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Two family dogs fighting in the backyard

Take active steps to address family dog fighting

Q: Our two male dogs, a cocker spaniel and a dachshund, sometimes fight so hard they seem to want to kill each other. This time, the cocker was seriously injured. How can we stop their fighting?

A: If both dogs aren’t already neutered, have your veterinarian sterilize them, because testosterone increases inter-dog aggression.

Each time your dogs fight, their fighting skills improve. One dog learns how to attack with minimal warning. The other learns that a pre-emptive attack may prevent him from getting bitten. Your dogs are likely anxious at all times, afraid of when the next attack will occur. That’s not a peaceful or healthy way to live. So it’s essential that you prevent further fights.

Keep them apart at all times. Whether you are at home or away, house your dogs in separate rooms, where they can’t see or threaten each other. Keep them leashed when you’re home.

So you’ll need to address the problem directly. You have two options: Give one of the dogs to a family that will care for him as a single dog, or start working with the board-certified veterinary behaviorist as recommended by your veterinarian.

The behaviorist will teach you behavior modification techniques that may—or may not—help. Sometimes medication enhances the effects of behavior modification.

Family dog fights not only terrorize the dogs, but they can result in permanent injury or death. Moreover, humans have been harmed and killed trying to break up family dog fights. Please give this serious problem the attention it deserves.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at

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