Aggression In The Multi-Dog Household
So what do you do when you cannot avoid the other dog or the triggers because both dogs live in the same household? There are many reasons that would cause two dogs in the same household to fight. In today’s article I explain the stressors and triggers that may be responsible for your dog’s need to fight.
Determine If You Have An Aggression Problem
- The fighting seems to be one long ongoing issue rather than specific and isolated incidents caused by specific triggers.
- The fighting is especially vicious or intense (blood drawn and dog bites that latch on and do not let go).
- The purpose of the fight is to inflict harm to the other dog rather than just to drive the other dog away.
- The fight does not stop when one dog submits to the other dog.
- The intensity of the behaviours or the attack are out of proportion to the incident. (making a mountain out of a molehill).
When dogs fight due to small isolated incidents these behaviours are much more easily corrected than the larger issue related to generalized aggression. In the case of generalized aggression, the dog(s) are ticking time bombs of aggressive behaviour and everything seems to set them off.
Why Does This Aggression Keep Happening?
For the battle weary dog owner it almost does not matter why two dogs aren’t getting along. After living with the strain of fighting dogs it only matters that it places the entire household in a constant state of tension and stress. This situation can leave the owner exhausted, jumpy, and always wondering when the next behavioural flare up is going to happen. The humans feel like they have to walk on eggshells. The dogs feel like they are in constant state of stress. Basically, no one in the household is very happy under these circumstances. But in order to fix the problem it helps to first understand the problem.
Just as there are some people whose personalities clash, not all dogs will get along with each other. When the dog personalities don’t mesh or when dogs are constantly reacting to triggers and stressors, it causes the dogs to live under the pressure of sustained stress. The aggressive behavioural outbursts are the symptom of the ongoing stress and the inability of one or more of the dogs to be able to process the stress in a less physical way. The result of this continued stress and the poor coping mechanisms ends in an aggressive explosion of behaviour. Dealing with dog aggression is never fun but when the aggression comes from the dogs living under the same roof it becomes unbelievably stressful and even scary to live in this situation day after day. The chances of being able to successfully modify this behaviour in a dog will depend on:
- How long this behaviour has been happening.
- The number of negative altercations the dogs have had with each other.
- The intensity level that the aggressive outbursts have reached.
The longer the dogs have been engaged in this behaviour, the more serious the nature of their fights, and the more intense the altercations between the dogs the LESS chance you have being able to eliminate the aggression. With strict and constant supervision you may be able to somewhat manage the behaviours but you will most likely never be able to completely eliminate the aggressive behaviours. To have any success at modifying this behaviour, the root causes of the aggressive behaviours must be addressed as soon as possible.
Identify The Triggers And Stressors For The Behaviour
Even though to the untrained eye it may look like these aggressive battles happen for “no apparent reason”, there is always something going on that causes stress to push one or both dogs over the bite threshold. Just like a simmering pot, when the heat (pressure) is increased, the pot boils over. This is exactly what happens with dogs. The triggers and stressors of a situation add to the stress of the dogs not getting along until one dog attacks the other dog. When you recognize a situation to be a trigger or a stressor, you can often intervene and prevent the situation from escalating into full out aggressive attack. The reality is that dogs that live under constant stress will usually become aggressive and fight. Unless the reason for the stresses are removed or markedly reduced, the dog’s aggressiveness only increases as does the incidence of infighting.
Challenges for social status
If not settled with strong leadership skills by the owner, will most likely be addressed through aggressive battles. These battles often occur between dogs of similar age or sex, who are most likely unaltered, and have reached sexual maturity. Hormone fueled dog fights are not uncommon. If one dog refuses to submit to the other dog, then the stalemate is addressed through an aggressive battle.
When a new dog is added to the pack
Especially when one (or both) of the dog(s) are missing crucial socialization skills, this upsets the existing social structure and will most likely result in battles for social status. One dog fights to keep status while the other dog fights to gain status. Also, when a dog is removed from the social structure of a pack it can cause the existing pack members to fight for new social status as they look to fill in the hole left by the absence of the other dog.
