Printable Hand-Out of this Page: Monitoring Play
No matter which breed you own, a certain amount of dog-dog conflict is a normal part of being a dog. Preventing problems and keeping the peace between dogs is the job of every realistic and proactive dog owner. Not unlike rowdy kids on the playground, dogs need their people to be good leaders and offer clear direction to make sure everybody plays by the rules.
A dog’s tolerance level for other dogs is shaped by his genetics as well as his previous history with dogs. Although pit bulls are terriers and terriers are known for having shorter fuses with dogs, most can enjoy a select number of K9 playmates provided the chemistry between dogs is good, the setting is controlled and a good leader is present to enforce the rules.
Note: New dog intros always go better when they’re slow and measured. For tips on doing dog intros, see our Socializing Pit Bulls Page
Do you know your dog's limits with other dogs? Does he has a short fuse, a long fuse or somewhere in between? Be realistic about what he can put up with from other dogs and what kind of play or behavior he will not tolerate. Read our page on Dog Tolerance Levels
Dog tolerance levels can and do change over time. Young pups can become much more Dog Selective as they mature, and unsocialized adults can become more Dog Tolerant with proper intros and positive exposure to well socialized dogs, especially dogs of the opposite sex. Be ready for changes.
Even dogs that get along can break into an argument if one or both are offended or challenged. Study your dog! Understand his body language so you can know when to intervene and avert trouble long before an argument starts. If a real fight does happen, learn from it so it doesn’t happen again.
LEFT: These dogs don't know each other well and the brindle dog is looking very uncomfortable about that intrusive butt-sniff. Look at his hackles go up along with that hard stare! It's time to call both dogs away from each other to avoid a spat. Mature pit bulls don't appreciate rushed greetings. By respecting your dog's comfort levels, you can avoid setting him up for a bad experience.
Obedience training can’t "cure" or eliminate a dog of a normal dog behavior like dog aggression, but being a good leader
will help you referee your pet’s interactions with another well socialized dog so he can have positive experiences. Once you’ve established the rules AND you understand his individual limits, you can set him up for successful interactions and he’ll be much less likely to ‘cross the line.’ Pit bulls are born pleasers and, given proper intros and smart supervision, most are willing to follow the direction of a good leader.
Right: Dogs shouldn’t play with other dogs unless they’re under voice control and quick to respond to an emergency recall. Pit Bull Hall trainer Sara is making these dogs stop their play and do a Down-Stay in the middle of a rowdy play session. She's familiar with each of the dogs and knows how hard they can play and when they might need to settle down and take a little break. Once again, this is a lot like monitoring young children on the playground!
A dog who behaves badly around other dogs on leash is being Leash Reactive. This does not necessarily mean he’s 'Dog Aggressive.' In many cases. given proper intros, this same dog can play nicely with appropriate dogs in supervised play sessions. Obedience classes that focus on distraction techniques can teach these dogs better on-leash manners. Watch for our new page on Dealing with Leash Reactivity.
Some dogs, including some pit bulls, just can’t live with or play with other dogs. They shouldn’t be judged for this. Playmates are a nicety but not a necessity for dogs. Having a loving human companion is much more important to these Solo Flyers.
As with children, fights can spark up from the most seemingly insignificant ‘triggers' even between dogs that are buddies. Some common triggers: Arguments over toys, food, favorite dogs or even favorite people (resource guarding). A perceived challenge such as intense eye contact, tug-o-war game or rough play can set a dog off. Watch out for excitement levels that spike when dogs slam into each other while chasing a squirrel or dashing to the sound of the doorbell (Redirected aggression). Knowing your dog’s triggers helps prevent trouble.
Right: Tug-o-War is fun exercise for younger dogs, but it can spark a fight between mature dogs or dogs that don't know each other well. It's best to avoid this game until you're very familiar with both dogs'limits and even so, only if you're nearby to supervise.
Did You Know? Dog-dog aggression is common with many breeds.
Excitement was ID'ed as one of the biggest fight triggers in this Cornell University Study
Some dogs wait for their owners to leave the house before they misbehave. For this reason, leaving dogs loose in the home together can present certain risks. This isn’t just a ‘pit bull thing.’ Many different dog breed owners practice these simple precautions: To separate unattended pets, homes use dog crates, kennels and baby gates and some of us close our dogs in the bedroom for a nice cozy nap on the pillows while we’re away.
Because excitement levels run high at Dog Parks and not all the participants are fair players, smart dog owners avoid them in place of smaller, supervised play group sessions with dogs that know and like each other.
Some housemate dogs will develop a dangerous grudge that goes beyond basic supervision. These situations are the hardest to deal with and can force owners to separate their pets full time. This is a very difficult way to live! Avoid grudges by designing well-balanced housemate matches (opposite sex pairings do the best), maintain a strong leadership role and avoid setting dogs up to compete for your attention.
Right: These housemate dogs get along well, in part, because they were never set up to compete for attention or resources. The male joined the household when he was an adult, so his adopters were able to see that his adult personality was Dog Tolerant. Learn more about Multi Dog Homes
Even if your dogs are perfect angels with each other, they should never be allowed to fence fight with the neighbor’s dogs. If a feud is brewing between the households, work with your neighbor to rotate your dogs’ outdoor times so they avoid each other, make sure your fence is solid and secure and teach your dog that barking at the fence is never allowed.
Teach your dog that there are consequences for any inappropriate behavior with other dogs. Mark bad behavior with a firm verbal correction, "UH OH!" and remove your dog immediately from the situation. Your strong disapproval and the removal of the 'fun' will make a point.
On the flipside, remember to praise your dog for showing relaxed body language and good manners around other dogs. Always end on a positive while things are going well. Pit bulls are a very intelligent breed and can certainly make good decisions with other well socialized dogs when offered good direction and the best opportunities to succeed.
Our dogs count on us to be smart Peace Keepers. Remember to respect your dog's limits and - Enjoy!