Two-bitch dynamics

Willingly living with two female dogs is not something that many people would recommend, as it turns out that bitches get in more (serious) fights than any other pairing (male-male and male-female).

But every dog is an individual, and simply having a two-bitch household doesn’t mean that you’re headed for all-out warfare.

Pyrrha and Eden certainly went through a “settling-in” period when we brought Eden into the household. I was worried that their almost daily squabbles boded ill for their ability to peacefully coexist.

Wrestling, the first night we had Eden. December 2013.

But I’m happy to report that their relationship has markedly improved since then. The girls have fallen into a happy equilibrium, even though they will still snark at each other from time to time. As we’ve gotten to know Eden better, and gotten to know Pyrrha’s reactions to her, we’ve been better equipped to help them with their relationship.

Notes on bitch dynamics

1: Pyrrha gets feisty when I am reintroduced

One of the big things I’ve learned is that I am often the unwitting instigator. Any real fight they’ve had or almost had has involved me. This is always how it goes down: I walk into the yard (or enter a room after an absence). Pyrrha jockeys for my attention. Eden follows suit. Pyrrha snarks at Eden. Eden snarks back. Things escalate (until a human intervenes and separates them for a cooling-off period).

Pyrrha is extremely bonded to me, which is flattering, but it’s something she has trouble putting out of her mind when other dogs are around. I don’t think she’s resource-guarding me, though, or maybe it’s a variation on that general theme. She doesn’t ever “guard” Eden from me in other contexts; she has no problem with me petting Eden or in letting Eden come up to me while she’s there.

It’s always just these “introduction scenarios” that get her amped up: me walking into the yard or room after I’ve been gone for a while. I’m not sure why this is or where it comes from. More dog-behavior-savvy people, care to chime in? Why do you think my “reintroduction” into a scenario makes Pyrrha want to go for Eden?

2: Pyrrha is learning how to defer to Eden

This one has surprised me, actually. A lot of the tension we had at first came from Pyrrha being unwilling to back down from a taunt or threat from Eden. Lately, however, Pyrrha has done an admirable job of “turning the other cheek.”

If Eden decides to snark or taunt, Pyrrha will turn her face or body and just move away quietly. This newfound maturity of hers has also led to a decided decrease in squabbles.

3: On the whole, they play together a lot more

And this is so heartwarming and encouraging. Watching them play tag in the backyard or gently wrestle on the kitchen floor are some of my greatest joys.

Playing in the yard with the girls

Predictable scenes of snarkiness

  • When I let them out of their crates, Pyrrha grumbles at Eden. But it’s only when I do it; they have no problems if Guion is releasing them. (Again, I think this is related to Note 1 above.) To mitigate this, I’ve started letting Pyrrha out first and taking her all the way to the yard until I come back inside and release Eden.
  • If both of them get stuck under the table, Eden gets bitchy toward Pyrrha. This one is weird and kind of funny to me. I guess Eden is feeling trapped? And so she snarks at Pyrrha? This is because we’ve let them get too close to us while we’re eating dinner.
  • Pyrrha sometimes plays disciplinarian to Eden. Again, this is Pyrrha being extremely sensitive to me. If I’m chastising Eden for something, usually something she’s digging up in the yard or some invisible threat she’s barking at, Pyrrha occasionally likes to play back-up cop and go follow up my threat with nips and growls. This is annoying, and it’s exactly what I did as the eldest child when my siblings got reprimanded.

Predictable scenes of love and affection

  • Pyrrha is lying down; Eden sidles up to her to give her muzzle kisses. This is always a very cute exchange, and it usually happens in the morning. Pyrrha accepts the affection and sometimes playfully bats at Eden’s face, and then they start a little wrestling match.
  • Backyard tag! This is their favorite game together. Eden gets very aerodynamic, and she loves to initiate the game by smacking Pyrrha’s side with a paw and then scampering away. Pyrrha is the queen of the play bow. They run gleeful circles, with respites for wrestling, until one of them decides it’s time to quit.
  • When initiating play indoors, they somehow know to play more gently. Pyrrha will roll on her back, to handicap herself to Edie, and they will play a few rounds of bitey face. If things escalate to more intense wrestling, I usher them outdoors.

I love our two girls. Would I do two girls again? Maybe not. Every dog is different, and some girls will exist together without any issues for the entirety of their lives, but bitches do seem to have more problems. I’ve got 99 problems and a bitch IS one.

Synchronized sleeping. #babies #doglife #vscocam

If you have multiple dogs in your household, how would you characterize their relationship? How do you think they feel about each other?


13 thoughts on “Two-bitch dynamics

  1. Every dog IS different, and while I normally don’t put a lot of stock in breed characteristics, this is one area where I think it’s important.

    For seven years we lived with our Jack Russell and Shih Tzu (both female) extremely peacefully. But now we’ve also got a Boxer (female). Our Boxer and Shih Tzu do get in scuffles, although not nearly as many anymore as they used to.