When two dominant temperaments have been placed together in one household, fights will happen. When a second dog is added to a household ideally some thought needs to be given to assure that the temperaments of the two dogs are compatible. Two reactive dogs, two un-socialized dogs, two unbalanced dogs, two aggressive dogs, two fearful dogs (the list can go on indefinitely) cannot exist in the same household without the dogs constantly triggering each other. When dogs refuse to defer or submit, it very often ends in battle.
How owners interact and handle the dogs can also contribute triggers and stressors between the dogs. If the owner’s behaviours (consciously or unconsciously) convey signals that elevate the social status of one dog over another, then social status infighting will most likely be triggered. Giving one dog more attention, more affection, “better” toys, beds, or treats or food will give reasons for dogs to fight.
Lack of supervision or leadership
A lack of adequate supervision or visible leadership can cause dogs to defer to working out issues among themselves. Unfortunately, when left to their own devices, how dogs work out issues is through fighting.
Chaotic and unstructured homes
This can cause dogs to be unnecessarily stressed because they have no predictability in their lives. Dogs equate predictability and stability with safety and continued survival. When dogs feel unsafe or unsure about their environment, it causes them to live in constant fear, which in turn causes stress.
When one or both dogs are not proficient at giving or understanding natural calming signals, the outcome usually results in an aggressive attack. Dogs that are missing socialization skills or dogs that have been removed too early from their mothers and siblings often have very poor social skills and may lack the ability to interpret or give calming signals.
Whether it be food, toys, beds, sleeping areas, floor space, or humans most often will result in an aggressive attack. The fight will be about being afraid to lose an object or trying to gain an object.
Lack of obedience training
When one or both dogs lack any formal obedience training, there may be a lack of control by the owner over the dogs and the dogs out of control behaviours can end up as dog fights.
When dogs are chronically under exercised and mentally under stimulated, it causes dogs to have a surplus of agitated excess energy. This only adds to the stress of the dogs and can very often lead to explosive bouts of dog fighting.
If one dog is in chronic pain, they may be perpetually cranky. They may be trying to drive away the other dog to avoid getting bumped or harassed. The state of being in chronic pain can be the trigger for a dog fight.
Poor quality diet
This may cause dogs to fight. If dogs are not getting adequate nutrition from their diet their bodies may be signalling that they need more nutrition. The dog interprets this signal to mean that at all costs he must get more food or he will not survive. This can cause dogs to go into a primal survival mode where they are combative and testy. This primal survival mode can cause dogs to be in a constant state of stress.
The Role Of The Adopted Dog In Dog Fights
It is truly a wonderful thing when caring people open their hearts and homes to give a dog a second chance at a new life. There are many beautiful heart warming stories out there chronicling the incredible transformations that these Second Chance Dogs can go through …. under the right ownership and under the right circumstances. Sadly, adding a rescue dog to a home with an existing dog is one of the most common circumstances where dog to dog aggression and fighting occurs.
Many people naively think that if they just provide a dog with enough love and a nice home that the dog cannot help but to blossom into a great addition to their family. Sadly, this is not always the case. Often the animal shelters or rescues, in an effort to make room for all the other dogs in need, push the animals through the system without giving enough consideration to the circumstances of the dog.
Sometimes the staff in these places are simply not qualified to accurately assess dog behaviour. These dogs MUST be set up in a home where the dog can be successful. Some shelters may not always see or admit the truth about a rescue dogs’ behaviours. Sometimes the extent of the maladaptive behaviours do not become fully apparent until after the dog has been re-homed and the Honeymoon Period is over.
Regardless why it happened, owners of rescue dogs may suddenly find themselves in a terrifying situation where the dogs are aggressively fighting and they don’t understand why or how to stop it.
How Can I Prevent My Rescue Dog From Fighting?
The best way to avoid turning your home into a battle zone is by giving some careful thought and planning BEFORE you commit to bringing in the second dog. For more information regarding this topic please refer to my article, How To Successfully Integrate Another Husky Into Your Pack.
