E316: Michael Shikashio - "When Housemates Fight"

It's rarely talked about — but intra-household dog-dog aggression is more common than many realize. Join me and Michael Shikashio for a deep dive into why, what to do, and how you can prevent issues. 


Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau and you're listening to the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast, brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, an online school dedicated to providing high quality instruction for competitive dog sports, using only the most current and progressive training methods today. I have Michael Shikashio here with me to talk about intra household dog aggression. Hi Mike, welcome back to the podcast!

Michael Shikashio: Hello. Thanks for having me back.

Melissa Breau: I'm super excited to catch up. So do start us off, do you wanna share a little bit about yourself and your canine crew?

Michael Shikashio: Sure. If you don't know, I own aggressivedog.com and I focus on aggression. So we're gonna be chatting about aggression. I think throughout this episode my crew hasn't changed much at all. I think this is the last time we talked. I've still got my Chilean Street dog cast who is from Chile and my Chilean Street cat who is also from Chile, who my girlfriend from Chile brought up. So a couple rescue from the streets type of animals and they're great, they're great cuz Diane just had TPO surgery so she's been seeing one of your regulars here as well. Dr. Debbie Gross Torraca to for rehab who lives right down the street from me. So it's pretty convenient.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, super convenient to have somebody like that.

Michael Shikashio: Super close. Yeah.

Melissa Breau: So as I kinda mentioned during the intro, I wanna chat about intra household dog-dog aggression. To start off, do you wanna just kind of define what it is we're talking about?

Michael Shikashio: Yeah, so intra household means within the home. So intra is like between two dogs or more dogs that are happening under the same roof versus inter sometimes we hear that as well. Inter would be like inter household would be like fighting between two homes. So, so it is intra which is within the home. So we're focusing on dogs that live together or this could pertain to dogs that are like foster dogs that are coming into the home or basically any two dogs spending some time together under the same roof.

Melissa Breau: I feel like it's super, not super common, but it's much more common at least for intra household dog, dog aggression to take place than we talk about or that it appears. So do we have any numbers? Do we know how common it is? Any thoughts on why we don't talk about it?

Michael Shikashio: I wish I had numbers on how many, I think, you know, it's like our kids, like we don't always talk about our kids having problems, right? So it's the same thing when there's dog issues and I think this is universal across any dog behavior problems, but especially with aggression and then especially when it's aggression in the home and a lot of people kind of blame themselves or might feel guilty so they're less likely to talk about it or maybe they don't know they have a problem in their dogs and this,

this happens a lot as I'll actually get cases where it's escalated to the point where it's been going on for a while and they didn't realize that they had an issue or cuz it's starting to escalate. So it starts off with like the growls or snarls and then it starts to escalate into some air snapping and maybe a little conflict to full-blown conflicts, which is then when they usually reach out and they realize they have an issue.

Melissa Breau: So I think it's probably a combination of that as well, right. People actually not realizing that they have the issue. It's always better to catch it early like any other behavior issue though. Right?

Michael Shikashio: Yeah, absolutely.

Melissa Breau: Speaking of that, so I think it's hard sometimes, especially if somebody isn't super well versed in dog body language, kind of figure out what's normal dog dog communication. Just like hey that's mine back off or like whatever, right? Versus what actually counts as a fight. Can you kind of talk a little more about that?

Michael Shikashio: Yeah, so we could kind of break that down into, you know, aggression or aggressive behaviors. It's normal for any animal to be able to display aggressive behaviors including humans. So I like to define that first or at least talk about that first where you know, aggression is normal behavior, we use it to survive, we use it to keep ourselves safe, we use it to make bad things go away. So when you look at it in that regard, you might see communication be between two dogs. You might see an aggressive behavior directed at another dog with the goal of hey that's my bone or I want you to go away cuz I'm in pain.

