Dogs Fighting. Females. Change in Dynamics

The two females have had several minor fall-outs over the past year, but during the last few weeks things have escalated with the two dogs fighting in ernest.

Three big fights in three days.

Blood has been drawn and the owners injured splitting them up.

dogs fighting and she comes off worse


Once this door is opened it is hard to properly shut it again.

It is a huge shame. The couple has done so well with training their two lovely rescues. They can be taken anywhere. They have made great headway with the more nervous of the two, Border Collie Meg, now nine years old.

Younger Nellie is a mix of Collie and Labrador, a more confident and straightforward character. For the first two of her three years with the family they also had a male Lurcher.

It’s most likely that the dynamics began to change when the Lurcher who kept Nellie in line died about a year ago. Nellie, previously the younger and more carefree of the two dogs, began to try it on with Meg. Any fights, however, were still minor and infrequent and easy to break up.

The two female dogs fighting.

Recently Nellie has changed. They described her way of walking about near Meg as ‘strutting’. She would posture and stand over her, almost like she was goading her.

Unfortunately this wasn’t turning out to be a bloodless coup.

NellieEverything began to escalate about six weeks ago, leading to the dogs fighting seriously.

In the past week it had become so severe that they were considering re-homing Nellie.

After the second big fight in one day they had kept the dogs separate. A couple of days passed and all seemed calm, so, hoping things would now have gone back to ‘normal’ they let Nellie into the room where Meg was lying on the floor near the lady.

Nellie came into the room, walked towards Meg, walked around her….then she attacked her. Unfinished business?

The very distressed lady phoned me that evening. Nellie had taken a hole out of Meg’s head and Meg had turned on her. Restrained and unable to get back at Nellie, she had bitten the lady instead.

Why was this happening now?

There had a build-up of events over the past four weeks. They needed to visit a sick mother who lives a long way away and who was hospitalised. The well-behaved, beautiful dogs always go with them everywhere.

They are selling their house and estate agents were showing people around. They had also made several long trips and stopovers in the short period including one to the West Country and another to Scotland. Then there was the snow. Nellie became very excited indeed in the snow.

Added together it was all just too much.

I am sure ‘too much’ pushed the dogs over the edge, Nellie in particular.

The dogs fighting will actually be a symptom of other things with two probable main causes.

Where before the dogs could tolerate a certain amount of stress/arousal without it resulting in full-blown dogs fighting, it seems now to take a lot less to trigger something serious. Attacking Meg is fast becoming Nellie’s default reaction to arousal.

One of the causes is undoubtedly stress levels. The other looks like a ‘battle for supremacy’ between the two dogs as Nellie tries to take over.

I had both dogs in the room together. The lady with instructions to act relaxed, sat holding Meg on a longish lead down one end of the room. The man then walked in with an Nellie, also on lead, and sat down the other end of the room. I sat opposite where I could see both dogs. Everything was set up for them to be calm.

Whenever she moved about, Meg was clearly finding Nellie’s presence distressing with her lip-licking, paw lifting and yawning. Nellie however looked blase – she is calling the shots and almost baiting Meg.

I tried to get as much information as possible about the more serious fights. Two common denominators seem to be that multiple people or dogs had been present, or they had recently been on walk (when Nellie comes home from a walk she actually seems more stirred up than when she left).

Nellie and Meg have great lives. They are dearly loved. They have previously had time spent on training and they aren’t left alone for long periods; they have plenty of exercise.

Like many people however, their owners hadn’t realised that stress from arousal of any kind can last in their dogs for several days.

It then gets to the stage where eventually one small thing can push things over the edge, with Meg and Nellie triggering fights. See ‘trigger stacking‘.

What do we do now?

It’s vital Meg and Nellie have no further opportunity to rehearse the behaviour. No more dogs fighting. Control and management is key. Fighting simply needs to be impossible. It must be removed from their repertoire altogether for some time.

Management will include dogs being on lead when in the same room and not too close – and only when all is calm. They can tie the leads around their waists if they need hands free. They can sort out a couple of anchor points on which to hook the leads. The dogs will be trained to be happy wearing muzzles. They will get a dog gate for the kitchen doorway. At present Nellie goes happily into her crate but a gate means the dogs can swap rooms. We don’t want either to become territorial.

Less arousal and more enrichment.

In addition to management, less arousal and more enrichment sums up the areas to be worked o

With their clever dogs, the couple will go back to training games, searching activities and more enrichment that doesn’t involve too much excitement. One necessary bonus in all this is that the dogs now have more time spent on them individually.

