Maintaining Harmony
Good Management in a Multi-Dog or
Multi-Animal Setting
training techniques to help you cultivate  harmonious
inter-animal relationships.

Pit Bulls can get along well with other dogs - proper management and
training go a long way! Here, Jackson & Dolce enjoy some snuggle time
(owned, loved, n' cherished by Jennifer Kane).

How to manage reactivity:

The basic idea has to do with ignoring the dog's bad behavior (and
making sure that his bad behavior ceases to work for him) while
rewarding the good and helping the dog to change his emotional
response to stimuli. This can take a bit of time, but it does work. Dogs
that are severely aggressive are not necessarily comfortable. They are
highly stressed, anxious, even fearful (dogs that make huge displays of
aggression do it for show--they posture and make noise to make
everyone else THINK they are "bigger" inside than they really are.
Although this isn't *always* the case, big aggressive displays tend to
indicate insecurity--think of it as the schoolyard bully syndrome). A lot
of interference on the part of the handler by way of leash-tugging,
collar jerking, yelling, smacking, whatever, tends to rile the dog up
even more when he is in this state. You are confronting heated
emotion with heated emotion, and you'll end up feeding off each other.
Think of what happens when you try to confront a person that's very
upset by jumping up and down, screaming, making a huge fuss. The
best way to get them to settle down is to try to remain clam and
collected yourself. It's monkey-see monkey-do partly, but it also has to
do with the fact that one person is obviously in control of the situation
and not adding to the hysteria and uncontrolled energy in the air; if
someone else is in control, the other person (or dog as the case may
be) won't have additional frenzied energy to feed off of, and will likely
calm down, feeling more secure that at least SOMEone is in control.

With our dogs, creatures that greatly need guidance from a leader, it's
especially important to remain calm in bad situations and show strong,
intelligent support; to act like you know what you're doing and can
handle the situation. The dog needs to know there is nothing to worry
about--they'll realize this by your actions (remaining cool and calm).
And then they'll come to realize you're in control and not going to let
anything bad happen to them. In a situation with a dog-aggressive
dog, continued repeated calm and safe exposure to the stimulus helps
him realize that the world is not going to end, his dumb antics don't
get him anywhere, and that Mom's in control so there's no need to
worry about taking care of things himself. In addition, rewarding ANY
behavior that is NOT aggressive (i.e. the dog looking up at you,
relaxing, ignoring the other dog, etc.), should be rewarded (I use food
like hotdogs, cooked chicken, cheese, etc). The dog learns what
behavior is NOT useful and also no longer warranted, while getting the
idea that doing something else (like watching Mom, sitting, etc.) brings
something positive into the picture. You may have to start off with
other dogs way in the distance, and gradually decrease the distance
as you see improvement. Don't ask more of the dog than he is
emotionally capable of, as doing so can cause major setbacks.

Redirected Aggression In The Yard:

Fighting (between packmates) in the yard due to an outside dog
approaching the fence is common behavior—particularly in Pit Bulls, but
is something that can potentially happen with all dogs. This is
redirected aggression. If a dog becomes stressed or frustrated by a
boundary because they want to get at something on the other side,
they may lash out at a dog that is close by. There are usually two
elements coming into play in cases like this. 1) Frustration at not being
able to get at the desired object. 2) Over-excitement (Pit Bulls "fire up"
easily in stimulating situations) and another dog “getting in their way”
or doing something to help trigger an already stressed animal.
Because of this tendency, I recommend that Pit Bulls not be left
unattended in yards with other animals. Two dogs may get along
wonderfully most of the time, but there is always the chance of an
outside force causing tension between animals that get along together
when alone.

Acclimating A Pit Bull To Cats:

First, before you do ANYTHING, realize two things:

1) Pit Bulls and cats aren't the best mix--Pit Bulls are commonly
aggressive towards small, furry "prey-like" things such as cats

2) No matter what you do, you will most likely always have to (at the
very least) carefully supervise dog and cats when they are together,
and keep the dog separate from the cats when you cannot watch. Pit
Bulls can and do kill cats. I say this not to frighten you, simply to give
you the knowledge you need to keep your pets safe and your home

Now, households with cats and Pit Bulls do exist. I have one cat and
two housedogs. BUT my cat is kept in a separate part of the house--I
cannot allow him near the dogs. Still, I know many other people have
house Pit Bulls that get along quite well with the cats. These are
usually dogs that have never shown any prey-like aggression towards
the cats, however, and have been brought up in the home alongside

You need to help dog and cats acclimate to each other. Set the dog's
crate up in a high traffic area. Don't force the dog and cats on each
other. Forcing them (by locking them in a room together) will just
stress them all out and make the situation more difficult. When you
take the dog out of the crate, keep him with you, on leash. He should
be rewarded for good behavior around the cats. Leaving them alone,
ignoring them, looking at you, relaxing his body, obeying commands
such as sit, down, etc.---these are behaviors that should be rewarded
with a food treat. If you feel the need to punish inappropriate behavior
towards the cats, use a squirt bottle to spritz the dog in the face, or a
soda can with several pennies dropped hard next to him (he shouldn't
see it coming). The important thing to do when using punishment is the
second the dog acts poorly say "no!" and follow that word immediately
with the punisher. The order is important. "NO" and then punisher.
Don't hit! Throw that rolled up newspaper in the trash.
Don’t Be So Sensitive!