Or you know, stay away from my mom. Whatever it is they, that's their, the aggressive response might be with the goal or the function of making that thing go away. So fight is an interesting term cuz it really doesn't fall under any particular umbrella of science when you think about it. Like when you're actually thinking about behaviors, there's really nothing that specifically says, oh the difference between a few growls versus a few growls and maybe an air snap is a fight. Well is it, so how I define fight is when there's physical contact between the two dogs where there's an actual threat or trying to increase distance from or eliminate the other dog in the home. So physical contact obviously could happen during play so that wouldn't be a fight but physical contact where there's, you know, one dog actually touching the other with the intent to harm or threaten that other dog. So that could be, you know, anything from muzzle punches, air snapping with the intent to threaten and get closer to that other dog. Usually there's contact of some kind as the other dog defends itself. So yeah, sort of a grey area but yeah, physical contact with the intent to do harm. And then of course if harm is done that would be, you know, a threat or fight. Now the other interesting thing, you might also look at fight as you need two parties. Like they have to be like actually engaged in a combat worse versus maybe we could define it as an attack or we might say that's an attack where one dog just goes after the other and the other dog's not quote unquote fighting back.

So, that's why I always like to again make it as simple as possible for my clients to understand is just look at the behaviors. You know, my dog growled at the other dog when it approached the bone from 10 feet away is a lot easier than saying one's being a jerk or that it was a fight or that it was an attack or right. So yeah.

Melissa Breau: Yep. So and this isn't kind of in the list here, but you're saying, you know, in the previous question you're talking a little bit about it's better to catch it early. So what are some of those early signs that we're looking for that aren't contact maybe?

Michael Shikashio: Yeah, so any of the typical like antagonistic behavior. So antagonistic is so much broader umbrella of behaviors used in communication, but things like growling or even like hard staring or bullying behavior. So like, like going when one dog sees another dog come in the room, they happen to be sitting next to mom on the couch, they don't necessarily go on attack or growl or anything, they just jump off the couch and then they sort of body check or control the movements of there the dog with some hard staring or something like that.

It may be something subtle like that where it hasn't escalated to any kind of teeth on fur or teeth on skin kind of contact, but you can sometimes see lower level things. In fact, I'm actually meeting with somebody this week that's having that exact issue that, and it's funny because this person has an Instagram channel and we were seeing like the dog you could see in the background the dog policing the other dog in a way just like hard staring like oh you're coming near my mom.

But nobody would notice that, right? It's really hard to see unless you know what to look for. But that's something of course we wanna work on sooner than where it's gotten now it's escalated to some fighting, not bad fights in this case, but it's escalated to some fighting and so I'll be working with that person on that particular issue. So catching it early,

things like, you know, watching those signals and it usually looks almost like humans, right? Like they're, they're staring at the end, they're vigilant about what the other person's doing. You might see some anxiety with one person or the other, in this case dogs you might see avoidance or actively like trying to stay away from the other dog all the way up to even more, more overt of the subtle communications like growling and stiffening up freezing when the other dog comes by. So those are the things we do wanna watch out for. Now that being said, he might have cases where the dogs just do that for the rest of their lives and that would be like pretty normal communication, right? As long as it's not impacting the quality of life and sort of the overall behavior of the other animal.

So like you might see that, you might think oh it's no big deal, they always work it out. There's like a little subtle stare glance and the other one goes on their way. But if you see increasing levels of anxiety or distress in that other animal, that could again be a problem. Cuz sometimes you see that other animal like, you know what, I've had enough of your crap, I'm going to come after you now because you've been bullying me for the last two years or whatever. So it is sort of, again, you never really know for sure. So when in doubt manage or modify the context in which the dogs are having tension. But then again there's lots of cases where it's totally fine, a little growl, other dog goes away, it's like, I'm sorry I didn't mean to come over you while you're chewing on your bone and life goes on as normal. That's a perfectly normal communication for me as long as it doesn't increase in intensity and frequency over time. I like that differentiator. I think that's easy to kinda keep in your head, right? Like how often is it happening and is it getting worse?

Melissa Breau: Yeah. Is it normal for dogs who are getting into fights in the home to also struggle with other types of reactivity or aggression? You know, if a dog isn't getting along with their housemate, should an owner be more proactive about maybe avoiding other dog dog interactions?

