How To Stop Dogs From Fighting in the Same Household

Anybody who has owned multiple dogs has probably experienced a bit of squabbling at some time. Play fights can boil over into a wrestling match without much real consequence. But sometimes that fighting can become a real problem, causing stress for both the dog and you.

So when should you be concerned about fighting? Are your dogs fighting a normal amount? What can you do to help calm the situation at home?

Two dogs playing on a beach.

Why Do Dogs in the Same Household Fight?

Growls, snarls, and even the occasional nip may happen from time to time, but it can be a bit confusing when two dogs who normally get along ok start fighting out of nowhere. Why does this happen?

Dominance Displays

Most dog fights don’t get too physical and end up with one dog barking, snarling, or just lunging at the other dog. These are often displays of dominance.[1] 

Dominant behavior is a natural instinct for dogs. The dominant dog in the hierarchy may not necessarily be aggressive, showing his authority through body language, being demanding, or grooming.

Sometimes, though, the ‘dominant’ dog may show its dominance through aggressive behavior when it feels threatened, such as with a new dog. Other times the other dog may respond badly to being dominated. 

Resource Guarding

Dogs fighting in multi-dog households can be linked to a need to guard resources (even if there are actually enough resources for everybody)

‘Resources’ can include things such as food, treats, toys, beds, blankets, the best spot on the couch, and even your attention and affection. There can be enough to go around, but if one dog FEELS like they are getting the short end of the stick (no pun intended) then they may guard it forcefully. 

Three dogs of different breeds sitting side-by-side wearing colorful sparkpaws shirts.



Overstimulation is another thing that can cause a dog fight to break out. One dog may be feeling overwhelmed by other dogs and that causes them to become aggressive and lash out.

This can be because the dog is stressed out, in pain, or over-stimulated by an environment or a new dog in the same house. Some dogs may also have trauma from previous dog attacks that cause them to be extra sensitive.

Under-trained, badly socialized, or naturally aggressive dogs may also overstep boundaries and cause a fight to break out.

So How To Stop Dogs From Fighting in the Same Household?

Once you think you may have a grasp on the issue, you can start to counteract it. Normally this involves getting to the root of the issue to prevent it from even getting to the point of a dogfight.

Introduce Them Slowly

If you are planning on bringing a new dog into the house, it may be best to ease all parties into it

It is a good idea to allow the dogs to meet each other at a neutral territory such as a park. This will allow the two of them to establish a bond and a hierarchy before they get home. You can also try keeping them separate for a few days, allowing the new dog to explore slowly.

There will probably be at least some tussling and dominating at first, but it hopefully shouldn’t last too long.

Two small dogs on a leash facing each other playfully.

Avoid Reinforcing Negative Behavior

While asserting dominance is a normal behavior, and can involve some roughhousing, it should never get too physical.

You should punish a dog that becomes too physical or aggressive…and it may not always be the one that attacks first. A dog that is too pushy is more at fault than a dog trying to defend itself. Blame the bully, not the victim who retaliates.

Be careful about rushing in and making a fuss, or even trying to create a hierarchy among the dogs yourself, as this is often counterproductive and can create issues within their pack.

Check Their Health

If two dogs in the same household normally get along but have suddenly started fighting, then it means something has changed. If the circumstances haven’t changed, then one of the dogs may be stressed or even in pain.

A vet can rule out any pain or stressors that may be driving a dog to be aggressive and hopefully come up with a solution.

Getting your dog fixed can also help, especially if one or both of them are males, as a rush of hormones may be to blame. This isn’t the one-fix-all solution that many people claim, but it can greatly drop the risk of aggression, especially if the dog is still young[2]. A female in heat can also cause some aggressive hormonal behaviors in her and other dogs.

Provide Enough Resources for Everyone

Sometimes it's not about the amount of resources available that makes dogs fight, but rather the way that it's presented. 

Make sure you have enough beds, blankets, toys, and food to go around for every dog in the household. But if that's already the case, then consider keeping the dogs separated while you’re dishing out the resources.

