Helping a Pair of Rat Terriers With Dominance Problems Stemming From Sibling Rivalry

By: David Codr

Published Date: July 23, 2021

Tucker and Timmy scaled - Helping a Pair of Rat Terriers With Dominance Problems Stemming From Sibling Rivalry

For this Omaha dog behavior training session we worked with a pair of Rat Terrier brothers; Tucker (left) and Timmy – sharing tips on dog body language and how to prevent dogs from fighting.

When people are picking up puppies or thinking about getting one, many are tempted to get two puppies from the same litter. They look so cute together when they’re small, but this is usually a recipe for disaster. It is very common for two dogs from the same litter to challenge or fight one another when adopted together.

Throughout the session, Timmy used his size to block Tucker from accessing his guardians, food, toys or resources. Control of resources is the textbook definition of dominance.

I was able to capture a display of this sibling dominating behavior that you can check out below.

Some of the telltale signs that Tucker felt uncomfortable were his ear position; drawn back to his head in an extreme fashion. He also was stiff and moved in slow motion at times; his way of communicating to his brother that he understood he was trying to dominate or control the situation. Moving slowly like this is often a communication; this time of discomfort and subordination.

What was most concerning for me after discussing the situation with the guardians was that although Timmy‘s behavior was the one that was causing most of the problems between the brothers, the way that Tucker reacted was causing the most frustration to the guardian. It’s important to guard against blaming one dogs behavior as more desirable over the other when the other dog’s behavior towards the sibling is the cause for the originator’s behavior.

While our primary purpose is to keep dogs in the home, in some cases, rehoming a dog is what is best for the canine. This is a decision that Tucker and Timmys guardians will have to make for themselves. But what is quite likely is that if they are separated, many of Tuckers unwanted behaviors will dissipate on their own. If not they most likely are things that can be addressed and modified.

Tips to Help Dogs Feel Good ABout Each Other and Stop Dog Fighting

I suggested some tips to stop the dogs from fighting one another. Creating positive associations is key when stopping dogfights from happening. Check out the free positive dog training video below for some secrets to help dogs get along and stop fighting.

The brothers got into two scuffles while I was there. Fortunately we were able to break them up without incident but their guardians have not faired so well. On more than one occasion, Timmy had redirected his aggression towards the humans when they interceded and tried to break up a dog fight. This obviously makes the dog aggression problem more concerning. The guardians can reduce the frequency of the fights occurring by making sure the dogs are separated during any exciting activities such as people coming to the door and when they have high-value items like food or chewies (bully sticks, cow knees, water buffalo horn‘s etc).

Increasing the dogs activities through mental stimulation and physical activities multiple times throughout the day will also help prevent future dogfights from happening.

I told the guardians that they would benefit from having one of our level one trainers come out and go over the relaxation protocol with the dogs. Whether they stay together or are rehomed, with two young children in the house, training a dog to go to the dog bed and stay there when the kids are playing, food is being prepared, people are eating food etc. will be beneficial to the family.

I’d like the guardian to practice the exercises and techniques that we covered in the session for a week or two while they consider whether or not a different living situation would be more beneficial for everyone. Hopefully the dog behavior tips and secrets that we covered in this session will do the trick. That said, dog aggression, just like any other behavior, becomes more difficult to change the more it is practiced. The fighting didn’t start overnight, neither will the fix. It’s going to take time, patience, structure, and dedication to help these dogs get over there fighting and dog on dog aggression

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

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This post was written by: David Codr