Using The Dogs’ Own Rules To Fix Their Own Fights


Do you have a problem with two feuding dogs? If the problem seems to be related to a dominance dispute, a little knowledge and patience can help calm the storm. A natural approach to the situation is the best direction to lasting peace.

Before you can even begin thinking of helping your dogs with their relationship problem, you must be sure that you, as their leader, are a proper role model.

Suppose your dogs perform as obedience champions under your command. You shelter them, feed them, and give them affection. Should this automatically make you an alpha through their eyes? Will they follow your lead in maintaining a peaceful pack?

Remember, obedience in most cases is just the dog reacting to commands to either avoid a correction or receive something he desires. This is science and not dog culture. When at home, many of these dogs try to lead their owners by demanding wants and needs such as food, petting, and play. Often, owners are seen more as valuable possessions by their dogs rather than pack alpha. Owners become beloved creatures, outsiders to the dogs’ culture, who feed, give massages (petting), and cater to their dogs’ subtle demands.

This is why many dog fights are fought over the attention of their owner. Some may call it jealousy, but in reality it isn’t much different than fighting over a bone or comfortable resting spot. You think you own your dogs, and your dogs think they own you.

If you want to be part of their culture, start to be aware of and practice passive dominance techniques. Dogs understand this, do these themselves, and will respect it.

Do not pet your dogs just because they nudge against you. Do not feed them just because they are barking near their empty bowl. Do not throw a ball just because they dropped one in front of you. If they have no power over you they are far less likely to fight over your attention.   Of coarse you still want to feed, pet, and play with your fuzzy buddies, but for now on it must always be on your terms. The rules are simple: 

  • Do nothing that your dog tries to solicit you to do. If they are requesting something that you also wish, wait for their attempts to cease for a few minutes before taking the lead yourself.
  • Dogs must earn the right to any activity by first following one simple, calm command of your choice. If the dog doesn’t comply you will not ask again and the dog does not get another chance noticeably soon. This includes petting, feeding, going for walks, play, or anything else desirable. A compliant dog will be allowed 20 minutes to eat its food before you remove it.
  • All the dogs’ possessions are now to be clearly known as your property. Toys are not to be left on the ground. You will invite the dogs to play with only one command, end the game before they get bored, and take back the toy.
  • If the dogs are house dogs they are not to rest on the same furniture or beds that you use.

Follow those rules consistently and you will demonstrate to your dogs an understanding of how their culture and ancient rules work. After one month they should be clear you are alpha. During this time you should also be preparing the dogs to safely decide their own pecking order.

Comfortable, well fitted basket muzzles will be necessary to safely allow your status seeking companions a chance to work out their hierarchy disagreements. Good wire basket muzzles are preferred over all leather since they will need to wear them for extended periods of time. This type allows for better ventilation and ease of drinking water.

Ideally keep the dogs separate or out of problem situations until they both accept wearing the muzzles for a few hours at a pop. Start by putting the muzzle on for just a few seconds at a time without even securing it. Feed the dog treats through the muzzle at the same time. When you first start securing the muzzle, make sure it is snug enough so it cannot be pulled off. Once a dog learns he can pull one off he will be persistent to do it again. Slowly, over the next few weeks, work toward leaving the muzzle on for a few hours at a time. 

When both dogs are used to wearing muzzles you are ready for the next step. Allow the dogs to interact in problem situations while fitted with their new accessories. The problem with separating two brawling dogs is that their dispute is never solved. Unanswered hierarchy questions will sooner or later lead to another physical confrontation. With muzzles, fights will be allowed to come to a conclusion with minimal injuries suffered by the contenders. Dogs do not keep score of who inflicted more bloody wounds. Teeth are not needed to settle their differences, since dog fights are determined by the will of the dogs to keep fighting rather than who is injured more. A concluded contest should result with one dog assuming a submissive posture while the other stands erect and dominant before walking away.

Do not remove the muzzles after just one fight, because there may be more. To play it safe, remove the muzzles after it has been one month since the last fight. Before then, when the muzzles come off for the day the dogs should be separated.

Sometimes the dogs will never even have an initial fight once they are fitted with the muzzles and it is noticeable right away who is the dominant of the two. Just in case, you should still wait one month before removing the muzzles. 

Once it becomes clear who is dominant it is important to support their ancient rules. The higher ranking will get attention first, fed first, loaded in and out of vehicles first, and anything else perceived as desirable first. To try to practice the human philosophy of “fairness” into their culture, or ignore their culture, will be sure to disturb the peace.

For instance, if you feel pity for the lesser ranking dog and decide to pet or feed him first, it will cause uncertainty in the dominant dog’s status and give him a reason to pick a fight just to reaffirm he still is top dog. The lesser will also be more likely to resist. Both dogs, just as it has been for thousands of years, will feel more secure and content in a stable pack order following their rules.

Some things are better off avoided when managing rival dogs rather than creating a potential aggressive situation. Feeding them separately and not leaving highly desirable bones or toys in their shared environment can prevent many unnecessary fights.   Also playing highly charged games is best done separately. If you supply two equal resting areas they are also less likely to fight over that.

In conclusion, if you follow these steps you have done a thorough job in preventing or settling the feuding between two rival dogs. In rare cases where two dogs are still fighting it out after one month of muzzling, the only realistic option may be permanent separation. Each dog could still possibly be paired well with other less equally willed companions. For most, patience will prevail with the application of this natural method.

Article written by Michael D’Abruzzo

Over the years Michael D’Abruzzo has had countless clients who were not satisfied with the methods, knowledge, patience, honesty, professionalism, or results of their previous trainer or behaviorist. Many dogs labeled as “too set in their ways” or difficult become the pride of their owners after working with him.  His reputation of being the last resort for many dogs is the same reason why veterinarians and past clients just refer to him first. For more information on dog training, dog aggression and much, much more, visit Mike’s web site.