. old black cocker(male), 2 1/2 yr old chorkie(female, 1 1/2 yr old black lab/golden retriever/pit bull(male. All are spaye/neutered. Within the last couple of weeks, the black cocker has become extremely possessive and has been fighting with the black lab mix. We have had the black lab in the house since he was 3 months old and there has never been a problem until recently. The cocker has become clingy with mostly me, but we have been able to pinpoint the cause of each fight. They eat in the same room at the same time, they can both be in the same room, on the same piece of furniture, etc., at the same time, etc., yet, their fights seem unprovoked.
    We have read to let them fight it out for up to 10 seconds, but that seems like an eternity, and they both get extremely vicious(or it seems that way). Only the cocker ends up with occasional wounds, not serious, but he is the haredest one to calm down.
    Can you please give me some pointers on how to curb this behavior ?
    Thanks, Olivia

  166. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    In my opinion, leaving muzzles on dogs while you are at work is not safe. figure out some other way to keep them safe; crating, separate rooms, etc.
    There is much work to do with your pack starting with leadership, training and exercise (walking your dogs on structured walks) before you begin behavior modification
    exercises and not nearly enough time to cover it all in a response.

    You need to find a competent animal behaviorist or trainer in your area and get to work immediately.

    Jim Burwell

  167. Karen
    Karen says:

    My boyfriend and I have four dogs, Mia (6 in April, female, spayed husky), Kiba (4 in December, male, neutered husky), Yuki (3 in December, female, spayed husky) and Stoney (3 in February, male, neutered golden retriever). We’ve been living together ever since Mia was 5 months and the rest since they were 8 weeks. They would wrestle and at times fight over toys. Approximately two months ago, we came home seeing Mia and Yuki fighting. No serious injuiries, a couple of light scratches, mainly saliva on their fur. From that day on, every time we come home Mia and Yuki were fighting. We would break them apart and make them lay down and stay. They are stiff when they walk by each other most of the time. There were a few times when they walked by each other and Mia lunged at Yuki and a fight broke out. When we take them to the yard, Mia would keep an eye out on where Yuki is and whenever Yuki pees, Mia marks where Yuki pees. I’ve been keeping an eye on the way they look at each other and anytime I see a hard stare from Mia, I tell her “NO” and Mia looks away and walks off. I believe my dogs have separation anxiety ever since we relocate to another state 1.5 years ago. Every time they hear the garage door opens and closes, they would howl and bark and jumps all over us when we enters the house but never got into a fight until two months ago. When we are home, my bf or myself will go into the garage opening and closing the garage door and comes back in while the other one calms them down. We’ve been repeating this as much as we are able to, to try to desensitive them. I really don’t know why they kept fighting and all of a sudden. We would correct them any time there is a sign of aggressions. My dogs used to have all furniture access, slept on the bed with us but after the fights, we made it clear they are not allowed on the furnitures and I have not seen them try once…when we’re home at least. Also, when it’s feeding time, Mia and Kiba are the most anxious ones. Kiba would whine and Mia would lay there with her back paws twitching every so often. If Mia is sitting, her front two paws would march left and right and left and right. We give them homemade food with steamed rice, boiled livers, chicken or beef and vegetables. We would put the food away everytime they whine or acts anxious and brings it back out when they stop. Currently, we have muzzles on Mia and Yuki while we’re at work to prevent any serious injuries they can cause on each other while we’re at work and during our entrance. Can you give me some advice on what we need to work on? Are we on the right track? I appreciate any suggestion and help you can give. Thank you.

  168. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    No, you don’t have to feed her last in the crate. You do need to put leadership role into place – which is not about dominating your dog.
    She needs to be worked on specific exercises in the back yard to reshape her behavior with neighbor dogs are out.
    Do not let her continue this behavior as it is reinforcing her bad behavior – not to mention the stress of the situation.
    Hope this helps somewhat.

  169. Tina Lohr
    Tina Lohr says:


    We have four rescue dogs, boxer, chow-shepheard, beagle-lab, and poodle. They generally get along very well,occassionally, the chow-shepheard will fight with the beagle-lab or the poodle. She is very gentle, non aggressive, you can take food, chews or toys from her with no problem. She is clearly alpha female, but on occassion when they are in the back yard they will fight. We really only noticed this since we have new neighbors that have three very large aggressive dogs that bark and jump against the fence when our dogs are outside. We don’t know what to do because she does not show any aggression any other time, even with our kittens. This morning the two girls were fighting over a toy, I see I have to remove all toys from the yard now. Do we need to re-establish the pecking order with her and go back to crating and making her eat last? I am confused because this only occurs in the yard if they are left out to play. We have not seen this in the house ever, they share bowls, food, beds with no issues. When she is at the vet around other dogs she does not show any aggression, or really even any interest. I am not sure what it is with the back yard freetime. I know the other dogs are an issue and have caused her a great deal of stress. She is such a great well behaved dog other than this issue. I am not sure what training approach to take with this, crate, muzzle, obedience? Thank you for any advice you can offer.

  170. Maria
    Maria says:

    Thank you for answering so fast. I did want to keep one of his puppies further on, but I’m in a complicated situation right now. None of the dogs in this hows are “fixed”. If neutering only Doko at this point is going to make things better, then I’ll have to do it, but if they are going to keep fighting if I do it at this point, then I’ll have to find another solution.

  171. Maria
    Maria says:

    Hi. I moved to my mom’s with my two years old Beagle (Doko). She and her husband live with a English Setter male (Scout) and a female (Missy). The male is 9 years old but he seems much younger, he’s in great shape. The female has been here for less than a year and is a very sweet dog. The first days, my dog would growl at the big one when the other one got too close, but after a few days, my beagle felt safe and got submissive with Scout. Then, a couple of days ago they got into a fight and they’ve been growling at each other and it’s not getting better. I’m only going to be here for 5 months, and they think I should neuter my dog for the fighting to stop. I was thinking about doing it even though I didn’t want to, but I’ve been reading and now I’m not sure that’s going to fix the problem just like that. Do you know if that would be a solution, even if Scout is not getting neutered? Thank you so much.

