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What NOT To Do If Your Dogs Just Had A Fight

dogs resting on a bed together

As a certified dog behavior consultant and dog trainer, I work with many client households that consist of multiple dogs. Something that comes along with that territory is working with feelings and behaviors between dogs who live together.

It is not uncommon for dogs who live together to get into an occasional argument, scuffle, fight, (whatever you want to call it) that does not cause serious injury. When dealing with aggressive incidents between dogs who live together, below are three things that I recommend you do NOT do:

1. Do not panic

First things first. I think it needs to be normalized that dogs have feelings and sometimes fight with each other. I know it is terribly scary and emotional to see dogs fight, especially our own. They are our family members, we love them, and we assume they love each other. And most dogs who live together do enjoy each other. But that does not mean they will never fight.

How often do you argue with a spouse, close friend, or sibling? The majority of dog fights are what we call "display" fights, which means they look and sound ugly, but the dogs are just displaying aggression, not actually trying to cause serious harm to each other. This is why there are no serious injuries involved in the majority of dog fights. When we panic, our emotions run high and we do not think straight. It does not help the situation. Separate the dogs and give thhem and yourself a break to calm down after any aggressive altercation.

2 . Do not use punishment

After an argument or fight between dogs is over, many dogs are on edge. Some are scared. Some act like they have gone back to their normal day and were not affected by it at all.

Regardless of their reaction, punishment is not going to help. Using punishment as a training strategy with dogs who have recently had a dog fight is likely to only make the dogs MORE tense around each other.

Picture this: Fluffy and Spot got into an argument because Fluffy did not like Spot coming near his favorite bed while he was chewing a bone. Now the humans have started to scold Fluffy every time Spot comes near him on his bed. Do you think this is going to make Fluffy any more comfortable about Spot coming nearby? Probably not. It will likely only lead to more stress and tension between the dogs, thus increasing the chances of more fights.

If your dogs recently had a fight and you want to learn some training skills to help them, seek out resources or individual support from a positive reinforcement dog trainer or behavior consultant.

3. Do not repeat the scenario that caused the dog fight

If you know the situation that the dogs were in exactly when the fight happened, in most cases it is going to be recommended to change the dogs' routine and environment to avoid putting them in that situation again.

Why? Because if this situation caused a dog fight once, it will likely cause a fight again.

Whatever the "perfect storm" of factors was that caused the dogs to have conflict, we want to do our best to avoid that in the future.

For example, if your dogs got into a fight over the excitement of food prep at dinner time, then put the dogs in separate places BEFORE you start the dinner prep process in the future. This is using management to avoid the scenario that caused the conflict.

Some added things to note:

  • The above list contains general tips regarding non-injurious fights between dogs who live together

  • If your dogs got into a fight and you want personalized help with your situation, work with a certified professional who uses up-to-date dog training methods rooted in science and positive reinforcement.

  • If your dogs are having fights that are increasing in intensity or frequency, separate your dogs and keep them separated until you can get support from a professional.

Want to work with me to help ensure that your dogs live a happy and healthy life together in your family? Book a private consultation online or in person here.

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