Helping Dogs Get Along
In this post, I write about some of the reasons why sometimes two dogs who belong to the same household don’t get along. In addition, there are helpful tips to try if the situation arises.
I also describe actual situations that have occurred in my family regarding dogs that don’t get along. I explain how we overcame them or in some cases, learned to live with them.
Reasons why two dogs can’t get along
Dogs are very sociable animals, but they are also pack animals so it is important that their first introduction is handled properly. The dogs should meet on neutral territory etc so that the new dog knows how to fit into the pack dynamic.
In the case of introducing a rescue dog to an established family dog, more factors have to be taken into consideration. If there has been any ill-treatment or neglect in the rescued dogs former life there may be insecurities that have formed. Also some rescue dogs especially puppy farm dogs will not have been socialized properly as a puppy and won’t have any idea how to behave around other dogs.
Can Dog’s Feel Jealousy?
This subject has been debated by scientists for centuries. There is still no definitive evidence to show that they do. However, anyone who has ever witnessed the actions of a dog who feels that his place is under threat will have no doubts. A jealous dog will make every attempt to get between yourself and the other dog (or person), push him/her out of the way or even snap at the ‘competition’.
Are Two Puppies From The Same Litter Likely To Fight?
Puppies from the same litter are less likely to fight. However, other problems arise when rearing littermates. They become so bonded that they can become completely reliant on each other and you could end up with two insecure dogs. This is actually called ‘Littermate Syndrome’ and it means that the puppies get everything they need (ie comfort, play, reassurance etc) from their sibling and exclude their owner. Consequently, when the owner tries to give discipline, the pups often completely ignore them.
In puberty, the dogs are more likely to fight for dominance .This happens often when two female siblings are reared together.
Helping Dogs Get Along
As I mentioned before first introductions are SO important. The dogs should meet for the first time on neutral territory. When it is time to go home the original dog should enter the house before the new dog.
- 1 Before choosing a puppy or adopting a rescue dog, take your own dog along to see if the two dogs seem to like each other. Watch the body language to see if they feel comfortable around each other
- 2 Keep a loose leash on one or both of the dogs at all times. This way you can easily remove the dog if a fight starts, without getting bitten yourself.
- 3 A crate can be a handy (and safe) way to get the dogs to familiarise each other. They can get used to the other dog’s scent and hopefully realise that he/she is no threat. Make sure you alternate which dog is crated, otherwise one may feel he is being punished.
- 4 Walk the dogs together, on leashes. Experiencing nice things together may make the dogs feel more at peace with each other. Walking the dogs will release negative energy and a tired dog is usually a content one.
- 5 Similarly, offer treats at the same time, play with the dogs together and make dinnertime the same for both dogs (even if this has to be in separate rooms).
- 6 Recognise triggers which start a fight between the dogs. It could be a certain toy, a bed, bowl or food related. Make sure that each dog has his own possessions to avoid resource guarding.
- 7 Go to a training class or hire a behaviourist. The trainer may be able to spot what the problem is and give ideas to help the dogs relax when they are in each other’s company.
- 8 Take both dogs for a routine vet check. Animals become aggressive when they are in pain so it is important that you can rule this out.
- 9 Invest in a stair gate so that you can separate the dogs if you are busy or out at work.
- 10 Keep calm and don’t shout or get angry at the dogs. Remember as humans, we don’t all like each other!
If an actual fight breaks out it is very important that you know what to do. Take a look here to find out what to do When A Dog Fight Starts
My Personal Experience of Helping Dogs Get Along
The above picture seems like a normal photograph of two dogs sharing some rare rays of sunshine.
However, one of these dogs hates the other!
You might be able to tell that Luca (the big one) doesn’t look 100% comfortable with the situation.
Because Darcy, the Dachshund, rules Luca with a rod of iron!
It’s not just the odd snap or growl, Darcy attacks Luca for doing absolutely nothing. The only reason Luca hasn’t been injured is that Darcy can’t jump up high enough and comes away with a mouthful of fur.
Luckily Luca (who is normally afraid of his own shadow) is not at all concerned about Darcy’s vendetta. I wish Luca would retaliate just a little, but he takes it all on the chin.
We do know the reason for Darcy’s bad temper around Luca. He is very JEALOUS. If you knew Darcy’s story, ie how he was treated before we adopted him, it is totally understandable.
Before Luca came along (he is my daughter’s dog) Darcy was the ‘new kid on the block’. We don’t treat any of our dogs differently but Darcy just got it into his head that he was special. The other dogs happily sat back and let Darcy demand all the attention. However, when Luca bounced into our lives, he wanted cuddles too, (and that’s how it should be).
What helped the situation?
As I said before Luca didn’t show any signs of being frightened of Darcy which made things easier. If Luca was scared we would have to keep the two dogs separated, but we didn’t feel that was necessary.
Taking the dogs for walks as a pack was probably the best thing we have done to improve things. We treat both dogs the same giving equal amounts of attention. However, if Darcy is nasty he is reprimanded and taken to another room for a few minutes. He hates being excluded so hopefully will learn that it is better for him to just be nice!
This is a photograph of Alfie (the black and white dog) and Harvey (the chihuahua) who came to me as a foster dog.
In this situation, Harvey despised Alfie when he first arrived. You can see that although Alfie is trying to be friendly Harvey is not at all happy. In fact, this situation was so bad that these dogs had to be kept apart, except when we could closely supervise,
In the photograph, you can see that Harvey has a leash attached although they are inside. There is also someone very close by because in this situation Harvey would have badly hurt Alfie given the chance.
Again, we knew the exact reason why Harvey disliked Alfie so much.
Harvey was a very, very, sick boy and was IN PAIN when he arrived here.
Also, Harvey was an ex-stud dog and Alfie was an unneutered male, so HORMONES also played a part.
We worked hard on getting these dogs together in the same room. Harvey was terminally ill and we wanted his last months to be enjoyable. In addition, Alfie was our beloved family dog who didn’t have a bad bone in his body, it would have been heartbreaking if we let him get hurt.
What helped the situation?
The only thing that helped in this situation was time and patience. We literally could not take the risk of letting Alfie get injured. However, just like the previous example, Alfie showed no sign of being scared of Harvey despite his constant barking, growling and trying to attack him.
We gradually got the dogs comfortable in the same room although Harvey had a lightweight puppy leash attached to his collar at all times. The boys were walked together and given treats side by side. Very gradually, and I mean VERY gradually Harvey seemed to gain respect for Alfie and the attacks stopped. They were never friends, we could not leave them unsupervised but eventually, Harvey learned to trust Alfie.
This photo goes to show that in extreme circumstances with very hard work and patience, two dogs can learn to get along.
You can read Harvey’s story here
A safety gate is a great way to introduce dogs safely or leave them separated when you are away from home. This gives you the peace of mind to know that the dogs can’t injure each other, but still get used to having each other around. Search for second hand options because these items are usually disposed of when a child grows up or borrow one just until the dogs are bonded.