  172. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    Without observing and evaluating your dog, here are some thoughts:

    1. Assuming that your dog has been temperament tested to be sound (even with his dominant streak) for day camp play (don’t know where he attends or where you board), you could
    be misinterpreting harder play for fighting.

    2. I don’t know what your definition of “mixing it up” means. Fighting to the point of owner required break up?

    3. I don’t know if the other dog at the dog park is neutered or in tact.

    4. You could be the reason he mixes it up with the other dog depending on how close you are/were to the other dog (although I doubt this is the reason) because you are there
    while he plays whereas you are not at day camp.

    5. The other dog at the dog park could be a new dog to the park that your dog has to greet and work out a leader-follower relationship with.

    I could go on with the list. There are just too many unknowns to accurately explain exactly why your dog “mixes it up” with another bossy dog. So I’d be careful not to
    convict your dog of aggressive tendencies if in fact, it is just more intense play.

  173. Matt
    Matt says:

    With the weather cooling off soon (hopefully), I want to start bringing my black lab mix ( 75lb neutered male) to the local dog park. He’s a few years old, and I got him when he was about 12-15 months.

    When I board him, they tell me he does fine in playtime with the other dogs. When I bring him to the dog park though, the first 10-15 minutes are pretty nerve racking. He can have a dominant personality at times, and that first 10-15 minutes he always manages to find the one dog with the same dominant streak and they end up mixing it up. I’m not sure if he just burns off excess energy or the dogs establish some sort of pecking order, but either way he does much better after that initial period.

    Any suggestions on how to limit or eliminate that type of aggression when we first get to the park?


  174. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    Talk with your veterinarian andI would follow whatever recommendations your vet gives you. My area of expertise is in the behavior and training of dogs, not their health. Also please understand that leadership role on your part is vital in fixing this problem.

    Making them do sits for treats and before meals is great but it is a very very small part of the overall leadership concept. Also, you must interrupt and redirect before the fight starts.

    You must redirect the moment your dogs give the first clue that tensions are rising. If you can not monitor your dogs that well then you need to do whatever it is to keep them from
    continuing to have these fights which continues to reinforce the exact behavior you do not want. Be aware that testosterone affects all relationships between dogs as it changes the way dogs perceive each other, even
    the perception female dogs have of intact males.

    May I suggest you go back and read all the comments and my answers to these comments so you will get a better overall picture of the work that needs to be done. I would also encourage you to re-read the blog post
    as there are good suggestions in there also.

  175. DeAnne
    DeAnne says:

    I have a 5 (ish) year old neutered Aussie mix (Mister, 60 pounds) and a 1-1/2 year old intact Shihtzu male (Benjamin). Mister has always been a loving gentle dog indoors but somewhat aggressive to other dogs when walking on leash….pulling and dragging and growling until I let him go play with them. I have read your comments and will begin working on loose leash training.
    I have had Benjamin now for just over a year. He is intact because he has a genetic kidney defect and the vet recommended not neutering if possible. Benjamin and Mister have gotten along fairly well (I think Mister has generally just put up with Benjamin) until the last couple of months. They have started having terribly vicious fights. At first I thought Benjamin started the fights but the last several have been started by Mister. He is all over Benjamin and Benjamin will not back down. No blood has been drawn, but this can’t go on as it scares me to death and Benjamin will eventually be injured. I have anxiety all the time watching their body language and the sideways looks they give each other. Having read your comments on household fighting, I’m wondering if you think going ahead and having Benjamin neutered will help the problem. I do make both of them sit before meals, treats and throwing toys. Please help. Thank you so much.

  176. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    First of all thank you for visiting my website.

    I think possibly that you may have misinterpreted what I have written in my blog on “Why Dogs Fight – or What is with Sibling Rivalry.”

    I don’t recall saying to “force a dog to lay down” in my blog. I do recall saying to put both sibling dogs in a down stay then pet one and then reward the other for tolerating your affections
    towards the other.

    This is a controlled desensitization exercise with the two dogs living in the same household designed to be more effective over a long period of time – totally different from
    what you are doing with your dog in an uncontrolled dog park with another dog.

    The blog was written about how to resolve fighting between dogs that live in the same household – not correcting your dog for fighting in the dog park with other dogs.

    Dogs only have about 1- 1.5 seconds to relate a correction or praise to something they have done.

    By the time you pull your dog off to the side and “force him to lay still” he won’t associate the correction with the fight. So that won’t work.
    What will help is neutering your dog. Don’t misinterpret the word help with the word fix because it is only part of the solution
    but it is a good starting point as it will level the playing field with the other dogs (assuming they are neutered.)

    That’s the trouble with public dog parks. People bring intact dogs there to play. Your dog’s testosterone, along with his adolescent attitude could create a disaster waiting to happen. Your
    dog’s hormones are blatantly recognized by other dogs – especially the males and causes them to either:

    1. Misinterpret your dog’s intentions of good play or;
    2. actually interpret your dog’s real intentions of control and dominance.

    Either interpretation does not present a good outcome with other dominant male dogs. Neuter your dog sooner than later. It will change the way other dogs view
    your then neutered dog.