With more brain work and focus upon their humans, they should become less focussed upon one another.

The very worst scenario is that the dogs will always need to be kept from getting at one another and only walked together if there are two people. However, over time, with some hard work and keeping arousal down, I have high hopes that some of the time they can eventually be back together.

Their humans now recognise the trigger situations and the devastating effect of mounting stress levels.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Meg and Nellie and because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where fear or aggression is concerned. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)



Competing Young Male Dogs. Over-aroused.

They got both Harley and Louis as puppies, at about the same time, ten months ago. They are now seeing some of the problems they might encounter with same-sex siblings.

The two dogs are, in fact very different. Harley is a Great Dane. Louis a Boxer.

Over the months as the dogs have matured, they have increasingly been challenging one another.

Constantly competing for resources and attention.

Competing with the other dog


Louis goads and taunts Harley by parading resources. Harley, the less confident of the two, gets  aroused and he retaliates. It ends with him flying on top of Louis and bowling him over, pinning him down.

This competing behaviour is now so well-rehearsed that it’s become a kind of habit. As soon as there is any stress of any kind – the two dogs start at each other. All trouble between the dogs is generated by over-arousal and both dogs spend a lot of time excited. It may start with play but quickly deteriorates.

The couple are constantly having to try to pull them apart – not easy.

When people come to the house the two dogs are so excited that they jump all over them – no joke with a huge Great Dane in particular!

If left out of the room they create a great fuss, making them even more aroused when they do eventually come in. They may already be redirecting their frustration, excitement, arousal, onto one another.

Their humans are never able to settle peacefully in front of TV in the evening without the dogs mugging them, jumping on them or goading one another.

Peace is impossible!

What has brought things to a head is that Harley is starting to behave with other dogs the way he does with Louis – bowling them over and pinning them down.

Spending time apart.

Their first challenge is to get the two dogs happy being apart for a much of the time, without pining for one another. They need more quality time spent with them individually. It will be hard to begin with until they get used to it.

They have the perfect environment – a large kitchen with TV and sofas where they sit, with two smaller rooms leading off each end. Both small rooms are gated. One for each dog.

Behind these gates they aren’t banished – they are still part of the family but they can’t see each other. They can be fed in their own rooms and have chews and toys.

Along with separating them for periods of time is prevention of further rehearsing. No more challenging and competing behaviour, with Louis taunting Harley and Harley getting rough.

Learning self-control.

The dogs have had some good training, but that goes out of the window when the two are together at home. Training doesn’t necessarily reduce stress. The two good walks they get each day aren’t doing the job either.

The dogs need to learn that good things happen when they are calm and to have self-control.

This is best done by the couple using positive reinforcement for every bit of behaviour they like. They should wait for calm before doing anything the dogs want like putting on a lead, opening the gate or putting food down.

At the same time, when the dogs are together they should be on lead, unless asleep. This will need two people, one for each dog, with them out of each other’s reach.

The benefit of physically keeping them from actually getting to one another is that each can now have something to chew without it causing trouble and competing. Chewing helps calm.

They can now begin to break the habits formed over the past months. They can be given activities that help calm rather than arousal, like sprinkled food all over the grass. Hunting and foraging are healthy appropriate activities.

It will take time.

Having established a good routine working with the dogs separately and walking them separately too, they can begin to let the dogs freely together for short periods when they are relaxed. They will be ready to grab leads and part them immediately aroused behaviour begins.

Then they need something on which to redirect this build-up of stress – a Kong each maybe.

When their stress levels are reduced and they are able to be happy apart, training can kick back in. They can learn to settle politely when people come to the house. This will only be possible when they are no longer so over-aroused and so intent upon getting at and competing with each other.

With more self-control, individual work and management in terms of physical restraint, the two should also learn to be more polite when people come to the house.

Over time, short periods with each other should get longer with ultimately their beautiful, friendly dogs back together.


NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Vera and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

Friendly Dogs are Now Fighting

What a puzzle!

Jack Russell/Lancashire Heeler cross


Piggy, 2, a Jack Russell/Lancashire Heeler cross and eight-year-old Lenny, a Corgi mix used to get on famously, even sleeping together in the same bed.

They had the occasional minor altercation, but all was fine until a combination of the clocks changing, Halloween and early November fireworks. The fireworks freaked Piggy out.

