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Dog Suddenly Aggressive Towards Other Dog In the House

So what should you do if one dog is being aggressive towards the other dog in your own house? Some dogs may even attack their fellow canines, leaving owners with lots of questions.

Whether it’s about reintroducing the dogs or the question of whether or not they should be separated after a dog fight and what line one should draw when it comes to the safety of other members in the house.

While it’s always saddening us to witness our beloved dogs fight each other, the problems are often pretty easy to solve if owners are ready for workarounds and training.

You’ll learn how to spot the signs of how serious a dog fight is (or was if you’re coming home too late), what to do with them and how to work on this issue.

My Dog Keeps Attacking My Other Dog For No Reason

Many owners report one of their dogs fighting with each other for no apparent reason. While it may seem like our dogs just go on murderous frenzy out of nowhere, that’s actually almost never the case.

Dogs always communicate using their body language which includes facial and vocal gestures like growling, body postures, and tail positions.

We humans can sometimes have a hard time reading theses signs but even though threats can be pretty clear to dogs, they too can challenge their fellow canine. And sometimes both refuse to back down.

In other cases, it’s just known issues that one dog has and the other doesn’t, as is the case with food aggression.

While the aggressive dog may have initially triggered a dog fight, your other dog might as well be the first to attack. Every dog has a different threshold of what they take.

Keep in mind that it’s never your dog’s fault, some dogs just have a tendency to take less bullying than others and they might strike the provoking dog.

Important notice: There is something I want to show you that will change the way you interact with your dog. Check it out here.

As a responsible dog owner, it’s your responsibility to take precautions if one of your dogs has known issues like resource guarding, food aggression, not wanting to be annoyed by your new puppy, and so on.

We’ll dive deeper into this in the bottom section where we discuss why dogs fight and how to solve it.

Dogs fighting with each other at home

Why Is My Dog Suddenly Aggressive Towards Our Other Dog

While your dog might not outright attack the second dog in your household, signs of aggression can be a tell that something might happen in the future.

How can your dog display aggression towards your other dog?

  • Growling or snarling upon approaching
  • Baring teeth when food or toys are around
  • Snapping your other dog when overexcited
  • Redirecting leash reactivity towards other dogs
  • Bullying the weaker (usually smaller or younger) dog

These signs can all be perceived as aggression and can be indicative of future problems that might arise.

A very tense relationship is never welcome and should be resolved immediately upon being spotted, but what can you do?

How To Stop Dogs From Fighting In the Same Household

When it comes to stopping your dogs from fighting at home (or outside), it’s important to note that I’m referring to constant nagging, snapping, growling, and so on – not any immediate threat or dog attack.

I have an article that covers the actual dog on dog attack if you’re interested.

To stop dogs from fighting, the most important question is why your dogs fight in the first place. Once you know the root of the problem, you can take care of it.

So why do dogs fight?

  1. Resource guarding
  2. Food aggression
  3. Redirected overexcitement
  4. Lack of exercise
  5. Desire to be left alone
  6. Jealousy
  7. Pain
  8. Territorial issues / previous aggression

1. The basic explanations for fights with dogs are always resource guarding and food aggression. If one dog is known to have either of these issues, please take care of it early on and read the linked articles.

2. If you walk your dogs outside or guests are over and one of your dogs redirects the negative energy to your other dog due to his level of excitement, training will be required.

If that is the case, it’s best to walk your dogs separately and work on the overexcitement with lots of new situations, dogs, humans, noises, etc.

The whole desensitization and socialization package.

My Rottweiler puppy was quite overexcited too (which presented as tension on the leash, nothing serious) and the causes and ways to solve this are almost always identical which is why I’ve written an article on this too.

3. If one of your dogs has a lack of exercise, this could be another reason why he is constantly nagging your other dog.

Besides extensive walks, there are several other things you can do to entertain your dog in your own backyard. Make sure to adjust the amount and kind of exercise to your dog’s breed, age, and individual needs.

Sometimes this also means walking the dogs separately as they can have different exercise needs. A tired dog is a good dog.

5. When people introduce a new puppy into the family, the adult dog might not be so happy.

Some adult dogs handle puppies very well and can be the best teachers, but other dogs just don’t have the temperament to deal with puppies in their face all day.

If one of your dogs constantly annoys the other dog, you have to keep this from happening again and teach them how to respectfully treat and measuredly correct each other in an appropriate way.