  177. Bea
    Bea says:


    Thanks a lot for your website, it has given me great insight about what to do with my dog.
    I have an 11 months old mixed bree still intact. he needs and does a lot of exercise a day, usually is in the park playing and running for almost 2h a day. He has always interacted perfectly with most dogs in the parrk,, without leash, and has been very submissive when facing bigger or older dogs till a month ago. His hormones and the need to challenge other dogs his age might be the cause of his behaviour. He gets into small fights, no dogs are harmed, but I think it is going to be worse if I don’t end it..
    Whenever he gets into this “fights”, we usually leave them for several seconds alone and the fight breaks off. After that i force my dog to lay on the ground for a while until he’s calmed. Should I let him size himself with the dogs? I know it’s natural for his age, but i’m not sure it is healthy. Anyway, i’m not sure either that I can stop him, i have no time to break it off because everything happens too fast, eventhough we are sometimes able to see the signs, he doesn’t always seem to respond to my commands and is hard for him to get away from the other dog.
    I’m going to try your advice on forcing him to lay on the ground still while another dog he usually fights with walks around him. Would that be enough to resolve the problem? I might neutered him next month. What I wanted to know most is if i’m redirecting his behaviour correctly or if I could do more with or without surgery.
    Thank you very much for your website and your insights!
    Looking forward to hearing your feedback

  178. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    My first question is, is your male dog neutered? If not he should be, as an intact male will change the entire dynamics of his relationship with any other dog you bring into your family.

    I would suggest you get a female as opposite sex housemates greatly lessons pecking order disputes.

  179. Pearl
    Pearl says:


    I have a 2 1/2 year old male boxer very high energy and submissive. He does great at play group and socializing with other dogs. We are looking at bringing another boxer from a rescue into our home to stay. But we are not sure of the sex the new addition should be. Are there any rules on this?

  180. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    All dogs have prey drive. That includes activities like stalk, chase, grab-bite, shake and kill. Typically domesticated dogs do not prey on and attack other domesticated dogs even though they may have high prey drives. Dogs living in the same household that have always been friendly could wind up fighting with each other when one of the dogs sees or senses a different sense of being in the other dog. Perhaps after returning from a surgical procedure the other dog might appear “wounded.” This is where “predatory drift” can occur – that is to say that the dog drifts or “shifts” it’s prey drive normally reserved for animals outside its own species to another dog.

    What to do? Control your home environment until you can work on reprogramming the aggressive dog. Keep Millie and/or Lola on leashes in the house under your strict supervision. Do not set Millie up to fail by accidentaly or purposely presenting her with an opportunity to become reactive. This will require an extensive evaluation of your home life structure with your dogs and their obedience training. Once that is accomplished, behavior modification exercises need to be put into place to reprogram Millie’s view of Lola. Locate a good positive reinforcement trainer to help you with this task.

    Good luck and let me know how it turns out.

  181. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I have two female boxer/pit mixes. They are sisters from the same litter, a year and a half old. (Lola and Millie) They have always been best friends, never had a problem, always cuddling and playing with each other. One of my dogs (lola) just went through surgery for a tooth extraction and a wart removal this past Sunday. Ever since she got home, my other dog (Millie) has been violently attacking her. Millie has always been very submissive and never violent or aggressive. It has been 3 days since the surgery, and we can barely even keep them in the same room without a fight. Have you ever heard of this, and what do I do??

  182. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Carina: It is impossible for me to diagnose/fix your problem without seeing your dog (s). It could be territoriality combined with other factors. There is just too much I do not know. I would, however,
    not ignore this issue as it will most probably get worse. You need to have a professional, positive reinforcement trainer come work with you and your dog to solve this.

  183. Carina
    Carina says:

    Hi Jim,

    I have a 4 year old neutered male Dachsund and two other female dogs both spayed. Recently my neighbor brought home a female puppy, she is 12 weeks old. Today my Dachsund forced his way through our adjoining fence into their yard and attacked the puppy. He had the puppy in his mouth and he was shaking her. At home he is a very sweet, loving, and obedient dog. He is not aggressive towards our other dogs and in fact one of my other dogs, the oldest female is the most aggressive of the three, putting the other two in check from time to time. About two weeks ago, I brought the puppy into our home and introduced her to my 3 dogs. All were very good with her, they sniffed her and she was very submissive to them. He was wary of her but showed no aggression at all. I’m not sure why he attacked her and was wondering if you could give me some insight. It also seems that lately when I walk him he is more aggressive toward strange dogs. He never used to do this until recently, I don’t understand what has happened and why. The only thing that comes to mind is about a year ago or so he was off a leash and another large dog was trying to play with him. He was petrified, running away, and peeing himself. The other dog was not being aggressive, but the size difference scared him really bad. Could this have led him to become aggressive towards dogs outside of his pack? He sought this puppy out and forced his way into their yard, is he being territorial? I’m so confused, please help!

  184. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Wendy: The short of it is , yes re-home the coonhound, UNLESS you and your family would be willing to do the work on leadership and structure that is needed to have your dogs get along. They
    are being allowed to have way too many instances to have these fights so each time they fight, it is a learned behavior for both. This will take work and diligence and it can more than likely be changed
    if you are willing to do the work. If that is not something you feel you can OR want to do, then re-home the coonhound ASAP before these continued dog fights make her unadoptable.

  185. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    Great site!

    We have a 8 1/2 year old neutered Wire Fox Terrier. 4 years ago we got a 6-8 weeks old English coonhound puppy from the local high kill shelter. They got along famously until she entered her ‘teenage angst’ phase and they started have spats. We made some changes and instituted 6 miles of walks a day. We have a large fenced in area for them to play also. The walks seemed to help but did not eliminate the fights. I suffered an injury that has made those daily walks not possible for some time. I am hoping to get back to doing them.

    The problem we believe is that the Wire Fox Terrier is a bossy guy when it comes to the now 4 year old coonhound. SHe does not like to be bossed…and explodes all over him. They don’t fight around us..they wait until they are outside doing their business in the back yard or lounging on the porch. We do have a crate for the coonhound, where she is inside the house. The Fox Terrier has a bed he goes to in another room.
    They both get TONS of attention, both together and separately from us so I am not sure that is the problem.