Some things to consider BEFORE adding a Rescue Dog:
The longer that a dog has been practicing maladaptive behaviours, the harder it will be to counter condition these behaviours. Very often older dogs that have spent most of their lives in abusive or neglectful situations will be very resistant to change. This is not to say that older dogs cannot be rehabilitated, this is only saying that the odds are not very good that they can be motivated to overcome their issues so be mindful of that when considering what dog to add to your family.
Understand that the sad reality is that many dogs end up being given up by their owners because the dogs did not get their needs met. More often than not, these dogs will be lacking crucial socialization, developmental skills, bite inhibition, and obedience training. That means that a dog like this will need constant monitoring, re-training, and guidance. This also means that while the dog is learning these new skills the opportunity for dog fights is very high.
If you do not have the time, patience, or skill set to be able to rehab a dog like this, please think long and hard before committing to adopting a problem dog. It is very hard on a dog to be adopted only for it to be uprooted once again. Be honest about how much experience you have with rehabbing problem behaviours and how much time you have to dedicate to this dog’s issues.
TV dog trainers may look training look easy, but rehabbing a dog is neither easy, nor simple, nor a fast process. Unless you have a lot of direct experience working with rehabbing maladaptive behaviours , maybe leave the tougher cases to more experienced adopters. If you are a naturally timid or fearful person then working with aggressive dog issues is not likely be a good fit for you so steer clear of these cases and opt for an easier dog.
Not every dog ends up in a rescue shelter because it is “broken”. Some dogs are there because something in their environment was changed and they could no longer live with their owners. If you look for a dog with the least amount of maladaptive behaviours, then integration into your family will be that much easier. If the dog you currently have is not well trained or has maladaptive issues of his own (fearful, timid, reactive), then adding another dog with behaviour issues is not advised.
Too many people assume that just because they do not currently share their home with Cujo, that their dog does not have issues. It is not until after they add a second dog do they see the reality and the extent of their first dog’s issues. If possible, have both dog assessed by a Canine Behaviour Specialist for compatibility. If you can avoid a behaviour disaster from occurring, it may be the best money you ever spent.
The best way to ensure peace in your multi-dog household is by ensuring that both dogs are compatible with each other. Prevention is the most effective tool dog fights. Know what you are getting into before you add the second dog. You must think with your head and not just your heart in this matter. In the next article, I give you tips and advice on how best to work with the dog to dog fighting in your household.
As always we welcome your questions, comment, and stories regarding this topic. When we share our stories and our wisdom, we may well be helping someone who may be struggling with their Snow Dog.
Helping all Snow Dogs … one owner at a time.
9 thoughts on “Why Your Huskies Fight”
Hi, so I just adopted a male Siberian husky as a companion for my other husky.my husky that I had previously had as a pet his name is gizmo and he is almost 2, was constantly whining wanting to play with other dogs and has lived compatibly with other dogs and cats. We were ready for another dog. We adopted another male husky around the same age named Koda. Gizmo is a submissive dog and very kind and gentle. We had them both outside for a meet and greet. They sniffed each other and seemed fine until Koda attacked Gizmo. We immediately separated them to try to allow tensions to cool down and begun bringing them around each other socially only. But every time I brought them near each other Kids will try attacking and any time Gizmo went near anything that Koda liked he would try to attack. It made Gizmo scared. But through the last few days Gizmo has gotten fed up and become the aggressor as well and they both have gotten to the point of biting and latching onto each other. Is this at all normal? Is there anything I can do to make the situation work?
