When a Dog Fight Begins in Your Household

Dog FightApparently, a dog fight has been brewing in my dog pack. At the end of a particularly stressful day, I took my pack for an off leash hike on my property.

I was sharing a great bottle of wine with a great friend.

Then a vicious dog fight breaks out in my pack. My two lead male dogs, Gumbo and Savior, had waged war. Both locked on, screaming, blood, the works. It was terrible. All the other dogs ran and hid.

It took me a long time to separate them and – truthfully – if it had been anybody but me breaking it up, I think my older male may have lost his life. Thankfully, the punctures they delivered to each other did not need anything but antibiotics.

My husband came running. I’m laying in the rocks with bloody knees, hanging onto them to keep them from going at it again.

How Do You Handle A Dog Fight?

There is no manual or website you can look at to prepare yourself to separate this kind of fight. You do whatever you can. I was only armed with one leash and 2 glasses of wine. Not exactly what you would hope for to stop a war. These 2 dogs have never fought before and have lived together their entire lives.

Evaluate What Went Wrong

Dog FightSo what now? The first thing is to take a critical look at how the war began. The dog fight was over a gopher hole. They were both digging in it.

My 8 yr old Catahoula Gumbo is a huge resource guarder. He guards his bed, food, car, crate, toys, and now I can add gopher holes to the list.

Savior, my 13 yr old Aussie, is kind of grumpy. He growls at dogs for really no reason sometimes and needs his space.

So there was possibly some tension brewing. The main stressor in the pack though is my pack leader is dying. Foster (my 17-yr old dog who founded Wags & Wiggles) is passing from old age. Maybe this week, maybe next month. We don’t know when, but the pack is on edge.

My focus now is, what do I do to keep this from happening again?

Make a list of all known contributing factors

  • Relationship issues
  • Guarding behavior
  • Pack instability
  • Excitability over wildlife
  • We recently moved our home

Consider some immediate lifestyle changes

  1. Gumbo and Savior are going to be completely separate for at least 2 weeks. I have several locations in the house to separate dogs. Both dogs get time with the other pack members. Both dogs get alone time with me.
  2. Gain mental control over the pack. No more racing out the back door like lunatics, no more crappy recalls on pack walks, and insist on calm behavior in the house. This means going back to treat training several times a day and an absolute must on pack walks.
  3. No guarding behavior, period. No minor growls over bed possession or crate selection or toy play. The offender gets an immediate down stay or sent out of the room for guarding behavior.
  4. All pack members are wearing collars at all times for maximum control. Gumbo and Savior are on leash during any space transfer times.
  5. Examine trouble areas in your dog’s responses to your verbal cues. Gumbo is on recall rehab. 25 recalls for food treats, every single day.

Training Update

After just 2 days: I’m impressed with Gumbo’s rehab so far. Check out my recall tips later in the newsletter.

After 1 week: I can finally tell that harmony is coming back to the household. We are still very careful in our management. The house is more pleasant with more rules.

We had all these rules at the old house, but with more space we got lax. So when you move, take your rules with you! Next month, I will write about how I conditioned the dogs to be back in the same space together.

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