CANINE SIBLING RIVALRY!

Yesterday we recognized NATIONAL SIBLINGS DAY! We have MANY siblings who board with us and play in our Camp groups! Sibling rivalry between dogs in the same home can become a serious problem. As a dog owner, it is important to know when to react, when to stay out of it, and when to ask for professional help.

Most dogs instinctively behave and live amicably in the same household. It is a “pack instinct” whereas cooperation within the pack is crucial to survival. Pack ancestors were born and raised together resulting in good socialization skills. They would hunt for food together and defend their territory together. A type of communication evolved within each pack. Subtle body language was and still is their basic form of communication.

Generally, dogs are social animals and will try to avoid confrontation or aggression. Certain issues or changes can arise that will alter the perceived structure or otherwise harmonious hierarchy within the home.

A change in the pack, either by the addition of a new dog, or perhaps the death/leaving of a dog, can change the social structure causing an underlying anxiety that may incite aggression. The other dogs are trying to “restructure” their new pack relationships. Until it has been resolved, altercations may arise.

A younger dog may “challenge” an older dog in order to attempt to change the status quo within the hierarchy. If the older dog yields to the younger dog, things will be fine! If the older dog does not relinquish his status, fighting may ensue.

Fights within a home or pack sometimes happens when a member becomes “possessive” of something… either a toy, food bowl, a favorite bed, or even a person! High states of arousal in the presence of these “favorite things” can increase the chances of aggression.

In many cases, a harmless fight is enough to fix the problem. If the situation progresses to where there is a potential for injury, you may need to intervene, but you must proceed very cautiously. The best way is to cause a loud interruption (clap or bang metal bowls together) and then separate the startled dogs.

Dog-on-dog fighting can be very dangerous. Watch out for these signs:

• The conflict does not resolve and the fighting becomes ongoing.
• The fighting becomes more intense and deliberate.
• It appears that the dog intends to cause harm to the other.
• One dog submits and the conflict still does not subside.

In these scenarios, it is best to contact your vet or an animal behaviorist to get to the root of the problem and eliminate the threat of serious injury or even death.

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