View Full Version : fighting puppies advice please

13th May 2012, 05:45 PM
Hope im posting this is the right place. I would really appreciate some advice about our two cavalier pups. Tilly our female tri is 9 months old, we got her Oct 2011, and Lucy our female Blenheim is 5 months old, we got her Feb 2012.

No problems introducing them, although Tilly did try and dominate Lucy while she was very tiny, but generally they got along fine up until about 4 weeks ago. We first started noticing a problem when we gave them both an occasional treat, Tilly would try and steal Lucys treat every time, even if she hadnt eaten her own, Tilly wanted both. Same story with toys, even bought two of everything but they still fight over same thing.

This made Lucy very wary of Tilly, and Lucy started growling a warning towards Tilly whenever she tried to approach her to take whatever it was she was trying to steal. We started giving them treats in different rooms to avoid it happening.

In the last few weeks, we have now noticed it happens when Lucy is on sofa and Tilly is on floor or vice versa. They only have to have eye contact, and Lucy starts growing, Tilly growls back and then they really start to go for each other, snapping and snarling very nasty, we have to seperate them for cool down time immediately. Our 2 sofas are next to each other, and have noticed it also happens if each of them are on a seperate sofa, there eyes meet, snarling starts and off it goes again...

They sleep in the crate together, they play in garden together, they sit on the back of the sofa together staring out the window, we can even leave them in the kitchen together if we are out. I'm wondering if its a jealousy thing? It only seems to happen when a human is present.

They are both as soft as mush on there own, and its upsetting to see them fighting. I was warned that having two females would cause me a problem as they would fight, but its not all the time. Can anyone help, or has anyone been through a simular experience with cavalier puppies? Thanks in advance. Eve

PS i can post a link to a video of this happening, if it will help?

13th May 2012, 06:06 PM
Is the 9 month old in season or either of them about to be?
yes,the video would be helpful to see the bahaviour.

13th May 2012, 08:16 PM
There are probably two strands to this: one is the fact that you have two intact females (and most problems with dogs fighting tend to be between females, not males) and one has hit puberty and is moving into adult behaviours. I know rescues that will not home a second female to a home with a female, but this breed tends to not have the problems many dogs have. Still: it is a common issue and if it has started, is likely to escalate without management of various kinds.

The other issue is that dogs need to be managed and trainers generally advise being very careful with interactions that involve treats, toys etc between dogs as these are triggers potentially for fights and if this behaviour isn't managed, they can escalate to the point where one dog needs to be rehomed, so it is a potentially very serious issue you will want to start to work on now. Feeding as well -- food can be a trigger even with dogs that have gotten along fine for years and years. To some degree this is normal BUT must be managed by owners to avoid having growls turn into real fights that can draw blood and for this to become a habit. Eg feed separately and in crates or with lots and lots of distance; supervied ALL the time. Never leave food down for free feeding. Treats and toys only given in a supervised way with distance between them. or in crates. With difficult dogs you may even need a barrier -- eg a baby gate across a doorway with each dog on one side, or use a puppy pen (x-pen), easily one of the most useful and cost effective things you can ever buy (I use mine all the time in many different ways!).

What you are seeing is pretty serious behaviour though and is violent enough that I personally would want to talk to a trainer if I didn't feel able to manage it or to know what to look for in dog language before it escalates to the snarls/going for each other (CPDT or APDT certified -- those organisations have websites that will list trainers near you)

If this happens mostly when a person is there... well, that begs the question of how do you know it doesn't happen when no one is there, if no one is there to observe? :) But also indicates this has an element of resource guarding, again a potentially very serious issue that needs addressing now. If it is happening at all, then you definitely shouldn't leave desirable items like treats or toys with the dogs if they are together, alone, as they could be flash points for a serious fight when you are not there. I never ever leave treats and chews with my dogs when I go out as two will indeed risk fighting under such circumstances. As it is starting to escalate, I'd not even leave the two of yours together without a barrier of some sort when you go out, to be honest, until you have some professional advice from a class (see below) or one on one sessions with a trainer as above.

The general advice from trainers and vets would be to neuter one or both females or you are likely to have these problems on and off, especially when one comes into season. There are health arguments anyway for neutering females -- unspayed females have a 1 in 4 chance of getting mammary tumours during their lifetime (and half of mammary tumours are malignant); Vet columnist Pete Wedderburn notes: "if a bitch is neutered before her first season, she is 2,000 times less likely to develop mammary cancer than if she is left entire until she is three years of age." And, this breed has an extremely high risk of the often fatal uterine infection pyometra -- around 40% for unspayed females.


On training: here are some possible issues to consider:





A final word -- both dogs are at an age where they are at their best for their first group obedience classes (dogs from the same household should NOT do the same class though -- they tend to focus on each other and no point in wasting your money. This is true even of two of you take one dog each at opposite ends of the room. Group obedience from a positive methods trainer (eg CPDT or APDT certified, NO leash jerks and 'corrections' in the class) will help your dogs to each learn good behaviour in a structured way; will help you to better understand the warning signs before they escalate to growls or worse; helps your dogs get a very good exposure to lots of dogs and different people and to learn to pay attention despite distractions -- they are at a critical age for socialising now; and of course: greatly improves a dog's self-control; and gives you an excellent resource -- a wise teacher -- to ask for help on this kind of issue before it becomes a problem needing far more difficult remedial work. :)

PS I would not leave them to sleep in the same crate any more -- get two, side by side. You could have a far higher risk of serious injury if they start at each other in a crate together. :( I now separate my two boys for exactly this reason. They get along, sleep together in dog beds etc 99.9% of the time but can fight over a treat (have to be carefully managed with them and chews). I do not trust that they would ever be 100% guaranteed not to fight now so cannot risk injury by having them confined to the same crate -- just not worth it.

14th May 2012, 09:58 AM
Forgot this one -- an excellent summary of guarding behaviour that I think will ring a few bells.


The problem is more that the puppies are guarding objects from each other, rather than you, but this will give some very useful context. If you aren't doing this type of training recommended in the article anyway with each individually, it is very important to do so and may well help with the general issue :). But I do think in your shoes, I'd get advice from a CPDT trainer rather than risk reaching a point -- due to being uncertain of how to manage this successfully -- that you find you need to rehome one dog. The time to address it is now and you have a good window right now in which to do so before you have two adult dogs going for each other.