Anyone who’s experienced inter-dog aggression at home knows of the trauma and resulting stress it can bring to both dogs and their parents. Know that you’re not alone – we, too, have experienced this unfortunate reality, and we’re here to guide you through statistics, possible root causes, and typical solutions.
Surveys show that having more than one dog at a time is standard for nearly one third of dog-owning households in North America. In-depth research on 38 pairs of inter-dog aggression participants proves that female dogs are more likely to be involved in incidents. (About 68% of fights involve a female.) Further, about 70% of the time, the aggressor is the newer household resident, and in 74% of cases, also the younger of the two dogs.
When dealing with inter-dog aggression, it’s important to keep root causes in mind. If we can find the cause of the aggression, we should be able to mitigate it, right? What we do know: dogs, like humans, have a stress threshold. When stress becomes too great, abnormal aggression can occur.
But finding the cause of the stress can be harder than we think. If the cause is anxiety, what is causing the anxiety? If it is jealousy, is it about possession of food, toys, or owner attention, as in 46% of reviewed cases? If it is a phobia, what is the aggressor afraid of? (In truth, there are many types of aggression with many root causes. Check out the eleven types the ASPCA has defined here.)
Sometimes the root cause is obvious, such as when dog A only attacks dog B when mom feeds dog B first. Other times we need the opinion of a veterinarian or behavioral expert to help us determine the underlying cause of stress.
Whatever the cause, though, the solutions can be similar: Institute behavioral techniques at home—and stick to them!
In the same 38 pairs of dogs, 89% responded positively to a “nothing-in-life-is-free” technique, wherein both dogs learn to respond to a command before the owner gives anything of value to the dogs (including supper!).
Another technique that showed improvement over time was simple support. As owners, we should choose one dog to support in all of its activities. Generally, this should be the stronger, larger dog (to avoid harm in incidents). But seniority matters too. 67% of study participants noticed improvement when they supported the dog that had been in the home for a longer period of time.
No technique is guaranteed to improve your dogs’ relationship or increase their stress thresholds, but by showing the pups elements of control in various situations, you may be able to decrease excitement levels surrounding those events.
Another pro tip? Try Calming Chews. They support relief of stress-related behavioral issues without affecting your dogs’ personalities or energy levels.
Have you experienced inter-dog aggression in your home? What was your solution? Share your experience on our Facebook page.