An Overview of Interdog Aggression

Dr Aileen Pypers,
BSc, BVSc (UP), PGDip (SU)

Many people who share their homes and lives with a dog have more than one dog and while this can enrich and improve the lives of the people and the dogs in this situation, it can also lead to a situation where dogs living together in a household end up fighting. This can be hugely distressing for everyone involved and can result in significant injury for either or both dogs. Behaviourists refer to this as interdog aggression.

So what is aggression?

There are many misperceptions about aggression and before we go any further, it is important to consider what aggression is and is not. Aggression is defined as “a physical act or threat of action by one individual that reduces the freedom or genetic fitness of another” . Aggression describes a group of behaviours – something an animal does – and although we can use the adjective ‘aggressive’ e.g. an aggressive dog – it is important to remember that this is not the defining characteristic of the dog. In fact, there is no such thing as a non-aggressive dog since ALL dogs have the ability to ‘be aggressive’ depending on the situation.

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