DOG FIGHT! How Do I Deal With This?

Sirius is a one-year-old neutered male. (Neutered in November of last year.) Bean is a ten-year old spayed female. We’ve had her since she was a puppy, and she was an “only child” for most of her life. A year and a half ago, we got Polaris . Those of you who were around back then may remember my panicked threads asking for advice on how to get Bean to accept Polaris. It was a long and painful process, because Bean was extremely hostile to the newcomer.

We didn’t expect to get Sirius, but he was a dog who needed a home. He had been abused in his last home, so he’s very timid and scared around humans and new situations. (Though he’s doing LOTS better with Hubby and I.) He and Polaris have always gotten along very well. In fact, we think the best thing we ever did for Polaris was get her a little brother to chew on.

Bean grudgingly accepted him, especially since Sirius seemed to recognize her as the Alpha Canine. As he gets more comfortable in our home, he’s been angling for status. He’s already gotten Polaris to accept him as dominant, and now, to my horror, he’s challenging Bean.

Bean is a grumpy old bitch. She growls and snaps at the kids if they bother her, or even if they’re playing too loudly in her vicinity. She rarely uses corporal punishment on them, but she will if they don’t seem to know their place. (Generally confined to knocking the other dog down and giving them controlled bites until they submit.) She’s only done this a couple of times to Sirius, and he’s been “standing up” to her a little more each time.

Today, Bean and Sirius got into a fight. I don’t know what started it, but suddenly both of them were giving those “scream-snarls” that tells you instantly that this is not a bit of rough house play. I started shouting at them to try to break it up (usually a shout from a human is enough to send Sirius into a full-fledged cower) but this time, he wasn’t backing down. He was fighting back as good as he was getting.

My husband stomped into the room and bellowed, which broke it up quickly. (He’s Alpha Male, and they recognize the Voice of Authority when they hear it.) No blood was shed, and no one seemed injured, but I was extremely alarmed. “Frightened” might be a better word.

As I said, this is escalating. He won’t back down when Bean tries to put him in his place, and I’m afraid someone is going to get hurt. He’s one-sixth of her size, but he seems to think he’s bigger than she is. Bean is a good dog, but I’ve seen what those teeth of hers can do (she can chomp a small tree limb in half) and she’s incredibly strong. She could kill him in a heartbeat. I know the fact that she hasn’t means something, but I’m afraid if these tussles get any worse there may actually be bloodshed. She will not back down. There’s no way. She’s the most stubborn creature I’ve ever met. Sirius will have to be the one to surrender, and while he’s timid with humans, he’s as brave as a lion when it comes to other animals.

Every day, Sirius does something a little more disrespectful to her (in the dog world, that is, like walking up the stairs first–that sort of thing). Last night, he actually dared to snatch away a treat from her and dive beneath the sofa before she could get up to take it back. (He knows her elderly weaknesses.)

What can I do? There will be a war if this continues, and the fights will get more serious. How can I reinforce Bean’s status so he doesn’t anger her? Is there any way to discourage him from seeking to be Top Dog? (I can do things to reinforce her status while I’m around, but what about when I’m gone?)Hubby says I’ve got to let it go and let them work it out, but he’s so little! I’m afraid she’ll lose her temper and hurt him. I don’t know what to do.


Lissa (who’s feeling like she ought to put the vet on standby.)

Well it depends. Do you want Bean to maintain her stature, or not?

If you do want her to maintain her stature (which is my understanding) then you can help her along by allowing her alpha do behavior.

Let her on the bed, but not the others. Feed her first, in front of the others. Let her finish before the others are fed. Let her go out doors first, pet her first, let her walk at the head of the pack.

You can also force Sirius into a submissive position for her, but I really don’t like that kind of thing.

If you want her to just allow nature take it’s course, and let her lose stature, just let them go and intervene, only when it gets ugly.

Good luck

I had the same problem at one time. I was told to reinforce the dominance of the alpha dog. Do this by feeding Bean first, letting her outside first, giving her ear scritches first. These clues should be picked up by Sirius after a while and hopefully their warring days will be over.

It takes some time, patience and a bit of nail biting (yours, not the dogs), but it’s worth it.

Good luck.

For the sake of no bloodshed, yes. She doesn’t interract with the other dogs very much unless she’s mad. She’s a bit of a loner, so if the power transition would be peaceful, I’d have no problem with her becoming Beta Dog. However, she won’t back down if Sirius challenges her and therein lies the problem.

[quoteIf you want her to just allow nature take it’s course, and let her lose stature, just let them go and intervene, only when it gets ugly.

Good luck[/QUOTE]

How do I intervene if they really go at it? I could get hurt if I try to seperate them. Would having a pitcher of water handy help? (I’ve seen that solution in cartoons.)

light strand

Heh. I should’ve previewed. That’s a pretty cool almost simulpost. Scary.

First of all, realize that most dogs make a lot more noise than is warranted. It may sound like they’re killing each other, but chances are it’s all show. Bandit and Marty (Border Collie, & Karelian Bear Dog) sound like two wild dogs ripping out a Stag’s heart when they fight/play, but mostly they both end up slobbery.

You should be able to yell, or whistle, or stomp, or whatever it is that you do to get you noticed. I have a a pager. For whatever reason, the dogs HATE the beeping noise. I could get them to stop eating a prime rib if I beeped that thing. The smoke alarm works too. But most useful is that when I yell “STOP” they’ll both tuck-tail and cower, and I’ve never laid a hand on them. I’m the Alpha, husband is Beta, and they just have to duke it out for the scraps. Although I am sympathetic, as Bandit was my only-child for a long time, and now Marty is starting to challenge him.