    The fights are real. They result in wounds that need medical attention on the Foxie, but never the Coonhound. He is just not a fighter…he is only defending himself while she chews on him. One time we had to have a lower eyelid reattached, numerous puncture wounds in the skull and muzzle and the latest, a wound inside the Foxie’s ear that resulted in a LOT of blood that drained not only from the mouth but the ear as well. She also seems to be trying to go for his eyes…he always has puncture wounds around his eyes.
    This last one, we had trouble breaking up….and it really frightened us. We are fully prepared at this point to rehome the Coonhound. She cannot live in a muzzle…and it may be another 6 months or 6 days…we don’t know, before the next fight.
    Would you look to rehome a dog that is that unpredictable and capable of great damage or is it worth spending the next 4-5 years keeping them separated all the time?

  186. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Fidel: Since your vet spoke about hormones my assumption is your male dogs are still intact. That is a huge part of your problem. Testosterone changes the ways dogs perceive
    each other and in your case they are perceiving each other as rivals. I would also assume that there is not a lot of
    structure or leadership going on in your relationship with your dogs and since you are not positioning yourself as leader your dogs are fighting to see which one of them will
    be the leader. You need to get your dogs neutered and you need to have a good dog trainer who only uses positive reinforcement to help you structure life differently with your

  187. Fidel Apodaca
    Fidel Apodaca says:


    We have 3 Labrador Retrievers 2 males, 1 female who is the mother of the males.. Both males we have had since they were born,their ages are 11 months. Their miracle pups to us because their mom was dignosed with a false pregnancy and there were just the 2 pups in that litter and they survived alone outside for 12 hours without their mom. Recently both males have started fighting with each other to the point they have bitten each other terribly on their faces and bodies. We now have to seperate them, but when they see each other through the fence it seems that they miss each other. we”ve attempted putting them together and they started to growl at each other. The vet told us its because of their desire for dominance and their hormones. We love our dogs, we need advice and help.

  188. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    My first question is are they both neutered, if not, get them neutered. The scent of testosterone changes the way your male dogs perceive each other. Secondly, it you are
    interacting with your dogs from a leadership structure, then they will understand they are not running the show you are. Leadership has nothing to do with dominating
    your dogs, leadership is letting your dogs understand, only using positive reinforcement, that you control everything – their food, their toys, their space, the house, the yard,.
    their beds etc. Search on my posts for the word leadership and read those, then put that into place.
    It appears your dogs think they are running the show.

  189. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    I have two heelers that are recovering from parvo. Theses pups are brotheres and have alwasy got along. When they came back home all they want to do is fight. I have to keep them seperated. The one who is more aggressive is Bandit. The other one is smokey. Smokey can not hear and bandit has always looked after him. What can I do about this? I don’t want to keep them but if this keeps happening I will have to give one up. As soon as they see each other Bandit starts growling and showing teeth. Please help

  190. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Your question should not be, “how can we get them off each other whilst they are fighting?” rather, “How can we prevent fighting in the first place?”

    1.The first rule in behavior modification is to physically manage and control the environment to prevent fights while you are working out the solution. Dogs are more compliant and responsible on leashes so while you are working on your solution, put them both on a leash to prevent fighting by using the leash to keep them separate from each other for the time being. Never leave them on leashes when you cannot supervise their activities.

    2.Begin a program of “earn to learn” requiring them to earn everything by doing sits and downs. This includes their meals, toys, love and affection and the privilege of getting onto the sofa or bed. If they are big sofa dwellers, in the beginning, have them spend 50% of the time off the sofa while doing sits and down to earn the privilege to be on your sofa.

    3.Engage your dogs in three, 2 minute training sessions of: come, sit and down to give them a sense of working for leadership rather than feeling responsible for it themselves. This is also designed to teach them to eventually respond to commands while in more intense play or fighting. If you do your homework this can eventually be accomplished.

    4.Practice calling them out of different intensities of supervised play when they are not fighting. When they come to you, get a sit and a down, praise and treat AND send back to resume play.

    5.Create opportunities for your dogs to make better decisions when faced with choices. That is, fight over a toy OR play nicely with separate toys. All this is controlled on leashes so that, in the event they do make a wrong decision (and it will happen) they can easily be pulled apart so that you can redirect to an appropriate behavior like sit, down or play with their Kong toy.

    6.Teach good manners by showing: Load up two Kong toys one for each dog and give each dog 1 toy while keeping them at opposite ends of the sofa to play with their respective toy. Praise them for being good puppies.

    7.Get your dogs spayed.

    8.By the way, Pepsi does not think she’s a boy, she is merely reinforcing a leader-follower relationship with Honey. Don’t let these humping episodes get out of control and over whelm Honey. Having them on leash will allow you to keep this from escalating to a full blown fight.

    Here is some more information on a puppy’s development that reinforces why you need to get this under control sooner than later:

    At 4.5 – 6.5 months of age puppies enter their protective-aggressive period where these tendencies/characteristics begin to develop based on learned behavior through interacting with his environment. If early protective signs (barking, growling, etc.) are encouraged or punished, over aggressiveness or fearfulness may develop as sexual maturity nears.

    At 6.5 months + more forceful protective-aggressive behavior occurs. Mismanaged behavior problems become more difficult to correct.

    At about 9 months problem behaviors appear to reinforce themselves, making correction a lot more difficult. Example: what was “growling and barking” could progress to lung and bite.

    Look where your Jack Russell is in her protective-aggressive behavior development and start today on a good program. Find a good behaviorist or trainer with a positive (reward based) training program to help you better outline a program.

    I sincerely hope this helps with your dog issue.

  191. Sara
    Sara says:

    We have two dalmation mixes, brother and sister who have lived together their entire lives. Within the last 4 months our male underwent surgery for an obstruction (not sure if this is relavent but…). Within the last month they have been having small fights at night, enough to wake us but then it is over. The most recent despute was while we were away and our male had several cuts on his head/ear. They have never fought over food or resources before this. Not sure why this may be occuring.

