Few things are more unnerving than dogs you love trying to hurt each other. These attacks may seem to happen out of the blue but there are important reasons for aggression between family dogs. These potentially dangerous struggles do not “work themselves out.” Without appropriate management they will worsen. Reprimands and punishments can only only advance the tension. There is no time to waste; one beloved family dog can kill the other.

Start by separating your aggressive dogs when you’re not home. Better still, I recommend keeping them apart 24/7 for at least 4 weeks to reduce tension.

While your former canine combatants are on simultaneous sabbatical they can learn to accept a drag line (6 foot or longer leash) that is dragged from the collar.

  •  A few times a day, when your dogs are out of each other’s sight, tug gently on the drag line as you say, “Rover, Come!”
  • Reward with a tasty treat.
  • As your dogs learn to associate positive rewards with their drag lines they will develop the habit of watching you, their excellent leader, for opportunities to earn good things.

Do you feel ready for a canine meet and greet? Your dogs are not.

  • They may have competed for perceived high-value resources like food, proximity to you, access through a doorway, or a favored resting area.
  • The simplest and safest management will be to set your dogs up to succeed.
  • Never have any food available when they are together.
  • If they fight or snark at each other when getting close to you, put one of them in another room before sharing a love fest with the other.

There is a serious class (caste) system among many dogs living in a group.

  • Your responsibility, as the grand poobah of your kingdom, will be to support the canine hierarchy.
  • Feel free to shower your lower ranking dog(s) with your undying love – but only when your top dog can’t see what’s going on.
  • Put the tough guy or gal out of sight before sharing a few laughs with your underdog.

When they’re together have your dogs wear basket muzzles (Baskerville muzzles are best) and drag lines.

  • Watch carefully for indicators of impending hostility, like staring or the aggressor confronting your low ranking dog from the side.
  • At the earliest sign of imminent violence (growling, a subordinate who does not look away from a stare), completely ignore, grab either drag line, and march with purpose to another room.

Some dogs who instigate fights are driven by a serious anxiety disorder.

  • Medications like fluoxetine and paroxetine can help reduce reactive behavior.
  • Forget punishments and harsh corrections; you would only fan the flames of hostility.
  • Your best hope is to get started early-when your dogs are still just calling each other ugly names.
  • A history of dog fight injuries, especially severe wounds, makes for a poor prognosis.

Be very careful.

  • Grab the drag lines to separate dogs who may start to fight.
  • Using your hands to separate them is almost guaranteed to result in a serious human injury.
  • Children should not be in the room when dogs like this are together.
  • Allowing your dogs to “fight it out” is a formula for catastrophe.