Three steps that will help reduce barking and conflict between two dogs at home - and they’re really simple

Dog fighting other dog on a sofa
(Image credit: Getty)

Having two dogs that don't get along well with each other can be just as challenging as having two kids in constant conflict. If you have one canine that seems scared, intimidated or simply not a fan of your other dog then you might find refuge amongst these tips shared by an expert trainer and behaviorist.

The longest lasting dog chews will only distract your dogs from each other for a short period before their attention turns to each other. The owner and head trainer at JWDog Training, Julianna DeWillems shared in an Instagram video one exercise she uses when one dog shows challenging behavior issues towards another dog.

In this case, she is handling a small chihuahua who has a rocky relationship with his 'sister', a much larger dog. The chihuahua feels threatened by the bigger dog who he lives with and his coping mechanism is to bark and lunge at him, making living in harmony pretty impossible. If this resonates with the canines in your household, then watch DeWillems video below...

DeWillems notes that this is one of the exercises she likes to use for the canine duo shown in her demonstrational video. "While this is a creative exercise, it relies on only the basics: observation, thoughtful timing, and foundation behaviors," she says.

So how does it work? 

The first step you will want to take in trying this exercise out for yourself is to station one of your dogs in a specific spot. If you have one dog like the chihuahua in the video above that tends to lunge and growl when intimidated, use her or him for this part. 

If you have someone else to help with this exercise then get them to walk your other dog on a leash slowly towards you and the first dog. You will probably notice the dog you have stationed will clock this movement. In this instance DeWillems instructs that you take them back to a place behind you, "a well known, enjoyable and easy behavior," she notes.

Then you should ensure your dog gets a treat for this behavior before returning to the station and repeating. According to JW Dog Training you should do this over and over again.

The point of this might not seem outwardly obvious, so let me explain," says DeWillems, "We are accomplishing a lot of positive things here. First, we are pairing the black dog’s approach, something that has historically been scary for the chihuaha, with the retreat behavior. 

"Over time, the verbal ‘place’ cue wouldn’t even be needed here because the black dog’s approach would become the cue. Retreating is of course an excellent replacement behavior to lunging and barking and it’s empowering for the chihuahua."

She adds,"The place cue was taught with positive reinforcement, and the chihuahua enjoys doing it because it is associated with treats. By pairing the black dog’s approach with this behavior that has a positive association." This should lead to classical conditioning occurring, improving the timid dog's feelings about the other one.

"Lastly, this exercise turns into a pattern, which brings predictability into a formerly scary and unpredictable interaction. This too, can help change the chihuahuas association from negative to positive," explains the head trainer, "Addressing the chihuahua's underlying feelings is what’s going to improve their relationship over time."

There isn't a one size fits all approach to making two dogs feel more comfortable around one another so if the issue persists you may want to seek help from a trained behaviorist in a 1:1 session.

Jessica Downey
Staff Writer

With over a year of writing for PetsRadar, Jessica is a seasoned pet writer. She joined the team after writing for the sister site, Fit&Well for a year. Growing up with a lively rescue lurcher kindled her love for animal behavior and care. Jessica holds a journalism degree from Cardiff University and has authored articles for renowned publications, including LiveScience, Runner's World, The Evening Express, and Tom's Guide. Throughout her career in journalism she has forged connections with experts in the field, like behaviorists, trainers, and vets. Through her writing, Jessica aims to empower pet owners with accurate information to enhance their furry companions' lives.