This means that maybe you should have separate crates to sleep in, or consider feeding them out of eyesight from each other to prevent jealousy. Each dog should have its own separate bowl and eat a distance from each other. You can also remove any leftovers to prevent dogs from scavenging each other's food. 

Three  dogs of different breeds racing each other


Attention should also be as equal as possible. Some dogs are naturally more cuddlier than others, and may not mind a bit of a difference, but if it’s a problem then you may need to rethink how you give attention.

You will have to work on giving equal amounts of attention without the other dog or dogs present. You should also avoid accidentally reinforcing the more aggressive dog by giving them more attention when they butt in. Rather, give them treats and attention when they act calmly and stay where they are.[3]

Avoid/Calm Down Triggering Situations

A big cause of aggression in dogs is a stressful situation. Be alert to both dogs' body language to see if someone is getting triggered or annoyed by the situation playing out.

Sometimes you can try and remove the stressor, such as by putting the dogs away if you know guests are coming over and they’re going to get overly excited. Easily stressed dogs will also be calmer if moved away from other dogs during stressful situations, such as a thunderstorm.

You can also help prevent dog aggression by helping socialize your puppy from when they’re young. Taking them to the dog park, or helping them to have calm and positive playdates with other dogs will help them to stay calm and handle another dog's bad behavior better.

It is possible to help train an older dog too, but it may take a bit longer. You can start by rewarding calm and relaxed behavior and withdrawing treats and food from more aggressive behavior.

Proper dog training is an absolute necessity. It will be easier to help your dog feel more secure and less aggressive if they respect you and your authority. The ability to follow your commands, such as ‘sit’, ‘down’, or ‘come here’, can prevent serious fights from starting or escalating.

Two dogs fighting each other

Dealing With Fights

The majority of fights between dogs tend to look and sound worse than they actually are. Normally it will be more about growling, nipping, or yowling than a real fight. However, sometimes a fight can escalate and get ugly.


It is a good idea to have some knowledge of canine body language so that you can pick up when your two dogs are about to start a fight.

If one dog is an aggressor then the annoyed party might respond by - leaning away, avoiding eye contact, and lowering their body or head. These are signs that one dog is getting fed up with another’s behavior and it may be time to give him a break.

If the fight is mutual, the two dogs may - make strong eye contact, raise the fur on their back, raise or drop their head, and bare their teeth. This is a sign the situation is escalating and may break out into a fight soon.

If a physical fight breaks out you may need to try and break it up. Try throwing something between them, making a loud sound, or throwing water or a blanket over the two dogs.

Try to leave grabbing or stepping between the fighting dogs as your very last resort, since a worked-up dog may bite and injure you in the confusion.

The Aftermath

A fight that escalates to the point of one of the dogs being injured is a serious issue, even if the attacker is a smaller dog who can’t cause much damage.

Avoid punishing the dogs while they are worked up. Rather try and separate them into different areas while you attend to any injuries. It's best to get all bleeding wounds seen by a vet as soon as possible.

Let the dogs stay apart for at least 48 hours - as this is the amount of time it takes for their cortisol and stress levels to return to a normal state. After that, you can try to reintroduce them slowly.

Don’t be ashamed about contacting a professional trainer to help you with easily triggered or aggressive dogs. The majority of dogs can be helped, and you can better learn how to cope with them.


Most dog fights occur because of dominance displays, resource guarding, and overstimulation. Being able to handle these correctly, such as with training and careful planning, can go a long way to preventing fights.

Try to be aware of your dogs’ body language, as well as what normally triggers a fight, and be prepared to separate them as necessary. Sometimes professional intervention may be needed.

It can be hard to work with a reactive dog, but having firm control of the situation can help. If you would like a collar that helps you to stay in control, why not check out Sparkpaws’ Comfort Control Dog Collars for extra grip and safety outside and around the home?

Happy Walking!

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