I was in Alpharetta last week at a Home Dog Training with two Rhodesian Ridgebacks named Rocky and Moose. They were both rescues, one being about one year old and the other being about two years old. My client had called us out because they were jumping on everyone who entered the house and always tried to run out the door whenever anyone rang the doorbell. I love Ridgebacks because they are very easy to train and Rocky and Moose were no exception. We got the jumping and front door problems solved pretty quickly. We then worked on obedience to help reinforce focus and leadership with my clients. I then turned to my clients and asked what other things Rocky and Moose were doing that were bothering them. They hesitated for a moment and then mentioned that every once in a while, one would just “go after the other”. They couldn’t figure out what was causing it and were worried that it might get worse.
I hadn’t noticed any aggression in either dog while I had been there. In fact, they seemed like the two, sweetest dogs imaginable. I went down my regular “list of questions” asking whether they had issues eating together or if they fought over toys or bedding. The answer to all my questions was “No”. I then noticed that they allowed Rocky to get up on the sofa with them and scolded Moose to have him stay off. I asked if they had other rules where one of the dogs could do something and the other could not. They then mentioned that “they were guilty” of letting Rocky get away with a lot more things than Moose. They had rescued Moose first and were pretty strict with him. When Rocky came along, they really didn’t care as much and he got away with more. With this statement, I discovered the problem of Rocky’s and Moose’s aggression.
Dogs live in hierarchical society. As their owners and caregivers, we have to show them that we are in charge of them for them to give us focus, respect, and obey our rules. They also have a hierarchy among each other. When there is more than one dog in a family, they stack rank themselves based on their natural tendencies of leader versus follower. After they have made their decision on how they rank themselves, they expect us to respect their choice.
Since Rocky had come into “the pack” with Moose already there, it could easily be implied that Rocky fell below Moose in their internal pecking order. This would be the equivalent of my telling you “You get the top bunk”. When my clients gave Rocky “special privileges”, they upset the dogs’ pecking order.
The confusion caused by my clients’ behavior built up the “sibling rivalry” between the two Rhodesians. Moose, the leader, would jump and nip Rocky to remind him of their agreement that he was the “head dog”. Rocky, in turn, would test Moose by jumping and nipping him to test Moose’s position. The more my clients gave Rocky “special privileges”, the more this situation exacerbated.
This is exactly why we always tell our clients to treat each dog equally. This assures that they aren’t sending inappropriate signals regarding the dogs’ internal pecking order. This also builds their stature of being consistent and strong group leaders.
So, my recommendation to my clients was very simple. Stop showing favoritism to one dog over the other. I also told them to put leashes on both Rocky and Moose when they were home. If one started to go after the other, they could use the leash to quickly redirect them away.
Understanding some simple techniques will help the inappropriate and sometimes aggressive behavior caused by sibling rivalry. The problem is that it is our fault and our dogs take the brunt of the blame for their actions. If you think you are experiencing sibling rivalry and need more dog help, we can help.
Please phone Robin or myself at (770) 718-7704 if you are in need of any dog training help. We have a large number of training articles at Best Dog Trainers Alpharetta Georgia. Find all our phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Alpharetta Georgia.