The personalities, traits and hormone levels of un-neutered male dogs are very different to those of neutered dogs, and keeping an entire male can be more challenging than a neutered dog for many reasons. Many dog owners feel that keeping two un-neutered male dogs together is virtually impossible, as they will be exponentially more likely to fight with each other and see each other as competition for resources, particularly if they are being affected by the presence of a bitch in heat.
However, some people manage to keep two entire male dogs together harmoniously, and while this is not always possible, it is not something that should be automatically discounted. Read on to learn more about some of the factors you need to consider and the problems that you might face keeping two un-neutered male dogs together.
In the wild and throughout history, dogs would form themselves into packs, with an alpha male at the top, an alpha female, and then other dogs of both sexes, often young and juvenile dogs. The pack structure then holds firm as long as all of the dogs accept and respect the role of the alpha, but problems can arise if one of the other male dogs gets too big for their boots, and makes a bid for dominance.
In this situation, the alpha and the challenger will fight it out, and sometimes, one dog would even be killed in the process. Assuming that both dogs survive, the winner would take the pack, and the loser would be expelled from the pack, living life on their own or going on to establish a new pack separately.
Obviously, duking it out to the point that one dog is seriously injured is not acceptable within the family home, and is not something that you should reasonably expect to happen. Generally, even domestic packs live harmoniously as long as the alpha position is clear, and challenges are uncommon.
One of the pinch-points for potential challenges may come about if one of your male dogs is juvenile, as when they reach sexual maturity and particularly between 10-12 months old, their testosterone production will be at its highest level, and they think they can take on the world! This is the time when it is most likely that there will be problems or fighting for the role of boss, and this must be carefully managed, up to and potentially including neutering one or both dogs if things become dangerous or do not settle down.
How you handle the initial introduction of the two dogs is extremely important, and will go on to set the standard for their future interactions. If you can introduce the two dogs while one is still young and so naturally not likely to see themselves as dominant, this is the best time to do it, but this is not always possible! Unless both dogs are very small, the chances of your being able to effectively handle a meeting on your own if something goes wrong are slim, and so having someone to help you and be responsible for one of the dogs is highly recommended.
Introduce the dogs outside on neutral territory, so that neither dog is automatically in guarding mode when they meet. Keep both dogs on a lead, and allow them to see each other and get the barking or greetings out of the way before you move in closer. Keep reassuring both dogs with praise while they are good, but do not give treats, as this can prove a source of disagreement between the dogs in itself!
Keep a carefully eye out for signs of posturing or aggression, such as bared teeth, dominant eye contact, or physically lunging at the other dog. If this happens, pull doth dogs back, pause the praise, and take a step back before trying again.
If the dogs seem determined to get locked in battle or really want to have a go at each other, walk them away on the leads until they are out of range of the other dog, and begin to calm down. Then, try again, bearing in mind that you might not make your first successful full meeting the first time that you try it. Ensure that both dogs have been walked and exercised before meeting, as dogs that are full of energy and want to run around will be harder to handle and more prone to excitement and looking for trouble!
Once the two dogs can be trusted on the lead together without fighting, and accept the other dog’s presence, you can begin to think about letting them off the lead together, and ultimately, bringing both dogs home.
Remember that the presence of a bitch in season will affect all un-neutered dogs, causing even dogs that usually live together happily to fight, so keep a careful eye on your dogs in this situation, and if necessary, keep them apart.