Q & A: Male-on-male aggression

Q: How do I deal with male-on-male aggression in dogs?

A: While conflict is more likely to occur between dogs of the same gender, it’s more of a contributing factor than an ultimate cause or trigger. Inter-dog conflict can be incredibly complex and may span from mild tension and growling to full-blown fights in which the dogs involved are severely injured. In these cases, a qualified behaviourist would require a thorough history of each dog from early puppyhood, an assessment of each dog as an individual, and an investigation of when and how the aggression occurs. It is no simple matter!

In cases where there are obvious triggers, such as competition over toys, the solution is quite modest – careful management of toys. However, if the triggers are not clear or the conflict puts the dogs’ welfare at risk, then a much more detailed treatment plan is required. With male dogs, it’s not always relevant to recommend neutering – this can help, but it can also make no difference at all, and could even worsen the conflict. It depends heavily on whether hormonal activity is one of the factors exacerbating the aggression.

If there is any sign of tension or aggression between dogs in a household, it is best to contact the Animal Behaviour Consultants of South Africa for a referral to a qualified professional. Don’t ignore the signs and don’t assume they will ‘sort it out themselves’ – this can be a serious issue and necessitates the intervention of a behaviourist with the relevant qualifications to provide assistance.

Katherine Brown, behaviourist

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