Michael Shikashio: That's a, that's a great question. I think cuz we, we automatically assume like, or a lot of times we can assume like, oh this dog has issues with other dogs so it's gonna have issues with the dog in the home and that can be true, right? So I think it really boils down to why the dog is having issues with other dogs or what kind of context it's happening in.

So you might have a dog that's, you know, barking and lunging at other dogs, strange dogs. So at trials around the road or wherever the dog sees other dogs but gets along perfectly fine with that other dog in the home. And that's one that's more of the classic example, right? So the dog trusts the other dog in the home or maybe they've grown up together and the dog just simply doesn't trust other dogs.

And that's sort of like when you think about one of the underlying reasons for reactivity or aggression outside the home is just unpredictability. So the dog just doesn't know what to expect, which then fuels anxiety or frustration cuz the dog can't get too or away from that particular animal. So that can really intensify those behaviors. But then you might have dogs that get along perfectly fine with every other dog outside of the world but only fights with the dog in their home.

And that can also be relationship based, meaning the dog's like, you know what I like dogs just not this one because he's such a jerk. Or it could be over some context specific issues such as resources like a raw marrowbone might not happen outside the home but it's happening inside the home and the main competitor for that bone is the other dog inside the house.

And then if there's a, there's a ton of other things you know that can impact whether it happens to other dogs or not, such as underlying pain issues. Maybe the dog has a negative association with the other dog in the home creating pain and other dogs haven't done that yet. So it gets complex. But you know, the the beauty of it is, is once you figure out why the dogs are having conflicts, most of these cases they're, they're much more easy to manage and modify once we understand why the dogs are fighting. So that's my job as a consultant going in is really just doing the detective work to find out, okay, why are these dogs fighting? And once I do that you can often come up with a resolution for it.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. So what kinds of things can lead to dogs? Cause you're kinda using this as an example earlier who maybe have lived together for most of their lives to then suddenly begin getting into fights or get in bad altercations.

Michael Shikashio: First thing I always jump to is medical. So if two dogs, like they've been living peacefully for like 3, 4, 5 years or however long, it's often an underlying medical issue. So that could be pain related, you know, the other dog's like, ouch, you know, you hurt my shoulder or you now you're coming over to bother me while I'm trying to lay down and just relax and rest my shoulder. That's suddenly bothering me. Or even worse, the dog pairs that association of, oh the other dog just caused the pain.

So now that dog is always gonna cause me pain but nobody else does. So it's these odd negative associations that could be created sometimes. So that's the first one. Then I'm gonna look at changes in routine. That's another one where you see dogs like, okay I've just, we've just moved to a new home, you know, or it's the pandemic and my, my guardians are just home all the time. So these big changes in routine can present issues that go back to the number one reason for dogs fighting in the home, which is usually over resources. Most dogs are going, if there's a fight in the home, the first thing you look for is what resources are they fighting over, whether it's food, toys, bones, resting spots or people or what have you. That's usually the most common reason for dogs fighting. So in that new environment or in that change of routine, oftentimes you'll see the dogs are like, wait new home? Whose dog bed is that? Wait, whose space is that? Is that your bone over there? Is that my toy? And they're working out who gets the resources again.

And similarly with changes in routine, like say somebody's home more, that means they're eating on their desk more or they're sitting on the couch more, they're in whatever they are presenting more resources. So that's probably the second most common reason for dogs that used to get along suddenly start fighting. And then the third one is look at social maturity so the dog's age can impact it. So you have a younger dog that's starting to, you know, get to through adolescence. And then social maturity, it's just like people, right? You get a 12 year old preteen that's like going off, they're not gonna start bar fights, but once they get into like 18, 21 years old, they're much more likely in, at least in my experience, to see that. So yeah, it's, it changes in age and social maturity can play a role.

And oh, I forgot to bounce back just to the medical stuff. Usually one of the other common ones is the senior dog. You like see a senior dog being attacked by the younger dog. And statistically that's actually, you'll see the younger dog causing more conflicts with older dogs in the home. It can of course happen the other way but it's statistically happens more with the younger dog and you know, the old reasoning was, oh it's, they're trying to eliminate the weakest member of the pack or something silly like that. But it's actually because often the senior dog has some deficit in their communication or their behavior. So they might be losing their sight a little bit.

