Having two dogs is like having two children. On the one hand, it can be great fun – you get double the playtimes, double the kisses, and cuddles, and perhaps best of all, they tend to keep each other company when we’re unable to amuse one of our canine companions.
The dark side of running a two-dog household rears its head when dogs don’t get along. It’s pivotal that dogs sharing the same space are able to remain on cordial terms, at worst, as canines can sometimes get territorial – any kind of disdain for each other tends to end badly.
If you find that your dog is becoming aggressive with age, or your dog is suddenly aggressive to the other dog in the house, there may be a reason for this. This guide will talk you through the art of maintaining harmony in your home – and managing two-dog household aggression.
Table of Contents:
Warning Signs of Dog Aggression
If a dog is going to become aggressive, it doesn’t just happen. It isn’t in the nature of most canines to fight without provocation, and they’ll give off all kinds of warning signs before things become physical.
Some of the warning signs of dog aggression that you should keep an eye out for include:
- Barking, growling, and snarling
- Standing extremely still
- Lunging, or other sudden movements
- Butting with the nose
All of these behaviors could lead to something dangerous, especially if accompanied by short, sharp and frantic wags of the dog’s tail (not to be confused with broad, excitable wags, which denote that your dog is in a great mood!)
If your dog is acting this way toward another canine in the house, separate them at once. More often than not, dogs that have a little time out to simmer down will happily avoid a fight and will be contentedly playing together again in no time at all.
My Dog is Becoming More Aggressive with Age
As human beings get older, our personalities start to change. Dogs are no different, and a senior canine may start to exhibit behaviors that we would otherwise consider to be out of character – including acting aggressively.
Here are some of the behaviors that an older dog may exhibit that would be construed as aggressive, and what do to about them.
- Excessive barking. This could be a sign of aggression towards another dog, warning them to keep their distance as your old canine is in no mood for play or company. However, it may also be an attempt to send a message that your dog is in pain or discomfort. Make an appointment with a vet if you are concerned about your dog’s actions, as they may have arthritis or any number of other health complaints connected with aging.
- Destructive behavior. This could be because your dog is growing more anxious and irritable as they grow older, and anybody or anything within their firing line could be on the receiving end of the sharp end of their temper. That may include another dog, or your pooch may settle for taking their frustration out on a toy.
- Snarling, snapping and growling. OK, so there isn’t much room for interpretation on this one – these kinds of behaviors are unmistakably aggressive. This can often have an underlying reason beyond mere grumpiness – usually, fear. Watch your dog carefully – are they showing signs of losing their eyesight? If so, it could be pretty scary for them when another dog appears in their space, seemingly out of nowhere. This will elicit an automatic defensive response based on the perceived threat.
Usually, a mild change in behavior as a dog enters their twilight years can be attributed to one of the above scenarios and managed accordingly. In some rare cases, however, there is a chance that your dog has been struck down by something scary and horrifying such as a brain tumor, or they are exhibiting signs of doggy dementia. Consult a professional if you have any doubt at all.
My Dog Keeps Attacking the Other Dog in the House
There are many reasons why a dog may choose to attack another dog. These include:
- As we have already touched upon, your dog may feel that they need to protect their territory. If your dog is prone to showing aggression towards strangers then there is no reason to expect why they will automatically accept a new dog in their space – this is just another competitor for their space as far as your dog is concerned.
- Yes, that’s right – dogs get jealous too. If your dog is used to being the sole focus of all of your attention and affection and suddenly somebody else is getting all the tickles and cooing, they may grow envious and take against this new rival. Do everything you can to reassure an existing dog that they are not being replaced and that they are still every bit as important as they always have been.
- Food Aggression – This is a condition that impacts upon many dog owners, and it can put a crimp in any pooch parents’ day. If your dog is prone to showing aggression at the very idea of food – growling, snipping, snarling and threatening to bite the hand that feeds – imagine how stressed they are likely to become at the idea of sharing their bowl. Regardless of whether there is a second dog involved (but especially if there is), food aggression needs to be managed and coached out as quickly as possible.
- Rough Play – Play styles vary drastically from dog to dog, and some breeds like to push their boundaries a little further than others. What looks entirely innocuous for human eyes could be pushing countless buttons for a dog, and they may have been sending all kinds of subtle messages to another pooch that they are not interested in playing. Dogs dislike having their social cues ignored.
- Lack of Socialization – It’s critical that dogs learn how to be social with one another at an early age – that’s why we arrange for our furry friends to attend puppy school. If your dog has never learned the limits and boundaries of pooch playtime, they may push their luck a little too far and experience some aggression as a result.
My Dog Randomly Attacks My Other Dog
If your dog is suddenly aggressive to the other dog in your house, having never previously shown any signs of struggling to get along, there may be an underlying reason for this. It’s certainly worth speaking to a vet in case your dog is in pain or sick, which is leading to a shorter fuse than usual.
