"Coping with Sibling Rivalry in Dogs

"Coping with Sibling Rivalry in Dogs

Sharing a home with two or more dogs can prove a bit challenging at times. If you've got two dogs from the same litter, sibling rivalry is usually not something you need to worry about too much. However, on the odd occasion it can become a real issue which results in them fighting over the slightest things although there are specific triggers that can set them off. The result is both dogs come away with quite nasty bites and injuries and more often than not this means an expensive trip to the vet.

Best Buddies can Turn on Each Other

Even dogs that have grown up together and always been the best of buddies may one day turn aggressive towards each other. However, in the main when fights occur it's usually one particular dog that wants to be the more dominant character in the household. The trouble can kick off when another dog refuses to be submissive which results in the two of them vying to be 'top dog'. However, all too often sibling rivalry only happens when people are around and typically when dogs are about to be fed. When food is the trigger it can result in dogs getting more possessive about their food and this in turn can escalate to being aggressive in other situations too.

When two or more dogs that start showing aggression toward each other, you need to be really assertive towards them ensuring your pets know you are the alpha dog in the household rather than them holding this position. If necessary, it might be worth enrolling the assistance of a dog behaviourist before any of the dogs suffer any serious injuries due to sibling rivalry.

Triggers that cause sibling rivalry tend to be the following:

  • One dog being allowed to jump on the furniture, getting more attention and fussing over whereas the others are not
  • Owners not realising or respecting which dog is the 'alpha dog' in the home
  • Dogs getting pampered by their owners because they feel guilty about having left their pets alone in the home for any length of time
  • Sometimes feeding a lower quality pet food can trigger a change in behaviour simply because it contains high levels of rice and cereals instead of good quality meat. Too many carbohydrates and dogs can get hyper which makes matters even worse. They show more aggression and their prey drive becomes stronger
  • Dogs getting spoiled by their owners instead of being given the right sort of direction and care can result in them developing a sibling rivalry. Dogs need to be fed good quality food, a safe environment to live in, lots of regular and interesting exercise then love and affection brings up the rear

How to Reduce the Risk of Sibling Rivalry

There are things you can to do which would reduce the risk of sibling rivalry escalating into a serious fight and this includes the following:

  • Always feed your dogs separately so they can’t get at each other. If they are very aggressive towards one another at meal times, you may have to feed them in different rooms so they can’t see each other
  • To always treat all of your dogs in exactly the same way, never showing more affection towards one and not the others
  • You have to ignore any sort of attention seeking behaviour from any of your dogs - and this includes when they get ultra excited to see you every time you come home
  • Only give your dogs any attention when you want to and not when they demand it – you are the alpha dog and as such it’s up to you when things happen which includes when your dogs get petted, fed and taken out for a walk
  • Train each of your dogs individually making sure they respond to all your commands straight away starting with the basics like sit, down, stay, leave and recall
  • If you let one dog up on the furniture or beds, you have to let them all or better still don't let any of them onto the furniture and set a precedent much as an alpha dog would do
  • Your dogs need to be trained not to barge past you and this includes when you are out on a walk, walking through a door or anywhere in the home
  • Make sure your dogs get plenty of mental stimulation as well as lots of interesting physical exercise - the rule of thumb is that 15 minutes of mental stimulation is the equivalent of a one hour walk


Sharing a home with several dogs is great fun, but you have to make sure they all know and respect the fact you are the alpha dog. Sibling rivalry often occurs even when dogs have known each other for a very long time because there is a bit of confusion as to who is the Boss in the household. Your dogs will have set their own hierarchy which you also have to respect, but with this said you also need to treat all of them in the same way and not to favour one of them more than any of the others. Food is often a trigger for sibling rivalry and if this is the case in your household, you need to nip things in the bud or a small argument could escalate into a full blown fight.

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