6. When you introduce a new rescue and he’s all the rave, neighbors come over and pet him, he gets all the attention, then that may be great for him but much to your other dog’s dislike.

Dogs can feel some form of jealousy and it’s important to teach your first dog to handle jealousy but also make sure that both get attention equally.

Pitbull jealous of other dog

Go on bonding trips together, make sure they connect each other with positive things and not with negative experiences.

Visit a vet to rule out any physical injuries. You can check simple things like foreign objects stuck in the paw yourself.

7. Injuries are often not discovered right away and the resulting change in mood might be perceived as aggression if there’s another dog in the household.

8. I’ve decided not to include “dominance” since many people immediately connect that to the outdated dominance theory in dog training.

However, if you introduce a new dog, issues can happen if the introduction to each other was poor or even non-existent (see below).

Whether you believe in pack theory or not, it’s important that your dogs listen to you and recognise you as the leader and guide in which case training will be far easier.

Dog on dog aggression can not only happen between males, but also between females or even male and female dogs (although this is the best combination in many cases if both dogs have the appropriate temperament).

If your new rescue has come with baggage in form of dog aggression, you can resolve the issues with the steps and articles outlined above that include socializing and desensitizing your dog to others in order to create a positive connection. The assistance of a behaviorist may be necessary.

How To Tell If a Dog Fight Is Serious

If real attacks are happening, it’s time to quickly intervene.

After this happened or even when you’re just suspecting it, you should never leave your dogs alone if they’re not separated (and if that’s not possible, they should wear muzzles).

Muzzles are also mandatory if your dog is known to redirect any perceived aggression towards you, or other dogs and people.

I’d never recommend to anyone that they should let any dog fight “play out by itself”. That’s almost never the case.

While there certainly is a threshold when a dog attack gets really serious, you don’t want to get to that point.

As discussed above, if you spot signs of aggression, intervene and separate the dogs until you have a clear plan of what to do now and how to resolve any issues that may have built up over a long time.

How To Discipline a Dog After Fighting

While dogs do learn with proper guidance, corrections, and counter-conditioning, there’s nothing that you can immediately do that will resolve the issue.

Check out my ways of how to discipline your dog but keep in mind that a correction should always be clear, but measured as to not achieve the reverse effect of your dog losing respect for you too.

Separating the dogs is not a long-term solution, although it will work in the short term until you’ve figured out what the problem exactly is and how you can resolve the issue.

On the contrary, constant separation will put much stress on both dogs as well as yourself and other family members in which case a harmonic life isn’t possible anymore.

If you go so far as to isolate one of the dogs, it might cause even more issues and resentment expressed as aggression than before.

White brown dog lying on the floor

Reintroducing Dogs After a Fight

Reintroducing both your dogs in the same household is an important way for rehabilitation.

In some cases, poor introductions to the new family addition are the cause of the other dog’s non-acceptance.

Some dog breeds defend their territory pretty harshly since that’s what they’re bred to do. If you’ve just dropped a new dog into the other dog’s territory, problems are bound to happen.

Make sure that any and all introductions to each other happen on neutral ground. Introductions shouldn’t start with head-on meetings either since this can make one of your dogs uncomfortable.

Start by having somebody else lead the new dog towards you and then just start walking with you and your dog in the front.

Next, you can start with the meeting where they sniff each other more extensively.

Some dogs do not have any issues with dogs inside their territory (like my female Rottweiler), it’s still good to take precautions to avoid any confusions.

My Dog Killed My Other Dog What Should I Do?

This is a question you’ll find on Reddit more often than you’d probably like to.

It’s a sad story, no matter what the circumstances were but it’s important to not stick your head in the sand and start addressing this issue.

The advice that’s spread by people that presumably never really read up about dog training and behavior can be really dangerous.

Next is the popular “just surrender that dog to a shelter” or even better “euthanize the dog”.

Nearly no shelter will take a dog that killed another animal, much less another dog. Even if they did, they probably couldn’t train it and the dog would end up in the hands of a layman, without the slightest mention or explanation of the incident.

Euthanizing a dog for a mistake the owner made is also completely unacceptable in my personal opinion. No matter how you look at this, falsely assessing your dog(s) and/or not taking security precautions like isolating one potentially aggressive dog from the other are mistakes.

We can’t fix the past, but we can act differently in the future.

Start training with professional help. And I don’t just mean a certified trainer, I mean a really qualified behaviorist that has a proven track record and that you trust. Be ready to put in lots of time, effort, and money.

