Unfortunately, dog fights happen, and when they do, it can be extremely scary for those looking on. Same sex aggression is a common problem seen in dogs. Male dogs are more likely to fight than females; however, the severity of a fight is far more intense between two females than two males. One of the most commonly seen phenomenons is aggression displayed towards an intact male by a male dog that has been neutered. Why is this? Does this mean that two male dogs cannot get along?
How Do Fights Start Between Dogs?
Often, a fight breaks out when a play session becomes too vigorous for one or both of the dogs involved. When play is misinterpreted as aggression or vicious intent; what was once fun can quickly turn into a battle.
Though dog fights can sound very frightening, they are rarely more than loud and defensive behavior. Wounds are typically only superficial though sometimes there is a lot of blood.
When a dog is serious about killing another dog, they don’t waste time. Death often occurs within 15 seconds or less. Dogs instinctively know to go directly for the stomach or to the base of the neck to kill an opponent. Though dogs of any gender can get into scraps, fights most often occur between dogs of the same sex: either male to male or female to female. Generally speaking, males only fight until a winner is declared and rarely do grudges persist. However, this is not so with females who are hardwired to duke it out to the death.
Does It Make a Difference If One of the Dogs is Neutered?
Dog on dog aggression is common between dogs of the same sex. The most often seen negative dog interaction occurs between a neutered male and a male that is still reproductively intact. Why is this?
When a male dog is neutered, he loses the scent associated with male dogs and takes on the scent of a female. As a result, when a neutered male encounters an intact male, he senses a smell that is unfamiliar to him. That scent is often sufficient for the dog to feel threatened and to respond aggressively towards the intact male.
Statistics show that neutering a dog bears no lasting impact on a dog’s natural behavior or unique personality traits. However, neutering does change how a dog views other male dogs that remain reproductively intact.
What are Some of the Reasons Dogs Choose to Fight?
Dogs are very practical animals, and they don’t fight without what they see as just cause. Among the most common reasons seen for dog on dog aggression amongst males are:
- Females in season
Male dogs are more likely to initiate fights with each other when a female is in the room. Typically, male dogs do not fight when there are no female dogs in their company. When a female dog enters her heat cycle, the competition between males for her becomes greatly intensified. Even if one of the dogs in question is neutered, separating males during heat cycles is the best way to prevent fights from occurring.
- Access to food
Fighting over food is known as resource guarding. This can happen with dogs of any gender and fighting to gain access to food can occur between males and females as well as between dogs of the same sex.
Dogs lay claim to their own territory. Fights can occur if a dog feels another dog is trying to invade his or her space. This can even happen if a dog comes near the boundary of your property, approaches your fenced yard, or is even walking on your street.
- Sleeping arrangements
There are certain areas of a house that are considered prime real estate to dogs. If another dog encroaches on a dog’s favorite sleeping place, a fight may erupt.
- Poor socialization during critical learning periods
Puppies that have been poorly socialized during the first 12 weeks of their lives have difficulty when introduced to new social situations. This is also true of pups that have had negative experiences during these formative periods. Instead of learning to approach new things with confidence and curiosity, these puppies can be fearful and may respond aggressively when faced with uncertainty and the unknown.
- Inappropriate play
Play that is inappropriate in nature or that causes a dog to become overstimulated can easily turn into a dog fight.
My Neutered Dog Hates Intact Dogs – What Do I Do?
The best way to help avoid future dog on dog aggression is to ensure your dog is very well socialized from the moment the dog enters your home. The ideal situation is to introduce a puppy to adults that have good canine manners and that are appropriate teachers of baby dogs. These types of dogs model behavior that you want your puppy to learn, and these early interactions can help your puppy to grow up to be a dog that is easily able to navigate social situations with other dogs well.
But what if my dog is already aggressive towards other male dogs?
If your dog is already displaying dog on dog aggression towards other males, preventing these situations from occurring is your best approach. However, management does fail even with the very best planning. Limiting your dog’s access to dogs that may trigger him is a critical component of keeping him from trying to attack other male dogs.
However, any time you take your dog out in public, there is a risk that you will encounter other dogs; male, female, neutered, spayed, unneutered, and unspayed. This means that you must not only exercise prevention and management, but you must also begin helping your dog to learn better and more appropriate social behavior.
If my dog consistently reacts to other dogs, what can I do?
There are several strategies that you can employ if your dog is reacting negatively to other dogs on a regular basis. These include:
- Turning and walking the other direction
- Choosing to walk during low dog traffic times of day or the night
- Keeping your dog confined to a safe space with limited vision of high traffic walking areas
- Making use of a Halti to control the dog’s field of vision
- Hiring a behavior modification specialist to help train better behavior
What Happens to Dogs That Continue to React Aggressively to Other Dogs?