They have had Piggy for a couple of years and he came from a remote farm. He has had to get used to a lot of new noises, people passing, other dogs and so on – and he can’t cope. He is a very stressed and anxious little dog. Lenny on the other hand had a great start in life and is calm and confident.

Things have got so bad that the two dogs can no longer be in the same room without a fight quickly erupting. Their fighting has changed everything. Even if Piggy senses Lenny’s presence in the house he will mutter, growl and bark. If Lenny barks from upstairs, Piggy is immediately ready for action.

Corgi mix Lenny who fights with Piggy


When I was there, despite Lenny now sleeping happily in the shed way down the garden, Piggy was all the time growling and guarding the kitchen doorway where perhaps Lenny would appear – you can see him in the picture. I was there for three hours before he finally settled. It was evident that we couldn’t be bringing Lenny back in for me to actually see the dogs together.

The anomaly is that the two dogs run happily together on walks with no fighting. If they know they are going out they can meet at the door and have leads put on. They also come back in together but then have to be parted immediately. They are okay out in the garden together too.

The problems are only in the house and mostly around doorways.

My educated guess is that Piggy’s instability and extreme stress winds Lenny up who then wants to sort him out resulting in fighting. Lenny himself suffers from arthritis, so possibly he’s not as tolerant as he used to be.

All the time I was there Piggy prowled and he growled. It was virtually impossible to distract him. Although Lenny wasn’t there, it was like his ghost was. It almost seems that although he is obviously scared of Lenny, he also is dependent upon him in some way and needs him to be there.

Where to start with a solution? Nothing much can be done whilst Piggy is so aroused, so reducing his stress by every means possible is the first priority and they should not do anything else meanwhile. Then they can build upon what they have – extending the time the dogs are together after a walk, leaving leads on with one person per dog, feeding both dogs all the time to build up positive associations. Baby steps.

Each dog has his turn in the sitting room, and positive (food) associations can be built up when he hears or senses the other dog upstairs.

Because understandable owner tension will now be playing a part, over the next few days both dogs will be taught to love wearing a muzzle, so that later in the process they can be together in the same room briefly while their owners can drop the leads and relax.  At the first growl from Piggy or eyeball from Lenny the dog can be calmly and kindly walked out of the room. The lesson learnt from this being that either they were together for too long too early, or Piggy was too stressed for work that day.

I have big hopes that because the dogs are such good friends outside, things can return to how they were a couple of months ago.

After a setback a few days after this when they relaxed on their management strategies and allowed another fight,  I received this message – though they can never completely relax their vigilance but it’s a great start and is a good omen for the future: ‘The two of them have been playing together in the house and we have let them roam free but while also keeping a very close eye on them. Piggy tends to go to his room upstairs sometimes when things get too much for him and he does a bit of growling but on the whole there is an improvement.’

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Piggy and Lenny, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good, particularly where aggression of any kind is involved. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).


Controlled Using Dominance. Mixed up Dog

He was controlled using dominance


They said at the rescue, ‘if you can hold him you can take him’.

I feared that huge American Bulldog Dads may be a 9-stone time-bomb waiting to go off (but the story has a very happy ending – see end).

Controlled using dominance

The young man already had 5-year-old Dads for a year before his partner moved in with her gentle but nervous Labrador/Springer cross, Jamie. Dads’ owner uses dominance-based methods without which, frankly, Dads would probably have been uncontrollable without an expert, and he has certainly improved over the past couple of years, whilst the lady with her Springer Jamie has undoubtedly spoilt him whilst training him positively using a clicker.

The dogs have been fighting – with Dad’s kicking it off. The lady is eight months pregnant and they are worried. Understandably.

The gentleman is very firm with them and uses dominance techniques to get them to do what they are told.

Dads and Jamie

Dads only recognises a strong, authoritarian approach – the man with confrontational body language will click his fingers and point in order to be obeyed. This must have come as quite a shock to Jamie. If the lady tries it, Dad’s not happy! She is dis-empowered because he simply doesn’t respect her.

Both dogs have lost too much

Just as big a problem is that both dogs have, in a way, lost everything over the past few months. All toys have to be put away because Dads may become possessive and it could start a fight (and Jamie loves his toys). They can’t be given bones or anything to chew unless they are separated which may cause problems afterwards (and bones could be something to occupy and de-stress Dads).

