By Gaby Dufresne-Cyr, CBT-FLE
The following taboo topic article might come as a surprise for some, but I assure you dogs killing dogs within the same household is common. The reason you most likely have never heard of this phenomena is that people rarely talk about the situation. Today, I want to shed some light on the problem and offer a few tips on how to prevent deaths.
Second Dog Introduction
When you decide to get a second dog, usually meetings and introduction processes take place before the second dog becomes a fulltime family member. The most common situation for a multiple dog household is dog two (Fido) is younger than dog one (Rex). When Fido moves in, all is well, and a friendship might start to blossom. Both dogs enjoy each other and seem to do everything together. In other cases, Rex and Fido tolerate each other; over time, tolerance turns to annoyance.
Dog Aggression vs. Dog Attack
There is a big difference between dog aggression and dog attacks. The former is a very noisy and fasts pace action exchange where individuals try to settle a conflict. The later, on the other hand, is silent and somewhat stationary. A dog attack serves to kill the individual. In some cases, aggression can turn deadly, but in most cases, it never comes as a surprise.
Multiple Dog Household Deaths
Pet caregivers will consult when dogs with an age difference display aggressive behaviours. From there we can work on behaviour modification and management. Clients leave with dog behaviour and training protocols designed to facilitate peaceful living arrangements. On other occasions, clients consult for aggression because one dog killed the other. This claim might surprise you, but unfortunately, it’s a real one.
Younger dogs like Fido will often kill older, more vulnerable dogs like Rex. From a canine point of view, the kill behaviour is normal. Dogs are opportunistic predators who exploit vulnerabilities. When dogs see an injured, sick, juvenile, or otherwise compromised individual, their predatory brain tells them to kill. Humans have tried to breed this out of dogs; unfortunately, most individuals retain their genetic makeup.
Death by Dog
So far, in my career, I’ve evaluated over two dozen dogs for the death of an older dog within the same household. Clients present the case as a silent, unexpected, attack. People are shocked about the situation and think Fido just turned into a monster. Fido rarely is a monster; he is merely a dog. The proof is in the pudding: when the household has more than two dogs, Fido never attacks or displays aggression towards the other canines.
Most often, the attack occurs when people are in another room or out on a short errand. There is no sound from the attacker. The cries come from Rex. The high pitch cries serve to tell the attacker I am in pain, let me go! An attack never lasts long; it usually is over within a few seconds up to a minute or so. People never saw it coming, or more often than not, just could not recognize the subtle signs. Dog language is complex
Take Home Message
If you have more than one dog in your household, learn dog language. You will need to identify the situation before it occurs. From there, you can separate dogs to manage the situation. Dog training can go a long way, but remember, we are working against natural behaviours.
Please do not feel guilty about the death of a dog within your household; you didn’t know and couldn’t have prevented the situation. I recommend you take a dog language class and invite your friends with multiple dogs to join you. Make your experience know, for together we can educate and prevent tragic deaths. I suggest you talk about the situation with or comment below to share the knowledge. If you recently lost a pet and need counselling, please drop me a line. I know how hard it is to lose a friend under such tragic events.
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