Dog-Dog Aggression Between Housemates Part Three: Management

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve discussed the recent issues between my two dogs, Layla and Trout. After the fight, both dogs had injuries that needed time to heal. They also needed some time to heal emotionally, though, as both were frightened and on edge.

Management during these weeks was critical. By keeping the two dogs separate from one another, we avoided further confrontations and were able to set them up for success. As the days passed, both dogs were able to relax and began to show interest in interacting with one another again.

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The first week was spent in total separation. We divided our house up into separate areas using baby gates with blankets over them to prevent the dogs from making visual contact (Trout did a lot of hard staring at first), exercise pens, and closed doors to keep the dogs apart. Our kitchen became one zone, the upstairs another, the living room and den two more. Because our house has such an open floor plan, it took some creativity to divide it in this manner. While it was an inconvenience to navigate the various gates and ex-pen panels, I really believe that the complete separation was the best thing we did for both dogs.

Remember, it takes 72 hours on average for stress hormones to return to baseline after a big event like the fight. The physical stress on both dogs’ bodies from their injuries, as well as the stress of wearing e-collars (the “cone of shame,” not remote collars), also contributed to keep their overall stress levels high. Trying to reintroduce the two dogs right away would have been like throwing a match onto a puddle of rocket fuel. They were already keyed up and on edge, and we needed to give them the time and resources to decompress.

Knowing this, we immediately plugged in our DAP diffuser on the main floor of the house. We made sure both dogs got lots of individual attention and that we were switching them out of various areas in the house regularly. We provided the best pain control possible to make sure their injuries weren’t preventing them from resting comfortably. Once Layla’s leg was able to hold her weight, we began walking the dogs on short jaunts multiple times a day, letting them stop and sniff frequently to unwind. Our goal was an atmosphere of support and calm.

We used additional management tools, such as tethers and crates, loosely as needed. For the most part, we were able to confine the dogs in rooms rather than in crates. However, there were definitely times when tethering the dogs on opposite sides of the room, such as when I was working in my office, was helpful in keeping them safe while still allowing them to both be near me, where they wanted to spend time. I managed this by attaching short 4′ leashes to each dog’s collar, then placing the handle of a leash on the doorknob opposite the side of the door we were on and closing the door on the leash. I also attached leashes to sturdy furniture, such as my large desk.

We also revisited muzzle training. Layla was already 100% comfortable wearing a basket muzzle prior to this incident, but Trout has always been a bit more skeptical about any sort of equipment, even balking at her regular collar and harness. At least once an hour when I was home, I worked with Trout and the muzzle, until eventually she was comfortable and happy taking treats out of the basket and having it fastened around her neck. Muzzling the dogs prior to interactions served two purposes. It obviously kept everyone safe, but it also allowed the humans involved to relax since we knew that nothing too horrible could happen. Since dogs pick up on emotional cues easily, setting everyone up for success by keeping the interactions relaxed and positive was especially important.

With management in place and both dogs comfortable with the routine, we were ready to begin the training process. Next week I’ll discuss what we did to help the dogs coexist peacefully once again. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you! How do you manage your dogs to set them up for success? Please post your tips and tricks in the comments section below.

5 responses to “Dog-Dog Aggression Between Housemates Part Three: Management

  1. Lindsay Kinney

    After my girl and roommates dog got in a fight we bought a baby gate, basket muzzle (grand prize for the victor), and reinstalled a set of doors we had originally taken down. One stroke of luck is that we have 2 doors that lead to the back yard, and each door led to a separate “zone”. So keeping them separate while letting them in/out didn’t require any coordination.
    I now use these management techniques whenever any dog comes over to keep my reactive girl comfortable and keep other dogs safe from her.

  2. Lindsay Kinney

    ps, with training my girl loves her basket muzzle. As soon as I offer it she shoves her face right in! I and I’ve only see she try to paw it off maybe once? She even naps in it if I have her wear it for a while

  3. Like you we have an open floor plan in our house but with the help of gates and also blankets over the gates we were able to separate them and keep them safe. It has been like this for almost 18 months, we did not try to reintroduce the dogs but they were fine taking walks with one another. We felt that the senior dog was too old and we want peace in the house for him so except for walks and going on car rides the dogs are separated. Recently our senior passed away so now we are trying to reintroduce the younger lab again with the reactive boy and it has not been easy. They used to be able to walk together and then we stopped for a while and now he reacts when he sees one of us with the lab. The lab is a happy dog and friendly but will defend himself if needs to. However he is now 9.5 and the reactive boy is 3 and I think should they get into a fight, the older lab might not be able to defend himself against 85 lbs of pure muscle. We love to hear suggestions.

  4. Pingback: Dog-Dog Aggression Between Housemates Part Four: Training | Paws Abilities

  5. Help!!! It’s completely my fault. I left both my 6yr old JRT named Marley and 2yr old pit bull Named Sugar outside while I ran a friend to work. Usually I bring them in and they are fine. However have been outside for short periods. Marley is temperamental with big dog syndrome and would rather Sugar leave her be and tends to be snippy. She disciplined by being sent to lay done for time out. Well I knew something was wrong when I got out of car by she cry in back yard and immediately went to let them in. Marley was bit on neck and flailed her right side. I believe that she may have been at back door to let me know she’s ready to come in and got snippy and bit Sugar and down hill from there. Needing some insight I have her bunked down in my bedroom and Keeping Sugar away. My oldest son found her laying next to her at one point and she keeps wanting to smell at her. And trying to explain to a 4 yr old that Marley needs quite time can be a little challenging so I locked my door. Any suggestions would be appreciated. My husband is allowing Sugar to stay at this time due to relationship with eldest son. I’m nervous and indecisive and trying to pull myself together for their sake and not be scared for her to play with my 4 yr. old who is testing boundaries.

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