What are the best ways to curb sibling rivalry between my two dogs?
• Take the dog or dogs to the veterinarian for blood work and a neurological examination because sometimes fights are caused by health issues, including thyroid problems or conditions causing pain—and pain results in aggressive behavior.
• Keep dogs separated if you have an ill or aging one. Sometimes a dog may attack or try to dominate a sick or aging dog. Conversely, an aging dog can sometimes become irritated by the younger, more energetic one who just wants to engage in play.
• Spay and neuter. This decreases aggression and reduces hormone-related behaviors.
• Try to keep them removed from potentially explosive situations. Keep a record of what situation brings on fights—and then avoid them, if possible.
• No human interference! As long as they don’t injure each other, let the dogs work it out. Eventually, one will submit to the other. Support the dominant dog by feeding him first, greeting him first, making sure he passes through doorways first and gets to sleep in the place he wants. Do not try to make the situation fair to both dogs as it increases fighting. Remember, dogs are pack animals and their instinct is to let one be the leader. It might seem strange to humans, but that is their instinct.
If neither dog submits, or if fighting continues even if one dog does submit, you may just have to separate them. This is sometimes seen with same-sex dogs, separation may be the only solution.
• Since dog bones and toys create common reasons for fights, remove all bones and toys, except when you are supervising.
• Train your dogs to respond to commands to improve your control of the dog interact. Teach each dog to respond consistently to commands to sit, relax, go to his crate and lie down.