Monday, October 22, 2012
One of the most commented articles here on the CANIDAE RPO blog is “Jealousy and Possessive Behavior in Dogs.” It's easy to believe a dog is acting out and has bad behavior because he's jealous of another dog in the family or he's being possessive. Both may be true, but there are other reasons why dogs might suddenly stop getting along, as I discovered with my own pack.
Sometimes, dogs just don't like each other
When we agreed to foster a friend's dog, it was just supposed to be for a short period of time. But since he would be sharing space with ours, we socialized him with our pack. Dozer is a lovable terrier mix, and he adjusted well to his new environment. That is, until Dozer made a move to challenge Max, one of my dogs who is twice his size. We began to notice a change in Dozer's body language around Max. Since they weren't getting into fights, we decided it would be best to let them sort out their differences.
One day Max walked past Dozer and brushed against him. That was all it took; Dozer whirled around and latched on to Max around the ears. We got them separated and gave them time to calm down before letting them interact with each other. All was well for about a month before another fight broke out, then another month before the next fight. These were full-fledged fights, and we decided the best thing to do was to separate them and work on re-socializing them.
So far our attempts have failed. Dozer and Max just do not like each other, and I have my doubts they will ever be able to be together in the same room again without fighting. Sometimes the only thing you can do is adopt a management program to keep dogs separated permanently. Since Dozer isn't ours and my friend is still not in a position to take him back, we will most likely continue to keep them separated to avoid more fights and keep them from hurting each other, or us.
Stress or anxiety
We don't always stop to think about how things we do can cause some dogs to become anxious. Bringing a new pet into the home, changing homes or introducing a new person into a dog's life can make a dog feel insecure. Boredom and a lack of exercise can cause some canines to act out in an aggressive way towards another dog in the home. A change in routine, lack of basic training, vet visits, confusion on how to act, and even a car ride can make a dog stressed. If we're upset or bothered by something, one way we can relieve our stress level is to walk away from what's causing the problem. We can change jobs, remove people from our lives, make new living arrangements, go for a hike or take a vacation to unwind. Dog's can't do that.
If you have multiple dogs in the home, it's important to make sure each one is getting enough exercise to help them get rid of pent up energy, which can help reduce their stress level. Walks give dogs an opportunity to get out of the house and investigate fresh smells, sounds and sights. It helps to stimulate their mind and gives them a chance for an attitude adjustment.
Canines instinctively try to hide injuries and pain because allowing an opponent to see them in a weakened state puts them at risk. Pain, however, can cause a dog to be aggressive and may trigger an attack with another dog that unwittingly steps on a sore foot or brushes up against an injury you hadn't noticed. Dogs are like us when they don't feel well, and can get grumpy with other dogs in the home.
In homes with multiple dogs, jockeying for position within their pack can be expected. A younger dog may not be satisfied with his social order and might decide he wants to move up. Most disagreements between dogs will be resolved naturally and without actual fighting. Just because dogs got along in the past, however, doesn't mean there won't be conflict at one time or another. Socialization is a continuing process to make sure dogs continue to get along.
Living with multiple dogs has its challenges, but most dogs learn to live with and get along with each other just fine. Dogs have their own personalities, though, and sometimes those can clash. Don't get mad if your dogs aren't getting along; help them by understanding why they are fighting and if you can't help them yourself, call in an animal behaviorist who can help you figure out why your dogs are acting out.
Photo by Emery Way
Read more articles by Linda Cole