Inter-Dog Aggression

July 29, 2018 1
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Inter-dog aggression is fighting and aggressive behaviour directed from one dog to another dog.  The most common cause of inter-dog aggression is food related, but it can be triggered by household changes, and can happen when dogs are fearful or over-excited. It is important to learn to understand dog body language to help predict fights.

When these fights occur, always remember, SAFETY FIRST. Never come between two dogs that are fighting as they can injure people very badly without meaning to. Use loud noises, water (like the spray from a hose) or throw a blanket over them and use a broom to separate them. Once they have separated, take the dogs away from each other to prevent another fight breaking out.

Dog fight wounds require immediate veterinary attention. Dogs “grab and shake” when they fight so there can be a lot of damage to skin and muscles that can’t be seen from the surface. Dog salso have lots of nasty bacteria in their mouths and wounds from bites are highly likely to getseriously infected.

The Pet Medical Behaviour Team help to explain to pet owners, how to understand and look for dog body language and triggers and some best practice tips, to ultimately prevent inter-dog aggression.

Dr Mel Prunster will be delivering a free talk about how to understand and prevent inter-dog aggression, from 6-8pm, Thursday 2nd August at Pet Medical, Muswellbrook.

“Dr Mel provides an impeccable service with her dog behavioural consults. She welcomed me into her consults with a non-judgmental and caring attitude when I felt like I had failed my dog. She always checks in with my dog’s progress to further improve her behaviour. Mel has taught me a lot about animal behaviour and I love that we can work as a team to find a solution.”   Ashleigh Farrell, Pet Medical behaviour client

Dr Mel Prunster

Dr Mel Prunster is one of the leaders of our Pet Medical Behaviour Team, which provide dog training from puppy through to 1-on-1 sessions, with particular emphasis on understanding behaviour. 

Pictured here with her own dog, Poppy, Mel is experienced in animal behaviour, having completed an externship with Sydney Veterinary Animal Behaviour Services and is currently working on her post-graduate education in behaviour from the University of Sydney.  Mel has worked at RSPCA and has much experience working with pet owners to improve their pets’ behaviour.

“Understanding their behaviour is imperative to training dogs.  It is so gratifying to be able to pass on this knowledge and expertise to pet owners and see how much it helps them in caring for and getting the most out of their pets.”, says Dr Mel Prunster.

Q – What led you into focusing on animal behaviour?

A – When I was in my final year of vet school, I did some work with some behaviour vets at the RSPCA and it opened my eyes to how much I didn’t know about the animals I was learning to look after!

Animal behaviour is the most important thing to know when you’re a vet. Behaviour problems are still the leading cause of euthanasia in both cats and dogs. They are also the number one reason why dogs and cats get surrendered into pounds and care facilities. Those statistics are shocking and we need to change them!

I began working as hard as I could to learn about animal behaviour so I could better help my patients, and their families.

Q – Is the basis for animal behaviour similar across all different types of animals or does each animal type have behaviour affected by different triggers and circumstances? 

A – To understand animal behaviour, we need to look back into where each animal has evolved. For example, dogs are far more family orientated animals and so tend to be more outgoing, sociable and adaptable. Cats are solitary survivors and so can be very selective about who they chat to, when and why. They are also very picky – if you annoy a cat, it’s hard to make friends again because they’re happy by themselves! Looking at these traits gives us BIG clues to why animals behave in a certain way and how we can integrate with them.

Q – How much of training an animal is about understanding their behaviour?

A – All of it. When we are training, we are either encouraging a behaviour, or discouraging one. That’s ALL about behaviour. Where it gets fun is when we can anticipate what our pets will do and tailor our training methods exactly to their personalitiy. Bec Peirce and Emma Hodge are my partners in leading the Pet Medical behaviour team and they are so fantastic at this – they’re teaching me how best to train my dogs, Alana and Poppy.

Q – How would you explain inter-dog aggression and is it limited to aggression between dogs in the same household or can it occur outside the household environment?

A – Well that’s why you should all come to our information night! But for those who can’t make it, inter-dog aggression is fighting and aggressive behaviour directed from one dog to another dog. This often happens between familiar dogs (dogs that the aggressor has met many times before), and between unfamiliar dogs (who have never met before). It is most common between familiar dogs mostly due to opportunity and proximity; they spend more time together so clash more often.

Q – What sort of injuries come from inter-dog aggression? 

A – The injuries we see from inter-dog aggression can range from quite mild to totally life-threatening. What we don’t see is that dogs who mean business “grab and shake” when they are attacking. This damages the nerves and blood vessels between the skin and muscle, which can mean whole big parts of skin can die away, causing a dog to get into serious medical trouble. Unfortunately, I have seen several cases in my career where dogs have been killed by the other dog. I have also seen people come in with serious injuries after getting between dogs that are fighting. Always remember, SAFETY FIRST PEOPLE.

Q – What would be your best advice to pet owners, struggling with inter-dog aggression?

A – These problems are SO common. I think there’s a lot of shame and embarrassment around these issues but there is so much we can do to help. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but there are general principles that everyone can follow which would help in any situation. I’ll be outlining these at our behaviour night.

Q – What is the best thing about working in animal behaviour?

A – It’s an amazing privilege to meet a family who is literally on the verge of re-homing or euthanizing a dog or cat, who then learns how to best work with the animal they have and they re-connect with each other. I’m a romantic at heart, happy endings for the win!


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