Managing Intra-household Reactivity




Living with multiple dogs can be wonderful, but sometimes things go wrong and tensions rise between housemates. In order to build a happy home life with your dogs you will want to prevent altercations and generally lower your dogs’ arousal levels, while you work on building new associations and appropriate behaviours.

Think about the times that your dogs react to each other. When are they most challenged? Is it at the end of the day when they are tired? During activities such as eating, walking or playing? Or while close to you or other family members?

Identifying patterns will help you find ways to better manage situations. This might include feeding them in separate rooms, walking them separately, managing their proximity to each other in the home, limiting play time or increasing sleep.

Next, determine if there are any resources causing tension. Common items that cause issues are: water bowls, toys, dog beds, specific people, high value chews, novel items, or food. Just because your dogs struggle with one or more of these, doesn’t mean they will have issues with all of them. Identify those that are a problem for your dogs and manage access carefully. Ensure that they only have access to these items when alone in separate secure spaces.

It’s also important to understand how to interpret your dogs’ body language. Looking for early signs of stress will help you interrupt situations and separate your dogs well before things escalate. Look for subtle signals such as freezing, tall postures or changes in tail carriage and use a noise or specific cue to interrupt them. Give them a break in separate locations with something calm to do.

Managing your dogs’ environment, removing access to triggers and interrupting escalating behaviour before conflict arises will help build a more harmonious home life for you and your dogs.

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