  192. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Cara, I would first question why your dog is still intact. When a dog is intact ALL other dogs, including females view him differently because of the testosterone. Males view him as a threat and
    so can females view him this way. When on leash dogs will many times react very differently to other dogs. A loosh leash is always advised and you need to praise him when he acts appropriately
    with other dogs. If he were my dog, I would not take an intact male to a dog park. If you are going to get another dog I would get opposite sex for sure. Best way to introduce is on neutral territory
    which means not in your house or your yard, on loose leash for both of them, praise for interacting appropriately

  193. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Erin: When dogs do not recognize you and other family members as their leaders in the household, dogs with strong personalities will try to decide between them who is running the show. Dogs
    must have a leader, it is intrinsic in their sense of well being. Your comment about fighting over bones, food and space tells me that they are indeed fighting because of pecking order. You must
    restructure your upside down relationship with your dogs and become a leader to them ONLY using positive reinforcement. You must understand what is important to your dogs: i.e. food, space,
    articles of play and love and affection and YOU must take back control of those things with your dogs, at a minimum, giving you a sit to get these things from you. Giving these things to your dogs
    must also be on YOUR timetable not theirs.

    If your dogs are outside the majority of the time, there is not a lot of opportunity for you to practice leadership with your dogs. Their relationship will continue to deteriorate until you step up to
    the plate and fix it. They can’t fix it, you must fix it by becoming a good leader to your dogs.

  194. Erin;animal_lover
    Erin;animal_lover says:

    Hello, i have 2 ridgeback X kelpies and they are from the same litter and they get on well. they have just turned 1 year and 1 month old. The two are both females and have the same amount of attention. But a couple of months ago they had there first real fight. this left scars and wounds on there ears, muzzle, all around there body. The only way we could break them up was buckets of water. The are generally very nice dogs and are very affectionate.

    After this fight they have just had more and more. Over bones, food and just natrally just fighting over nothing. After a lot more fights they are just afraid of one another and cant go near each other with out growling.

    The more looking one like a ridgeback (Lola) we think has more dominance over the more looking one like a kelpie (Millie). Tonight Lola was lying in this spot in the garden, wheni called her. She got up and ran over to me. Them Millie quickly ran over to that spot and lay down there. Lola saw that she was there and sprinted back and stood over the top of Millie. Millie was shaking in fear as she slowly hopped out of that spot. Lola was growling and was showing teeth. Millie walked away with her tail in between her hind legs. Lola lay down and it was okay. Millie also can jump very high jumping a 6 foot fence to excape. She has sort of grow out of that, but would that have anything to do with this fighting? Once she is out she wont come back for about roughly 3-5 hours. maybe even longer. when the 2 are accidently out they wont be back for 5-8 hours!

    once they went out and came back in blood and cuts.

    I dont know what to do anymoe and i dont want to sell any of them, i couldnt choose. they are both loving, friendly dogs to us.

    Please, please help me. I am begging anyone for there help. I really need it.
    Thanks alot Erin;animal_lover.

  195. Cara
    Cara says:

    I have a 9 month old intact male Beagle (he is scheduled to be neutered in the beginning of March). I have had him since he was a puppy and he has interacted with other dogs since he was little, usually with my family’s dogs (dachshunds, a great pyreneese, mixed breeds) and he usually has no problems with them (he also is usually off his leash when he interacts with these dogs). However, whenever we walk him, he seems to have mixed feelings about the dogs he encounters. Usually if we let him approach another dog, they will each go up to each other and sniff a little bit and then he will snarl and growl and we pull him away. I don’t know if he has a problem with dogs he is unfamiliar with or if it has something to do with him being on a leash. I read your article that said giving him slack will help ease the tension, do you think this should make a difference? I am planning on adopting a Golden Retriever but I am worried that he might not get along with the new dog. He hasn’t ever had any problems with the other dogs he has been around, it is only when he is on walks that this occurs but it has made me nervous about taking him to a dog park because I am afraid that he might just not like dogs that he does not know. Is there a good way to introduce him to the Golden Retriever that will help them get off on the right foot?

  196. Robyn
    Robyn says:

    We have 2 dogs – a male Jack Russel mix and a female mixed breed. The male (Sylvester) is about 10 years old and Bree (female) about 4yrs. They have been together for about 2.5 years and have always got on well. Recently they spent 2 weeks at a relatives house while we were on holiday. Just before they were due to come home Bree attacked Sylvester and had him in such a throat grip our relatives had to physically separate them. They came home and after a few days seemed to be back to their usual close relationship. However last night Bree attacked Sylvester again, shaking him quite viciously. We are not quite sure what triggered these attacks. The first one we think could have happened because the dogs got an awful ammout of attention even being fed together.Last night happened just after the neighbours dogs started barking and our dogs ran outside to see what was going on. Please can you help as I really don’t want to have to give either of them away to sort out the situation.

  197. chuck
    chuck says:

    Amee and CeeJay are One year old and they are my STRESS RELIEVER,but Amee loves to fight. I was very instrumental in my city getting our first dog park…Amee and Ceejay had to leave because Amee’s fighting. Help me!

  198. Lydia
    Lydia says:

    Hi Jim,
    I have 2 female Rotts (litter mates) almost 2 years old now both intact. Since I got them one has always shown somewhat aggressive dominance over the other. Almost daily they get into ‘fights’…. always initiated by one. If the other gets significant or sole attention, barks for more than a few seconds or gets too excitable while playing with any family member (e.g. jumping around or snapping to reach a toy) she fights her. They NEVER fight over food or possession of toys. All of their fights end in less than 5 seconds and look more like some form of correction…snarling and a few throaty barks always standing with her paw/s over the other’s shoulder. She has never drawn blood or caused the other pain. Sometimes after the fight the ‘victim’ stares at her and sort of follows her around in a challenging way …it either ends in growling and eventually the aggressor walks away or face/ear licking…usually the latter. During these fights she often blatantly ignore my commands to stop. They love water, especially being splashed so the whole bucket of water thing does not faze them in the least. I usually do not intervene in these fights and I know it’s strongly unadvisable but once or twice when fed up I have reached in and gently pulled the aggressor off. ..the fight just ends and the both act as though nothing happened… but I still don’t like to take the risk of parting dog fights. They also love to play-fight and this is often initiated by the ‘victim’. Play-fights never turn sour and are clearly different from this sort of …dominance display? They also only fight when humans are around. I do not like these displays because someone is always in close proximity and may be bitten…even though they are extremely loving and gentle otherwise I feel that leaving them to work things out was clearly the wrong approach as after almost 2 years they are still doing this. These displays annoy the entire family and scare those who don’t know them well. Do you have any suggestions?

