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Success Stories : Fighting in the house

Posted on 15th August 2023


2 Golden Retrievers sitting together in a field in the sunshine

Meet the boys! Monty and Max are 2 Golden Retrievers, both from a rescue abroad.

Monty arrived last November and Max in June.

The boys went for a walk and all seemed fine but on returning to the house, Monty attacked Max badly, ripping his ear.

The owners contacted me straight away and when I visited, The Berlin Wall was literally up in the front room to keep the dogs separate.

They were unsure if they could keep both dogs.


Making an Assessment

It was easy to blame Monty but there were 2 dogs involved and so it was vital for me to carry out a full assessment on both dogs.

Taking all into account, I could easily see that Monty was finding some movements hard and that the muscles over his hips and legs were very underdeveloped.

This was our starting point.

Max had come off transport and had a really stressful few days with all that travelling entails and this would have had a major impact on him. He appeared fit and well but was definitely a boisterous, clumsy adolescent.

Monty was found to have hip issues, with evidence of previous surgery so physio and hydro was a must for him moving forwards.

Assessment also revealed that the boys were ok on walks.

It is important in cases such as these, that positive experiences are continued as far as possible and exploring and going for walks would be bonding for them both.


First tasks

As well as maintaining positive interactions and getting Monty onto some pain killers, we needed to create safety and stop rehearsal of the problem behaviours.

Looking at some body language in detail, there were times when Monty either growled at or avoided Max.

We created 2 separate areas and made sure the dogs were either supervised by a person each or kept apart. This segregation was particularly important for times when arousal increased such as someone visiting, feeding times and around toys.

This reduced tension straight away and whilst it was difficult for the owners to manage, it was necessary for a reduction in stress for the dogs.


Training plan

Generally the plan consisted of teaching Max to move away from Monty and rest in his own space plus teaching Monty that he could move away and that when Max approached him, good things would happen for him.

This involved both dogs on lead with some teaching of specific cues. This means teaching the dogs -

"When in the presence of your brother, I need you to do this".

The dogs picked this up quickly and very soon were able to rest either side of the Berlin wall in each other's company.

Walks were also going well.


Testing the waters

As the boys settled more and seemed excited about greeting each other on walks, we opted to trial some time in the garden.

This was initially on lead with the above plan and then off lead with them being asked to respond to some training cues together. All went well and we started to de-construct the Berlin Wall.

Over a few days, they started to play and rest together and a holiday came up where the boys spent a week together with no issues.

On returning home, we were careful about re-introducing them to the house but all was well.


Where are we now?

The boys can live together very happily now.

There will need to be a vigilance around resources such as attention from people, toys and food but this is easily managed.

The dogs lounge in the lounge, play on walks and do what is necessary in the garden.

Increased arousal times are managed so there is no risk of fighting again.

Monty has ongoing hydro and pain killers for his hips.

Pleased to say, they can both stay!


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