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Canine Behavior/Two dogs fighting



Recently my to beloved dogs have begun to fight with each other.  Mia my 6 year old spayed female and Apollo my 2 year old neutered male.  I have raised them both since they were puppies have had all of there shots and been checked by the vet.  They have never really fought before, there was a coue of incidents over toys so we cut that out of the situation.  Maybe about 2 months ago there was a small scuffle which we had no idea what it was over. There were no toys or food near them.  Within the past 3 weeks we have brought my girlfriends moms dog in to the household to foster her for a little bit.  Both Mia and Apollo know this dog and have spent weekends trips to the shore and lots of time with her.  Bella is a two year old spayed female.  Since she has been with us the fighting has started between Mia and Apollo.  They both get along with Bella just not each other anymore.  They just stare at each other and then go at it.  I have never seen this before.  I'm thinking of taking Bella out of he equation but I'm not even sure if she is the problem.  Some insight would be great and I'd you need more info or have questions I'm happy to answer ...thanks Mike

I'm sorry your pups seem to have had a falling out with each other. From the information you offered, it sounds like it might be an issue of resource guarding. This is when a dog is fearful that something they consider to be a prized possession is at risk of being stolen, and so they guard it - sometimes to excess.

It can be one dog guarding against the other, or they could both see something as highly valuable and so both want ownership rights.

The thing about resource guarding is that it can be over anything. And I mean ANYTHING. I've seen dogs guard any or all of the following:

full food bowl
empty food bowl
water dish
bed/sleeping spots
other furniture they like to rest on
entire rooms
leaves (falling off trees)
other animals
and on and on...

So, you saw a couple of scuffles over toys. You also saw an issue where you couldn't determine the trigger. It may have been a person (you?) or the space or some other thing in the space and you just didn't recognize it as something one of the dogs felt was worth fighting over.

Now there's a new girl in town. They know her, they both like her and this is potentially ramping up their angst with each other. Removing Bella from the house may be the best place to start to repair their relationship, but since they were having issues before she arrived, it may not fix the problem.

In all honesty, without observing the dogs and getting a much more detailed history, I can't really say for certain. I would encourage you to seek out an in-person evaluation from a local positive reinforcement behavior specialist. You want to make sure you're working with someone who understands that the best way to address resource guarding is by helping the guarding dog see that their precious item/s will not be stolen, and that awesome things happen when they're in the same space with the other dog.

You want to AVOID working with anyone who wants to punish the guarding dog for guarding. This includes those who would scold, use a choke chain, prong collar or any kind of electronic collar, those who would physically punish the dog by poking, hitting, kicking or throwing to the ground the dog.

If you remember throughout that resource guarding is founded in the FEAR that he might lose something, then punishing him for being fearful will only confirm for him that he's right to be guarded and you'll see the behavior escalate. Instead, you want to work with someone who understands that the necessary work is to keep both dogs below their threshold for lashing out, while helping them learn that awesome things happen when in the same space as their housemate. This includes using DESENSITIZATION and COUNTER CONDITIONING.

You can look for a trainer on the Association of Professional Dog Trainers website:

Don't hesitate to have a phone interview and ask the trainer how they would approach this situation. Listen for the terms I've mentioned above.

Here is a link to the American College of Veterinary Behavior public page. At the bottom of that page is a link to a PDF for "how to select a trainer" which can also provide insight for what to look for and what to avoid.

I hope this proves helpful. Please feel free to followup if I can be of further assistance.

Los Angeles Behaviorist

Canine Behavior

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Jody Epstein, MS, CPDT-KA


IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 8 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members and many other issues. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.


I have been a professional obedience trainer for 9 years, and specializing in behavior modification for 8 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I own my own dog training and behavior modification business called Nutz About Mutz.

I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications ; ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

I have a masters degree (MS) in Animals and Public Policy, with a minor in Animal Behavior, from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. I also have 3 years of graduate education in Animal Behavior and Learning from UM-Missoula and UL-Lafayette. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences, workshops and seminars. Beginning in March, 2017, I will be the Behavior & Training Manager at Second Chance Center for Animals in Flagstaff, AZ.

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