Last night, I spent another $200 getting my cocker spaniel sewed up at the emergency clinic after our dogs were fighting again. They are great dogs, but every once in awhile, they just seem to go crazy and tear each other up! What can I do?
This little bit of information describes a common problem that we see in not only the human world, but canine world also -- sibling rivalry! Though I can give you a brief overview of this problem here, it is important in these cases to seek the advice of a professional as a thorough history is critical, and extremely helpful, if there is to be a resolution to the problem. You will be asked to remember several instances of when the fights have occurred. Was there food present or new chew toys? Though dogs love rawhides and sterilized bones, they are often overly protective of these items to anyone around, and so they should not get them. Are the owners always present for these altercations? That is usually the case and as cruel as it may sound, removing any attention from the owners in the form of petting and play for a period of time, and reintroducing it only on a structured basis is very effective. What I mean here is that you do not allow any pets in the household to control your behavior by soliciting attention. They may do this by barking at you or scratching at your leg and you reach down to automatically pet them or get you to feed them. You ignore these behaviors and instead, ask for simple things like sits and downs before any interaction. Another common mistake is that we support the wrong dog as being the "alpha" in the household. A common scenario is bringing a new, very attractive pup, into the home with a six or seven year old seemingly tolerant dog. The older dog seems to let the pup play with his toys and eat beside him just fine when he is young, but as the pup gets closer to a year, there seems to be more growling and snapping. The family may believe that the pup, due to its exuberance and activity level is now the top dog, when in over 75% of households, it is the oldest dog that needs to be supported. The older dog should be fed first, let in and out first, petted first, and left on the bed with the pup on the floor! Other danger times are often high stress times, such as a jogger going by the house. One dog stands and watches at the window, with hackles raised, and just then, the second dog comes by to see what is happening and is turned on by the first! This is called displaced aggression and having a history is critical here, too. I could go on for hours, but scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian will save you lots of money and heartache in the long run, as these situations can be helped. Good luck!