They can't see the other dog communicating, maybe they can't hear that subtle growl as well. Maybe they have cognitive issues and they're a little bit slower in their movements or maybe they're moving in a different way that is off-putting to the other dog. They might smell differently. So there's, they might be on a new medication that's causing behavior or health changes. So it's always good when in doubt always look at what ch has changed from the health perspective there.

So yeah, there's, there's a lot of different reasons we might see dogs start going at it when they've gotten along really well for years. Oh, and then one other case too, I always mentioned changes in appearance. So I had one case where it was a golden retriever and, and it got matted up so the coat was kind of matted so they took it to the groom and they had the dog shaved and these dogs live together for years peacefully no problems, dog comes home shaved and the the short-haired pointer in the home goes and attacks the golden like as soon as it comes in the home. And I'm, my, my theory there in that case or my reasoning for that fight is the dog's like who is this strange alien looking thing coming into the home? I must, I must defend the home or myself,whatever the dog was thinking. But it's changes in appearance can happen more often than, than people talk about I think. So changes in appearance, changes in smell, things that are different about the dog coming home. So look for that one too.

Melissa Breau: Interesting. They're like oh there's an alien, it's an imposter.

Michael Shikashio: Yeah, exactly.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. Can you talk a little bit about what actions you recommend people take in the case that the dogs do get into kind of that first fight, maybe what they should do in the short term, say 24 hours and then you know, kinda in the weeks and months that follow?

Michael Shikashio: Yeah, I like to give everybody a moment to de-stress. So separating the dogs is okay. The rare caveat is when the dogs actually have separation distress or anxiety from each other. Sometimes you'll see that the dogs really stress if they're not in the same place. But even then I'm gonna be very careful, I'll come up with other, some other layer of safety. So let's say you guys can be in the same room, but let's have an exercise, couple exercise pens set up between you two or some barrier as long as there's no barrier aggression issues. So we have to be careful about a number of things when we do that. But if that's not the case, dogs are gonna be separated in different rooms of the house just for a little bit so they have time to settle down those cortisol, cortisol levels and the stress levels can come down as well as for the people because when dogs are gonna fight, the people in the home can often be stressed, can be, it can be traumatic for some people to hear all that.

I know a lot of people that I talk to that have witnessed a dog fight, it's just this, even the sound of it is just really triggering for a lot of people. So to avoid that, let's let everybody just have a peaceful moment. Let's go a week, I mean a day, two days, sometimes sometimes weeks or even months in some of the rare cases where it's gotten very severe is the first step. And then while you're doing that and you can of course determine what caused the fight, what's the next step for behavior change and management strategies for that particular case. So, but what in doubt always separate and, and don't feel bad about it. Cuz a lot, lot of people, oh I feel bad isn't that that's not nice for them, you know, just as long as you're spending enough time with each dog and they're getting their typical enrichment and exercise they would get whether they were together or not, then you're gonna be okay. Just make sure you're providing for that dog's quality of life. Because again, when, when we're managing things we often reduce the dog's exposure to enrichment and exercise. So like they get less access to the house or maybe they're less time with the owner. So it does take a little extra work, but it's almost always the better option because it just reduces the likelihood of a problem within that short timeframe right after a fight.

Melissa Breau: And kind of thinking longer term, are there things that you recommend people do, you know, to start to fix the problem or to start to kind of work on things that they can reintegrate the dogs?

Michael Shikashio: Yeah, so obviously this is something if, you know, I would recommend getting a consultant or somebody that is experiencing this issue to come out to kind of determine, because the experience part of the consultant in terms of the dog's behavior is identifying the cause for the fights. It's really crucial in these kind of cases to know why the dogs are fighting because then if we don't, we might give the wrong behavior change strategy that's not touching the problem at all. Or we might be managing it in the wrong area and we might see more fights cause we missed some particular aspect in that and for why the dogs are fighting for instance. So, that's the most important aspect for me. But then determining, okay, based on the issue we're having, what's the right behavior change strategy, let's start putting that into place but at very micro increments at first. So the first training session with the clients might be literally one minute of exposure. The dogs see each other for literally one minute at a distance. We're making fun things happen. We might be using things like Leslie McDevitt's "Look At That." We might be using counter conditioning strategies.

