sibling squabbles part 2: dealing with bickering pets

Posted by Nicole Larocco-Skeehan, CPDT-KA on Mar 17 2014

In yesterday’s blog, I talked a little bit about what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to sibling rivalry between dogs. Today, I’m going to tell you some things you can do to cope with dogs who fight. No matter how serious an altercation between your dogs can be, there are some measures you can take to ensure that they rebuild their relationship afterwards.

Walk it Out

Parallel leash walking is one of my favorite relationship builders for dogs. When you do parallel leash walking, you are simultaneously doing a fun activity in the presence of the other dog while burning energy in both dogs. The longer the walk, the better! A dog with less energy will be less likely to become aroused and aggressive. And with all of those exercise-induced endorphins, your dog may actually even start to have positive feelings about the other dog – unlike before, when the other dog may have been a source of stress. When doing parallel leash walking, it’s best to have an extra set of hands. So have one person walk one dog, while a friend or spouse walks the other. That way, if there is tension, you can opt to give each other space.

Manage Resources

If fighting is caused by a possessive issue over resources, sometimes the best medicine is to manage the resource in question. Remember, value is in the eye of the beholder – so things that may be valuable resources to one dog may not seem valuable to another, or to you as a human. Common resources for dogs include food, treats and chewies, stolen objects, toys, dog beds and pillows, human furniture or even humans themselves.

If the resource is easy to manage; for example, your dog becomes aggressive over a bully stick or other high-value chew toy, then the easiest solution may be to not have the object in question in your home. If the resource is more difficult to manage; for example, if you or your spouse is the resource, or if the dog is resource guarding human furniture or his food bowl; then it may be time for some structure inside of the home, or to start a behavior modification plan designed by a professional dog trainer.

Manage the Dogs

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If your dogs are having a difficult time being in the same room together without starting a fight, even though you’ve managed resources and exercised them, you may have to separate them when they cannot be directly supervised. When they are in the same room with you, keeping them both on leash and tethered on different sides of the room is an option. Or if the dogs will not calm down while in each other’s presence, you can place one of them into a crate in a different room while the other one has family time (rotate them every so often so everyone has a turn to get attention). If you are in this situation, it is probably time to find a certified professional dog trainer to begin a behavior modification plan.

Call a Pro

If you are experiencing any of the above situations, it is more than likely time to look for a certified professional dog trainer who can help you design and carry out a behavior modification plan for your dogs. Check out the website for the certification counsel for professional dog trainers at for recommendations on qualified animal behavior experts in your area.

While rebuilding relationships between animals that are fighting can be challenging and takes time, the prognosis is generally good if you follow the right plan and allow everyone involved in the situation to heal both physically and emotionally from the scars that may have occurred during previous fights.

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