Fighting among cohabiting puppies is a natural and essential mechanism for establishing pack structure. Sibling puppies fight just as much as non-siblings, especially if they’re still together once they’ve stopped relying on mom for protection. Prevention is preferable to cure when it comes to stopping the fights, so learn to spot the signs early.
It’s natural for dogs to remain with their siblings for the first seven weeks of their lives. After that, they have a natural urge to begin exploring the world by themselves. If they are forced to remain together, either by putting them in the same crate or failing to give them alone time, they’ll create an unnatural bond that can cause behavioral problems, including fighting. One of the easiest ways to stop your sibling puppies from fighting is to give them distinct periods of separation and distinct periods of interaction.
A little fighting is a natural part of the growing up process for dogs. Learn to identify play fighting, characterized by wagging tails, alert expressions and “bowing,” and distinguish it from aggression-based fighting, characterized by fixed stares, stiff tails and tense posture. Puppies assert dominance with play fighting. If you constantly interrupt puppies when they’re play fighting, you rob them of the opportunity to establish a social structure which will lead to more fighting with adults.
Observe your puppy’s body language and take action before a fight begins, either by separating the dogs or distracting them from each other. Raised hackles, stiff straight tails and fixed stares are some of the more telling gestures that precede a fight. Once you learn to spot the signs, you can intervene before a fight begins.
As hard as it may be to do, let sibling puppy fights reach their natural conclusion when possible. A fight for dominance ends when one dog adopts a submissive position, or is forced into a submissive position. If you suspect the fight is getting too rough or you simply can’t bear to let it continue, use noise to distract the fighting dogs. If that doesn’t work, grab the more enthusiastic fighter around the ribs and move him away from the scene.
Behaviorist Dr. Myrna Milani recommends assisting the dog most likely to win by pulling the weaker dog’s hind legs and putting him on his back. This forces the fight to its natural conclusion, but doesn’t interfere with the existing dominance dynamic.
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