Helping Your Pit Bull Succeed in Dog-On-Dog Interaction

Dog-sensitivity translates into a dog’s ability to withstand
interaction with another dog.  In general, Pit Bulls are a dog-
sensitive breed.  While all dogs can fight under the right
circumstances, the more sensitive will ‘trigger’ faster and take
offense to things that other dogs might simply have shrugged off.

Here are some examples of dog-on-dog interaction that might be
quick to offend, (plus what you should be doing to help your dog

  • Space invasion: one dog coming up into another dog’s
    personal space too quickly, too pushily, in a rude manner
    (such as head-on), defensively (with body language like
    raised tail, upright/forward ears, raised hackles and direct eye
    contact), or surprisingly (without obvious fore-warning). Shield
    your dog from such unnerving interactions by avoiding areas
    where off-leash dogs tend to gather (ahem, dog parks for
    instance), and directing overly-eager dogmoms and dads to
    keep their distance until your dogs have been properly
    introduced.  And don’t ever feel funny about refusing to allow
    another dog to interact with yours if you are at all
    uncomfortable.  Your dog’s safety and well-being come first!  

  • Getting too close, too soon: unfamiliar dogs that have not
    been properly introduced to each other can cause some real
    drama. Introduce dogs in a neutral setting, on loose leashes
    (parallel walking is a great ice breaker), with some casual
    interaction before the overly-physical stuff or off-leash
    romping begins.

  • What’s yours is mine, and what’s mine is mine: toys, bones,
    and chewies lying around are some of the biggest offenders
    when it comes to dog-on-dog interaction gone bad.
    Possession is law in dogdom, and dogs will fight to protect
    what they perceive as theirs – and with dogs, often times
    that perception extends to any toy or treat in the vicinity. Pick
    ‘em up before the socializin’ starts.

  • I’m so excited, and I just can’t hide it: high energy
    environments, excitement triggered by environmental stimuli
    (like food bowls appearing, or a visitor at the door), and
    overly rambunctious playtime can lead to fights.  When
    arousal levels rise, so does dog-sensitivity. Be aware of your
    dog’s excitement levels and when he looks like he’s reaching
    a fever-pitch, it’s probably a good idea to blow that whistle for
    a time out. And if you know your dog has trouble containing
    himself in certain situations, help him out by using a leash as
    a safety-net or designate some crate time.

Pit Bulls run the gamut from very dog-aggressive (an inability to
socialize with other dogs) to ‘cold’ (showing no inclination at all to
aggress towards other dogs, and very willing to socialize with all
other dogs).  Most properly raised Pit Bulls settle into a happy
medium: capable of getting along famously with some dogs,
deciding they don’t like others, and living an overall peaceful
existence with a savvy human by their side consistently setting
them up for success.  

So what does it mean to be savvy? Guardians act as referees when
it comes to their Pit Bull interacting with other dogs – they
orchestrate careful introductions on neutral territory, keep typical
scuffle-triggers (like food, prized possessions, etc) out of eye and
nose-shot, are constantly aware of arousal-levels in all dogs
involved, and are acute readers and interpreters of canine body
language. If observed, behavior that suggests a dog in the mix
might be reaching a level of discomfort – which can translate into an
unwanted outburst – will mean a time-out is in order, or perhaps
complete discontinuation of interaction in that specific setting and
with that specific dog.    

In the home, housemate interaction is monitored at all times – no
matter what. Feeding time means dogs are in separate crates or
areas. Toys and edibles are not scattered about the floor, and
offered when the dogs are each in their own, private safe place (i.e.
a crate). All dogs have been taught at least basic cues like sit, wait,
stay, come, off, and down – and respond to them despite
distraction.  And when no savvy human is around to supervise, all
dogs are separated.

Your Pit Bull relies on you to keep him safe and happy.  Don’t put
him into situations which warrant him taking matters into his own
paws, and hence getting into trouble with another dog. Be there for
your dog – know what situations are safe, which to avoid, and when
to put an end to the interaction.