How Do I Stop My Dogs From Fighting?

18 01 2009

dogs-friendsA reader from Canada sent me an e-mail asking for help with his two Yorkshire Terriers, who have begun fighting recently.  Both dogs are intact males, and the reader figured out the first step to addressing the problem on his own.  Even with one intact male dog, there is a lot of testosterone in the room, but TWO?!

If you are not planning to have either dog “stud” to make more little Yorkies, then it is imperative that you have both of them neutered as soon as possible.  At the end of 2008, I discussed the advantages, both physically and behaviorally, of neutering or spaying your pet.  In this case, neutering will not be an immediate fix, as it does take a while for the body to rid itself of all that testosterone.  There is a strong chance that within a few weeks, this household will return to a pretty peaceful situation.

With this situation, neutering the dogs is only the beginning, because it seems that there is still a question as to which one of the Yorkies are the alpha dog.  After neutering them, I suggest that you read about alpha dogs, especially this article, and carefully observe your dogs for the alpha personality to emerge.

Until you can get them “fixed,” I suggest that you keep them separated.  As ugly as it is, this is nature running its course, survival of the fittest, if you will.  Even without a female in sight, these dogs have a natural desire to be in charge, and they will fight to establish which one that will be.

I know when you look at the cute little things, you can not believe they would even hurt a flea, but do not be deceived by those charming looks.  Yorkshire Terriers, both male and female are indeed terriers through and through.

The word “terrier” is derived from French, meaning “dog of the earth”.  They are notorious for their digging, and they are very unlikely back down from a fight.  After all, terriers were bred to pursue animals into their dens, corner them, and duke it out to the end, if necessary.  That takes a lot of courage and stamina, especially from such a small dog.  They are a feisty little breed, and they can be extremely stubborn and hard to train.

I do suggest that you have them neutered and consult a trainer who specializes in behavior as soon as possible.  There is a funny image I have in my head of what these two could do, if you were to allow their behavior to continue.  I see you lying on the floor, worn out from trying to control them, while they are fighting over the remote on the couch!

Seriously, this is a situation in which you should enlist the help of a training professional.  Please make sure that you find a trainer that is well-versed in dog behavior.  You will want to interview potential trainers to determine which one is best equipped to assist with your situation.  There is a lot more to training a dog than the basic obedience objectives of “sit” and “stay.”  You should stay away from a trainer that bears more responsiblity that just training dogs, i.e. the dog trainer/cashier/groomer/stock clerk/snake handler.  I am not saying that there are not some really good trainers out there that are in a situation where their job responsiblities may include other things, but outside of the very basics, you are going to want someone who only has one job title.  A lot of the big retail stores that offer training have trainers that lack the experience necessary to be truly helpful.  If I had to guess, I would say that you have a 5-10% possibility of getting a knowledgeable trainer in that environment.  Do your homework when you seek a trainer by asking for referrals from your friends with dogs.  Since everyone is socializing their dogs at play dates and at the dog park (right?), ask around among those sources as well.  When you find that you have a good and knowledgeable trainer, tell everybody you know.  If your trainer is not up to snuff, tell twice as many people.

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