  199. Jason Brigger
    Jason Brigger says:

    Hi Jim,

    I have a 1 year old German Shepherd/Huskie mix and a 1 1/2 year old Lab/Pointer mix that are both females. The lab mix has been the dominant in the house since we got the shepherd seven months ago and they both have gotten along great in that time. The shepherd has always been closer to me and the lab closer to my wife but recently, they both have been growling and fighting with each other.

    After reading up on it, it seems the Shepherd is trying to become dominant so the the last few days my wife and I have been praising, petting and feeding the lab mix first and making the shepherd wait. Granted, it’s only been three days but the shepherd seems to be upset by this and the fighting hasn’t stopped yet. I figured it takes some time but I was wondering if there are any other tips we can work with on preventing them from fighting. When they do fight, we put a broom in between them to divert their attention and the shepherd runs away. We never hit them or grab them when they are fighting.

    Any help would be appreciated.

    Thank you for your time,

  200. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Shelby: No, multiple dogs in a household should not be fighting. You need to start working on your golden’s food aggression issues and you need to start putting more structure and leadership into your home with your dogs. Both dogs must understand that you run the show, not them.

  201. Shelby
    Shelby says:

    I have 2 golden retrievers and 2 shih tzus. I adopted my golden retriever at 2 years old, and she is known to be very aggressive when it comes to food. Shes goes into her aggressive mood and starts barking, bearing her ferocious teeth.

    Just today, my 2 year old golden retriever attacked my 4 year old golden retriever. Usually this happens once a month, but then my dogs always end up loving each other again.

    I KNOW that food triggers my 2year golden retriever’s aggression, so I finds things to avoid this situation.

    But I was just wondering if it is normal for multiple dogs in a household to get into fights.

  202. Terri
    Terri says:

    I have 2 dogs that came from the same litter both are female they both are spayed. We have to keep them seperated from each other or they fight. What would I beable to do so they would get along and not growl and fight with each other.

  203. Vicky
    Vicky says:

    My fiance and I have two 1yr old male pitbull, bulldog and austrailian shephard mixes (Tank and Scout) and one 2yr old male pitbull, bulldog, rotweiller, german shephard, chow mix (Chief). They all have the same mother just different litters a year apart. The younger two have been around the 2yr old since they were 4 weeks old.

    They have always gotten along and played with one another without any incidents. Within the last several months they have been in 3 fights. Chief is included in every fight. Tank and Scout usually instigate though. They never bite necks they usually just lock their jaws or go for muzzles.

    The last fight they had, I heard them play fighting then it changed to not so playful. By the time I went to back of house where they were, Tank had left small bite marks on Chief’s face and muzzle and Chief had Tank pinned on the ground with just his front paws on him. After they saw me they both went back into their houses like nothing happened.

    It scares me half to death when it happens. We’re at the point that we chain them up to help prevent another fight from happening. We hate doing this and want to find a way to get them to get along so they don’t have to be confined.

    Will getting all 3 of them fixed eliminate any future aggression or can it not be guaranteed?

  204. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    Walks should be 30-45 min twice a day instead of your 15 minutes. And, they should be structured walks – by your side on the first and last thirds of the walk with free, unstructured time in the middle to sniff-pee-poop-etc. On your 2/3’s of the walk you exercise yourself, your dog and your leadership skills. The message to your dog is, “you still get to do your doggie thing but it’s on my schedule- not yours.”

    There is more you can do. Re-institute your boot camp on a permanent basis. If you approach it correctly, there would be no need to feel as though you are penalizing yourself or the dogs with hard-lined structure that seems like an eternal boot camp. Just be consistent with your earn-to-learn program. Everything they get must be earned with a sit and down. I would also put leashes on them in the house while they are out together so that you can control them better. I would also consider using gentle leaders on walks and in the home for training sessions to begin your desensitization program doing the exercises I suggested in my blog on “sibling rivalry.” This is of course barring no medical problems which should be ruled out before undergoing behavior modification of any kind.

    Once both dogs are doing the exercises OK with gentle leaders and leashes on, then I would put muzzles on them for the exercises in the house – leashes attached with your goal of getting them off leash eventually – then off muzzles. You should be prepared for this to take some time. Keep them off all furniture for a while and reinstitute the couch privilege in about 3-4 weeks and use it as an exercise for training. Allow one dog on the couch after doing a sit and down followed by the command “Up!” Require the other dog to hold a down stay while you pet the one on the couch. Then reverse the dogs. It may take two people at first to work your dogs. After a while, you might be able to do it by yourself.

    If they have neutral or positive interactions with each other, I would click/praise and treat for acceptable behavior. I would also do 2 minutes of sits and downs 3 x daily to give your dogs a sense of working for leadership rather than feeling responsible for it themselves. Keep me posted on your progress. Remember first rule, always keep dogs on leash so that they are controlled and no one gets hurt or injured.