If this is a regular occurrence, with seemingly no provocation, sadly it seems likely that these two hounds are unable to get along. If you are struggling to keep a lid on this, you’ll need to bring in the services of a specialist. Do everything you can before making the heartbreaking decision to rehome one of your dogs, as this will potentially lead to more problems with their behavior in the future.
My Younger Dog is Attacking My Older Dog
If you have brought a puppy into your home, they may not be attacking your older dog. There is every chance that they are just desperate to play, and your older dog is doing their best to ignore them as they want no part of it. Naturally, this will not do for the pup – meaning that they’ll just keep on pushing and pushing until they’re told in no uncertain terms that they are not wanted!
Alternatively, this may be a power play from your younger dog, who senses an opportunity to lock themselves in as the new pack alpha. If an older dog is growing sick or weak, other dogs can typically sense this. Their behavior may be borne of benevolence and an attempt to bringing this sickness to your attention as a pet owner, but it’s more likely a quest to eliminate a rival.
My Older Dog is Attacking My Puppy
As we have previously stated, older dogs have little patience for puppies climbing all over them. They’ll often tolerate it for a while, but eventually, they’ll send a message that the other dogs need to back off and calm down, and the universal language in such a situation is to snap, snarl or growl.
Try not to judge your older dog too harshly for this – they’re not just being grumpy. The actions may be because your older dog is frustrated with himself or herself and their inability to keep up any longer, with their joints aching and not moving quite as well as they used to. As long as these attacks do not come out of the blue, they’re generally not too much of a cause for concern.
There is also the possibility that your older dog is teaching your younger pooch a lesson in doggy etiquette. Puppies usually learn from their mothers and littermates how far is too far when playing, as they will continually bite and claw until they learn that their play fighting is becoming painful.
If they never learned these lessons for whatever reason, a dog that is not related would not necessarily be as patient or gentle in their admonishments! If you are bitten by a dog, here is some advice on how to clean up a dog bite wound.
How to Calm an Aggressive Dog
Obviously, it is always better to prevent a dog from becoming aggressive in the first place, by removing any potential triggers from their path and ensuring that they are sufficiently socialized.
Despite all your best intentions, however, there may still be occasions that your hound puts their doggy dukes up, Scrappy Doo-style, and forces a confrontation with another canine.
If you find that your dog is fighting, calm him or her down using the following techniques:
- Remove. First thing’s first – remove your dog from the situation where they are fighting. Adrenaline will be flowing, and when two dogs are driven to scrapping with each other neither will want to be the one that backs down. This means that you’re going to have to step in and firmly but gently take your dog away.
- Stay Calm. Watching your dog in a fight can be pretty scary – you’re worried that they’re going to get hurt, after all, and you may be concerned about why they are behaving aggressively. It’s hugely important that you stay calm in such a scenario, though. Dogs pick up on human stress pheromones, and if you’re freaking out, they are just going to wind themselves up even more.
- Create a Safe Space. Your dog needs some time away from who or whatever sparked that initial bout of aggression. If you’re out walking in the park, find a large, empty space that you can walk around in. If you’re at home and your dog is fighting with another furry housemate, keep them in separate rooms for a while so they can cool off. You’ll find that your dog’s thundering heartbeat soon calms down, and after a few minutes, they’ll be back to licking your face and apologizing for causing such a scene.
What to Do After a Dog Fight
There first things to do once two dogs have fought is to separate the canines, calm them both down, and ensure that neither of them has hurt. You’ll have to check pretty thoroughly here, and don’t just rely on your dog telling you that they’re hurt. Adrenaline can be a powerful thing, and your pooch may be convinced that they’re fine and ready for round two when in reality they’re one stretch from bleeding profusely.
Once you’re confident that both dogs are calm and back to their old selves, you can think about reintroducing them – though if you know what started the fight in the first place (a toy, a treat, food) remove that trigger from their neutral zone. Keep them both on their respective leashes at first, and maybe consider a muzzle if strictly necessary. Try not to resort this, however, as it could be considered a punishment that will result in further frustration – and maybe another bout of temper and fighting.
Keep an eye on the dogs, and check that they’re not displaying any further aggression. Don’t panic and race over to separate them the moment they approach – there’s every chance that they’re going to have a good sniff of each other’s bottom, which is the canine equivalent of a handshake. If that’s the case, your dogs have said, “sorry about that – I’m glad we’re friends again. I totally would have won if we weren’t separated though so that you know.”
Assuming the display of aggression doesn’t repeat itself, it’s nothing to worry about, and you can move on. As we said earlier, having two dogs is like having two kids –sometimes, fights and arguments are going to happen, and it doesn’t need to result in any lingering bad blood. If they look likely to start all over again, you should consider seeking expert advice.
