To ring in the New Year, I’ve decided to focus on an aspect of canine mental health for a change. This discussion will be about sibling rivalry. To define our terms; dogs, living in the same household, that snarl, growl, and can progress to fighting are experiencing a problem with sibling rivalry (whether they are siblings or not).
Usually these continued struggles are a result of the animals not establishing their own pecking order or dominance hierarchy. Strong, dominant dogs do not fight with submissive dogs – struggles usually occur between dogs of “almost equal”
dominance. I refer to them as “mid-liners.” Unfortunately, we often interfere inappropriately with the establishment of hierarchies in our households. This occurs when family members correct or punish the aggression, and inadvertently
encourage competitive behaviors and relationships. What happens as a result, is that the submissive dog’s status becomes elevated, while the dominant dog’s status is lowered or compromised by our involvement. We are helping to
keep the levels of dominance nearly equal, and subsequently these struggles, arguments, and fights will escalate. Situations such as competition for “mommy or daddy,” and competition over toys, food, etc. can trigger these hostile encounters.
What to do, what to do! Obviously, trigger situations need to be avoided. If the dogs begin to fight in your presence, “you must reassure the aggressor, and reprimand the submissive dog. Your praise will help make the one dog more dominant, which will contribute to the rapid establishment of a stable social structure.”
situations where you praise, feed, and pet the dominant dog while the submissive one watches. This can be done successfully using a kennel or crate for the beta animal. If the situation at home is already too explosive, you can work the dogs in a neutral territory initially, moving to home turf later.
To quote Dr. Dodman, head of the Tufts Behavior Clinic, “…it is extremely distressing to have dog fights in your home. However, sibling rivalry is one of the easier problems to solve, once you realize that dogs do not expect to live as equals. Both dogs will be happier and more secure with a stable social order.”
Our Food Bank is still in need of donations! Please stop by anytime during business hours (below) with dry cat or dog food to help us keep this vital program running smoothly. Thanks!
Feel free to call us with any questions at 518-828-6044, or visit our website at www.cghs.org. Stop down and see us at 125
Humane Society Road, off Route 66 (about a mile south of the intersection with Route 9H) in Hudson. Our hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed on Wednesday and Sunday. The Food Bank is
open to any from the public in need of pet food or for those wishing to donate food anytime during business hours. All of our cats and kittens are “Furrever Free” with all expenses paid. Spay/neuter clinics for cats are $65 male or female, including a rabies vaccination and a 5-in-1 feline distemper combination vaccination. Nail clipping services are available every Saturday from 10 to 11
a.m. at the Shelter, no appointment necessary, for a donation of $5 for cats and $10 for dogs. Charlene Marchand is the Chairperson of the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA Board of Directors. She may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.