    When I just had the little dogs, I heard no words of caution against have a two-female-dog household. It was a non-issue across the board, it seemed like. But then when I was doing my research on bigger dogs, especially guarding breeds and bully breeds, I saw time and again that you shouldn’t have two of the same breed, who are also the same sex (especially female). My research on Boxers tended to reveal, however, that the issue was mostly just Boxer-Boxer and that the same sex would do okay if the breeds were different, and especially if the other dog(s) was/were smaller. That’s why I went ahead with adopting our Boxer, but there have been a few issues, which I’m glad to say are improving. I hope things continue to improve with your girls, too!

  2. There’s a reason they call them bitches 😉 Obviously it can work and you’re doing a great job of it, but we have lots of dogs and one girl, and that’s the way it will stay. Obviously we have female fosters and we watch Asta from time to time and she can deal with it but there is always more tension in the house when there are additional girls. We also had Asta while she was in heat, and man did Jeni turn into a bitch!! Not sure if Eden’s spayed yet? But that’s something to look out for if she isn’t.

  3. It’s great that you’ve put together a little checklist of warning signs and triggers so you can stay on top of the situation. Over the past couple of years my household has been decidedly male-dominated, so I haven’t had much experience with inter-girls squabbles. I do think that the best thing a human can do is be aware of dog body language so as to prevent fights before they start.

    My Lamar and Fozzie get along, which is strange because Lamar doesn’t like most dogs and Fozzie is not an “easy” dog. Also strange because Fozzie is leash reactive but tolerant of most dogs–grooming clients and fosters–I bring home. Such fascinating creatures!

  4. We have two dogs and, aside from when we first brought Zoey (female) home as a puppy and Kasper (male) didn’t want her part of the family, there has been no bad feeling from one to the other.

    Kasper does resource guard toys from Zoey, but we simply manage this by not having toys about when both dogs are out of their crates.

    The only other time Kasper ever grumbles at Zoey is when she stands on him when he’s asleep…which I count as fair enough really!! XD

  5. We’ve got 2 females, 1 male right now and they get along great. I’ve had other visiting or foster females with Kaya which has gone well too. Though she has had issues with other dogs outside of the house, both male and female, so I know she does not get along with all dogs! Zoey used to hate all dogs, but has mostly let it go with age. I think training, breed traits, background and natural behavior has way more to do with anything than their sex. That being said, Norman is way easier than the ladies of the house:) I’ve had super easy going females in the past though.

  6. I’ve had two female dogs who acted similarly where they would get pushy and snarky over affection…My suggestion for you is that if the girls’ biggest issue is when you are reintroduced to the scene I’d highly suggest you start ignoring the both of them completely when you come home/enter the room/yard etc. That means no eye contact, no talking to them, no physical contact (initiated by you) they are invisible until they both settle down and can have calming petting by you. If they start getting pushy when you do finally go to pet them, you immediately stop and walk away until again they have simmered down. I saw photo on your ig of them sleeping together in the car- looks like things are going well!

  7. Great observations; it sounds like a good foundation for peaceful living. Managing dog-dog interactions seems so very complex to me–I’m glad other people can do it.

  8. Ha! Love the ending line. I read that article you linked two a couple of weeks ago, and put it on my “potential blog topics” list. My girl is same sex aggressive, truly a dominant bitch. She can be around other females on leash, parallel walking, etc., but cannot have interaction with them, unless they are a puppy. I have always heard that boys fight for show, and girls fight to with intent to cause damage. I admire you, keeping two females of a headstrong breed together peacefully.

  9. Our female Greyhounds have always gotten along really well with very little snarking. A lot of our problems come in because Morgan doesn’t seem to communicate on the same level that they do. She prefers a lot more physical communication and the Greyhounds decidedly don’t like that. She doesn’t ever seem to get the message that she needs to back down, though. It’s the first time we’ve ever had to manage dog behavior, though. Morgan has had issues with Küster, too, though, so I think it’s something unique to her and not something based on gender.

  10. Super interesting! I have had so many people report to me that female dogs are more likely to have issues living together, but I wasn’t sure what the science or research was behind this common statement, so thanks for sharing that link! Interestingly enough, the two females in our house (we have two females and two males) are the LEAST likely to have issue. Actually, I don’t think they’ve even once snarked at one another… for us, we have one assertive female and one assertive male, and the two of them are the most likely to squabble. So interesting how these dynamics work! Very glad to hear that your girls’ communications are smoothing out 🙂

  11. First – love the photos!
    Great assessment. I once tested the theory that Alma got snappier more with female dogs than male, but as soon as I started watching for it, she quickly proved indiscriminate. Definitely based on the individual dog there, and not sex.
    Between Moses and Alma, there are no issues. Alma came with some resources-guarding issues, so she’d snapped at him a couple of early feedings while they got comfortable, but we’d interrupted soon enough that I can’t say I remember what Moses did. Probably not much. They’re a good pair – they play together, they relax together, and though they may compete a bit for attention (if one’s getting some, you’ll soon have 2 Newfs at your feet), there’s never been any scuffles. We’re lucky.

  12. I have two girl dogs as well (a 3 year old Boston Terrier and a 1 year old Bug [Boston Terrier/Pug]) and lately they have been squabbling more than usual. Sometimes I think our older Boston (the 3 year old) just gets annoyed with the younger one’s antics, so she will get snappy to make her stop. As long as your dogs know who’s in charge, I don’t think it’s a problem to have two girls together. Most of the time they love each other and play all the time, so hopefully this little face of annoyance will pass…

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