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sibling squabbles: trainer nicole larocco on how to deal with bickering best friends



There are few challenges to dog ownership as heart wrenching or difficult to deal with as when two dogs in the same household are fighting.  Fights between household dogs can happen for many reasons, the most common including: 

    • arguments over the possession of resources including furniture, food, toys and owners
    • personality conflicts
    • displacement of stress or anxiety 

And while some quarreling between dogs who live together is normal – and even necessary for conflict resolution – you will want to make sure that your dogs are not taking things too far.

What’s Normal

Even the best matched couples have arguments now and again.  But there are a few guidelines that will help you know that the dog fight is not terribly serious.  When well-balanced pairs who generally get along have an altercation, it usually goes something like this:

Fights do not come out of nowhere. Many times there are warnings before a fight. Warnings for dogs include signs of discomfort – starting with hard staring at the other dog; lip licking; or stiffening their body or hovering stiffly over a resource. If these initial signs of discomfort are not heeded, warnings may escalate to vocalization; closed mouth muzzle punches or air snaps directed toward the offending party; or nips delivered to the offending party.

The hallmark of an appropriate dog/dog altercation is that it ends as quickly as it begins and there is no harm done to either party.  

After the altercation, the relationship bounces back to its normal state relatively quickly and the dogs do not have issues interacting from that point on.

What’s Not Normal

How do you know when the dog fight in question has crossed the threshold from being a normal altercation to being something that’s cause for concern?  There are a few clear signs:

    • Fights occur over triggers that are not easily managed or controlled by the owners (i.e. seeing another dog on walks, or the doorbell ringing), or with no warning.
    • Fights occur on multiple occasions. Many times, they are over the same resource or scenario.
    • Fights are prolonged and/or cause physical or psychological damage to either party or to the owner upon breaking them up.
    • After the fight, the relationship does not go back to normal easily or the dogs continue to have aggressive attacks without provocation. 
    • After the fight, one dog seems to be targeting the other or will not allow the other dog to reside in the same space as the rest of the family. 

Dealing with dueling dogs is challenging, but not impossible to do. In tomorrow’s blog, I’ll offer advice for coping with dogs who fight, as well as tips for helping your furry friends rebuild their relationship.


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Chris AshtonCo-Founder and Co-CEO of Petplan Pet Insurance
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