Sibling Rivalry

I have a sibling, whom I love. In our younger days, we fought a lot. Jason is older than me and, at times, I was jealous of his privileges; such as a later bedtime or staying out later. Someone usually was hurt during our fights and it was usually me. Our fighting continued until I matured a bit and thankfully, we haven’t fought for many years now. Dogs living together sometimes fight too; although, jealousy is never the reason, because jealousy is a human emotion not a canine one.

Sibling rivalry is one of the most serious issues people face with their dogs. The term “sibling rivalry” is somewhat of a misnomer because most of the time the dogs are not truly siblings. Often time they’re not even the same breed or from the same litter. But they are dogs living together, and we are human and, therefore, the term “sibling rivalry” works J.

There can be several different reasons it happens and before working on a solution, we need to understand the cause(s):

No Pack Leader

Dogs living together can start to fight because that they feel the pack leader, may not be capable of leading. Most dogs are born followers, not born leaders. They seek direction and guidance from those they live with, both canine and human. If they do not perceive there is leadership, they will, try to be the leader.

Dogs will inadvertently try to assert themselves to be leaders, even though they don’t fit the mold. Usually, they are likely to make mistakes. If two dogs of similar temperament are both trying to assert themselves, it can lead to serious issues.

Avoiding Pain

One common reason for sibling rivalry is that one dog, often a senior, has some health issues. Or a younger dog either tries to take advantage or possibly even inadvertently hurt the dog. The older dog might become defensive as a strategy to avoid further injury or pain. Dogs sometimes will take the offensive course in these situations.

Favoritism or Inconsistency

The more times that the dogs fight, the more difficult it will be to fix. Unfortunately, sometimes, the best solution for both the dogs and the people is to re-home one of the dogs.

If the subordinate dog is being favored more in the household, it can lead to sibling rivalry. Dogs establish rankings between themselves usually without having to be physical. If the subordinate dog is being more favored then the assertive dog will most likely try intervene.

It is human nature for pet parents to favor an older dog that has lived with them a longer time and let them “get away” with things they don’t let a younger one do. This can lead to unequal rules such as allowing one on the furniture or in the bed, but not the other. Depending on the dogs involved, this may, or may not be an issue.

Bark Busters® has had great success helping their clients solve sibling rivalry issues, but the solutions always begin with a thorough investigation to understand the causes. All the relationships between all the people in the family and all the dogs need to be explored. Health issues, diet and even the environment can be factors. Only when the causes have been determined can a plan of action be developed. There is not a one size fits all solution.

People will often go online and read lots of articles and try different approaches that are rarely successful. The problem with this approach is that the articles are not talking about your dog, your relationships, your home environment, or your life. The articles and information are general or are based on a specific set of circumstances and have nothing to do with what is happening with anyone’s specific dogs.

A Shift in Hierarchy

On some occasions, neither dog is willing to be subordinate, or there may be a shift in hierarchy from situation to situation. You will need to supervise the dogs in these situations and be able to recognize canine body language and low-level threats such as eye contact, snarls or low growls. Keep in mind, often, when people intervene in dogfights, redirected aggression is possible.

If your dogs are fighting with each other, don’t wait, call Bark Busters® immediately. The sooner you get expert help, the better the chance of fixing it and preventing escalation.


Although the relationship between the two dogs must be dealt with, the first step is for the owner to learn how to establish and keep complete control over both dogs. As qualified Bark Buster® dog behavioral therapist, I can help you discover the reasons for your dog’s sibling rivalry and other misbehavior. I will provide ways, and methods, for you to become the “pack leader” and to correct problems. Your dog and your family will be happier for it – no doubt!

With Over 30 Years of History: Bark Busters® has grown to be the largest dog training company in the world, with over 1 million dogs trained, I invite you to discover why dog owners around the world have come to understand and value Bark Busters® successful methods of “training dogs the Aussie way”!

This information is brought to you as a public service by Bark Busters® Home Dog Training-the world’s largest most trusted dog training company. Bark Busters® is the only international dog training company that offers guaranteed lifetime support. Find more information by contacting your local dog behavioral therapist at 1-877-500-BARK (2275) or by visiting Bark Busters of Alpharetta and Roswell, Georgia

© Bark Busters USA. All Rights Reserved.

⟵ Back to Blog
share on facebook share on twitter