Over the past eight years, my dogs have gotten into it bad amongst themselves three times (in our presence, not sure whats going on when we’re not home). Twice I was there and as the ‘Dad’/Alpha, I used the Big Voice and got it to break up immediately. We then kept the combatants isolated from each other for at least an hour, got them back together under supervision and suddenly everyone’s nice.

Then there was the time my wife (aka the Good Cop, bless her heart) was home alone. Neighbor dogs outside our yard were barking up a storm, getting our two females (one shar pei, one half shar pei/half german shepard) all worked up and suddenly they turned on each other. My wife, who at the time (four years ago) had extremely limited experience w dogs, tried to break them up by reaching for one of their collars, which is an EXTRAORDINARILY BAD IDEA IN A DOG FIGHT. She was bitten, fracturing a couple bones in her hand and puncturing the skin pretty fair in a couple spots. But she went to Plan B, which was to heave a light lawn chair at them, and that split them up.

The best thing you can do in that situation, according to my aunt, a veteran dog breeder/shower/dog show judge, is douse them with water - from a pitcher, from a hose if you’re outside, whatever. That almost always ends it.

I wish I could advise you on how to prevent it from happening but we haven’t really had to do much that way. Our three have a firmly entrenched pecking order which helps a ton. We let them wrestle w each other quite a bit but cut it off if it looks to be getting serious.

Good luck!

I’d imagine keeping a few cheap water guns or spray bottles around the house would be useful in situations as this. A friend of mine employs this strategy with his cats.

Well, Polaris is a teenager now. The whole pack stuff is just begining - expect ups and downs for a good long while.

You might want to start working hard on pack order things, and reinforce your position in the pack. This may require switching Polaris to a Nothing In Life Is Free kind of training program, but it works.

I just went through that with my youngest, and STILL gets into scuffles if I don’t keep him separated from the rest of my crew. So, I just keep them apart, and cycle the pack through the day. If they’re all out together, he’s on leash, on gentle leader, under my COMPLETE CONTROL. It works. It’s a lot of work though.

Water guns, tazers - all that can make a fight worse. Your best bet is to break up the fight SAFELY. If you’ve got two people, each of you grab one dog by the back legs and pull them away from each other (wheelbarrow style) and isolate them. If you’re alone, wrap a leash around the back end of one dog, pull back and tie the dog to something sturdy (a door, a ramp, whatever), then wheelbarrow the other dog away, and quickly shove the other dog into a different room.

Let the dust settle for SEVERAL HOURS IF NOT DAYS, if you want to avoid them doing the “but she looked at me!” fight dance.


Should the seperation/isolation be a “punishment thing”? When I put Sirius into his crate, I try to make it a positive experience. Should I put him elsewhere, then?

Should I correct them for spatting?

The best way to distract them would be to take them into seperate rooms and give them each a Kong, but I don’t want them thinking that they’re being rewarded, do I?

Dogs are sensitive enough that just you being upset lets them know spatting is not okay with you. After a “spat,” put Sirius in another room (without a Kong) and leave Bean where she’s at. He’s the offender here. She’s the alpha dog and entitled to correct him. It sounds to me like she has excellent bite inhibition if she can be angry, bite another dog and NOT tear them open. Count on her control (but not his). Learn to anticipate his testing her and try to head it off by distracting him, touching her (throw a ball for him, tell her she’s a good girl). When he takes a treat from her, YOU take it back and give it back to her. Or if you can’t get it back fast enough, put him somewhere else, and give her another treat.

I don’t really like to mess with hierarchy because it screws with everybody’s heads, not just the dogs. The dogs are working out a natural order and if Bean has become weak enough for him to push around, well…but they don’t live in the wild, they live in your house. They need to follow your rules, and one of those is NO FUCKING WITH THE BEAN. So he needs to respect that. As someone pointed out, he’s a teen. They forget a lot of the stuff they knew and really push the boundaries if you let them; it’s more important than ever to do training and a lot of exercise so he’s hopefully too tired to pull that shit. After excercise, he gets to sleep on a floor dogbed, she gets to hang out next to the alpha. (She doesn’t have to workout if she doesn’t want to.)

Do you still free feed? Eating order is important. Hand feeding is an awesome tool in dealing with behavioral issues.

What food do you feed?

Also, I know it’s a tired old tool but a penny/rocks in a soda can are great for breaking up fights if they haven’t gone too far. Any metallic or sharp sudden sound will do, as long as the dog does actually have a startle reaction (I’ve met a rare few that don’t). It just kind of breaks them from the “moment.” Stomp your feet if you have hardwood floors and folding chairs are great for separation purposes when dogs are so amped up they can’t see straight.

We’ve been there. it sucks. Good luck.

Yes, I do. You may remember how stubborn she is. I’m afraid if I change her feeding habits, she’ll stop eating, and I’m having trouble keeping weight on her as it is. (Which is why I can’t move her bowl so the others don’t eat from it, etc.)

They all get treats when they come in from outside. That’s because of Sirius. He has a fear of coming when called, and you can’t just give one of them a treat with the others looking on . . . I’ll make a concerted effort to make sure I give Bean her treat first.

They’re all on PMI Exclusive. As commercial dog foods go, it seems to be a good one. (And I have researched it.) They also get supplements in the form of treats made with vitamins and alfalfa, peanut butter Kongs and, for Bean Nutri-Stat to fatten her up.

The younger dogs are very active. They play-wrestle all day and race one another in the backyard, so I’m not worried they have excessive energy.