Man’s Best Friends. Can Two Male Dogs Live Peacefully Under One Roof?

Introducing the Topic

Having multiple dogs in your home can be a rewarding experience. However, some pet owners wonder if having two male dogs together leads to fighting and aggression. The question this article aims to answer is: can two male dogs live together without fighting?

According to a survey, 61% of multi-dog households with only male dogs had at least one male and one female dog (https://www.11pets.com/en/news/pet-families-by-numbers[1]). This raises the question of whether male-male aggression is a significant risk factor in multi-dog homes. To understand the factors involved, we’ll explore dog behavior, breeds, socialization, proper introduction, management, and solutions for dogs that don’t get along.

Natural Dog Behavior

Dogs are pack animals and instinctively establish social hierarchies with dominance and submission rituals. In the wild, dog packs consist of a dominant male and female, called the alpha pair, who gain top status through leadership and aggression toward lower-ranked members. The pack hierarchy serves to maintain order and prevent fights over resources like food, mates, and territory [1].

dogs have pack hierarchy behaviors

Within a pack, each dog understands its position, displayed through body language and behaviors. Dogs express dominance by standing tall with tail and ears erect, making direct eye contact, and asserting control. Submissive dogs crouch down, tuck their tails, avert their gaze, and lick the alpha dog’s muzzle. Ongoing social interactions reinforce the hierarchy [2].

Domestic dogs retain their pack mentality and attempt to establish dominance hierarchies through actions like mounting, blocking pathways, claiming resting spots, or stealing toys. However, experts now reject the rigid alpha-beta-omega hierarchy model in family dogs, since relationships are based more on affection and respect rather than force [1].

[1] https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/dog-behavior-and-training-dominance-alpha-and-pack-leadership-what-does-it-really-mean

[2] https://www.cesarsway.com/dog-pack-hierarchy/

Risk Factors for Aggression

intact males more aggressive

One of the biggest risk factors for aggression between male dogs is having intact, unneutered males. According to research, intact male dogs are much more likely to display aggression towards other dogs compared to neutered males. This is due to their natural hormones and instinct to compete with other males.

When two unneutered male dogs are together, they will often compete for dominance and breeding rights, even if no female dog is present. Their testosterone drives them to determine who is the “top dog,” which can lead to fighting.

On the other hand, neutered males have much lower testosterone levels and are less compelled to fight for dominance. While neutering is not a guarantee against aggression, it significantly reduces the likelihood of serious fights between male dogs sharing a home.

Breed Differences

Certain breeds tend to exhibit more territorial and aggressive behaviors than others due to genetic factors. For example, studies have found that breeds such as Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds show higher rates of owner-directed aggression compared to Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers (Breed differences in canine aggression). This does not mean these breeds will automatically be aggressive, but rather they may have a higher predisposition if not properly socialized and trained.

Territorial breeds like Akitas, Siberian Huskies, and Chow Chows may be more likely to show aggression towards other dogs of the same sex, particularly in their own home. However, a recent study found that breeds assumed to be aggressive do not significantly differ in the specific behavioral tendencies related to aggression as compared to other breeds.

While genetics play a role, proper socialization and training are key to raising a well-adjusted dog. Responsible ownership can help mitigate any potential breed tendencies towards aggression.

Importance of Early Socialization

Proper socialization of puppies is critical for preventing aggression later in life. Research shows that dogs who are appropriately socialized as young pups are less likely to exhibit behavioral problems as adults, including aggression towards other dogs [1]. Socializing puppies together allows them to learn proper dog-to-dog social skills and prevents future conflicts. Puppies that play and interact positively with one another starting at a young age are less likely to develop aggression issues with other dogs later on. It’s ideal to enroll puppies in “puppy preschool” classes where they can interact and socialize off-leash in a controlled setting. Exposing young pups to a variety of other friendly dogs helps get them comfortable interacting with all types of dogs, not just their siblings or housemates.