There's a lot of different strategies we could use, but the time duration for the first few days is super short. And the reason why I do that is so the dogs don't get stressed about it because I find that like that one, it's like when a couple fights, it's like that awkward moment you finally like see each other and like you don't know what to do or you like, like should I make your cup of coffee this morning or should I still be mad? Right? It's not gonna be the first thing. So it it's, it always is kind of like there's some anxiety, there's some stress to it no matter what you do. So let's keep it short and sweet for the dogs and the people. So the people also get nervous.

So if they can have those successful moments rather than trying to do it too long and then they have the dogs start barking and exploding towards each other, that can really take, you know your clients can take a backslide and their progress when you do that. So short durations with the goal of increasing duration with each session and then you also wanna find activities if the dogs have had activities of getting along together well and start to build those back in.

So let's say it was hikes or on leash hikes maybe together at first so the dogs can't physically get to each other but typically they get along well. They love those activities, they never fight cuz there's no resources out there and they enjoy that. So that's a good relationship repair activity and find anything like that. And some dogs they might have, like for instance they play well together in the backyard.

There's no history of fighting in the backyard. So I might say let's try that, we'll do it safely, we'll make sure we have tools in place in case there is some rare altercation to break up that fight. But it's often that could be a great relationship builder because maybe we've, I've identified the only time they fight is when they're on their resting spots inside the home.

So we're not necessarily worried about outside in the backyard unless of course there's some raised platform or dog bed or something out there. But that often is the other part of it. So micro increments of behavior change and modification and then building back in the areas where they got along absolutely fine if they have that, sometimes they don't but if they have that, that's great and that's kind of next steps in that strategy.

Melissa Breau: Can the severity of the fights themselves indicate anything about the potential for, you know, that kind of successful peaceful household coming back?

Michael Shikashio: Yeah, definitely. So when we talk about severity, we often look at a number of factors. People will often look at the bite level of course. So we might consider is it if we use a different bite scale, there's a different bite scale out yet there. The one I like to use is the Cara Shannon bite scale, which measures... She has a scale that looks at dog to dog bites cuz Ian Dunbar's bite scale is actually for just dog to human bites. So Cara looks at bite style as well. So on that scale goes from zero to six. And so when we're looking at severity of bite injury, when I'm, it's much more risky if the dog has a level four on up bite or even level three in some cases depending on the size of the dogs because typically the next fight is going to be at around the same level. All things being equal, you generally don't see a decrease in the intensity of the bites when it comes to dog-dog conflicts.

It almost always either remains the same or goes in the other direction, increasing in intensity. So if I have that, that's a much more severe case than where I'm going to be considering the potential for the dogs. Is it safe and ethical to actually keep these dogs together? If there's that high level injury then you weigh all the other variables. So let's say how many times did they have that number of fights?

So Ian Dunbar has the fight bite ratio which is the number of fights versus the type of bites that are happening. So I actually love, I don't love one dog's fight, but I love cases where let's say you've had 12 fights, 20 fights over the course of two years but no injuries. That's a much better case than a dog where they've had like one or two fights with level four or five injuries because typically that third fight's gonna be four level four or five injuries.

So it's very risky. So, but then you look at the size of the dogs as well. So like if we have a great Dane in a chihuahua, it doesn't matter who's doing the attacking, it could be very detrimental to the chihuahua of course just cuz of the size difference. You look at the breed of dog as well. So some breeds of dogs, this is not universal to all dogs within a breed, but we have to consider breed characteristics. So they're bite style like the bite holden shake we might see in some bully breeds or bite and hold style contend to do more damage. We might have dogs that are bred for actual fighting or that historically have been bred for fighting that we have to consider the genetics of.

So I consider that. And then other dogs that just have a good bite style, like a good old Malinois might be more efficient than a frenchie. Well may maybe sometimes, but, but we do have to consider that, you know, it's all considerations when you're looking again can these, is it safe for these dogs to keep staying together? So that's just a few.

