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Lisa, Certified Veterinary Technician
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 16554
Experience:  CVT with a special interest in behavior modification through structure, boundaries and limitations with positive reinforcement.
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We have a husky/Chihuahua mix (Neo) that is around 23 lbs.

Customer Question

We have a husky/Chihuahua mix (Neo) that is around 23 lbs. Lately he has been staring fights with our little min-pin (Polo) who is only 7 lbs. Both are male dogs. He will give no warning and just pounce on him and a fight erupts. We don't know why he does this but am afraid he will end up hurting him. In the first instance I was petting Neo and the hall and Polo came up. He lashed out at him. The second time Polo was just passing by him. Both times he gave no warning, no growls or anything. He just went at him. We have had bth dogs for a while now so we don't know why he is doing this lately. He has been to a vet recently and has no medical issues. Any ideas or suggestions would be greatly helpful. Thanks.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Lisa replied 2 years ago.

Hi there. My name is ***** ***** I'm happy to help you with your question today. Just like an in person consult, I have a few questions of my own to help ensure I give you the best advice possible....

Have they lived together forever?

Are both boys neutered?

Are the dogs crate trained?

Do the fights always happen around you, or when you're giving attention to one and not the other?

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
They have been living together for 7 years. Both are neutered. Neo is house broken and doesn't use a crate. Polo still has accidents on and off in the house so when we leave he is in a crate. He has been having accidents lately, but since we moved him in to a new crate he has been fine. When the first fight broke out I was giving Neo attention and Polo came up to me. He could of been being possessive when he struck him but Polo has come up to me numerous times and it hadn't bothered him before. Even after this happened he seemed ok with me giving them both attention. The second time the other dog was just walking by. I had given them both a treat. Polo had just ate his and Neo was still eating his at the time. It hadn't bothered him in the past when Polo was by him while eating. There were a few times Polo even stole his food and didn't seem to bother him. I will say this though, Neo was an abandoned dog we took in. We don't know his past. He has fear anxiety. He tried to bite me once when he was on the bed sleeping and I reached out to him. He did bite my husband when he was playing with the other dog and Neo was laying down. That was a few years back and he has been fine since. We just know not to sneak up on him when he is laying down and watch the other dog being excited while he is resting. He is currently on Trazodone for anxiety.
Expert:  Lisa replied 2 years ago.

Thanks for the additional information. I really appreciate it.

Although a power struggle over who is dominant can result in interdog fights in a home, there are also many other possible causes that range from fear and anxiety to hormonal issues.

There's a good site that discusses interdog aggression here:

That being said, the first step is to have the aggressor of the majority of the fights seen by the vet to rule out possible medical reasons for the fighting. Things like thyroid issues can cause behavioral changes (usually to the aggressive) in dogs. Having your vet take a quick peek and run a thyroid test and/or any other tests they think could explain this behavior is the first step. I know that he's already seen the vet, and is on some medication, but I'm not sure if they did blood work, so I wanted to mention it, just to be on the safe side.

If that comes back clean, then you'll have to figure out how to handle this situation. Make sure you don't ever yell or physically discipline the dogs when they're fighting. Raising your voice causes the excitement in the dogs to increase, which can make them fight even more. Also, using physical punishment will only make them feel like they really do have something to be worried or afraid of. When they start fighting, the best thing to do is to quietly and calmly separate them if possible. Sometimes allowing all the dogs to have leashes on while in the house will give you something to grab and use to pull them apart so that you don't get bit accidentally.

If you're reluctant to do that, then you're going to have to take steps to ensure that the aggressor isn't ever left alone with the other dog. Since one dog is already crate trained, it might not be a bad idea to use a crate with Neo as well. Crates/Kennels provide a safe place for a dog to retreat to when they're overwhelmed about something. Additionally, getting everyone crate trained will make it much easier to control who is out interacting with each other.
You should also feed them in the crates and make sure to separate them when letting them outside.

Unfortunately, if you're unable to get these ideas to work, you may have to consider finding a new home for one of the dogs. It's definitely possible that your aggressive dog simply can't live peacefully with other dogs. It's actually pretty common to have dogs who have lived together fine before develop aggression as they age, so if your more aggressive dog can't live happily in your home, the finding him a new place may be the best not only for him, but for the other dog (and you!) too.

I hope this helps.

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
His Thyroid is fine. That was checked when he had his other tests done. We always try and keep calm with breaking up fights. We keep them separated when needed but that is only putting a band aid on the issue and not addressing the root of the problem.
Expert:  Lisa replied 2 years ago.

I understand that it's frustrating...that's why getting a behaviorist to come in, observe the dogs, and see if they can pick up on any triggers that is causing this change in behavior.

Please do me a favor and make sure to rate/accept my answer so I get credit for working with won't close this questions and we'll still be able to work on this problem together?