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Understanding Why Dogs Fight With Each Other
By Kurt Reynolds Published: 09/11/2009
When two canines in the same household have a dispute, owners are often quick to break them apart. The motivation to do so is instinctive. After all, fighting suggests injury and no owner wants to see their dogs hurt. Unfortunately, breaking them apart can cause more problems and inhibit their ability to completely resolve issues within the "pack."
Below, we'll explain a few of the most common reasons dogs fight amongst themselves. Once you understand the motivations behind their disputes, you'll be better able to control the environment in a manner that doesn't completely disrupt their interaction.
A Struggle For Status
Canines are pack animals and like all pack animals, there is a social structure within their group (even if that "group" only numbers two). The pooch at the top of that structure has the highest status until someone lower in the hierarchy challenges him. When challenged, the dominant canine will either concede his status or accept the challenge by fighting. This struggle for status within the hierarchy is common, especially if multiple dogs live under one roof and enjoy near equal positions within the "pack's" internal structure.
Fighting is often triggered when a new pooch is introduced to the group. Even if he does not issue a challenge for authority and dominance, he may initially be seen as a threat. Another circumstance that can lead to a dispute is when a canine is brought back into the group after having spent a long period of time elsewhere. Positioning to regain status - or protect it - ensues.
When The Owner Shows Favoritism
Owners unwittingly exacerbate internal disputes when they intervene in the fighting. The reason is because that intervention is often perceived as favoritism to a lower-status canine. If a dispute takes place and the owner protects the dog with the lower rank from the higher ranked pooch, the intervention can imply an artificial social status. In doing so, it can impact the existing hierarchy leading to even more fighting when the owner is present.
Steps To Eliminate The Fighting
If you own dogs that fight with each other, it's important that you carefully identify the dominant pooch. The reason is because you need to reinforce the existing social structure. Because access to food, water, and other resources is an important barometer of status with the pack hierarchy, give the dominant pooch first access. That will reduce challenges to authority. To accurately identify dominance, consider their age, dispositions, health, and interaction with each other.
If a dispute happens over access to food, toys, or other items, remove the lower status canine from the environment and give the higher ranked dog access. That sends a clear message that the existing hierarchy has your approval.
Canines fight in order to protect or establish their status within their group. Give them room to resolve matters quickly. If they cannot resolve them, support the existing structure.