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Why Are My Dogs (who have been fine together for years) Now Fighting?

A friend and dog trainer I have been working with lately posted some thoughts about a client she was in touch with a short while ago.  I asked her if I could use it for my newsletter and she gave me permission to do so.  I thought it may give some of you with multiple dog households something to think about when an issue arises with dogs that have been happy together for a long time and then “suddenly” they fight with each other.  As with our children, dogs respond to their environment and issues that are happening around them.  We, as dog trainers use a lot of the same psychological techniques that are used to control child behavior.  We look a lot at the environment the dog is in and then we try to hone in on how the “pet parent” is reacting or not reacting to the small things we don’t realize are happening.  Anyway, I thought she made some good points so following is her post:

      “Just got off the phone with an individual with two dogs that he’s had for several years and now they are fighting to the point of great damage and expensive vet bills & now permanently separated. “It’s the younger dog who is causing the problems” per the owner but after asking questions and giving classic scenarios (that he agreed were happening), I am once again affirmed that in my 24 years of dog training almost always in a multi-dog household where aggression happens, it’s rarely instigated by the “problem dog” to which I’m called in to “fix”. He’s a product of something else “broken” in his environment. (Usually another dog’s behavior.)

     After my experiences this weekend (and sadly I’m not legally able to share details), I’m now reflecting that maybe the “problem” 9 yr old is the product of her environment?

      I remember years ago reading the book, “The Heart of Anger” in hopes to “help” my “angry” toddler. Reading that children only mirror there environment, I quickly thought, “I don’t have an anger issue. I’m calm & patience, etc. Just ask those around me.” But as I continued to read, I learned that frustration is a form of anger. And boy, do I ever get frustrated especially with myself.

      All of this to say, this mornings meditations have revealed some connections in behavior and how much of what we as parents and pet owners do, say, or not do and not say, knowingly or unknowingly, shape our children’s and pet’s lives beyond their ability to control.

      I’m not sure I’m sharing this adequately (I’m not a writer) as I am a bit overwhelmed at the responsibility of a parent not to handicap my children for life. Aggression (frustration), hate, malice are learned (mirrored) or fostered behaviors (be it in from inside the family or outside the family), or in a dog’s life, mimicked behaviors. The real concern is that it’s demonstrated at 100% more/worse than how/when/where is was “learned” leaving very disastrous results to the whole family, be it from a pet or a child.”

     So when something changes in your multi-dog household, it is important to ask yourself  Why, How, When, Where did that behavior first occur?  And how did you react?



Christmas is approaching.  Please be careful that your decorations and gifts are kept out of the reach of your pets.  This time of year many dogs end up at the vet, sometimes with tragic and very expensive consequences because of ingesting some of the new and flashy things that are sitting around the house.