Then I look at all of the other environmental dynamics. Is there kids in the home that are opening baby gates accidentally, there are lots of kids leaving resources and popsicle sticks and all the things the dogs fight over in the home and there are lots of visitors. How many, how many dogs are in the home, how many of the dogs are fighting with each other?

Like that case I had with six Alaskan Malamutes that we're all fighting with each other that you wanna talk about complex doesn't get much more like tricky than that. Just remembering all the dogs' names was difficult. So yeah, so that obviously makes it more difficult to consider the peacefully forever kind of concept that we're talking about. So yeah and just, and then you can look at health issues too, like do the dogs have existing health issues we need to address first before we can actually start working on the behavior change. Is it more reasonable to keep that 15 year old dog that's going blind away from the other dog completely for the rest of its life? That's often much safer, easier and ethical to do it that way. Just let the, just let the little old guy live out, its days in peace, right? So yeah, lots of different things I would assess for when kind of deciding if it is, you know again these dogs live peacefully together after and and really is the owner or the guardian going to be okay with that? Cuz that also like what are their goals? Do they want their dogs to romp around together and be totally happy with each other or is peaceful coexistence?

Okay, And that can be reasonable. I've had plenty of cases where dogs like, all right we can, we can peacefully tolerate each other, we can learn the rules in this context and we don't have to love each other and play and all that, but we can peacefully coexist and that's fine. Again, it's as long as you're looking at the quality of life again as low dogs are saying this is okay for me, then I'm okay with that.

Melissa Breau: Obviously our listeners are often dog sports folks and that means they're often thinking ahead to that next puppy ready. So if somebody listening has previously had issues with another dog in their home but they may be starting to think about a new dog, are there things that they can do to help ensure that things go more smoothly this time?

Michael Shikashio: Yes, think carefully. No, I mean, I mean we should be considering those decisions any type of get a dog of course, but yeah, you wanna think carefully about the pairing cuz you have now an additional factor that, an additional consideration I should say that we wanna make sure we're considering for both dogs cuz we don't wanna be, sometimes we don't think about the other dog coming in.

We're so focused on the dog that we have and issues that could come up. So again, this boils back to identifying why the dogs, you know, the particular dog we might be focusing on talking about, have issues in the first place. So is it over resources, is it over a particular type of dog or is it over during play? Is it during arousal situations?

So once we identify that, then we can find the appropriate match, right? So if we have, you know, a Border Collie that's just really nippy with other dogs at the heels which causes fights or a cattle dog or something like that and you have like a grumpy old Cane Corso coming in that has issues in the hind end, probably not a good match, right?

Melissa Breau: Fair.

Michael Shikashio: So and then it's, I'll get to, I wanna get to like how to actually introduce the dogs in a second, but also when you consider the pairings, consider the age and the sex of the dogs. So age, sex and breed should all be considered when looking at which dog should I get next age is, you know, remember what I said earlier is the younger dog typically going after the older dog but the same age during adolescence can also be tricky. So if you get two dogs in like one's 14 months and then you bring in another 14 month old that's like you're bringing in two pre-teens into your home, like I'm gonna, oh I'm gonna adopt two teenagers at the same time would be not very easy.

So looking at the age sex pairings, female, female, it's difficult when they do start fighting. So if there is a history of fighting and they do start fighting, those can be more difficult to resolve because we tend to see a higher intensity. So higher bite injuries, longer lasting fights, that kind of thing between two females. So if there's a female in the home, get an older male or if there's a male at home, let's get a younger, you know, so different age, different sex. Male, male can be fine too depending on the breed. I know for instance I'm a doberman guy and I would be very careful getting two male dobermans that don't know each other well. So consider that. And of course the breeds, you know, you have to consider bringing in incompatible sizes, incompatible play styles, you know, we had like a boxer and a cavalier king charles spaniel have totally different play styles, right? So pairing that is very important. So consider there and then consider why the dog displayed aggression in the first place.

Melissa Breau: And then, so how do you do the introductions?

