Training Two Rival Dogs at One Time

Training Two Rival Dogs at One Time

People frequently think that having more than one dog is beneficial.

They get multiple dogs for different reasons; some people just like having more than one dog, and others actually assume that all dogs like the company of another canine.

Whereas the majority of dogs do enjoy a large pack and don’t mind sharing space with another canine partner, some dogs do not like to share.

I have found repeatedly that the longer the dog was a singlet dog with his family; the more problematic it is to add another dog to his family pack.

Even dogs that enjoy playing with multiple dogs in other venues, may have trouble sharing EVERYTHING he has in his environment.

Children can be the Same

Children can have the same problem

Often the news and addition of another child can frustrate and anger the existing child.

The child can be social with other children during play, and yet be scared, worried and angry at the thought of having to share everything; especially his/her parents and time.

I Get It

I get it, I mean, it is kind of nice to be the “one and only” and not be forced to share almost everything you have.

And, the more used to being solo you are, often the more difficult it is to learn to share.

However, even the new dog added to a situation may not want to share, or just may not want to share with a specific dog.

After all, not all dogs get along.


Ironically, I have two rival dogs, and their training has been very difficult.IMAG0287

Unfortunately the dog I brought in was not very accepting of my current dogs.

I find that situation being more difficult to overcome than the understandable condescension an existing dog takes to a new arrival for the reasons outlined above about not wanting to share.

He came into the house 6 months old cocky and unwilling to find any kind of compromise.

My female dog is also very dominant and confident and very unforgiving.

Learning to find common ground and work with both of them has taken a considerable amount of time and patience.

Don’t Let them Fight it Out

The whole “Let them fight it out” is a very dangerous myth.

I suppose it works in some very small and specific occurrences but in my opinion, having seen the damage and death fights can sustain, it is not worth it!

Dogs can create severe damage to one another and kill another dog in a very short period of time.

And, even if you are lucky that the dogs don’t kill each other, a fight like this can rack up thousands of dollars worth of bills, and it usually makes the behavior worse.

That is right, even after a devastating fight the vast majority of dogs will fight again and again if given the opportunity.

I Listen to My Dogs

I listen to my dogs.

If one is growling or posturing to the other and the other dog is mirroring these behaviors I believe the information they are giving each other.

So often people are convinced that their dog growls and lunges but would never bite.

Recently a former student of mine who has a very reactive dog (with other dogs) whom I warned about taking the behavior seriously, was seriously bitten in the leg when he stepped in front of his own dog.  I wish he has listened to what his dog was trying to communicate.

So I don’t force, I don’t push, but I also don’t allow that kind of communication to be ongoing; which of course would make it worse.

So those are the what not to do’s how about the what to do?

How To Help

Obedience, obedience, obedience!

The reason that I have survived my dogs’ rivalry is that I insist on a strict, yet fun, schedule of obedience.

Obedience should be adhered to, but my dogs should feel like it is a playful game to listen to me.

Train Your Dogs Separately At First

I also train my dogs separately, this is very important!

It is challenging if not impossible for a dog to sincerely learn, meaning understand a new concept, when he is competing with another dog.

This is true of dogs that are not rivals, too.

Even dogs that like each other want to compete for time and treats.

And, it is equally impossible for you to divide your time between two dogs that are truly learning.

When a dog learns, he must be rewarded for showing the appropriate behavior and he must be rewarded in a quick and timely fashion for him to understand what you want.

Interestingly I have videos of my very own self working with one specific dog while another one of my dogs was in the room and ironically I didn’t even notice how hard my other, older dog was trying to do what I ask until I saw the video.  My focus was on the younger dog.  I almost felt sad for him.

Watching those videos totally solidified my feeling that in order to meaningfully work with two dogs they must know and understand the concepts.

If the concepts are new, you must be able to give your undivided attention to the learning dog.

Putting Them Together

Once the training is solid and 95% reliable then I begin to work my dogs together.

Of course I don’t always keep and work my dogs separately.  I have to work with them together, but it requires that they know and understand and can work through a multitude of distractions.

Remember that competition between two dogs is high, so if your dog can’t work under a level of medium to high distraction, he is likely going to struggle with competing with your other dog.

And, if they don’t like each other anyway this could be a dangerous thing!

So for rival dogs, I make sure my obedience with each dog is infallible.

I refuse to work them together until it is reliable with each dog!

That ensures that if they are to have a problem with one another during training, that I will inevitably be able to control them through obedience!

So when there is posturing or growling or other undesirable behaviors I can ask for a blanket “down” and both dogs will drop without hesitation.

Imagine that for a moment…

That is the kind of obedience you are striving for, resilient, unbreakable obedience that is truly reliable under stress.

The Good News

The good news is that it is possible.

My dogs have gone from basically hating each other’s existence and not being capable of sharing anything; to going outside without issue, playing under direct supervision and being able to go running both in heel position on my left side without incident.