Unfortunately, the more a dog is allowed to repeat a behavior, the more ingrained it becomes in their repertoire of actions and reactions. When a dog is under stress repeatedly, the dog’s corticotropin levels are continually increased. Corticotropin is the hormone associated with fear, and once it is released, it can take up to 48 hours to return to a normal level. This means that the dog remains in a hypersensitive state for up to two days following exposure to a known trigger. This alone explains why preventing negative interactions is so important for dogs.
Here are some things that can be triggers for dogs:
- An environment that is overstimulating for the dog
If your dog has engaged in a fight or fights or has been attacked by another dog in a particular setting, your dog may begin to associate that environment with negative actions and feelings. This is also true if your dog becomes overstimulated in a specific locale. Overstimulation can come from events that are positive or negative. Because of this, it is very important for you to learn what settings cause your dog to experience extreme emotions and to avoid interactions in those places.
- Your own body language
Because your dog is in tune with your body language, your dog can easily pick up on any tension or stress in your body. If you are starting to feel anxious, stressed, or nervous, your dog will take note of this and will associate your negative feelings with his current surroundings. This can unconsciously create problems for you. Learning to control your emotions and to display a calm, relaxed demeanor when out in society is a great way to help your dog learn to manage his own feelings and reactions.
How Can I Help My Dog Learn More Appropriate Social Behavior?
There are a few things you can do to help your dog to learn to view other dogs as friends and not foes. These include:
- Realistic expectations
Just as you are not best friends with every person you meet, your dog doesn’t need to bond with every dog he encounters each day. Dogs do not require canine companions to feel socially or emotionally fulfilled. In fact, some dogs simply aren’t social at all, preferring the company of their human family and friends. Don’t expect your dog to be social with other dogs and don’t force interactions your dog is not comfortable with. Learn to be okay with you and your family being your dog’s only friends.
- Goal setting
Establish reasonable goals that can be achieved in short steps. If your ultimate goal includes your dog having a select group of socially appropriate dogs he can play with regularly, you will need to approach that goal through a series of carefully measured baby steps. For example; if Fido loses his mind every time he sees a dog within a block of your home, you will need to begin by rewarding Fido for calm behavior when he spies a dog at a distance. You can then gradually decrease the amount of distance between Fido and the dog, rewarding him each time he remains calm and non-reactive to the dog’s presence. When undertaking this type of training, you must be carefully attentive to your dog and only move forward when your dog is at ease and has mastered each step of the training. You will need to be prepared to take steps backwards at times as training is rarely linear. Let your dog be your guide. Be patient, accept the cues your dog offers you, and in time, you will achieve your goal or learn how you must modify your plans for the emotional health and wellness of your dog.
- Master dog language
You can’t help your dog if you don’t understand him. This means you will need to take time to study his body language for the cues he is offering you. Taking the time to learn how your dog expresses himself to you will help you dramatically in keeping him safe and helping him to learn more appropriate social behaviors. Learning the warning signs all dogs display is another important strategy to preventing fights from occurring. Only very rarely does a dog simply initiate a fight without giving you and the other dog a warning that this is about to happen. Observe your dog to find out his cues and pay careful attention when in high trigger settings. This will help you to avoid problems.
- Train new skills
If you don’t want your dog to act a certain way when faced with a trigger, you must commit to teaching a new and better behavior. This is where a few sessions with a dog behaviorist can be invaluable to you. Dog on dog aggression is a very serious matter and teaching your dog better social skills is something that should not be undertaken without guidance from a professional.
- Accept some dogs don’t like other dogs
In some cases, you will need to accept that your dog doesn’t like other dogs, and that’s okay. However, if your dog doesn’t care for being social, you will need to take the appropriate steps to make certain a fight doesn’t occur when you encounter another dog. Your dog doesn’t have to socialize with other dogs, but you do have a responsibility to keep your dog and the dogs of others safe.
Does your neutered dog hate intact dogs? If so, he’s not alone. Because intact dogs give off a different smell and sometimes display an attitude that fixed dogs don’t understand, some fixed dogs feel very threatened by them. If your dog is displaying social behavior that you find distressing, help is available. Contact a qualified dog behaviorist today to help your do learn better coping skills. Always remember that a dog responding aggressively to a stimulus is a dog that is struggling emotionally. Help your dog learn a better way to cope with the stresses in his life by reaching out to a canine behaviorist today.