  205. Patti Hord
    Patti Hord says:

    I have 2 female Alaskan Malamutes, one 7 years the other 4 1/2 years old. They have been together since puppyhood and have gotten along extremely well until last month. They had been playing for about 15 minutes when all of a sudden a fight broke out. They went at it for several minutes before my husband and I were able to break it up. They each had puncture wounds around their faces and ears. They avoided each other for a few days. The younger one made several attempts to play with the older one and finally after about 6 days they played a little bit with each other. 8 days after the first fight they got into it again while running in the woods. I was unable to see who started the fight either time. The older dog has always been more dominant and has had fights with our 3rd and oldest female that is now 13. We keep them separated. But our 7 year old has always gotten along with the younger one and they have played so well together since the first day they were together. I have kept the younger two separated since the last fight as it resulted in a visit to the vet for more puncture wounds that needed to be treated. They stay in crates that are right next to each other and they do not show aggression to one another but I have noticed some troublesome stares and body language. My husband and I have always walked them separately due to a problem with stray dogs in our area. This week we have started trying to walk with them together. The first attempt did not go well. They both went at each other. We had muzzles on them so prevented any injuries. We made them do a down stay until they both calmed down, then finished the walk. We are still attempting this and tried it without the muzzles today because they seem to make the dogs too frustrated. They did better but we kept enough distance so they could not get to each other should they decide to try. I’m worried that the dogs have decided to hate one another, for reasons I absolutely do not understand. They were such good friends for so long and my heart is broken to see them this way. I know it is not unusual for same sex Malamutes to fight but I also know they are pack oriented and wonder how they could work as teams pulling sleds, yet have so much trouble getting along? How can they get along so well for so long then turn on one another so quickly and vehemently? It kills me to think these two good buddies will have to be separated for the rest of their lives. I’m afraid I will have to implement the “boot camp” regiment along with what we have already been doing. Do you have any other suggestions that could help these two girls to get along again?

    Appreciate your input,

    Patti Hord

  206. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    Although I haven’t met your dog, building structure in your home to provide your dogs with strong leadership is an important starting point.

    Work on sits and downs regularly with both dogs and especially Lucy to give them both a sense of working for leadership rather than feeling responsible for it themselves.

    While you are home, keep Lucy on a line or leash in your home to prevent fight incidents.

    You will be surprised how much mileage you can get out of leashing your dog in the house.

    Click and treat for neutral or positive behavior with Leah and time her out in her crate for inappropriate behavior.

    Let me know how it goes

  207. Kaleena
    Kaleena says:

    I have a 3 year old yellow lab/malamute mix (Lucy.) We have recently taken in her sister from the same litter (Leah.) They know each other and were around each other a lot growing up. Her sister was never trained and only knows how to sit. She is constantly fighting with her sister. It starts out playful but will increasingly become more agressive. Lucy will try to seperate herself from Leah but Leah just will not stop. My husband and I try whatever we can to try and calm her down. I guess our issue is that we are not sure how to train her to listen to us and not to be so agressive all the time. Both dogs get plenty of excercise but Leah just will not stop! I am assuming she is just trying adjust to living with us and is desperate for all of our intention as she was the only dog in the other household, but it’s getting to be too much! Hoping for some help! Thank you!

  208. Bo
    Bo says:

    I have 4 dogs. 1 male boxer, 2 female boxers, and a female Mixed Lab. One of my female boxers and the lab have been getting into big fight that are getting worse. the fights started after my other female boxer had a litter. before that they had live together for a year and a half. what should i do. i feel it might be the best thing to do is find another home for one if not both of them

  209. kait
    kait says:

    I have two male, desexed, 10month old Brittany Spaniels. They are constantly fighting with each other, over nothing and everything, I split them up, but as soon as they are together again, they start fighting again, and they don’t listen t me when they are fighting. I’m at the end of my tether, any help?

  210. cynthia
    cynthia says:

    I’m hoping you can help me or give me any suggestions. My name is Cynthia. I have 3 dogs…two female Queensland heelers a red one and a blue one and one male shitzu/maltese mix. I’ve been having problems with my blue female Queensland heeler
    ( she’s about 5 months and not fixed yet) and my 2 year old male shitzu/maltese which is fixed. The female heeler has become really aggressive towards my male shitzu/maltese, they have gotten into several fights. I’ve had to pull my female heeler off my shitzu during the fight because she won’t let go of him and has him in her mouth and swings him like a rag doll. It’s been really scary each time and I just don’t know what to do. My husband and I don’t want to get rid of any of them, but we are very afraid that my heeler will end up killing my male shitzu/maltese. Is getting rid of one of them my only option? Or is there still hope? I just don’t understand what’s going on…we’ve had the blue heeler since she was a pup and was raised with my other 2 dogs and I haven’t had problems in until recently. They use to get along great. Can you please help me?
    Thanks for your time,

  211. Amy
    Amy says:

    Hello Jim,

    I came across your site through google. You’ve provided some wonderful information, so thank you.

    I have an additional question for you, though…

    I own two labs, which I’ve had since they were puppies: a 3 year old male and a 2 year old female. Generally they’re great friends. However, the other night the female attacked the male who had come up to us while I was petting her. I’m assuming that this had something to do with her wanting my attention.

    They haven’t fought since. I’m able to walk them side by side twice a day, and they’re more than willing to play fetch with each other.

    Yet, when they’re in the house they will not pay attention to one another. Before they used to lay curled up together; now they plop down on opposite sides of the room. Before the would lick one another as they walked by; now they go out of their way to circle around one another. The female will also raise her hackles sometimes if the male comes near her.

    I’m saddened by this and was hoping you might have some suggestions. I know they’re dogs, and I can’t force them to be friends–it’s just that they were such great buddies before.

    They have fought in the past (though it’s been close to a year and a half) and have always managed to get over it…

    Thanks so much for your time!


  212. Staci
    Staci says:

    I have brother/sister Pitbull dogs who are three (they have been togther since birth). I also have a rottweiller who is 8 years old. Recently the pitbulls have begun to fight one another, when they get excited. These fights turn real and leave marks and injuries on one another. My husband and I have to break up the fights and then the dogs are fine with one another again (laying with and licking one another). The fights were sporadiac but have recently become more frequent (every other day). They never attempt to fight with my Rottweiller or anyone in the family, just each other. I have tried every piece of advise offered but nothing works.