If this is no option for you, it’s completely understandable. Sometimes, circumstances in life make it hard to deal with these kinds of situations but you should at the very least try to solve the issue yourself (with professional help if needed).

In case you want to surrender the dog to a shelter or another owner directly, do your research, explain everything in detail and do not downplay anything. Try the hardest you can and don’t blame anything on the dog.

A dog that has killed before can definitely be very dangerous and should only go out muzzled and not interact with other dogs unsupervised (or not at all, depending on what exactly happened during the attack).

To summarise this, dog on dog aggression inside your own home can be really sad to watch and if you feel helpless, remember that their is a way out to teach your beloved canines to accept each other.

Lots of problems are easy fixes with the right training and patience and if you have any questions along the way, feel free to ask them in the comments!

About Danielle
I am the founder of PawLeaks where I share weekly tips on dog training and behavior. Sharing a passion for dogs and helping owners to solve problems through understanding canine behavior and modification is my number one goal.

Fred

Monday 4th of October 2021

Hey there,

I have a 15 week year old Bernese mountain dog mix with a lab. Last week a friend of mine brought over his 9 month year old English bulldog.

We let them do the initial “meet and greet” outside, which went every well! Then we took them for a walk around town, which also went well. Later on they came back and we went inside. I brought out two treats and gave them both one. My pup dropped his and growled and snapped, jumping to bite her anddd I got it instead. He ended up taking hers after she dropped it. I was shocked, I’ve never seen him get aggressive towards another dog. Then she went into the living room and grabbed one of his toys - which as you can guess did not go over well either.

We tried to sit down with them and hold them but my pup kept growling :(. I hated it.

I ended up having to put him in his crate for the remainder of the visit.

Do you have any suggestions on what to do or what’s going on In his mind ? Is there a way I shoudl be reintroducing them next time?

Let me know. Thanks!

Danielle

Sunday 10th of October 2021

Hey Fred, it sounds like your dog has an issue with guarding resources against other dogs. At first, the growling is just communication but if it evolves into a full-blown attack (you said snap, but also going in to bite which is very uncommon for puppies), then that may be a serious resource guarding issue.

The only thing you can do is gradually exposing your dog to accept other dogs playing with the toys and getting food (which wasn't hers in the first place). The fact that the other dog ate it and that she spent the remainder in the crate probably doesn't help.

Lots of socialization, exposure to stuff being picked up by other dogs and positive reinforcement. Some trainers will recommend a sharp correction with your voice, others will default on positive reinforcement only (redirecting, etc. which often doesn't address the issue).

Linda

Thursday 23rd of September 2021

My hope with my 10 year old female corgi and 7 month old male corgi is to prevent fights. My older girl taught the pup that she does not want to play, at all, by growling and snapping. The pup learned not to annoy her, although he sometimes tries to get close and lick her or gently paw her. She will growl or sneer. Lately, now that he’s bigger, he tries to engage her by barking at her and running away. Sometimes she’ll ignore him, other times she barks back and chases (slowly) after him. My husband thinks maybe they are playing. I don’t think so. Sometimes she corners him, and he behaves submissively. Should I intervene when he tries to engage her, or let her handle him?

They will get aggressive over food. I feed separately. Sometimes when the pup and I are playing , the older girl will get in the way and growl or snap, as if to make him settle down. Otherwise they coexist.

I walk the pup a mile+ in the morning, and the older girl 1/2 to 3/4 mile. The pup gets a second evening walk. Sometimes we go to the park together.

The girl is spayed; the pup is not yet neutered. The vet is waiting because one testicle is undescended.

Thanks for any tips.

Linda

Monday 27th of September 2021

@Danielle, and THANK YOU for responding. Your website is so informative

Linda

Monday 27th of September 2021

@Danielle, It makes sense that the pup could be copying the older girl’s behavior. (Their food aggression, right now, is limited to fierce snarling and barking). The older girl was given to us when she was one year by neighbors who didn’t know how to care for a puppy, so her first year was turmoil. So how do I stop this?

I take the pup to obedience and he has lots of positive playtime with other dogs.

Danielle

Monday 27th of September 2021

Hi Linda, it's quite common that older dogs are not into playing with puppies and as long as they communicate that in a measured way, it shouldn't be a problem. Just make sure your pup has enough positive interactions outside the home (especially when your older dog doesn't even want him to approach and lick him at all).

