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Things in this happy home haven’t always been happy. My adorable, sweet Koda girl hasn’t always been so sweet. We had our challenges with inter dog aggression. Like most huskies, she wanted to be the alpha dog and is strong willed. Yet, she had to learn the rules.
Hindsight is always 20/20. When I initially thought of adding another pet into our household, I didn’t take in consideration of female/female inter dog aggression. When her previous owner brought her over, the girls appeared to get along. Chasing after a ball together. Going for a walk. They day went swimmingly well, even the initial feeding. Things seemed ok. Over the course of the weekend, my beagle, being the chow hound she is, became curious about the food that the previous owner brought. Koda girl just wasn’t having it. She became increasingly agitated to the point to where she decided to take it too far, and bite poor Winnie girl’s neck the moment I stepped out of the room.
As we rushed to the vet, I knew I had a decision to make.
1. Do I give her back to her original owner?
2. Do I rehome her?
As I discussed with the vet with a dog who needed emergency surgery for stitches and a drain for the blood clot, she mentioned to me how girls dogs can tend to be a bit more vicious when they have squabbles and inter dog aggression. Considering the age difference and the fact they were the same sex, she was not surprised. She told me re-homing might be needed. Yet, it’s possible provided they are totally kept separate from one another. Different living quarters, walks, feeding times, and only together when 100% supervised….indefinitely. As my heart sank, she explained to me dog aggression in the household can be one of the most difficult things to address because as it requires constant monitoring to know the triggers.
As I drove home with Winnie from surgery, my gut told me I had to try. Sure, giving up is the easy path…. but the easy path isn’t my nature. What stuck in my head was I had a major problem. Not only did I have one dog that needed rehabilitation, I now have two. My concern for Koda was given her beauty, another household may fall in love with the way she looks, but not take in consideration truly what she needs. Structure, boundaries, exercise, training and patience. All the things that my lifestyle and my heart was willing to provide. I made the decision to adopt her and I don’t believe in “bad dogs” as we are all hot messes at times. Although I was worried, I decided I needed to pull up my boot straps and get to work.
Immediately, I made calls to trainers to get advice on the best approach to how to manage inter dog aggression. With their coaching, I kept the girls totally separate. Given the fact I worked from home already, I could monitor Koda outside through the window while Winnie was inside under my desk recovering. With a baby gate in the kitchen, it drew a line between them. Mornings, Winnie got her walk. Evening time it was Koda. Even transitioning between their two living quarters, Koda went through the back gate and leashed by the front door, as I scurried Winnie through the house for her time in the backyard. Initially I thought Winnie would be traumatized, but to my surprise eventually they touched noses through the gate.
Next, we started transitioning through their respective spaces inside the house. With Koda in a sit/stay, she watched Winnie walk through the kitchen when it was her time in the yard. As Winnie recovered, regained confidence, Koda quickly learned that she goes first… in all area… time for play, walks, feeding, treats, where she sleeps, etc. Winnie gets first pick… always. In time they learned how to be in the same room with each other without bothering one another. They made peace. It took consistency and time but Koda quickly picked up her job was to wait. She can’t always get her way. She isn’t first. Mom is in charge.
Where we are today: Although I wouldn’t say the girls are “best of friends”, they have developed a sense of tolerance for one another. Winnie has accepted Koda is just….. well, a younger dog. Like all 3 year old huskies, when she gets the “zoomies”, given the fact Winnie is an older lady, it’s understandable if my old girl is simply NOT not in the mood for her hyperactive shenanigans. Yet at times, Winnie dog has learned to tap into her inner “puppy” by watching Koda, and plays in ways she never has before. Feeding times are always separated as Miss Piggy always finishes first and then wants to investigate Koda’s bowl for more scraps. There are the occasional sibling rivalry but a sharp “LEAVE HER”….even in the craziest moments, husky girl has learned to back down. They have no problem sleeping near one another or both on top of me in the morning. They both know they are loved and will get attention. The key to our success has been knowing the behaviors that could potentially elevate the situation and stepping in before it happens.
According to puppycoach.com, the initial first step is to understand the possible causes of inter dog aggression. The help of a trained professional such as a trainer, veterinarian or animal behaviorist can assist you. These include
Pay attention to body language and their interaction. Usually dogs will give each other slight warnings to each other before elevating to a fight such as growling, staring, direct eye contact, opening of the mouth, and posturing. Observe their interaction. Watch how they engage with each other. For my two girls our two biggest trigger times of irritation centers around when Husky girl is hyper and they know it’s time to be fed.
Although every dog relationship and home situation is different, over the last few years, these strategies to combat inter dog aggression have worked for us.
Exercise, exercise, exercise! As a high energy dog, Koda girl needs to get it out. Even when I can’t take her for a walk or a run, we spend time throughout the day in the backyard just tossing the ball, chasing, and letting her run as fast as she can. Even if it’s for 15 min. When she gets bored, I make her a new fleece rope or ring toy! Giving her new and exciting things to play on a frequent basis gives her something different to focus on to burn off that energy.
Create Safe Spaces: Under my desk is Winnie’s favorite spot. It is place she retreats to when she was recovering, and where she sleeps at night. Even when she tries, Koda can not go under my desk as space is just for Winnie. When she needs to retreat she can know she’s safe and protected by me.
Separate the bowls: Feeding time can be a source of triggers. Therefore, we still use a gate in the kitchen where Koda eats outside and Winnie eats in the living room. Once feeding time is over, they have the opportunity to investigate each others bowls… which they both make a mad dash to see what the other has (same food as you!) We remove the bowls after feeding time.
No prized possessions: rawhide bones are a source of contention between the girls. They have too high of value in the doggie world. Not only do they both want to guard, they also both want to steal. So the easiest solution is to not allow them in the house.
Quality Time: Both girls need love even when they get jealous of one another. The biggest quality time they enjoy is a walk. although it would be easier to walk them together, at the same time it’s been important to me they have their own time to go on adventures without one sister pulling the other in a different direction. A rotation schedule of walks and play time in the park gives them their own space to be their own dog and bond with their humans.
Two dog household challenging? At times. Worth every effort. ♥
Dog Mom, traveler, foodie and canine crafter. Kimberly is dedicated to enriching the lives of all dogs. She is inspired by her Two Idiot Balls of Fluff, a hyperactive white husky, Koda and her senior beagle, Winnie. Kimberly is passionate about sharing with you all the things she learned raising her two fur babies.