How to Avoid Fights in Multi-Dog Households

Pack drive is the most likely cause of dogs fights. However, by recognizing what causes trouble, dog owners may avoid fights from occurring in the first place.

Owning a Pack of Dogs May be Difficult, but is Possible

Dog owners interested in owning a multi-dog household must be aware of pack hierarchy and pack dynamics. Being educated about such dynamics is a must for owners wanting a pack of dogs that is able of living together peacefully. However, one thing to be considered is that, at times, even with the best efforts, some dogs may not be capable of getting along well, and in order to avoid the potential for serious injuries, some dogs must be continuously monitored, separated or re-homed.

A Little Notion About Pack Drive

Dogs are pack animals which means they have a social rank. Such rank has helped dogs survive throughout the years, and it is thanks to such drive that dogs make it into our homes today. The pack leader, the most important figure, is often referred to as the ‘alpha dog’. This member carries the most important tasks such as leading the pack, choosing mates, selecting hunting grounds etc. This role is not an easy one and requires some special qualities that often go beyond appearance and physical strength.

In a domestic setting, modern day, pampered pets still carry such pack drive. At times, it may be difficult for dog owners to accept that a dog will be dominant over the other dogs. Some owners turn overprotective of the subordinate dogs and may feel the need to discipline the alpha, with the end result of only exacerbating the pack drive of the alpha.

There are different scenarios where inter-dog dominance altercations may take place. Such fights are often a result of the dog owner’s intervention, or simply a change in the pack structure which causes a disruption in harmony. Following are some common scenarios that may lead to inter-dog dominance aggression.

Causes of Dominance Aggression between dogs

Old Age

Often dog owners claim that their older dog is victim of serious aggression from a dog that was once subordinate. What happens in this case is that when an alpha dog turns old, the remaining pack may feel that this dog is no longer capable of carrying out his pack leadership as before. A subordinate dog, therefore, may decide that he or she must take over. Serious or even deadly fights may disrupt during this process. In nature, if the old dog does not surrender, it may even be killed.

Sickness or Weakness

Just as a senior dog may not be capable of carrying out its leader duties anymore, a sick alpha dog weakened by an illness may be forced to surrender to a subordinate role soon. In nature, a pack leader must be strong in order to allow the pack to survive. Most likely a sick dog will give up its alpha status, but if the dog is stubborn, it may be faced with aggression from other better alpha candidates.

Social Maturity

When a dog reaches social maturity which generally takes place between 18 months and three years of age, it may decide to challenge the alpha dog. There may be disputes at this point between the two, however, sooner than later, they should reach a mutual agreement.


When an alpha dog is removed from the pack for some time, such as in case of an illness, or when it dies, the pack will need another dog to take over. There may therefore be fights among the potential candidates looking to become the new leader.

Same Sex Aggression

Often females do not tend to get along well, especially if they are close in age. Males as well, may not get along with other males even though, the bloodiest fights are generally among female dogs. Many times, two dogs of the same sex may need to be kept separated all the time, especially when not supervised. Neutering and spaying may help prevent hormonally based fights.

A New Addition

The introduction of a new dog to the pack may create altercations over rank. This is often quite visible when owners add a third dog to their pack. The fights may be due to the dog being dominant in nature and therefore, challenging the authority of the current alpha member, or the dog may be corrected by other intermediate pack members so to let him know his place in the pack.

Owner Intervention

One major problem derives from the owner when he or she intervenes to ‘save the insubordinate pack member’. For instance, the owner may feel sorry for the submissive dog and may feel the need to punish the alpha for acting dominant. This creates further rank issues and confusion over pack dynamics, further exacerbating the problems and creating the ideal grounds for fights.

Lack of Leadership

Owners who care for a pack must establish a strong leadership role. Failure to do so, will cause fights among the other pack leaders over rank. An owner with strong leadership skills has the power to control his dogs and avoid fights among pack members.

Genetic Predisposition

Some dog breeds may tend to be dominant and may simply not do well in a multi-dog environment, especially when exposed to same sex dogs. Good research is important before selecting a specific dog breed.

Adding a new dog to a home may be an exciting adventure, however, it needs careful planning and strong leadership. Good research on breed, sex, age and temperament should be conducted. Owning a multi -dog pack is not recommended for inexperienced dog owners because it requires a good understanding of pack drive and strong leaderships skills.

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