If the chasing is play or not is hard to tell since body language is extremely important in these situations. Food aggression is not uncommon but still completely undesirable. Root of the issue depends on whether you rescued one or both of them. It's especially uncommon for puppies of this age and could be that he's kind of copying your older dog's behavior.

Puppies don't need a lot of exercise so the amount of walking could be sufficient for now but make sure he has enough mental stiulation and playtime too (especially with other pups).

Neutering: Don't count on it solving your issue, no matter what your vet says. Here's more on neutering and why you should wait anyway until their bone growth is finished.

Cheers, Danielle

Char

Sunday 12th of September 2021

I have a rescue German shepherd mix. He is about 3 we got him at 6 months old. Recently he has attacked all of our other dogs within the last year. And has growled at my husband. The first time they were out going to the bathroom and he ran up on the older boxer. Then he was playing together very nice with our great Dane and snapped and they fought. When people come over he is very scared and runs to his cage, but after a while comes out and plays. But then gets in a mood and the hair stands up and he runs and hides. I feel like maybe he has bad anxiety. We have been nothing but nice loving and caring to him. I don't know what to do with him. He recently attacked our puppy who just walked past him. I love him so much and don't want to give up on him but I don't want him to hurt anyone or our other dogs. Any advice is appreciated.

Danielle

Tuesday 14th of September 2021

Hi Char, it's hard to diagnose from afar what's happening without having context, but I'd definitely suggest consulting a behaviorist who looks into it in person. Many big dogs involved (GSD, Great Dane, Boxer) which makes it even more pressing to prevent anything worse from happening. Never rule out medical issues.

Anxiety might be the right guess but even that always has a cause and assuming it's not medical, there must be something else going on.

Andrea

Friday 10th of September 2021

Hi Danielle!

We need help. We have 2 females. A 3 year old yorkiepoo and a 1 year old yorkie. We got the 3 year old when she was 6 months, and the 1 year old when she was 10 weeks. They have been great together the entire time until about 4 weeks ago. There was a scary fight over food dishes one day. Then it was fine for about a week. Then another fight when they heard the doorbell one random day. Now it has been often. At least once per day for the past week. Sometimes 3 or 4 times. Like, want to kill eachother fights. But in between these fights, they play together and lay together and are completely fine. We now have them with leashes on at all times in case a fight breaks out, so we can intervene without getting injured ourselves. We have no idea what's going on or what to do. Please help!

Danielle

Tuesday 14th of September 2021

Hey Andrea, it's hard to pin down the exact cause from what you're describing. I'd definitely suggest you consult a behaviorist to make sure you can live in harmony again. At first, it sounded like food aggression but there is definitely more to it with the attacking when the doorbell rings and it's happening repeatedly.

Cheryl Balius

Thursday 12th of August 2021

Hello Danielle, We have a 9 year old Llaso Apso named Kipper, who is very even tempered and a 5 year old chow/corgi mix named Izzy who has a dominant personality. She has shown food aggression and we have always fed them separately which helped with this problem. Recently, my granddaughter moved in with us and we let her get a female Westie named Bella. Since having Bella, Izzy has shown much more aggression towards Kipper. About 5 months ago, Izzy attacked Kipper when Kipper got a treat that Izzy had left behind. Izzy had just gotten back from the groomers which she hates. It was terrible. Kipper could have lost his floppy ear and had deep gashes in his side. I pulled Izzy off Kipper. Kipper refuses to backdown even though Izzy’s teeth are 5 times the size of his. Today, out of no where, Izzy attacked Kipper over one of Bella’s toys. Izzy had gotten super excited when a delivery person had dropped off a box and had just been over stimulated by that. They had just come back inside from our porch and out of nowhere, a terrible brawl started over the toy. My hand was mauled as I tried to pull Izzy off. I’m not sure what to do. We love Izzy but no longer trust her. Please offer any suggestions to help that you can. I am heart broken to think of rehoming her, but feel that I may have to. Thanks so much for any advice you can offer.

Danielle

Monday 6th of September 2021

Hi Cheryl, sorry for the late response. It sounds like getting another dog has upset the relationship between your current dogs. You should act asap and consult a professional if this hasn't been resolved. It's important that the aggression only seems to be directed towards your oldest dog and not the new Westie. But from what you describe, Izzy has always been "dominant" right? Make sure to take note of their body language and causes of the fights and let your behaviorist know about that.

Hope you'll be able to resolve this! Danielle