My Dog is Fighting with My Cat
‘They fight like cat and dog” is a common expression, but it can be something of a fallacy. As anybody with a mixed-species blended family will know, cats and dogs mostly ignore each other.
What’s more, if there is an aggressor, it’s usually the feline family member; cats will exhibit many different warning signs that they do not have a dog in their space, and Fido may not pick up on these cues. Don’t judge Fido for this – it’s bemoaning somebody that speaks French for not understanding your clear, fluent Japanese!
My Dog Attacks My Cat
If your dog does attack your cat, the chances are they just responding to their natural instincts to hunt. Cats tend to move in rapid, jerky movements, and that will always attract the attention of a canine.
Certain breeds are hardwired to lunge and chase at such sudden activity, though more often than not they won’t actually take any aggressive action once they get there. If a cat gives Fido a solid whack on the nose with their paw, however, your dog may react! If this happens, separate them at once and ensure that neither animal is hurt. If that’s the case, just let them cool off and business, as usual, will soon be restored.
My Cat Attacks My Dog
Cats, by their very nature, are considerably more territorial than dogs, and generally less keen on 24/7 company. This means that they need to enjoy their own space, and will have very little patience for a big, slobbering dog getting in their face! If they decide to attack it can be scary, and it could do serious damage to your dog.
If your cat is prone to attacking your dog, make sure that your feline has plenty of areas to call their own. This could be a cat tree or a perch that’s elevated too high for Fido to reach. This means that your cat will always have somewhere they can escape to and take a little time out.
You may want to consider having baby gates across certain, too; if you insert a cat flap, one of your pets will have a way of leaving a room without the other following. You should also keep the animals’ food and water bowls separate, and make sure that both of them have their own toys that tailor to their preferred instincts and behaviors.
I Already Have a Dog – Should I Get a Second?
In theory, there is nothing wrong with getting a second dog if your present pooch is happy to share their space. You’ll have an idea of how your dog might react by observing how dogs interact with other dogs while out walking. Hopefully, it goes without saying, but if your dog doesn’t play well with others it doesn’t bode well for the idea of them sharing a house with a new arrival!
You will also need to manage the transition carefully, and make sure that your dog understands and is OK with a fellow pooch in the house. You would not take in a lodger without first checking that your spouse or other housemates are OK with it, and you should extend the same courtesy to the furry members of your family!
This is your dog’s home, and the chances are they like things exactly as they are. Introducing a strange new animal to the house could completely change the dynamic, and lead to battles for how will be the pack alpha (or Top Dog, if you prefer). If you are considering a second dog, bring them to visit a handful of times first, and ensure that they get along with the present incumbent of the home.
Above all, remember one thing – you are bringing a new animal into what your dog considers to be their territory. This means that you will need to patient with your hound, as they may think that you need to be protected from this infiltrator until they learn to trust and accept them as a furry sibling.
What Breed of Second Dog Should I Get?
If you do decide that you’re going to give your furry only child a sibling, you’ll need to ensure that you think carefully about the second hound that you adopt. Some dog breeds are more compatible than others, and many dogs prefer to deal with their own breed as they find it easier to understand the body language their new housemate may be using. Remember, while a dog may communicate using barks, it’s the swishing of a tail that really makes all the difference.
Beyond this, you also need to think about other elements of compatibility. These include:
- Exercise Needs. If you have a Labrador that requires two or three hours of exercise per day, you should ensure that a second dog has a similar level of energy. Pugs, for example, may be cute and make a pleasant contrast, but you could potentially place such a dog at risk if you expect them to keep up with a sporty, robust breed on long walks.
- Age Gap. When our beloved furry family members start to grow older, it’s inevitable that we start to fear the worst and have to make preparations for the fact that they won’t be with us forever. Tempting though it may be to pre-emptively counter this heartbreak by bringing a puppy into the home, think about the impact this will have on a senior dog. We’ll discuss this in more detail later, but remember that what we find adorable, an older dog may find infuriating!
- Temperament and Background. Bringing an adopted dog from a shelter is a very noble thing to do, but it can be fraught with trouble if you’re not prepared for what will follow. A dog with a troubled past may have behavioral issues, or if he or she was formerly stray, that might not have any idea how to be a pet. This can be upsetting and traumatic for your existing dog.
- They say that opposites attract, and this is certainly the case with canines. If you have a male dog, bringing a fellow male into the house could lead to a butting of heads and displays of dominance as they battle for pack alpha status. Females, meanwhile, are even more likely to wage war over territory. Obviously, it also goes without saying that if you’re to bring a dog of the opposite sex into the house, ensure that at least one of these pooches has been spayed or neutered!
As we have said many times over, it’s rare for a dog to attack another canine without provocation. If it happens with alarming regularity, however, it could be time to see a professional and get some further advice. No dogs enjoy being aggressive, and the chances are it all stems from something that can be helped.