canine sibling rivalry

Posted by redchelsea87
Jun 16, 2012
Im desperate. I've got two dogs, an 80lb german shepherd/rottweiler mix and a 110lb white labrador retriever. They are both around 4 years old and neutered, and are both rescues.

Jackson, the shepherd, and diego, the lab, are best friends 75% of the time. They like to play and rough house outside, and get along fantastic without myself or my boyfriend around. Thing is, they get into fights when we are around them. Both dogs have punctured the others ears. I've had my hand ripped open, resulting in 12 stitches after trying to break up a fight.

I'm lost as to how to stop the fighting. I know I've failed somewhere, as far as raising them, and I'm at my witts end.

PLEASE!!! ANY help or info as to what to do, would be greatly appreciated. I'm on the verge of getting rid of one, just really dont want to :confused::confused:
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Jun 19, 2012
Hi redchelsea87,

I am so sorry to hear about your boys getting into fight when you and/or your boyfriend are around.

I wonder if you've had them since they were puppies and if you adopted them at the same time. It might be too late but I think it's worth trying the following things:

1. You and your boyfriend decide on the pecking order so that they won't need to fight over the hierachy. They should both get same amount of attention, love, everything but treat one of them first all the time, and make the other one wait.

2. Provide each dog one-on-one time with you and your boyfriend. For example, take one out to visit your friend today and take the other one for shopping tomorrow, something like that. This way, they will learn it's OK that the other one can get your attention because he will also get something fun at different time.

3. You and your boyfriend take each dog and play with him in front of the other one, and switch over.

4. Train them to focus YOU before a fight starts. It will be too hard and dangerous to stop their fight as you know. You should sense their tention even BEFORE it starts and derive their attention to you, using a treat and saying "Watch me!". If they focus you, praise and reward them.

5. Have one "Stay" and go see the other one and pet him. Go back the one staying and tell him he was good staying and reward him. Do the same thing with the other one.

6. In case a fight starts, don't try to separate them but splash water or throw a blanket on them. Make sure they both get "timeout" in a separate room.

7. Basic obedience training is always helpful. If they obey you, you can easily control them before fighting starts. Review their daily routine and make it structured. Are they OK to be fed next to each other? If they are, they don't have food aggression at least. If you and your boyfriend are the only trigger of their fight, make sure they understand that they don't get your attention unless they are calm. Practice "Sit" "Down" and "Stay" before each meal, walk, play time, anything fun every single day.

I hope the above will help. Let us know how it goes.
Posted by redchelsea87
Jun 19, 2012

First off, thank you sooo very much for responding .

So, I rescued Jackson, the shepherd/rotti when he was about 6 months. Then Diego, the white lab, when he was about 2. So I had already had Jackson for about 2 years.

I've paid a specialist to come out and work with them, which did a little help, for about 2 months, but we're back to where we started. I think we got a little too comfortable with the fact that they weren't fighting and let rules slide.

Thing is, the fights are getting more severe. I NEED to put a stop to it now. Thank you for all your suggestions and information. I am definitely going to try them.

The only question I have left, because you seem informed on this subject, is, when do I say enough is enough? They have been fighting for about a year or so now. How do I know when it is time to find a home for one?

Thank you SOOO much MAXHOLLYNOAH!!!
Posted by redchelsea87
Jun 19, 2012
Hi, MaxHollyNoah

Btw, they do have food aggression. I can feed them at the same time, in/around the same area, but they have to be about 10 feet away from eachother. The shepherd/rotti mix growls at the lab while eatting.

And to add, we rent a room at the house we live at, and there are 2 others dogs that live here. But, they dont fuss/fight with them AT ALL. Only with eachother.

Just a little added information if that helps! Thank you so much again for your time
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Jun 20, 2012
Hi redchelsea87,

It sounds like they have been fighting one out of the two years they have been together. I cannot say it's impossible to sort them out but it would be very difficult, and maybe something worse can happen, such as they bite someone else by mistake in the middle of their fight.

Also, I don't think it is fair for the dogs to be in such unstable relationship either. If you think you can find a nice home for one of them, it is a good option. On the other hand, if you are really determined to sort their relationship again, the things I mentioned before can be tried. I forgot to ask which one is usually start the fight? If it's always the same dog, you really need to work on that one and train him to just ignore the other one by command. Do they also play rough and have fun with each other when you and your boyfriend are not present? There should be some kind of trigger so you might want to keep a journal of their fighting incidents. Once you see a pattern, you can try to avoid the situation.

As you said they are good with other dogs, each of them can be happier separated and maybe you can find another dog that can get along well with the one you keep.

I have been fostering dogs and finding new homes for my foster dogs. Through my experience, moving to a new home is not necessarily a bad thing for dogs. In fact, the longer they stay with us, those dogs become a part of our pack and they look so happy to be here. That shows that those once abondoned dogs can make new home as their favorite place to live (unfortunately, they will need to move to their permanent home from our home). If you can find a perfectly matching home for one of your dogs, he might live more happily for the rest of his life. It is all up to you
Posted by KOPCaroline
Jun 25, 2012
Hi there,

I just wanted to say that I thin MHN's advice is absolutely stellar - all of the tips are what I would have suggested and I think its worth it to try them.

As for the food aggression, it may help to put them in two seperate rooms - just to cut down on any source of building aggression.

I do think that at 4 years old, and getting on most of the time, I would give it a go to get them to get along.

There is always the option of going to your vet for anti-anxiety meds or a DAP (Dog appeasing pheromone) plug in or spray for your home - some owners have a lot of success with these and anxious dogs.

Otherwise, try to re-take the steps your previous trainer advised, since they helped before. Just remember to stick to them every day!

Best of luck
Posted by redchelsea87
Jul 17, 2012
Hey MaxHollyNoah!!

I just want to say thank you soooo much for all your help and info. I promised to update so I am, no fights since I last posted!! Ive been trying all the advice that you mentioned and things are going great!! So thanks again for your help! I was feeling so lost there for some time, and I now feel like I have a handle on things!! Fingers crossed that everything keeps going as well !!

Much love
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Jul 27, 2012
Hi redchelsea87!

I am sorry I didn't get back to you sooner.
Since this site got updated I was unable to log in for a long time. They finally fixed it for me, so here I am!

I am soooo pleased to hear that things got sorted out nicely. Keep up with your good job! Don't they look happier now that there is no tension between them?