Since they moved in together Dads isn’t walked much any more, and the lady can’t do it. Not only is she pregnant but he’s just too strong and pulls like a train. Neither dog gets the long walk that he used to. In order to make the house better for a baby, the dogs no longer have access to the garden – just a small paved yard for toileting. Consequently the dogs no longer play together, there just isn’t room in the house without causing chaos. Jamie will be missing being his lady owner’s ‘baby’, with her all the time.

Redirecting his frustration onto Jamie

Unsurprisingly, Dads has been redirecting his frustration and anger onto Jamie. Tracing back, and not surprisingly, it seems that these occasions follow a build-up of stressful incidents. Dads is also eyeballing Jamie – Jamie knows not to move. Sometimes Jamie stands up for himself. So far there has been little blood drawn but it’s only a matter of time unless their humans dramatically change their approach.

Dads appears to be slow and calm, but I fear he is a seething mess inside. He could also be depressed. He has simply no way of venting and no freedom to make any decisions of his own – little exercise, no brain games, nothing to chew and too much being controlled.

The couple can now see the connection between stress and inactivity, and the attacks on Jamie – along with Jamile’s own instability.  Hopefully they will have the stamina to to turn things around.

I am so THRILLED to have just received this email: Yes our little girl arrived on the 3rd 🙂 We have been getting used to a new routine and sleepless nights!
The dogs have been absolutely amazing since the day we brought the baby home.  For the first couple of days, I stayed upstairs with the baby. The dogs seemed to know something was going on, yet they were so well behaved, not even baking when our parents came to visit us (upstairs). When I did come down stairs a couple days later, the dogs gave me a good sniff and Roxie a little sniff, then that was it!!
Dads takes no notice of her what so ever, he doesn’t even wake up when she’s crying lol, he might come and give her a sniff ‘hello’ in the morning, but that’s only if he can be bothered to get out of his bed 🙂 Jamie is very gentle when he comes to ‘snoze’ her with his nose (snoze = kiss)
Both dogs have been brilliant with all the visitors we have had. They wait in the dining room, with the stair gate open still, and once our guests have been seated, the dogs are invited in, they give our guests a sniff them settle down on their beds in the living room with us all.
We have brought a door bell that chimes a tune which has stopped all the barking as no one knocks at the door now and the dogs haven’t connected the door bell tune to the arrival of visitors yet lol
Keith had been taking both dogs out for their walks, but now I am able to potter round the village, I have been taking Jamie, I tie his lead to the pram. He only got run over by it twice lol but now he walks beautifully by the side of it. He then gets to play ball on the green on the way home.
Keith has been taking Dads up the field for a run and a game of ball, he has however started to put him in the back of the truck to take him to the field, which Dads is getting a lot batter at. (He used to be a nightmare in vehicles!) Dads also loves having his feet bathed afterwards (he’ll do anything for a biscuit!) Keith also used biscuits to allow him to put drops in his eye.
So overall, the dogs seem happy and have accepted our new arrival. We are just taking everything one step at a time as Roxie won’t stay this small and motionless for long!! But so far so good!

Chaotic. 6 Dogs, 3 Fighting Males and a Parrot!

Doesn't react well in chaotic environment


Life for the six dogs and the parrot is chaotic.

Two months ago there was a big change in their lives. This coincided with the start of their unrest.

Jack Russell X Alfie, on the right, attacks Yorkshire Terriers Benjie and Archie. Benjie (on the left) has sustained injuries.

In the chaotic heat of the moment, the two Yorkies may also redirect onto one another and fight.

Then there will be a lot of barking and shouting.

There are also two females, a very old German Shepherd and another Jack Russell, and an old Yorkie who is at the end of his days – in the bed behind Archie (below). They keep out of it.

The parrot shouts Shut Up!

Benjie has sustained injuries


The dogs live with a middle-aged brother and sister. What makes this situation especially difficult is that the gentleman, being at home all day, is the main carer. He had an accident as a child which has left him with certain cognitive problems.

In addition, the lady is extremely stressed and this will be picked up by the dogs.

Even the parrot shouts ‘WILL YOU ******* SHUT UP’ at the dogs – a clue to the level of stress in this chaotic household!

The lady loves her dogs and doesn’t want to have to part with any of them.

Jack Russell mix Alfie is the instigator.

Alfie is very close to the man and now spends most of his time in his room upstairs where he’s made to feel very special. He growls if the lady approaches when he’s on the man’s lap.He growls particularly if one of the male dogs comes near.

All the fights occur only in the presence of the man.

He has to walk them in relays to avoid walking two boys together. The first two to be taken are those who happen to squeeze through the door first!

