Owning multiple dogs can sometimes lead to sibling rivalry.
Fighting among dogs can stem from competition, dominance, or other issues. Think of it like human siblings fighting over a toy — there’s competitiveness and the need to determine who’s “stronger.”
Let’s examine why sibling rivalry occurs with dogs so you can understand the cause.
You can also work on some of these helpful tips to manage and suppress too much aggression.
Why do dogs have sibling rivalry?
There are various reasons for dogs having sibling rivalry. Some of the likely causes may include the following:
The vet technicians at Bond Vet Woodbury explain that often, if a dog is older or more senior, it could have health issues. Usually, the older dog will use aggressiveness or be in constant defense to avoid being injured or feeling pain.
Food or toys
Resources can be an issue for dogs if they find something more essential. Food or toy aggressiveness is natural in territorial dogs who want to guard what they believe belongs to them.
Dogs are pack animals like wolves, so they perceive only one as the leader. Usually, the most assertive one established themselves as the leader. That dog will also exercise aggression when the other dogs fall out of line.
Sometimes, things come up, like a new move or a change in a routine, that can adversely affect your dogs. These disruptions in their regular schedules may cause them to act out more aggressively or change how they interact.
If your dogs don’t get out much or have enough activity, mental stimulation, and playtime, they can act out due to simply feeling bored.
Dogs with foods high in carbohydrates can sometimes make them more hyperactive. It can cause dogs to be more aggressive, not just toward each other.
Besides establishing an alpha, dogs sometimes feel jealous, especially if you only own one dog and eventually add another to the household. If you or someone else in the home favors a dog over another, the other dog(s) can pick up on the lack of attention.
Sibling rivalry primarily occurs in the household when the owner doesn’t establish as the Alpha, so the dogs know who to heed. You oversee how your dogs act and should let them know what is acceptable and what isn’t.
How to manage sibling rivalry in dogs
Dog obedience is crucial to keeping rivalry between dogs to a minimum. In some instances, you can allow the dogs to work out the issue, but you may have to intervene.
If the fighting is consistent or you want it to cease within your household, here are some steps to take to manage the problem.
You can use a distraction or way to startle the dogs to draw attention to you so you can take control of the situation. It may help to use this method and then quickly separate the dogs from each other for a period.
Gradually increase the time between their “time out” from one another. It eventually results in them understanding that when they fight or become aggressive, they become isolated and will cease the behavior.
When the dogs are calm, they can be released with a command. But if one or the other shows aggressive signs or the dogs start fighting again, repeat the redirection, distraction, and isolation process.
Side note: it doesn’t help if you become angry, or yell, or use violence on your dogs.
Use obedience commands and calmly assert your control not to elevate the situation. When raised together, sibling dogs often form strong bonds with each other and their human family members, making them exceptional emotional support pets.
You can try another strategy if your dogs are aggressive with food, toys, or affection. Remove the toys or food causing the problem and use commands and obedience to keep them from demanding your attention.
Play with each dog separately and allow the other dog(s) to sit and wait patiently until their turn. It can be helpful if you always give support to the dominant dog first if there is one that is established as the leader.
Switch the dogs every so often to spend time with each of them. Feed them separately, and then initiate obedient commands when you allow them to eat in the same room. Keep leashes handy if you need to tie one to keep it from displaying poor behavior.
Training and obedience are key
For these steps to work correctly and keep your dogs from competing, fighting, or exerting too much dominance, they must have a responsible owner and good training.
Enough exercise each day can help to curb aggression as well. The more exerted they are, the less likely they will fight.
You can get help by ensuring your dogs undergo some obedience training. You can find online courses if you don’t have local classes to enroll your pup. Getting help and support from an expert or behavioral professional can be good if you’re struggling with sibling rivalry in your dogs.
Training your dogs is necessary to enforce your will. You must gain complete control over your dogs to ensure they follow your commands and maintain good responses from each dog. With assertiveness and good training, your dogs will heed your orders, and you can quickly stop their sibling rivalry.
Nicole McCray is a die-hard animal lover who has worked in pet care for years. She is a former vet technician and a dog mom to her two rescue pups, and she grew up living and working at her family’s pet boarding facility. She loves using her writing talents to share the insight she’s learned throughout her career, hoping that her knowledge can help other pet parents.