Actually I have never allowed an incident.

I have prevented them and stepped in in all circumstances.

And, when in doubt, I kept the youthful puppy on a leash or a tie down to keep incidents from happening.

I am now quite proud that they can run in the same yard without any kind of angry display!

I won’t say that it is not work, but I will tell you that it is worth it in the end, although I remain objective and careful still at all times!

Because, ultimately I know it is through my hard work and diligence that they have begun to accept one another, yet I am also aware that their primal feelings for each other have probably not totally changed!




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  1. Ken Klimek says:

    I already owned two dogs a male rescue shepard mix and a female lab/pit mix which basically were raised together with the shepard mix being the older dog and the lab mix being gotten as a puppy. I recently took in a 3 year old female bull mastiff due two the health conditions of the owner. All three dogs basically got along except for food / feeding of the bull mastiff who was raised a single dog without much obedience training by the owner. which she displayed resource guarding when it comes to her food. She has gotten into a couple of fights with the shepard mix, which I have broken up. I loved your article on training rival dogs and I need to start training the bull mastiff in obedience asap.


    Minette Reply:

    Yes and feed them separately in their crates


  2. Sandy says:

    I have a 9 mo Shepherd mix and just got back a 3 yr female shepherd I had placed in a home but the family’s circumstance changed 16 mo later and I now gave her back. She is pretty well trained but finding ut challenging working pup and dog together. Sone issues of both being extreme ball driving or both wanting my attention. I dont let squabbles escalate but there are challenged


  3. Lori says:

    I have two Shih Tzu we recently got a Lab/Mastiff pup he is now 12wks . The two older dogs hate him. He wants to play but with him being so much larger in size they stay away from him and growl. I have tried to hold them and introduce them but it’s a no go. I am getting very frustrated. I also have trouble getting him to walk on a leash. He is always putting it in his mouth and playing tug of war.


  4. Karen says:

    I have a nine year old dachshund , She is a sweet lovable girl. Very intelligent. But she is and has been the alpha dog . Raised by herself since she was two. She was attacked by a neighbors dog and was traumatized and sustained severe injuries.
    Every since then, when she sees a larger dog she can go from calm to out of control rage, in seconds. She barks to warn them this is my space.
    I have learned to restrain her with leash and
    firmly say NO. Sometimes it works and other times does not. I am disabled . Two years ago we relocated to Cali from Nevada. This was due to my mom’s passing. This was a stressful time, and transition for us all. My sister has a small young Pekingese female.
    Sweet dog but clueless to dogs language (growling curling lips) etc. so there has been fights where the dachshund is the aggressor
    She has not injured her but the loudness of it all is emotional. I firmly scold her and she knows because she will become submissive.
    I need help if this is the correct way to discipline her after a fight incident. I am open to criticism . Open for any way, so they can live a happy life together.


    Minette Reply:

    read the article and work on obedience


  5. Julita says:

    I have a big problem. I have two Akita’s dog a female and a male. But the thing is that the male is always cheating the female. He is very dangerous, he kills two dogs and if I can’t change that now I will have to sacrifice. I’m very worried and desperate to fix this problem please help me.


  6. Debra Fields says:

    We are having a problem with my one dog “herding” and “growling” at the other one which will make the dog being herded to lay down right in a spot. I’ve been trying and trying to correct this behavior to no avail. It happens at least once daily. I do work with them on commands separately. Any suggestions are welcome.


    Minette Reply:

    I would put that dog on leash and make sure that a privilege is lost when he shows this behavior. The leash puts you in control.


  7. Chris Boyette says:

    Chet I have a problem I can’t seem to get a handle on. Two females ,both have been used for breeding in my home. Shih Tzus one 4 years and one 8 years 4 year old is spade now and weighs 9 lb, 8 year old spade now and 18 lbs.. Since their last litters they have set up an intense dislike for each other so much so they can not even be in each others site without attacking each other. They attach their crates even tho they are separated by 5 other crates. They will even try to attach a closed door with one on each side. I have been bitten several times trying to separate them. Both dogs are very gentle with me want to please me and follow commands when the other one is not in site. The larger dog is our original dog but my husband has Alzheimer and PTSD so the little one has become his service dog which means I have to rehome the larger one. Do you think I can safely break this habit or rehome her.
    Thank you Chris


  8. Sharon says:

    Help I have a 10 wk old puppy and a 10 year old dog. The puppy is constainly. Biting and nipping and the bigger dog, how do we get the puppy to stop so the older dog get some relief and doesn’t get mad.


  9. Sandee says:

    Hi l have always had two dogs but at different ages so training was a lot easier because the older dogs were well behaved and l could concentrate on training the new one .Now l have two Cocker Spaniel pups one 8 months old and 4 mouths it’s full on . This time I’m not finding it so easy the problem l have is if l take one to one side to work with the other pup plays up wanting attention too ,braking whining crying and carrying on something chronic.
    Help please !!


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