How Nutmeg and Nora Fight

One of the challenges we’ve faced since adopting our two Cairn Terrier rescues, Nutmeg and Nora, has been their violent clashes. Usually, these incidents occur when I’m petting them. It seems that one will think the other is encroaching on her turf and will start a low growl. Then, their eyes fix on each other, and Nutmeg starts her vicious snarling.

As long as I hold onto Nutmeg’s collar, there isn’t any physical violence. Nora stays just far enough away and lets her sister have it with her indignant, high-pitched yelping. It sounds as if her feelings are hurt and she’s ready to start sobbing.

Either one can initiate a brawl, but the one who usually carries it to the point where it gets physical is Nutmeg. They had an altercation recently, and I held Nutmeg back until the situation stabilized. When there was a miniscule break in the action, I petted Nutmeg and praised her. Then I did the same with Nora. Before I knew it, they both became calm and started to play. I lavished praise upon them both then, and all was calm again.

As you can see, we just sort of wade our way through this experience of adopting dogs with a history with lots of love sprinkled with bit of discipline. I haven’t done any research on dogfights, and although the situation has drastically improved since Nutmeg’s urinary tract infection has been addressed, research would certainly be in order.

Have you ever had this experience? If so, let me know how you approached the issue of fighting between sibling dogs.

Next time: How Nutmeg and Nora Get Along

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3 comments on “How Nutmeg and Nora Fight
  1. Krista says:

    Cesar Millan would say that you need to hold down the aggressor to make her “calm submissive” and then once she’s relaxed and still laying down, you hold the other dog over her to put the picked-upon dog in the dominant position. Good luck doing that without coming out with battle wounds yourself though!

    • Ann Silverthorn says:

      Thanks Krista! I tried that this morning, but must not have waited long enough, because as soon as I put Nora on top of Nutmeg, all hell broke loose again! This also brings to mind how much easier this is with a 15-lb dog instead of a 100-lb dog! At least they don’t horrify me as much anymore when they go into fight mode, because I know how sweet they really are.

  2. Kat says:

    I came across your blog as I was trying to find out how Ruby & Jinx were doing. I read your experiences and the comments you received. In that episode Cesar never recommended holding one dog over the other after the fight. I think the one thing most people miss when correcting behaviors is the follow thru. You need to be sure that both dogs become calm submissive. If you have one with a lot of anxiety, that can be difficult, which was why I was looking for the final outcome for Ruby & Jinx. You have to keep making sure your dogs become completely calm after a fight so both know that you are the leader and that’s what you expect. Keep an eye on their excited behavior or tense body language and try to correct it right away. Hopefully that will help. I hope you’ll be able to keep the peace.

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