  213. Ari
    Ari says:

    Hi Jim, I have two female dogs Yoshi (4 1/2) and Rem (6). They’ve been together since I got Yoshi at 5 months old. I just moved into a new, bigger house in June and since then the fights have broken out. They have gotten into fights before, but always when Yoshi would whine in pain, and Rem would pounce on her. In the last 3 months, they have fought about 6 times. Last night, I came home to find a huge gash on Rem’s head. This is the first time I’ve been aware of a fight happening when no one was home.

    I can’t recognize who is the alpha between them, because they both illustrate dominant behavior towards one another. I did start getting back on their exercise routine but in the past few days, neglected it.

    I hate to even consider this, but I’m thinking about finding a new home for Yoshi to prevent further damage to them both.

    They both went through a lot of training when they were young, but I’d be lying if I said I keep them mentally stimulated these days.

    Please, please, PLEASE give me some advice. I’m going to actively do what you mention in this article. But do you think that will prevent them from fighting even when I’m not home?

    I really don’t want to give away one of my best friends, but I don’t know what else to do.

  214. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Caroline: With the limited info I have, it could be a couple of things. Your older dog could be ill and your younger dogs smells/senses it and that is causing the young dog to attack the older dog.

    If could also be not enough leadership role on your part and they feel they have to “duke it out” to see who is running the show.

    But since this is relatively new check the health of your older dog.

    Let me know what happens.

  215. caroline
    caroline says:

    I have two dogs, an 8 year old cocker spaniel and a 2 year old dalmation. They have both been very well behaved and have always got along. However about two weeks ago, they started fighting. Now it won’t stop. What should we do? It really makes me nervous that they will start fighting when we are not home, leaving no one here to stop the fight.

  216. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Carrie: this could be a number of things, but based on the limited info you gave me it could be because you dog sensed the other dog was weak(due to recently being spayed) and chose to go after her. It could also be increased territoriality over you. It could be a number of things but no matter what it is, LEADERSHIP is the beginning and ending point in fixing any behavioral issue.

  217. Carrie O'Malley
    Carrie O'Malley says:

    I moved 7 months ago, about 400 miles north with my 21 yr old son. My 6-1/2 yr old lab mix has always, and still does love children and the attention. She’s always been a pussy cat. Today she and another dog, an American Bulldog, that have been friends for months had a loud, aggressive fight. The other dog is about 1-1/2 years old and got spade about a week ago. We noticed our dog’s change in behavior 2 days after the other dog was spade. Does this have anything to do with the other dog getting fixed? Is it stress from the move? She loves living in a cooler area. I’m a little worried. Any chance you have an idea what’s going on with her?

  218. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Ashlee, once you have more than one dog you have a “pack”. Leadership role on your part is even more critical when you have multiple dogs.

    If the fights are not over food, toys or space then you should look at a couple of things:

    1. medical issues – low thyroid can cause aggression in dogs –simple, relative inexpensive blood test.

    2. ruling out medical – if they perceived you as their true leader and they are required to earn the things
    that are important to them i.e. food, space, toys, your attention and affection then you are consistently
    reinforcing your leadership role and their place in the pecking order which is LAST

    3. Make sure you are managing their energy correctly with structured walks, if they only way they get exercise is playing then you have missed an opportunity to display leadership in their exercise

    4. Training, training, training. Leadership, leadership, leadership

    Hope this helps.

  219. Ashlee
    Ashlee says:

    I have two english bulldogs (one male and one female). They are from the same litter and have been raised together since they were puppies. They have started fighting, and the fights are real fights. They are actually hurting eachother extensively. They do not fight over food or toys so my only guess is they are fighting to establish dominance. Their fights are very difficult to break -up and i have been bitten breaking up the fights on many occasions. I need real help to control this situation, any advice?

  220. Mill
    Mill says:

    I have two female poms who are sisters from the same litter. One is named Momo and the ohter is named Sneek. Every time I pick up Sneek and touch Momo, Sneek starts growling and barking which makes Momo bark and growl back. This also happend when I go to touch Momo Sneek will run up to her and start growling. It does get to the point where they fight and I separate them. Somethimes they do not fight but instead they will mount each other. I do not know if they are doing this for my attention or for dominence. Can you please help?

  221. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    To both Maralee and Mill:

    Leadership role on your part is the issue on both of these comments. If your dogs truly believed you and other family members were the leaders the “issue” between your dogs would be moot or very small. Also Maralee when you have an intact male and an non-spayed female hormones play a big part in how they view each other. But again, leadership, structure and training are essential to having dogs get along with each other

  222. Maralee
    Maralee says:

    I have two pitbulls. They both just turned two. Our male is about a month older than our female. They are both intact. Today they got into a fight over a bone. They have never done this before and it was a real fight. now I can’t get them to get along! Does anyone have any positive advice to give me? We love our dogs and just want to fix the problem. Thank you.

  223. Mill
    Mill says:

    I have two female poms who are sisters from the same litter. One is named Momo and the ohter is named Sneek. Every time I pick up Sneek and touch Momo, Sneek starts growling and barking which makes Momo bark and growl back. This also happend when I go to touch Momo Sneek will run up to her and start growling. It does get to the point where they fight and I separate them. Somethimes they do not fight but instead they will mount each other. I do not know if they are doing this for my attention or from dominence.

  224. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Could be a couple of things: lack of early socialization of this dog to non-family dogs, lack of on-going socialization of this dog to non-family dogs.
    It could also be a display of territoriality by this dog towards other dogs based on you or whomever is walking the dog.
    Best solution is to find a positive reinforcement trainer to help you help your dog with this issue. Do not continue to set the dog up to fail by putting the dog in this situation until you can get help with training.

  225. Pene
    Pene says:

    Hi, I have 3 dogs and they get along really well (2 female and 1 male) but one of the dogs hate other dogs (that she doesnt know) and fights any dog that it meets. We worry when we walk her that she will attack another dog. Why would she do this??

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