When Dogs don't get along together
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When Dogs don't get along together

Dogs not getting along with other dogs is a very common problem. It can happen in different situations: when meeting strange dogs and/or when spending time with dogs they know or are even related to.Dealing with unknown dogs when out on a walk is covered in the article Walking The Dog - Part 2. It is quite natural for dogs to be wary of each other in this situation, just as they would be in the wild when meeting a strange pack. The addition of a lead which restricts the dog's options can add stress to the situation. Our reactions and how we deal with these encounters can make them succeed or fail. Until you're happy to deal with these meetings, avoid places where you will meet lots of dogs eg dog shows, country shows. There is no point in putting yourself and your dog in these stressful situations that could end in disaster.We might assume that dogs that know each other (or are related to each other) and spend lots of time together should get on really well and be great friends. Not necessarily true. Do we always get on with our relatives or people we are forced to spend time with? We would have to be polite and put up with them but dogs aren't going to do that! In the wild, dog pack members are usually related but there has to be a hierarchy, with everyone knowing their place. When this happens, harmony and co-operation reigns. But sometimes, when there's competition for the job of top dog, someone will have to leave to join or form a new pack.When dogs are due to spend time together - whether short-term or long-term - the initial meeting is best held on neutral ground to avoid territorial issues. As far as possible, leave them to sort out their differences. Posturing and a little bit of snarling/growling is normal and shouldn't require any intervention. Play fighting is also completely natural and can get quite rough and noisy so don't be alarmed. This is practise for the real thing and does include realistic-looking moves and sounds but stops short of inflicting injury. But if it appears to be getting out of hand, even simply due to over-enthusiasm rather than aggression, intervene calmly and quietly. It may just be a matter of directing them to somewhere more appropriate eg out in the garden rather than in your living room! Avoid shouting as this will just spur the dogs on.So what do you do in the event of a real fight, or one dog attacking another? As before, keep calm and avoid the temptation to shout as the stress in your voice will aggravate the situation. If you need to summon help, keep your voice as calm as you can. Also avoid the temptation to get in there with your hands to pull the dogs apart - you will get bitten. Use something like a stick or broom to put between the dogs. Or create a diversion by spraying water or making a noise with an object eg banging something on the floor or fence or whatever's nearby - anything to distract the dogs from each other. Or use a slip lead (or something made into a slip lead) to loop over the head of one dog and pull it away from the other while keeping its mouth away from you and your hands.But how to avoid the fight situation in the first place? For dogs who only spend short periods of time together eg when someone comes to visit, it would probably be easier to just keep them apart and not force them to confront one another. They can be kept on leads or perhaps, one dog in a crate for safety (but only if the dog likes being in the crate and this doesn't create another problem). The best situation you can aim for, to begin with at least, is for the dogs to accept being in the same room, to be able to settle down, away from each other but with everyone around them calm too. The human anxiety about what might happen will increase the canine anxiety - and so the cycle continues. Keep everything calm.For dogs who live together, or will be spending long periods of time together, gradual and brief introductions are needed. Where there are a number of dogs who live together, temporarily splitting them up into mini packs often helps. This takes a bit of organising but helps calm everyone down. The dogs who do get on together can eat, sleep and play together. Then when introducing the ones who don't get along, ensure you are in charge, so neither of them needs to be. Keep calm and check that both dogs are treated equally. For example, don't allow one dog to demand your attention - you choose who gets fuss, play etc. If one dog does start trouble, calmly remove him and give him some time alone in another room, or outside, just for a few minutes. This replicates what happens in a pack situation - a brief isolation away from the rest of the pack serves as a warning that their behaviour won't be tolerated and also allows time for everyone to calm down. Then he can be given another chance by being allowed to join the group again.However, even if you think you know which dog is the troublemaker, take another look and see if that really is the case. Think of when 2 children argue. When no-one's looking, one child can wind the other one up, possibly for quite a long time. Then, when the other one finally snaps and reacts, that's when mum/dad/teacher will walk in and the victim gets told off while the tormentor gets away with it, despite the "he started it" protests. Is the same happening with your dogs? Here's a real-life case study involving a family with 2 dogs who didn't get on. The younger, bigger dog was perceived to be picking on the older, smaller dog who was apparently scared of him and keeping out of his way by taking refuge on the sofa, hiding behind whichever family member was sitting there at the time. This is when the younger dog would leap up from where he was sitting on the floor, barking, snarling etc. What the family didn't realise was that the younger dog was objecting to the older dog being allowed this higher status, up on the sofa with the humans. When the older dog was ejected from the sofa, the younger dog immediately settled. The family then realised that the older dog was in fact the tormentor, teasing the younger dog by giving himself physically higher status and the younger dog was only doing what he thought was right by protesting. Both dogs were relegated to the floor and peace prevailed. Being calm and in control around our dogs is the key to happy and harmonious relationships all round. But it's not automatic for all dogs to be friends so sometimes it's just a matter of managing a situation so that the dogs don't control it.

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