How to deal with sparring Scottie dogs

Reader Gloria needs help to cope with her two feisty Scottish Terriers, but as a one-dog man, I can’t offer much. I’m hoping that lovely grammar dominatrix knows as much about multiple dogs as she does about prepositions. Here’s Gloria’s dilemma:

I’m not sure where to post my question, but this looks like a promising spot. I have two young Scotties, half siblings. My male brindle, Echo, is now 15 months old. Chloe, my wheaten female, is 9 months. They spar at least once a day, and sometimes 2-3-4 times a day. My husband thinks they do it because they’re jealous and want most of my attention for themselves. I am diligent about being fair to both of them (kisses, treats, holding, petting). I know Scotties have that prickly part of their personality as well as need to be ferocious. But, should I be concerned about this? Try to stop it? I do shout and try to break them up when they’re really going at it. They each tease each other, steal toys, and know how to start a session by grabbing the other dog’s collar. They’ve been able to nick each other under the eye a couple times. I know the female should/will dominate, and she is ferocious, but Echo is not wanting to give up his dominance either. He initially backed down from her, but now knows that he is taller and has long legs and can reach out and put her down by the neck. She immediately squirms loose and goes at it again. The only time Echo truly leaves her alone is when she hovers over something (rawhide or frog) and growls low and seriously. They also have many hours of running outside together, looking out the windows together, chasing critters, watching hummingbirds, walking together. So, they are not always hostiles. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

11 thoughts on “How to deal with sparring Scottie dogs

  1. Hey Gloria. We too have two Scotties. One is a wheaton (Bailey), and the other is black (Connie). They are about 1 year apart, with Connie being the older. Anyways, our Scotties LOVE to spar. When we have them out at the lake all day or doing something productive, it tends to make them tired, and thus less sparring. So for our little ones, it is more of a way to get out some of that energy. We do have to watch out though. You can tell immediately when they go from play to “you bit me too hard and I am going to hurt you back.” Their fighting styles change and it goes from a playful barking at each other to more aggressive means. That is the point at which we step in to control what is happening. We have it down pretty well that if we say “Hey” really deep and loud, they know to back off or they will be going into separate cages for a little time out, or we will both hold on to one for a little till they calm down.

    This is not the only situation I have seen where dogs like to spar. We have some friends where the wife is a vet, and they own 2 Alaskan Malamutes (HUGE). They tend to do the same thing as well and they don’t have any issues with going overboard on the fighting.

    So I think that it really comes down to whether or not you feel they are playing or truly fighting. No one could 100% tell you one way or the other without seeing and knowing your pups temperament on a first hand basis. From your description, it sounds as if they are just sparring for the fun of it since they can do other things together without getting angry with the other. I would definitely keep an eye on it though and look to see what is instigating the match, is it boredom or is it more territorial (you got too close and I’m going to tell you what I think about that).

    1. Thanks, Kim. It helps just to hear that others have this experience, too. I really believe it’s just normal sparring behavior. But, I will be more assertive about stepping in when it escalates (you described your approach very well). Thanks again.

  2. I have three Scotts ages 6,4,&3. They are all rescues and I have gotten them all at different times. One was a street dog.The 4 and 3 year olds are boys and spar all the time. I call it “shark face” ; they each try to intimidate the other by opening their mouths and showing those big teefers. They also make the most horrible noises. Their front feet leave the ground like they are stomping and their tails are up as high as they can go. Then they start chasing each other. Then the little girl joins in and nips whomever is behind.(She doesn’t run with them just hides behind the couch and gets the last one as he runs by). The 4 year old is usually the “rabbit” in the running and he is the Alpha of the group.
    I think it is normal play behavior and don’t worry about it unless someone gets their feelings hurt and trys to get more physical. If there are any fur chunks flying or big bites, standing up and saying “Hey” usually stops it. Then I redirect them with a game of fetch or some ice cubes or a trip outside for fresh air.
    My fur kids stay home together all day and I have yet to find blood on the floor or more than the occasional clump of fur so I assume that they work things out when I’m not around.
    They also don’t do this behavior at the dog park when they are around other dogs- except other Scotties.
    I wouldn’t worry about what your kids are doing. It sounds like play.

    1. Thanks, Sharon, for sharing your description. I love the term “shark face” and that’s exactly how mine act and look–complete with lifting up on two feet and then the running part. But, in this day and age, I just wanted to be sure I wasn’t being neglectful in letting them act this way. Thanks again. It’s wonderful that you have 3 rescues right now. I’m still grieving the loss of my puppy mill scottie rescue that I had to put to sleep in May, due to a large tumor. And, the previous summer I lost my female rescue scottie to liver disease. While my 2 are “breed rescue” I still feel that I need another adult rescue scotty when my two little guys get a year or two older.

  3. Hi
    I have 2 males that are half brothers born one week apart. I have had them for about one year and they are 18 mos old. Syd(brindle) and Oz(black). Are both submissive to other dogs but not to each other. They have “play ” sessions at least once if not several times in the evenings. During the day this is replaced by just chasing outside. I can tell by the tone of barking if they are angry and stop this with a sharp, Hey. A few times I have had to grab one for a minute of separation, but rarely. Mostly we have to stop trying to talk until the racket calms down. They really love each other and frequently sleep touching. I feel it is normal behavior and I expect it to continue until they are too old to move fast. I would relax and enjoy the joy of their play – just watching for the real aggression.

    1. Thanks, Judy. It helps to hear this is going on in some other scottie households! Like Sharon said, I go to work and they are out all day–I suspect playing in the yard mostly–and seem happy as two clams. I think they save these displays for when I’m around to watch! Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  4. Sparring is the nature of a Scottie. At the dog shows, judges will put 2 contestants together to see if they will try to spar. It is fairly easy to tell when sparring turns to fighting and you want to prevent fighting. If your Scotties were to get in a real fight with each other, don’t try to separate them by grabbing their collars. Grab their hind legs (helps if you have to people) to separate them.

    1. I was hoping this was a bit like the sparring at the dog shows. I appreciate the suggestion about grabbing the hind legs. I don’t think I would have thought of that one. Thanks again!

  5. Howdy,

    I have 2 males scotties 3.5 years (black) and 1.5 years (wheaten), both fixed. They spar all the time, making some very scary noises, but always without any problems. I think what everyone else has already said is right on, but wanted to add that when my dogs were younger, I would practice stopping the sparring for a few moments, maybe enticing them with a treat with the command “settle down” and then after a few moments letting them resume with the command “OK have fun.” It really helps out that they can have their fun, but that I can interrupt it if necessary.

    As a side note, I’m glad to hear Ann is coming back, but I want to applaud SD for stepping in and adding their own flair to the site.

    1. Thanks, AC, for sharing your experiences. Their noises are scary! I will try your suggestion to break it up with a treat and then let them resume. Chloe growls and is very territorial about rawhides and frogs with Echo, but I can pick up the item (rawhide–I don’t tackle the frogs) and just do that to make sure she understands that I can give and take away. She’s fine with that–just not with Echo trying that. Thanks again for sharing.

  6. i also have two scottie the mother 5years old wheaton and daughter black 4years old. They will go after the TV if they see another dog. They will attack any dog that should come around. I am taking them to dog training school so that they can learn how to inter-act with other dogs. We like to walk our dogs but people in our neighborhood let there dogs run loose

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