Dogs can be the happiest, the most pleasant of all pets, and generally, the ‘the more the merrier’ adage applies to dogs as well. A house full of canines can be a joy to have, as long as everyone gets along. Every owner has , now and then, had to break up the odd fight between their pets, over food, or a favourite toy. But if this aggression is becoming a routine, the situation can quickly turn very stressful for both the pets and the humans, and turn into a source of constant consternation.
There are quick-fixes, of course. Remove the source of the conflict, if physical. Separate the dogs and punish them. But these solutions are short-term and are probably not going to provide a solution to your problem. The aggression will continue, and might even escalate if their behaviour isn’t influenced to correct it. You may be faced with drastic decisions such as giving away the source of the aggression in order to maintain in peace amongst the other dogs, and that would be heartbreaking.
An important thing to remember is, if you feel the need to break up a fight, say if it gets particularly vicious, the do not do so with your bare hands or by stepping in between them. In the heat of the moment, you might end up getting injured or bitten. Distract them by ignoring the fight and making loud, happy noises. Bang on plates to surprise them and distract them. Separating them is a temporary solution and the fighting will probably continue when they next face each other.
Oftentimes, the solution can be obvious.
The aggressor/aggressors may be from a specie prone to violent behaviour. In such a case, it is best to contact a professional trainer who can help you with this.
If your dogs aren’t neutered, get them neutered immediately. This will vastly improve the aggressive behaviour and help them get along better. If it marks it territory by spraying all over your house, that will stop too. It will also help prevent chances of testicular or ovarian cancer and help them live longer. The operation is simple in itself and has minimum side-effects.
Another simple reason may be that the dogs may simply be bored and inactive for too long. Take them out for walks. Play with them to tire them out so they can work off their aggression.
But most commonly, it all boils down to hierarchy.
The most common reason why dogs will instigate a fight or attempt to instigate one if they feel threatened by another dog of if their hierarchy is challenged in any way. A group of dogs always maintains a certain social order, it is in their natures, and there’s nothing you can do to change that.
The most important thing, is to assert yourself as the alpha. You have to be seen as being in control. The temptation will be strong, and this will require a lot of patience, but do not give in to your dog’s demands till yours are met. Refuse them the treat till they sit, or shake hands, or whatever it is that you want them to do. It will be frustrating, especially if you’re faced with a stubborn dog, but giving in to them will mean losing your authority over them. Establishing your role as their provider is necessary to get them to obey you. Even though some people may consider this method mean, or even inhumane, it’s anything but. You’re not starving your dog, or beating it. The same principles are involved as disciplining a child, and the goal in both situations is to avoid the same thing, not having to deal with a bratty monster that refuses to listen to you. Once your dogs realize how easily you give in, good luck ever getting them to obey you.
If you’ve established yourself as the leader, you should have a much easier time dealing with the fighting. Identify the leader of the group, your second-in command, and treat them as such. Dogs don’t just have leaders, they need this social order. If you can get the leader to listen to you, disciplining the others should be a piece of cake, the others will mostly do as they see the head dog doing.
You might have a favourite, or the weakling of the group that you give special preference to, that is natural. But the head dog may see this as a challenge to his leadership and will pick fights when you’re around to assert his dominance. You can cuddle all you want with your favourite pooch when the others aren’t around.
If you see the dogs fighting, leave the room to see if the fighting quiets down. If it does, then you’re the source of the problem, and you need to modify your behaviour towards Mr Head Dog.
There is a disclaimer here however. This does not imply that you have to constantly be on the lookout for the head dog’s attempts to overthrow from your seat of power. Your household is not going to turn into the canine version of ‘Game of Thrones’ playing itself out. Play with your dogs, be happy with them, be friendly. Just remember to draw boundaries at unwanted behaviour whenever you feel it is necessary.