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Dog Behavior: Why a Dog Behaviorist is the Best Option When Dealing with Fighting Dogs

Dogs Fighting

Dogs Fighting

Professional Help is a Must not an Option

It is one of the most frantic reasons dog owners seek the help of dog trainers and dog behavior experts and often one of the most complicated issues to deal with. Often these owners are crying, hoping for a miracle solution that will magically turn their canine companions into two social butterflies. Many times, there is a hint of disbelief in their voices, as they explain how the two dogs used to get along nicely as puppies and now every thing has abruptly changed.

Fights among dogs are one of the top reasons why dog owners call the top dog experts in the field to help them out. Often, the dogs got along pretty well until they reach social maturity; a time when they mature and suddenly start competing over resources and hierarchy. According to dog trainer and owner of Peaceable Paw, Pat Miller "Social hierarchies do exist in groups of domesticated dogs and in many other species, including humans, and hierarchy can be fluid".

The fights may be between same-sex dogs, a younger dog suddenly attacking an elderly dog, two dogs ganging up on a third dog, or fights over resources, to just name a few triggers. Regardless of the causes, the triggers and the sex, breed, age of the dogs involved, it is fundamental to seek professional help. Let's take a look on why it is so important to seek professional help rather than hoping the dogs will work it on their own or get better as times goes. In most of the cases, fights will erupt again, and if things are not addressed, they may intensify significantly.

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Why a Professional Evaluation is a Must

  • A Professional Goes to the Root of the Problem

It is only by observing the behaviors of both dogs known for engaging in fights that a professional could evaluate and identify what exactly triggers these fights. A careful assessment would also entail a thorough interview about how the family interacts with the dogs followed by careful observation of body language of both dogs and an evaluation of how they interact.

  • A Professional Can Evaluate the Severity of the Fights

The professional is the best person to assess if the fighting are only scuffles or if there is much more than that. Generally, the occasional scuffle with no major happenings is often seen in multi-dog households. Generally these scuffles are more drama than anything because dogs as good conflict solvers primarily engage in ritualized aggression. Ritualized aggression consists of mostly symbolic displays of threats to bite but without actually resorting to biting.

While some dogs may be very dramatic in their displays when they are fighting, several times they rarely do any damage to each other, but other times they will bite and break the skin and the fights can easily get nasty. But of course, any fight may start little and grow intensely quickly. However, many dogs step over the boundary of ritualized aggression if they feel the situation grants it. This is when the situation intensifies leading to owners growing concerned.

  • A Professional May Suggest Behavior Modification Programs

Upon evaluating the situation, a behavior expert will suggest the most appropriate behavior modification program. At times, this entails management, ie, keeping dogs separated around resources, respecting hierarchical structures and polishing the owner's skills in diffusing potential fights from erupting. At times, in severe cases, a behavior expert may suggest keeping both dogs always separated or re-homing one in a household where he/she is the only dog.

  • A Professional Can do Follow-ups
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When you hire a dog behavior specialist, you work with him throughout the issue. Most often than not, this is not a one time visit. Often, follow up visits are done and these experts are always a phone call away if more help is needed.

Who are These Professionals?

There are dog behavior experts and dog behavior experts and virtually anybody can call themselves dog behavior experts nowadays. At times, dog trainers can be well versed in helping with dog behavior problems, but at times they're not really the experts in the field. It is important for a dog trainer to step aside and refer to a specialist if they feel the situation grants more expertise. For severe cases, a veterinary behaviorist or a certified applied animal behaviorist are better options. Of course, good research is a must so to make a good choice. * Note, unless the behavior professional has a doctorate level graduate degree, he/she shouldn't use the term "behaviorist" but should rather use the term "behavior consultant, behavior counselor or behavior specialist."

Learn why you should stay away from trainers/behavior experts promising guarantees that your dog's behavior will be magically fixed once and for all, by reading:

Can Dog Behavior Problems be Fixed Once and For All?

Disclaimer: Please consult with a dog behaviorist if your dog is displaying aggressive behaviors. Only a dog behaviorist may see and assess behaviors and offer the most appropriate behavior modification program tailored for your dog. Use extreme caution and make safety your top priority. By reading this article you accept this disclaimer and assume full responsibility for any of your actions or lack of.

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Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 29, 2012:

Thanks a bunch for stopping by, Waggamania!

Waggamania from Craven Arms, Shropshire, UK on July 29, 2012:

To get the help of a professional in dealing with dog aggression is good, sound advice. And 'Fight' by Jean Donaldson is an excellent book recommendation, in my view. Really valuable article alexadry.

Cosmic Bus from Maryland on April 17, 2012:

This is exactly what has happened within our group of three, our female Boxer mix reached 11 months and she and our RatChi had a very intense fight which required stitches for the RatChi. Scary to see, and I was in tears, thinking we may have to rehome the Boxer after a year of putting tons of love, commitment, time, and money into her. We called in our trainer for a house call and she was a big help in recognizing triggers such as doorways and food, we are still working on it, and she will return tomorrow for another visit. Voted up, great information as usual!

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