Dogs and Sibling Rivalry

My two dogs have been fine for years and all of a sudden they have become aggressive and possessive between each other.  I have heard this could be caused by sibling rivalry. I know I had this with my sister and brother, but can this happen with dogs?

aggressive dogs with sibling rivalry

The answer is "yes", dogs do have the ability to display sibling rivalry.  This might a simple snap and growl from time to time to a full out brawl almost every time they get close to each other.  The important thing is to try and correct this as soon as possible or you may have to rehouse one or both of your dogs.

Here are some tips that we have developed over the years:
  • Keep your dogs separated until you are comfortable that they no longer act on aggressive tenancies or display dominance posturing.   
  • Before you begin, you must clearly understand that the most important relationship that needs to be reestablished and strengthened is the relationship between you and each of your dogs.  Remember that sibling rivalry is often caused because the owner has not demonstrated enough leadership.
  • Distance control is a very important exercise that you must practice with each dog on an individual basis.  Put the dog on a long lead and then throw something he will run after.  Gain his attention and have him come back to you.  If you can't easily get your dog's attention, give the lead a slight tug to get your dog's attention.  If you can't get their attention when they are going after a toy or bone, you will never get their attention if they start to go at each other.
  • Sibling rivalry is also caused because one of the dogs feels that there has been a special alliance established between you and the other dog.  Make sure that you treat each dog equally. 
  • Always have leashes on the dogs when they are together.  This will allow you and another family member to always be in control.  If you see too much staring or posturing between one or both of the dogs, redirect them back to you and have them do something on your terms.  A good idea is to have them sit in front of you and give you focus for a few moments.  After that, release them and continue to observe.
  • If your dogs don't become aggressive when you are with them, always make sure that they are crated when you are gone.  As the leader, you can create any environment you wish.  You have decided that they are crated when you are gone and will take the opportunity for aggression away.  This helps to diminish the inappropriate behavior.
  • As stated earlier, you need to build up respect between you and your dogs.  The term that I like to use is that you must be resolute.  Signs of respect that you should look for are:
    • Head down
    • ears back
    • quick licking of the lips
    • complete focus
The important thing here is to go slow and stay consistent.  Never put the dogs in a situation where you are not in complete control.  As the boss, you are in charge.  If you have more questions, please don't hesitate to contact your local Bark Buster Trainer at Great Dog Training in South Florida.


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