Michael Shikashio: This is another webinar we should probably rehash. So like how to introduce two dogs but slow and steady. What's the race? So I, when I, and I learned a lot of this just fostering dogs, they had over a hundred foster dogs throughout the years. So I had kind of urked out a system on how to introduce the dogs well to each other and to my own dogs and to be sure they were safe.

And it was with time. Sometimes the dogs would not see each other for the first few days. The new dog would come in, chill out, de-stress. I had like one level for my home for the foster dogs, the upper level was for the, for my dogs. They'd know they were there, they'd hear each other, they'd smell each other probably out in the backyard but they couldn't see each other.

Then after a few days the new dog settles in and de-stresses a little bit from the transport or wherever they came from. And then we go for parallel walks off property. So we don't like to introduce on property, be like, let's go for walks. You see each other at distance and do things like proactive counter conditioning or classical conditioning. You see the other dog, good things happen and then if I'm seeing good things, I'll just decrease distance. So we decrease that parallel walk. It's a 20, 20, 30 minute walk we've been going on and we gradually decrease the distance to where the dogs can finally get that three second sniff. If I see things going well on a loose leash, I can't say that enough times on a loose leash,

that's the hardest thing for people to do cuz they're nervous, they're holding leash tight. And if that's the case, I might even say go to a fence scenario and just drop the leashes. Cuz nine times outta 10 you take out that human element, you're often gonna be just fine. Things get better. Yeah, so tight leashes I try to avoid but quick sniff then give them a break and then go for that walk again a little bit longer parallel walk, couple minutes and then let them sniff again a little bit longer. Sniff if things look good and rinse and repeat that for a few times. And then if that looks good, then go to that fence scenario, see off property and see how they do off leash with each other. You, they can drag the leashes for safety. You could go the extra step and have the tools to break up a dog fight on you during that introduction.

And then we'll see how they do in that off leash area. And then you go home. But even in the home you wanna be sure to that first few days you're really managing things well. You're not just giving the dogs free run of just like unattended access to each other, watching resources, the typical food boy to toys, bones, resting spots, and even the people, all of that should be paid attention to during the first couple weeks at least. And, and then lifelong when you're looking at high value resources of course. So that's how I would typically do that. And that was a much more successful approach than what I first started with when I didn't know any better. And she's like, go on the backyard cards, let's see how you do. And I got lucky most of the time I had a couple incidents which taught me to be like, all right, I've gotta be a little bit more strategic about this. So yeah.

Melissa Breau: Yep. Yeah. So speaking of webinars, right? So you're rerunning your awesome webinar doubleheader for us that's on all of this next week. Do you wanna just talk a little bit about the webinar specifically kind of what they cover, who should consider signing up?

Michael Shikashio: Sure. It's for really anybody, both pet guardians or professional trainers that are looking to learn more about why dogs fight in the home, how to manage it, what to do about it. There's, I'm gonna share some cases on actually working with this kind of situation and different reasons for it.

That there's different reasons in the cases, but actually how to work with this issue with a very simplistic process. I think one of the things we see in these cases is a lot of concentration on I've gotta fix the relationship or could be this or could be that, or I've gotta support the top dog in all these, these kind of interesting ways of looking at relationships.

But most of the time in, in the vast majority of cases, if you just look at the context where the dogs are fighting, why they're fighting in that context and you just teach the dogs what to do instead, as well as making sure they both feel safe around each other. In that context, it will solve most of your problems. Because in intra household cases, dog fights are so contextual, meaning they happen in one location for a particular reason and not anywhere else. And it starts there and it might start to bleed into other areas. But once you identify that it's, it's almost always fixes the issue. You know?

