Creating Positive Associations to Stop Two Dog Pals From Fighting

By: David Codr

Published Date: September 2, 2021

For this Omaha dog training session we worked with a trio of dogs (Arwen, left; Luthian middle and Pippen Pic below), stopping Arwen (lab mix) from going after Luthian (Chihuahua mix).

When I first arrived for the session, I met Arwen and Pippen without Lucienne who was in the other room. Due to the dogs fighting one another, the guardians had separated these two to prevent any other fights until they could have this in-home session with me. Pippen is a Shiba Inu who didnt have a problem with either of the other dogs.

I was caught off guard when one of the guardians said that he didn’t find a need to train the dogs to sit, the most basic core Cue that any dog knows. But since confidence and self esteem can come from accomplishing skills and the sit can be used in so many capacities, I would never advise a dog guardian to refrain from teaching the dogs the basics.

Not knowing how to sit on Cue was an issue for me as I use the sit for many exercises as well as an indicator on how comfortable a dog is. As a dog behavior expert I learned a long time ago that asking a dog to sit once, can give you an indication of whether or not the dog is comfortable. If the dog knows how to sit, and refuses your cue, its communicating its uncomfortable with something.

Additionally, having a solid vocabulary of cues that a dog responds to is an important part of developing a solid relationship. Just like humans, if dogs are unsure what someone wants from them, it can cause them to become frustrated. Frustration can turn to anxiety which can lead to stress in dogs. This is important to understand in this case because all dog aggression comes from stress.

I went over how to use marker words to help dogs learn what it is want them to do. We followed up that lesson with a hand targeting exercise to put it into action. This gives the guardians a great way to redirect the dogs as well as a way to reposition them without having to do so with physical pressure or touch.

I shared a number of other dog behavior tips before the guardians switched out Arwen for Luthian who turned out to be such an amazingly sweet cuddly dog that I was caught off guard. Some dogs snuggle, Luthian burried his head into my chest as if to say “Petting me will make us both feel good,” and she was right!

After getting an opportunity to observe Luthian, I had the guardians get Arwen so that we could head outside so I could show them an exercise to stop dogs from fighting each other. If you have dogs that are fighting together you should check out the free positive dog training video below.

If you have two dogs that are fighting, creating positive associations is a great way to stop dog fights. The engage disengage game is great for dogs with dog aggression problems because you get to construct an environment that sets the dog up for success. I mention this as many people set their dogs up to fail by putting them into an environment where the situation is beyond what the dog can handle or hasnt been prepared for.

One of the keys to this exercise to prevent dog fights is to go slowly so that the dog does not get reactive. If you move too fast, collapsing the distance too quickly, you can provoke a response which is the dog essentially practicing the behavior you’re looking to stop.

I shared a number of other tips to help dogs practice being together without fighting in the above video. I’d like to see the guardians walking the dogs together and giving them a lick mat or some other lick or chew item each day. They should to do this while the dogs are behind barricades or tethered on opposite sides of the room to make sure that everyone stays safe. As the dogs get back into a rythm of being together, the barriers and tethers can be faded out, but only after many successful sessions. Better to be safe that sorry when you are working to stop dogs from fighting.

I asked the guardians to reach out if they had any questions or problems with these exercises as well as with periodic updates. Due to the size difference between the two dogs, it’s going to be important to prevent dogfights from occurring again. In the meantime, keeping the dogs separated outside of structured positive communal activities may be the best way to go.

It will take some time, but if the guardians practice these exercises daily, hopefully the dogs can get back to all hanging out together as one happy family.

To help the guardians remember all of the dog training tips we shared in this in-home Omaha dog behavior training session, we recorded a roadmap to success video that you can check out below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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