At the end of each walk, when dogs reunite in the kitchen doorway. Fights kick off at the man’s feet. This is unsurprising really when there is such, chaotic, manic excitement and jostling to get through the door first.

Fights also occur around food. The man simply puts three or four bowls down around the kitchen and it’s a free-for-all.


Archie and Bobby

Archie and Bobby

Simply with safety in mind, the situation has to be managed before we can go any further.

It’s a logistical nightmare. There are just two downstairs rooms and the only entrance to the house leads directly into the sitting room. This leads through to the kitchen.

We need a gate in the kitchen doorway so that Alfie can be near the other dogs but safely. It will make comings and goings easier.

They will get a puppy pen for the kitchen as there is currently no way to separate dogs when necessary.

Role play

Now the chaotic environment needs sorting out.

The man is unable to read so a written plan doesn’t help him. I role-played with the him the quite complicated routine for taking the dogs in and out for walks.

He takes Alfie first, then leaves him upstairs before entering the kitchen where the other dogs are.

Now he sits down and has a cuppa, waiting for all the downstairs dogs to calm down.

Then he chooses the next two, leaving a couple in the pen. On returning he sits down and waits for calm again …. and so on.

We also role-played a routine whereby the dogs were fed separately from their own bowls in their own areas. No food was left down.

I so hope the pen idea works and that the gentleman can remember the routines. With all the swapping about and dogs left in different places it will be a bit like a doggy Whitehall farce!

Once peace is established we can do more work on the behaviour side of things.

Three days later: I’m over the moon! I called, almost dreading what I might hear, and the man has taken all our role-play completely to heart. The first words the lady said were ‘Absolutely fantastic’! No fights. Much calmer. In a couple of weeks we will work at gradually integrating the dogs again.
Nearly three weeks have now gone by, and things are going from strength to strength. The gentleman is sticking to the plan to the letter, and is now enjoying the dogs. Alfie is much happier and waggy-tailed, and is gradually being integrated with the other dogs. He plays with Archie and Maggie and has short periods when he is together with all the other dogs including Benjie – with no fighting.

Fighting Between Two Large Dogs

Two large Huskies live in a tiny room

Dita and Esk

Until a short time ago, Rocky, a large four-year-old Ridgeback-Mastiff cross lived with his lady owner in a very small house, just one room up and one down. Now her friend has moved in with her two beautiful Siberian Huskies, female Dita, 2 and Male Esk, 3.  Previously each lady had lived happily with her own dog/s and no particular problems.

Ridgeback Mastiff cross on lead in the doorway


What an extremely tricky and complicated situation this is. The environment, with only two rooms and no garden, is so small and crowded for three large dogs that living closely in harmony is a real challenge. Added to that, male Esk is not good with other dogs and Rocky considers this his home and territory. He now spends most of his time in the bedroom upstairs, and the Huskies well away from him, downstairs. The ladies have to operate what they call an ‘air-lock’ system to take the dogs out which needs to be done regularly because of having no garden.

There have been a couple of massive fights resulting in injury down to the bone to Esk – his shoulder and leg – you can just see some of it, and also to one of the ladies when she tried to break them up and got in the way. The wound on her arm is dreadful. None of these dogs is in any way aggressive to people. The two Huskies that we sat with downstairs were delightful with Dita showing none of her usual fears towards me, and Esk peacefully occupying the only remaining bit of floor space! Later Esk was put on lead and Rocky was brought down on lead, but with Esk eyeballing and growling across the small remaining space between them, then Rocky lunging and barking with poor Dita getting bowled over as she got in between to do her best to split things up, Rocky had to be taken back upstairs.

Add to the unhelpful environment the fact the general atmosphere, due to human health problems, is not always calm and consistent. Because of their humans’ lack of strength, the two Huskies are unable to receive sufficient exercise, stimulation and toilet trips.

The dogs are dearly loved and I know these two ladies will do your very best against the enormous odds, and I will do everything in my power to help them whilst also feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the unavoidable restrictions on the choices of action available.

Some weeks later, a lovely message on facebook from Rocky!: My Mum called in The Dog Lady to help me and my Husky friends with a wide variety of issues she has proven invaluble to us we honestly don’t know how we ever coped without her. £260 for never ending help is by far the best bragain out there, the initial consultation was so thorough and friendly that if it had been any other behavourist those 5 hours would have been covered by the £260 then it would have been another £50 for every hour after that. Others still another £150 an hour since there are 3 of us dogs here!
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.