I’ve been reading the articles on dog aggression and fights and still don’t know if my issue can be fixed. I have 5 dogs. 8 yr old female lab, 5 yr old male sib/Mal, 5 yr old female sib/Mal 6 yr old female Siberian and 3 yr old female sib/Mal. The sib/Mal’s are from same parents the (2) 5 yr olds from the same litter. The 5 yr olds we got a week apart. The boy was 1st (my dog) and my husband insisted we go back and get the girl. They have fought since day 1. The fights have become aggressively worse where stitches are involved. The boy is the worse, he has also attacked the lab. None of them bother the 6 yr old husky (rescued her from my son, sweetest girl ever, loves everyone and everything. My little flower sniffer) the youngest we got as a rescue from the people that owned the parents of the sib/Mal’s when she was 1.5 yrs old. There have been several fights this yr which have included stitches, usually the 2 5 yr olds. Lately all the sib/mal’s have been attacking our lab at the same time. I know this is my fault but not sure if it can be fixed even with a behaviorist. Our vet is suggesting anxiety meds for the boy since he shows the most aggression. He has gotten worse as he’s gotten older. He’s never been afraid of the vet, all 5 dogs go once a month for weight, they get yearly check ups etc. The last visit was for a fairly large deep gash he got from fighting with his sister. He was fine at the vet for the exam of the gash but freaked out screaming not to go to the lab (not biting just total fear) he dropped in the hallway and wouldn’t move. Same happened the next day for surgery and he was shaking in fear. I have a lot in 1 paragraph. I just want to fix it.
2 of my huskies are male, father and son, the father is very agressive with his son. Not all the time but there is no warning at all. Him and his mate had another litter and one of the 9 week old pups got too close to the father and he attacked. My bf was right beside the father and stopped him right away but a couple seconds longer and he would have killed the pup. His aggression goes too far if we dont physically stop him he wont stop till the other dog is dead. But with him it seems like hes bipolar. Most of the time hes great with all the other dogs then its like a switch is flipped and he snaps. I never leave the males unattended together so we are always close enough to stop the fight. Neither male is neutered. Father is now 3 1/2 and son is 1 1/2.
I have mom and daughter living in the same small household 256 sq feet. Mom started to be aggressive growl bite draw blood attack her daughter after she ended her first heat one year of age. mom is 7years 50lb and daughter is 1 yIear35 lb. daughter is calm, submissive, loving girl. mom is jealous, territorial, sweet with humans, run the household as queen.I have separated them inside by putting mom into a kennel for the past week which she likes. When outside I have mom on lead while daughter runs free, since she will not attack mom. Both females are not spayed. If I spay one that will not work, if I spay mom or both I have the feeling mom will still attack her daughter.Hard to believe that mom and daughter were playing together, cheek to cheek with much love before daughter became grown up 1st heat. this behavior has gone on for three weeks,they have had 2-3 altercations mom attacking the level of aggression on mom’s part is 7. Any advice.
Hello, I have three husky females. One 7, 2nd 3 and the third 2.5 years old. The last edition to the family has recently become aggressive with the 2 dogs. It almost feels as though it is territorial. neither of my dogs have been spayed. this has been going on roughly for one month now. i have jumped in twice to pull them apart and on both occasions I have had blood drawn. I notice that they do not fight when we are home as they are outside all day. We have had them all living in the same household for the last 2 years with no fights with the exception to here and there which is mostly been over food. The youngest is cheeky and a bit snappy and the other dogs do try and warn her off but sometimes it is out of our control. Since the beginning of the year we have not walked them half as much as we should have. In the last 2 weeks we have tried to walk them as often as possible as we are conscious they could be frustrated. It has helped slightly but the youngest is still unsettled and chasing up and down to see what the others are doing. I no longer know what to do. Is it time to get rid of one? We do allow her on the best to sleep with us which i believe after all this readying we are empowering her. This will now stop. Please share any advise you have. We are desperate. We are also going on honeymoon soon and usually our friends look after our dogs but we are to afraid to ask them to help as should the 3 of them fight our friend may not know what to do or how to try and dissolve the fight. Now we are wondering what to do with our dogs?
Without being able to see the dogs in action I can only give you my best guesses as to what is really going here.
Firstly, what do you consider to be aggressive behaviour? Are the attacks just one strike and then a retreat or do the dogs go at it and have to be physically separated? Do their attacks draw blood? Are you sure these are fighting/attacks or is it just really overly rough Husky interactions? I ask because the fixes for each of these situations are very different.
There are many reasons for their behaviours.
1. If you have two dogs with similarly dominant temperaments then you are seeing a clashing of temperaments. Ideally some thought should go into matching up dogs with complementary personalities before you commit to bringing them into the home. If these dogs are too similar in their dispositions then then I foresee a lot of management of behaviours in your future, the very least of which is do not leave the two dogs together if you are not there to supervise their interactions.
