It is an interesting case. The two-year-old girl dogs, the best of friends much of the time, have been fighting. We managed to work out the common factors that spark these fights off and they are not as random as they at first appeared. They play together boisterously, but their play never turns into fighting.
For now the two dogs are living apart, Amber with my clent’s parents, and Ellie with my lady client. She and Ellie stay with her parents and Amber at weekends and they all go on caravan holidays together, so the dogs need to be together then. The humans are treading on egg shells.
Spats usually start when Amber is told to do something and either disobeys or is slow to obey- or when she is scolded. This seems to be the common denominator. It stresses Ellie and she goes for Amber. With the excitement of Christmas Amber retaliated and it ended in a visit to the vet and both dogs muzzled for a few days.
It is certain that the fighting only occurs when humans are about – so the humans are the problem. They need to do something about their own behaviour.
As disobeyed commands are a catalyst, the first thing to do is to find ways to get the dogs to comply non-verbally for now. Most commands when analysed are unecessary anyway. People find it very hard not to give commands or to stop saying ‘no’. It is a real challenge. If they want Amber off the sofa for instance, instead of telling her to get down, they could take hold of her harness and lead her genlty off (they are both wearing harness for now so it’s easier to part them if necessary), saying ‘come off Amber’ in a kind voice, and giving her no choice in the matter. If no command is given, it can’t be disobeyed!
Each dog separately is no problem at all, and both the parents and my client need to work on their own dog individually when they are apart so that a few quiet and consistent rules are in place. Excitement of rough and tumble should be avoided even if it means the humans have less fun!
Keeping stress levels down and being quiet and calm around the dogs is the key to success here.