We’ve been asked many times, too many times in fact – why fights happen. The other question we get asked so often – do your dogs fight among them? (We have 4 strong males, 2 strong females). To be honest, we became lazy and tired of explaining to owners about how dog fights happen and many times rather than educating, we tend to brush the topic off. This post will probably be the only one and the last we will write about dog fights because unless owners start opening up and learning to understand their dogs, we don’t see a point in explaining.
When a dog fight happen outside, we always have owners asking us why. Partly because we often have the whole pack with us and one or two of them will get caught in the middle of it regardless of whether they are being busybodies or they happen get swiped into the whirlpool. Dogs fight for many reasons, often for the few same reasons. The first thing that we need to know is that dogs don’t process the same way as we do. They cannot reason and they react in split seconds. Every time a fight breaks out, a big portion of the fight is just dogs reacting. Some have no idea what’s going on and are simply reacting to the noise, energies, commotions and actions that goes around, they react by turning to the dog that is beside or nearest to them. This why it is very important, extremely important to be able to identify the reason to why the dog initiated the fight and the dog that started the trouble. Because that is the only way that we can stop future fights from happening and stop potential hazard altogether. There is no “it just happened” with dogs, they react accordingly and very accurately. There is always a trigger, a reason, an initiator that owners missed. Just because a dog or human is not involved in the fight, doesn’t mean they didn’t cause it. – Yes, humans can cause dog fights to happen. In fact, humans cause ALOT of fights to happen. When one calls a dog that has an upper hand during fights an aggressive dog without understanding, one is being extremely ignorant and unfair to the dog.
POSSESSION & TERRITORY
Possession of a valued item or space is commonly seen with toys, objects, humans, dogs and places. Dogs like to claim toys, humans or even other dogs as their own. Dogs that live under the same household some times fight over their owners. Male dogs often fight over territory, they mark an area and assume it as their own. If a dog is starts hoarding to something or someone, another dog who wants the same thing comes along, tension builds up. This can lead to a fight.
Sexual aggression is one of the easiest to spot among all fights because it is a targeted fight. Fight only happens with the same gender and it is easy to spot and easy to fix.
FOOD & MANNERS
When there is food, there is tension and anxiety. Food is a form of survival for dogs. Dogs fighting over food is not uncommon. To us, it is somewhat considered as possessive behaviour. We mentioned manners several times in previous posts, it is important to watch your dog and also very important to teach your dog manners. Nobody likes a rude kid and no dog likes a rude dog.
STALKING & CONFRONTATION
Many times owners classify dogs charging towards another dog as aggression. While this is not entirely untrue, there is another behaviour that is ‘sneaky’ and very likely to cause a fight. Stalking another dog is an extremely bad behaviour and it can often lead to confrontation and conflict. Some owners allow their dogs to follow another dog closely behind their back or over their body and stalk them for an extended period of time. It is extremely rude, and it is also extremely irritating. If the dog that is being stalked has had enough of that nonsense, it can turn around and confront the stalking dog. That’s when a fight can break out.
SPACE & EXTERNAL PRESSURE
Space constraints and external pressures can push dogs to the edges. Imagine that you are on a train packed with people, that would be space constrain. A young kid that screams continually in that space starts causing giving you stress, that would be external pressure. When space and pressure comes together, it’s like a pressure cooker inside a bomb. While you can reason with yourself to calm yourself down and tell yourself that you are getting off at the next station so hold it together, the dog can’t. Dogs can’t reason, they react. Space is very valuable to dogs. When there is space constraints, there is almost always tension. Dogs react by turning to whoever and whatever that they have beside them, be it a dog, a human or some self destructive measures.
OVER FRIENDLY DOGS
The commonly known extremely friendly dogs are what we call the troublemakers. A dog running all around involving in every other dog’s business is commonly known as friendly. But too many times we see that these are also the dogs that cause conflicts, fights and confrontations. Imagine a stranger who runs around from house A to house B to house C repeatedly knocking on each door and running away before the house owner opens the door. While dogs are social animals, it is also known that they thrive in packs and they work in groups, constantly having troublemakers making small little movements around can cause disruption and fights. Properly introducing dogs and socialising them in proper ways is important.
This point deserve a whole other post on its own. Recently on several podcasts and live shows by well known and highly experienced trainers, the same topic came up. Owning a wrong dog. In the working and competing dog world, handlers and trainers pick dogs for their abilities, personalities and traits. These picked dogs are highly likely to be able to carry out the tasks they need to do because they have been carefully chosen in those aspects, be it competitive agility, police dogs, detection dogs or show dogs. Pet owners often pick dogs based on popularity and looks. They pick breeds because their friend has the same breed, they pick dogs because that one looks cute. Many owners have dogs that are far beyond their capabilities and that’s when problems arise. And a ball of problems starts building up. – To be continued in near future.
And to answer the question to whether our dogs fight, yes they do. Do they fight a lot? – no they don’t. They fight when we as handlers fail to identify conflict starters before they do. They fight just like any other dogs would for the same reason any other dog would. They are dogs, they belong to the same pack, and as with any relationship, bickering and fights happen. You fight with your friend, you disagree with your spouse, you quarrel with your parents. There are always disagreements within relationships. You can have many dogs who lives together like strangers who couldn’t care less about each other, or you can have a pack. We have a pack. However, there is not once they initiated or pick-start a fight with another dog they meet outside of home but they will not hesitate to confront together if any one of the pack members gets involved. Regardless of whether it is a pack walk, a gathering or just a simple pass-by, we are always very careful when our dogs mingle with others or among themselves. We know too little about dogs and we owe it to them to know more and learn more so that they thrive in our concrete jungle.
There are many owners that we enjoy hanging out with, and we love to see their dogs too but we don’t as often because in our opinion, unless the owners are on the same page and start coming together and understanding, there is little benefit to the dogs hanging together because problems will arise later, if not now. If we use a simple example, a good dog daycare has all handlers under the same belief, that’s how the dogs are kept safe and happy throughout the day.
When dog fights happen, the first thing to do is always stop the fight. After the fight ends, many owners tend to brush it off saying it’s just a misunderstanding, the dogs are friends or some choose to avoid at all cost in the future. Like previously mentioned, dogs fight for a reason and a dog’s reaction time is far beyond human’s capability. This is why it is important to identify and pinpoint the cause. Once you identify the cause, come to mutual terms and agreements on how to work on it and prevent it in the future. You want your dog to continue hanging with their friends and you want them to enjoy doing it. Nobody wants to see their dogs fighting and so everyone needs to play a part. What your dog is doing may not affect him directly, but that does not mean that it will not affect another dog.
In our humble and opinionated view, we should all leave our egos at the door and agree with each other more. It is okay to ask what happened and it is okay to ask if it’s your dog’s fault, it is okay to say let me know if you see my dog does that again, it is okay to ask what should we do. We have met awesome owners like that, we, too learnt this way. Many years ago, we’ve had a very experienced trainer telling us that our dogs act like hooligans in pack mode and we absolutely appreciate it – we laughed at it, learnt from it, fixed it, and kept learning and continued to get better. No one has a solve-it-all solution and every dog is different, the more people come together, the more we can identify and figure out issues, problems and behaviours. We have strayed too far from having common sense and open minds and as a society, we need to change the way we view dogs and their behaviours.