Can Dogs Live Together After Fighting?

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Introduction

The family unit is a bee-hive of activity and emotions where, at times, voices can be raised and the kids fight over a game or opinion. Mom or dad calms the children down, hearing both points of view and in time, they are once again playing happily. 

Consider this same scenario with two dogs falling out over a toy or treat. Some pooches that live in the same household never argue while others occasionally disagree. Then there are dogs that are aware of the family hierarchy and may feel slighted by a guardian preferring the other pooch. A fight ensues and the owners may wonder if their dogs can still live together.

Signs Your Pooches aren't Getting Along

You're chuckling away to an episode of "The Simpsons" when you hear your two Huskies having a disagreement. Suddenly, it escalates into a full-on fight and you race down the hallway to find Sam and Zion going hard out. Your beloved Sam has his pal on their back and is snarling and snapping while Zion is looking for the exit door. It’s not a pretty sight as they wrestle with teeth exposed, barking and growling.

You call to them but it’s too late - Zion, tired of being belly-up on the floor, bites Sam on his front leg. He lets out a blood-curdling yelp and Zion jumps back on four legs, ready to take on his stablemate. It's dog-eat-dog and it's getting out of hand fast as they dare the other to make a move.

When two dogs in the home get into a monumental scrap, it's not recommended that you get in the middle, as you are probably going to get bitten. Try to stay cool and look for a distraction. If it’s happening outdoors, you could get the hose and spray water over them both. If the fight is inside, grab a towel or coat to throw over one of the dogs. This could give you time to get hold of the other one’s collar - but only if it's safe to do so. Place this guy quickly in another room, giving time for the rage to diffuse.

Dogs are living in a human world and have emotions similar to us. They can feel happy, sad, or angry and in this case, it was Sam’s decision to steal his mate’s favorite toy that started the rumble in the house.

Jealousy can be a factor when a pet-mom or dad looks to favor one pooch over the other. Dogs are like kids, who’ll see the injustice and respond by taking it out on their sibling. Playing the fair pet-parent can have its moments as you unwittingly give one pooch a pat and forget the other dog is watching.

Resource guarding is a classic fight-starter as one pooch thinks it's okay to invade their dog buddy's space and take their chew-bone. It’s a shootout at the OK Corral, as the wronged pup explodes in a frenzy of annoyance, taunting his pal to reach for his paw.

If one of your dogs is a shelter pup, they may have no socialization skills and think everything is up for grabs. Pet Doctor Mom tells us one of the most common reasons dogs fight in the same home is down to “Dominance Status Aggression” - or sibling rivalry. 

Dog owners are not always aware that there is a pecking order between dogs living together and if that isn't honored, the dominant pooch could vent their discontent. Being human, our first thought is to help out the dog that might be older or more submissive, causing the Rambo pooch to get testy and put the other dog back in its kennel.

When one dog in the home is neutered and the other still intact,  problems can arise if the intact pooch tries to mount the other. Apparently fixed dogs smell like females.

Body Language

Signs dogs are fighting include:
  • Growling
  • Barking
  • Snapping
  • Biting
  • Stomach flip
  • Exposed teeth

Other Signs

Signs dogs in the same house could fight are:
  • One is given more attention than the other
  • Lack of socialization
  • Jealousy
  • One dog is more dominant than the other
  • Resource guarding
  • Neutured and intact males living together

History of Dogs Fighting

The storybook version of wolves fighting for dominance within the pack has been debunked in recent years. Many of us grew up thinking the Alpha male wolf was a tyrannical leader that ruled with no mercy, which arose from a 1947 paper entitled “Expressions Studies on Wolves." The author set a precedent that dogs were like their wolf ancestors and their human owner, the new dictatorial Alpha.

Animal behaviorists in modern times have challenged this concept, saying the wolves studied were captive and this behavior is not synonymous with how the grandfather of dogs, operates in the wild. Dog trainers took on board the Alpha roles and implemented tough training regimes to keep the Shih Tzu or Dachshund from recalling their past life as a dominant, aggressive wolf.

Dog fighting was a favorite form of entertainment with the ancients. During the time of domestication, certain breeds like the Mastiff and Pit-bull were purposely bred to fight. Early Greeks used a giant of a mutt called the Molossus to attack their enemies in war. Today, we might watch a DVD or go to the movies to relax, but many centuries ago, civilized humans enjoyed the sport of bull and bear baiting and bred dogs for this purpose.

Dogs have seen the dark and light of human behavior, and today, walk the walk as police pooches, service dogs, and companions. Illegal dogfights are still a popular pursuit and cause many breeds to be banned as a consequence.

The Science Behind Dogs Fighting

When two dogs go to war in your home, the ambiance is altered and the family involved will be concerned about the safety of their kids and the dogs.

Researchers at the Behavior Clinic at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Grafton, MA  recruited dogs that had been involved in household hostilities and interviewed the dog owners.

They found the lady dogs were more likely to fight than the boys. In fact, 68% of the conflicts saw two females having a dispute as opposed to 32% of male mutts. Their study also showed 70% of the scraps were caused by new pooches brought into a home where other dogs were already present.

Most pet parents were shocked when their dogs kicked off, with 50% of the woofers needing vet treatment while 10% of the guardians sought medical care. Researchers discovered a higher percentage of dogs fought over their owner giving extra attention to one of their pups. It was also observed that some feuding woofers showed aggression to the humans in the family. The same pups had separation anxiety issues or phobias.

A counselor with Family Life Network states that kids can end up despising each other if mom or dad plays favorites. Our pups are like children, so if you want to avoid toddler tantrums, be kind and caring to all dogs in the home.

Tips for Averting Dog Fights in Your Home

Can dogs live together after fighting? The answer is, most of the time, YES. There are times when dogs may be like an incompatible couple and need to divorce, but in general, there are things you can do to help combative pups get along.

One way to avert dog fights in the home comes from Dr Nicholas Dodman, an animal behaviorist who uses a technique called nothing in life is free. This strategy makes a dog have to sit or stay before they eat, get petted, and so on.

He suggests choosing the strongest or older dog to be fed or petted first. Researchers who tested this theory in homes where dogs were fighting said there had been a massive improvement. They suggest this strategy works due to the structure surrounding meal times and affection as dogs realize they will always get their share.

Dr. Dodman believes disciplining fighting dogs is pointless, as the pooch learns nothing from being punished, except how to avoid it. This thinking is backed by child psychologists who see the negative effects it has on kids.

Before you can stop dogs from having a boxing match in your living room, you need to know what triggers them. If it’s a toy one of the dogs has taken a shine too that wasn’t their's, it might be easier to remove it.

Be aware how you give affection to each dog. Check out their body language to see if they are both relaxed or getting edgy. Dogs have a physical dialect that is easy to understand. Read articles that tell you what body posture a dog presents when they are shy, happy, submissive, or aggressive. Your fur-babies will show how they are feeling and this could stop a fight before it begins. Dogs might not be able to talk, but their facial expressions and body movements can speak volumes. 

Safety Tips for Dogs Fighting at Home:

  • Never get in the middle of a dogfight.
  • Spray water on your scrapping pooches.
  • Throw a towel or jacket over one of them.
  • Separate the dogs after a fight.
  • Ask a dog trainer for advice.
  • Read articles about how to stop your dogs fighting.
  • Never give one dog more attention.
  • Share your story!