2. If this is just overly rough Husky “play” it still needs to curtailed because if the physicality of the play is allowed to escalate, eventually it will erupt into a fight. Again, the best way to handle this problem is to not leave the dogs together when you are not there to supervise. And when you are there and you see that the pushy behaviours are starting to rear their head, stop the activity until the dogs have calmed down before allowing them to commence play again.
3. Sadly, 15 minutes of daily obedience training does not ensure compliance nor does it mean that the dogs see you as a leader of them. If they don’t see you as a leader then they will make up their own rules about how to interact and they will constantly be clashing over social hierarchy issues and status.
We cannot command dogs to comply. They have to be willing to comply because they respect our leadership skills and ability. They only respect us after a relationship bond has been formed with the dogs. What kind of relationship do you have with these dogs? What you have done to foster a strong relationship with these dogs?
4. It matters how you handle the dogs when this behaviour breaks out. What do you do? Do you lecture, yell, punish? It is not enough to tell dogs what not to do, you also have to show them what you DO want them to do. Are you doing that? I suggest that if your instructions currently stops with NO that you follow through and show them the behaviour that you DO want them to do instead of what they are doing.
I suggest that a great place to start improving the behaviours is to invest in a deeper relationship bond with the dogs. I suggest that you umbilical with each dog separately for an hour a day for about two weeks. If done correctly I can guarantee that you will see an improvement in the dog’s behaviours.
Here is how this works and why technique works : https://www.snowdog.guru/using-the-umbilical-to-establish-leadership-with-your-husky/
My partner and I have 2 Huskies. A 2 year old female and a 6 month old male (both desexed). We find when left alone in the yard unsupervised they tend to become very aggresive towards each other. They have both been having daily 15 min obedience lessons since we got them and are great in that respect, however we just cant seem to stop them attacking each other and making some REALLY horrible noises while they’re at it! (we even had the neighbouts complain about the noise recently)
If I’m out in the yard throwing the ball for them I also notice that the female will drop the ball in front of the male pup and if he tries to grab it, she attacks him.
I am all too aware we have a problem, but I have no idea how to solve it.
Margit thanks for your great articles. We have problems with our 2 year old female husky. She has been dominant since a pup with our 10 year old lab. We did obedience training when she was a pup at the local dog club, but she is consistently attacking her maybe once or twice a week, sometimes I’ve had to dive in to separate and blood was drawn she punctured our labs facial skin badly.
We are able to feed them at the same time now, but AFTER they eat she often had a go at her. She also pee’s in the lab’s food bowl after they eat. She will hump her aggressively, yet they play together often. They have separate crates/beds outside. I don’t know what else we can do but the problem has never gone away. She is also very aggressive to smaller dogs, will immediately go for their neck. – to the point I’m not happy to take her to dog parks as she would easily kill a white fluffy! We’ve tried her with visiting bigger dogs which she accepted in our yard. It’s mostly resource guarding but we do have young children and I’m always fearful they will get caught in the middle of an argument. We don’t let her do anything dominant to us but she tries (puts paw on you, resource guards US from our other dog etc). Is there anything else we can try or are we probably stuck with this problem?
You never mentioned if this dog is spayed or not. If she is not then I highly recommend spaying to try to cool down her hormone fueled dominance. If she is spayed and still behaving like a domineering little bully, the issue is that she believes herself to be the queen of the castle. She either does not believe you when you correct her or she does not care that you correct her. The trick is finding a way to show her in a way that she understands and respects that you are the only leader in this family.
If you have not already done so I highly recommend you begin by using umbilical every day as part of her routine to help reset her ME thinking to WE thinking.
Also you never mentioned how much physical daily exercise she gets but she needs to be totally physically exhausted so she has no energy or want to be in charge. I would also encourage you to see where and how you might be unwittingly reinforcing her dominance.
If she gets a pay off from doing the behaviour she will not be deterred from continuing to do it.
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