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I am not a dog trainer. If you are experiencing behaviorial or training issues with your dogs, please contact a qualified, professional dog trainer. Please request a referral from your veterinarian, a local shelter, or a local pet store.

Keep the Tail Wagging follower, Audra, has two young puppies who have started fighting.  Lovely.  I recently read a blog post on her site that brought back a few memories of my own.  Thanks, Audra for Suggesting this Topic.

One of the warnings we received before adopting our littermates, Rodrigo and Sydney, was that they would fight.  I’m not a follower of Cesar Milan, but someone gave me one of his books to read and what I picked up from it was that dog owners need to project an air of confidence.  I know that many people bristle at the term “pack leader,” but when we grew to a 3 dog family, I could see that we had become a pack and my boyfriend and I are leaders.

My boyfriend is Alpha (because he was such a grump about titles) and I became Lupa (second in command).  That’s an aside and my homage to the Anita Blake series (which went downhill fast, wow), but back to my point…

We have to be confident with our dogs, because if we don’t step up, they will and no one wants a house run by the dogs.

Littermates Fighting

Our dogs starting fighting when they were around 4 months old and this is how I handled it…

  • I would act quickly and pull them apart by the scruff of their necks, look them each in the eye and loudly say NO!
  • I started to pay attention to their signals so that I can step in to a fight before it started.  I noticed that they never fought over food; it was usually toys and my affection.
  • I instituted Time Out.  When I noticed intense eye contact, growling, or raised hackles, I would loudly say TIME OUT and remove the offender from the room.  Time Out in our house is the laundry room.
  • We walked the dogs regularly.  We were already walking the puppies, but we started building the distance up to one mile, then two, and now we walk them for 3 miles.  When Sydney and Rodrigo were growing up, we had to walk them at least 5-6 days a week; we'd walk them 2x a day on the weekend.  Now, we can get away with 4 walks a day and play time in the yard.

How We Use Time Out

Time Out is brilliant and we picked up this idea from Victoria Stillwell’s show.  We used it to stop the fighting and we continue to use it to stop unwanted behavior (barking in the house, biting ankles, and aggression).  It doesn’t take long for the dogs to connect the behavior with Time Out.

Funny story:

We started using Time Out when Rodrigo was barking in the house at his sister.  He would go in, sit for 10-30 seconds, and then he was released.  There were days when he would come out, run to Sydney and start barking again.  But he eventually got it.

One day Sydney had a toy that he wanted and he was itching to announce his displeasure and kept looking from me to her, whining the entire time.  I was waiting to see what he'd do, prepared to bring back Time Out.  Finally he stood up, looked at Sydney and barked 3 times loudly, then he walked to the laundry room and sat down.

It was the funniest thing in the world, but I was too shocked to laugh.  He sat there for 15 seconds, returned to the living room for a different toy, and life went on.

Tips from a Professional Dog Trainer

Certified Dog Trainer David Fitzpatrick has extensive experience working with aggressive dogs. He has three tips for dealing with littermates fighting in the home:

  • Most importantly, never grab a dog buy its collar or head when it is fighting with another dog
  • When separating the dogs that are fighting, attempt to remove the aggressor first
  • Grab the aggressor by its hind legs or tail and pull the dog away from the other one until it is far enough away from the other dog that the situation will be diffused.

 

Wrapping it up…

When we were dealing with littermates fighting, I learned that it's important is to identify who is causing the trouble (in our case, Rodrigo), identify the triggers (toys, attention), and learn the signals (stares, growling, raised hackles) so that we could prevent a fight before it started.

Now it's Your turn!  Based on your own experience, what tips do you have to share on how to deal with our dogs when they fight?

 

I am not a dog trainer. If you are experiencing behaviorial or training issues with your dogs, please contact a qualified, professional dog trainer. Please request a referral from your veterinarian, a local shelter, or a local pet store.

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