Tips to Stop a Dog From Attacking Another Dog in the House

By: David Codr

Published Date: October 15, 2018

For this Omaha dog training session we used Dog Psychology, a group walk and some other dog behavior tips to stop 5 year-old Lab / Boxer mix Harper from attacking her roomie, 6 year-old Terrier mix Holly.

When I arrived for the session, Harper was out and Holly was in the duplex dog kennels that guardians had been using to keep the dogs separate and prevent dog fights. Harper jumped up on me, barked and jumped up on her guardian several times once we sat down. While she was doing this, Holly would start barking from her kennel.

Each time Holly would bark, the guardian would disagree and make a negative comment about her behavior. At the same time, I saw Harper do the same (as well as jumping up on the guardian), only to be petted each time.

I pointed this out to the guardian who was adamant that she loved both dogs. While that is clearly the case, it was also equally apparent that Harper was the favorite. While I am not a human psychologist, most of what I do is teach humans and point out things they do that contributes to the problem. While I do not think the human is directly causing Harper to go after Holly, its safe to say that Holly knows she is second fiddle which can be a contributing factor.

Another reason this jumping on behavior from Harper is concerning is that dogs often jump up on those they want to claim to let them know they are in charge. The guardian said she didn’t mind the jumping, which is fine if the dog is invited up. But right now, Harper is the one making the decision and some of this could be a show for Holly’s benefit.

All of this was important to note because usually when Im called in when one dog is attacking the other, the guardians are all looking at the attacking dog. But in this case, the guardian referenced several reasons why Holly is a pill. Now the guardian wasn’t saying Holly deserved to be attacked, but I want the guardian to make an effort to stop using negative words to describe Holly’s behavior. The way we speak as humans can have a profound impact on how we think and perceive things. Humans can easily sabotage themselves by saying or thinking things in a negative way, often unintentionally as was the case here.

In my opinion as a dog behavior expert, I saw Holly’s barking as her attempt to disagree with what I would refer to as inappropriate behavior from Harper. Dogs prefer a harmonious group and usually confront dogs who start to step out of balance. But in this case, these behaviors have been going on and getting more and more practiced and intense.

I also think there is some jealousy going on between the two dogs. They would both observe the other when they were in the kennel, with Harper watching more alertly and intensely.

Its going to be crucial for the dogs to start to see and identify as being in the follower position to stop Harper from attacking Holly. I strongly recommended they start exclusive petting the dogs with a purpose and use passive training to reward desired behaviors. The technique in this video will also come in handy when it comes to stopping Harper’s jumping up without an invitation (Although the guardian should refrain from inviting a jump for at least 30 days).

But to stop these dogs from fighting, they also need to start doing something positive together. Right now, their only interaction is watching one another running free from a kennel. Because dogs get over things by literally moving forward, I pulled out a few martingale collars and told the guardian I was going to take them out for a walk together.

The guardian looked at me like I was crazy when I said I was going to take them for a walk. “You understand that dog will attack that dog,” she said as I leashed them up. But because the dogs were calm and I kept the appropriate amount of distance, we were able to go for a walk together without any problems.

I want to see the guardians taking the dogs for a walk together a minimum of once a day (more would be better). It doesn’t have to be a marathon (that would be nice), even just a walk around the block each day will really help these dogs stop fighting. This will allow them to start practicing being together on a fun activity.

Increasing the dog’s daily exercise will also have other benefits that will help stop dog fights from happening. While walks are nice and will help create a positive vibe between the dogs, they aren’t the most efficient way to burn off excess energy. I shared a number of tips like teaching the dog to run up and down the stairs, chasing a laser or using scent games. Getting each dog a few minutes of exercise a few times a day, sprinkled throughout the day, will put the dogs into a much better frame of mind. Stopping dog aggression is best done with a multiple approach. A lot of smaller changes, repeated often, will help these dogs return to balance.

Some of the barking is to protest, some of it is to demand attention (which petting with a purpose will help with) and some is to alert their humans. To address the later, I showed the guardians how to use counterconditioning to stop dog barking from Holly.

I also suggested the guardians randomly knock on the wall to simulate a knock at the door, when no one is actually there. If practiced often, this kind of desensitization will stop the over barking and over excitement from the dogs.

I also did a quick demo of a focus exercise with Harper. This is a great way to redirect her attention if the guardians notice she is staring at Holly (which can be a way of challenging or intimidating her).

At the end of the session, the dogs were sitting and laying on the floor together without any issues. This is not the case of an aggressive dog. The dog fights were a result of lack of rules and structure, confusion about the leader follower dynamic, under exercise and some favoritism that clouded and influenced some behaviors.

The good news is this dog fighting behavior problem is 100% fixable if the humans make some small changes. The changes I suggested are not difficult, but they do require a small amount of effort for a month to become habit. The kids will all need to start petting with a purpose and following mom’s lead, but if they do, these dog behavior problems can be stopped for good.

To help the family remember all the dog behavior tips I shared in this in home dog training session, we shot a roadmap to success video.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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