Intra-specific Aggression

Most aggressive episodes are initiated by the youngest and most recently obtained member of the group and results in more serious injuries than in the case of non resident fighting.

3 Basic Interactions may be observed:

  1. Aggressive play
  2. Actual dominance fighting designed to subordinate the opponent but without injuring it
  3. Overt and damaging fighting intended to subdue and injure

Fighting occurs mostly in owner presence – owner feels obligated to protect the bullied dog – pouring affection/consolation onto the victim and punishing the bullying dominant dog. Dominant dog may progressively feel UNCERTAIN about events and its compromised position resulting in more frequent and damaging attacks. Under such destabilized conditions, what starts as a rare ritualized contest over dominance may develop into a serious pattern of escalating aggression between the dogs. The dogs may begin to view each other as conditioned aversive stimuli.&; Aversion, close cousin of fear causes the dogs to lose aggression-inhibiting affection for one another – further disinhibiting aggressive hostilities and setting the stage for future more injurious fighting. These fights rarely occur when the dogs are left alone; however, when owner returns to potentially aggressive dogs vying for attention, resident combatants do occasionally fight when owner is absent.


Katherine Smith

Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants), Professional Member APDT, (Association of Pet Dog Trainers), AKC Canine Good Citizenship Evaluator, Animal Behavioral College Mentor