No matter how compassionate of a dog owner you are, you can miss canine cues or make human errors that cause your dogs to snap at each other. Dogs use a language of their own to alert their pack and owners of dominance, distress or anxiety. Snapping is a form of mild canine aggression that typically occurs when a dog is trying to set a boundary or feels scared and challenged. Identify illnesses or situations that prompt your dogs to snap so you can rectify the issue for healthy relationships within your pack.
Study characteristics about your breed of dogs to find natural tendencies toward possessiveness, anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorders. Such conditions can cause fearful, nervous or protective aggression and might require professional training or treatment.2
Look for physical ailments such as ear infections, fleas and ticks and injuries that might be afflicting your dogs and causing irritability, leading to snapping. Visit your veterinarian to get your dog a physical if you suspect an ailment.3
Observe behavioral symptoms in your dogs such as pacing, barking, withdrawal, repetitious chewing or kicking and frequent urination or defecation in the home. These may signify an underlying mental or emotional problem that requires veterinarian-prescribed anti-anxiety treatment.4
Take notes when your dogs snap at each other. Describe the incident and triggers such as people coming to the door, feeding time, noises, petting or playing. This helps you define a pattern of behavior, potential causes and the type of aggression displayed so you can solve the snapping problem.5
Identify which dog is the alpha (leader) of the pack by watching for subtle clues such as blocking passageways, people and toys from other dogs in the household, walking through doors first and dominating other dogs when playing. The dog who displays control is the pack leader.6
Treat the pack leader according to his status by greeting, feeding and playing with him first and allowing him to choose his spot to sleep in. This clarifies his role both for him and the other dogs, lessening confusion amongst the pack and setting boundaries so other dogs do not confront the leader, which can trigger snapping in a challenge for superiority.7
Minimize stress and frantic behavior by remaining calm when entering the home and when greeting others at your door. Distract your dogs with a toy or treat or train them to sit when someone comes to the door. Such strategies prevent dogs from focusing on you or your guests' attention and snapping at each other to receive it. Do not push dogs away or shout, as this increases excitement and anxiety, which can heighten snapping.8
Distract your dogs when you see them give warning signs of aggression toward each other such as growling, eye contact, stiffening of the body, pawing and mounting. Bend down and hold the submissive dog gently by the collar while throwing a treat in the opposite direction for the dominant dog. Train the dominant dog by saying "Go get it," in reference to the treat. Give the submissive dog a treat while the dominant one is looking for his. Praise the dominant dog first and then the submissive dog with calm verbal praise and petting.
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