So I'll give you an example, like dogs fighting by the front door. The owner comes home from work, excited to see the guardian, they start fighting cuz they're competing over the guardian's attention. And so then, you know, of course the guardian might get injured trying to break up a high arousal of dog fight like that and a high already highly arousing situation. So, but then there's no history of the dogs fighting anywhere else. You're like, huh, I wonder why they're fighting. And so that's, you've identified that context, they're just competing over the attention of the owner, which they, we might consider a resource and so we just need to teach the dogs what to do instead in that particular context, like sitting before you say hello or just managing and then we let one dog on a time, we, we control their arousal. We ask each dog, Hey, you sit here, you sit here, we're gonna station you guys, we'll go to a particular location, I'll say hi to you and then once you get your reinforcer, we'll let you up and we'll control that arousal you can get up and life goes on is normal. And then identifying other places that might happen. So coming out, getting up at from bed in the morning might be similar coming in from the backyard after you're outside barbecuing or something, the dogs are inside similar, right? So once you identify that, you just rinse repeat in those things. So, hey, when I'm coming in from the backyard during after swimming or the barbecue, whatever, same thing, I want you guys to chill out. You sit here, you sit here, I'll pay attention to you both.

But what happens then that's what impacts the relationship and that's what impacts the overall dog's sort of emotional wellbeing because they're like, all right, I don't have to worry about this anymore. This totally makes sense. It's predictable, it's routine. We know what to do in this particular context. And once they figure that out, they start to figure it out everywhere else when that resource is presented. So, so yeah, so that's what a lot of the webinars will show is that basic technique there as well as other considerations. So kind of soup to nuts, it's a good series when trying to look at intra household dog-dog aggression.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, I was like, when it comes back around, cuz you do such a great job on the case studies kind of breaking everything down and walking us through it. And once you're gonna have that foundation to layer it in, I think it's fantastic. All right, so before we go, anything else that you have going on that you wanna share with listeners or teas that you got coming up?

Michael Shikashio: Sure. The big thing for me is the Aggression In Dogs conference, which is happening September 29th through October 1st, which FDSA is a platinum sponsor, so go check out the conference if you wanna see some more great FDSA stuff as well as how to work with aggression in dogs. And you can go to aggressivedog.com for that. And I also just launched the, by the end of the dog podcast season four, so just dropped as we're recording this, just dropped is episode with Patricia McConnell and have 17 episodes coming out this year. One right on a weekly schedule for the next seven weeks, 17 weeks, all the way up to the conference, so, so check it out. That's awesome. Any final thoughts or key points you wanna leave listeners with?

Yeah. On this topic of intra-household aggression, just to touch base again on earlier I was talking about how management can impact dogs' behavior and quality of life. And when you look, when you take a step back and look at behavior problems in general, not just aggression, but separation anxiety, compulsive behaviors, destructive behaviors, you know, all the behaviors that we typically would be reaching out to help for help for like a trainer or consultant is often because we're, man, we're continuing to manage away the problems, which then impacts the dog's quality of life in enrichment. So one of the things that you can do to as your, the first thing to start with is how can I meet this dog's needs and how can I increase, improve this dog's quality of life in this particular situation? Or, because when you look back the at the, sometimes the fuel or the underlying reason for these behavior issues, it's because of all of the restrictions we place on dogs in society and then more so when we have behavior problems, we put more restrictions, which then becomes this vicious cycle of I'm not meeting the dog's needs or providing the best quality of life, which then impacts the behavior, which then impacts the quality of life again.

So I think as we go along, we could just, just be as creative as possible as making sure these dogs needs are met and that they are getting the enrichment and, and I know most of the FDSA community is already doing that because of all of the lovely dog sports and all the other ancillary activities you're doing. But I just wanna throw that out there as in case anybody's struggling there is help and there's, there's tons of different things we can do to help dogs with meeting their needs with enrichment and physical activities.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Alright, well thank you so much for coming on the podcast, Mike.

Michael Shikashio: Thanks for having me. It's great being here.

Melissa Breau: Absolutely. And thanks to all our listeners for tuning in. We'll be back next week. Don't miss it. If you haven't already, subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or the podcast app of your choice to have our next episode automatically downloaded to your phone as soon as it becomes available. Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast, music provided royalty free by bensound.com. The track featured here is called Body Audio Editing provided by Chris Lang.

Thanks again for tuning in and happy training.


Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty-free by BenSound.com; the track featured here is called "Buddy." Audio editing provided by Chris Lang.

Thanks again for tuning in -- and happy training! 

E317: Petra Ford - "Fit for Obedience"
Attitude and Precision - You Can Have Both!!

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