Proper Introduction

When introducing two male dogs, it is important to take things slowly over the course of days or weeks to prevent tension. According to an article on animalhumanesociety.org, the dogs should initially be introduced on opposite sides of a space and walked in the same direction. When one dog looks at the other, he should be rewarded with a treat. This helps create a positive association. The walking should continue until the dogs are calm and relaxed around each other.

Another source from humanesociety.org recommends starting the introduction on neutral territory outside the home, paying close attention to each dog’s body language, and letting them determine the pace. It’s important not to force interactions. The dogs should be monitored closely when finally allowed to interact freely at home. Taking introductions slowly reduces tension and allows the dogs to become comfortable with each other.

Ongoing Management

Managing multiple male dogs in the same household requires ongoing supervision and care. It’s important to ensure the dogs are never left alone unsupervised for extended periods, as this can lead to conflict and fighting (Whole Dog Journal, 2002). When leaving the dogs alone, consider separating them into different areas or crates to prevent any issues from arising.

supervise male dogs closely

It can also help to establish a clear hierarchy or “pecking order” among the dogs, which helps maintain stability in the group dynamic. The dogs will work out their hierarchy on their own through natural interactions and body language, but you can reinforce it through feeding order, access to desired spaces, and other privileges (The Wildest, n.d.). Make sure each dog gets individual time and attention from you as well.

Overall, managing multiple male dogs requires vigilant supervision, separation when unsupervised, and efforts to establish a clear yet flexible hierarchy within the pack. This provides the guidance and stability dogs naturally seek in a multi-dog household.

Warning Signs

Some key warning signs can indicate impending aggression between two dogs living together. These signs include a stiff, rigid body posture, intense staring, and growling. A dog who is feeling aggressive will often stand very still and stiff, with a tail held high and erect. His gaze will be fixated on the other dog. The dog may also curl his upper lip to reveal his teeth as he growls in a low tone. These are all signals that the dog is feeling potentially aggressive and conflict may be imminent.

Preventing and Stopping Fights

If you notice signs that your dogs may be on the verge of a fight, there are techniques you can use to prevent or stop a fight before it escalates:

Use Distractions: Create a sudden distraction to get the dogs’ attention, like making a loud noise (clapping, yelling “no”, using an airhorn or whistle) or throwing a blanket or towel between them. This interrupts their focus and gives you a chance to calmly separate them. Praise them when they disengage.[1]

Give a Correction: If the dogs know verbal corrections like “no” or “enough”, say it firmly. You can also try a squirt bottle of water. The surprise may jolt them out of the situation. Don’t punish after the fact, as they may associate it with the other dog.[2]

Physically Separate Them: Carefully intercede by grabbing collars/harnesses, blocking with your body, or using furniture to place a barrier between the dogs. Do not attempt to break up a serious fight directly due to risk of injury. Monitor them closely once separated.[3]

Prevent future fights by identifying triggers, improving obedience training, and keeping the dogs separated when unsupervised.

When to Seek Help

If your dogs are exhibiting signs of aggression towards each other that you are unable to manage on your own, it is time to seek professional help. Look for a certified dog trainer or behaviorist who has experience dealing specifically with dog-to-dog aggression (AKC). A professional can assess the dogs, identify triggers, and provide customized training protocols to address the aggression through desensitization, counterconditioning, and more. In severe cases, medication may be recommended in conjunction with behavior modification. Working with an expert can help get aggression under control and improve your dogs’ relationship.

seek professional help if needed

Seeking professional help is especially important if your dogs have already gotten into physical fights causing injury. At that stage, the aggression has escalated to a dangerous level and immediate intervention is needed. A trainer can advise whether the dogs may still live together with proper training or recommend alternative living arrangements if the aggression risk is too high.

Don’t wait until someone gets hurt to get help. Acting preemptively at the first signs of potential aggression between two dogs can prevent the problem from worsening. An expert’s guidance may be what’s needed to get your dogs’ relationship back on track.

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