Multiple Female Households

I tend to have a knack for having sometimes unpopular opinions (like this) and today’s topic will be no different.  In fact, it’s something I’ve been debating even bringing up here on the blog for a good 9 months or so now.  A comment from a fellow fosterer who was sharing their story pushed me over the edge and I’m going to do it.  I’m going to talk about why I believe two female dogs in the same household is a bad idea.

Pit Bull

There, I said it.  But before anyone thinks I’m just being a kook, or overly dramatic due to recent and past events, hear me out!  Just shy of two years ago I spent a week volunteering at Villalobos Rescue Center (you might better recognize them from the tv show “Pit Bulls and Parolees”.)  To say it was an eye-opening experience would be the understatement of the century.  While there, one thing I heard Tia say more than once was that she refused to allow a female dog to be adopted into a home that already had a female dog.  “Uh, what?  Why in the world could that be?!”  This was the first I had ever heard of anything like that.  Even though I completely respected her and thought everything else she said made loads of sense, I just thought she was totally off-base about this and didn’t agree at all.  “Everyone knows male dogs are more likely to be aggressive!”  Fast forward to today.

Since my time at VRC I have become even more involved in rescue and made many new dog loving friends.  I’ve also started reading countless blogs about everything from behavior and training, to other rescues blogs, to just blogs about dogs in general.  In short, I’ve educated myself a lot in the field of dogs.  And I’ve sadly started hearing the horror stories about girl on girl fights.  In fact, literally every instance I have heard of by my multiple-dog-owning friends, has been between two females.  Every. Single. One.  And obviously I have now gone through the same thing myself.  Could this just be an eery and unfortunate fluke?  Maybe.  Do I think it’s more likely that there is actual validity behind Tia’s policy to not allow two female households?  Absolutely.

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As I’ve stated before, I do believe that the more dogs you own, the more potential for personality conflicts there is.  But I also think that there is just something in the dynamics of females that makes them more likely to squabble with each other.  Obviously if anyone owns more than one dog, be them male and male, male and female, or female and female, said individual needs to make sure they are on top of managing their household.  Triggers like high value toys and treats should not be lying around.  Dogs should be safely crated when unsupervised.  Body language should be constantly monitored.  Regular training and exercise are mandatory.  I thoroughly believe that by taking these steps you significantly decrease the chances of a fight breaking out without warning.  But in my personal experience/research of this topic, it seems that that isn’t always enough when it comes to multiple females.  There seems to be a trend of unprovoked snapping, even in most well-trained, well-managed, and loving of households.

As I’m writing this, as is frequently the case in my house, my two girls are snuggling up to each other and occasionally lifting their heads to give one and other a little lick on the face.  It’s truly hard to believe, even after three fights between them, that it could ever happen again.  They so clearly adore each other!  But that doesn’t stop me from literally never even walking into another room that would take them out of my direct eyesight.  Even when I go to the restroom I ask one of them to join me.

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So whats the point in me sharing this opinion of mine with everyone?  It’s my blog and I can!  Okay, I’m kidding…kind of.  I have come to firmly believe that raising awareness is one of the best things I can do with this space.  I’m willing to bet there are more than one of you that have never even heard of this theory before, as was the case for me just two years ago.  The last thing I want to do is offend anyone.  Three of my favorite friends: Kym, Stephanie S., and Valerie all have two females in their home.  I already know Stephanie thinks this is a silly theory, as she stated here, and that’s fine!  I’ve decided I’d rather share my unpopular opinion in case it opens just one persons eyes and they might take extra care in preventing a fight, no matter how unlikely they think it is to occur (just like I thought I would never in a bajillion years experience it myself.)  Do I think that two females automatically means a fight will happen?  Of course not!  But I do think it increases the chances.  And that is why I am talking about it.  Again, I truly hope that I have not offended anyone with this post.  I am simply hoping to prevent some of the heartache that I (and many of my friends) have experienced.  Take a minute and take stock of your home if you share it with two female dogs, no matter how perfect they are with each other.  Are there any triggers you may not have considered before?  Do you crate at least one of them while you are away?  Just do me a favor and spend a few minutes ensuring you are doing everything to prevent an accident from happening.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, friends!

30 thoughts on “Multiple Female Households

  1. I agree that all dogs need to be monitored however when fostering you don’t always get the choice female/female, male/male etc. I own four dogs(three female/one male) and foster also and yes I have to be careful and selective. I know I have one “problem” dog and I test my new fosters with her before they get too comfy cozy in their new home. There is always a potential for disaster when owning/fostering dogs any sex really. Temperment plays a huge part in the dynamics and even though it seems like everything is going smoothly we all know there could always be a squabble which ultimately can get nasty. Dogs will be dogs and it is up too us monitor them at all times especially when fostering a dog that is not yours! I work, you work, most of us do so take every precaution. 🙂

  2. Oh Morgan, this is the reason why I love you. You tell it like it is, no fluff. We learned a lot about dogs after we rescued Nikita. We found out quickly that she is the type of dog that turns into Cujo when she gets a “raw hide”, but any other treat, she is fine with. I remember when I got her one when she was a pup and it scared the pants off me. We learn from our dogs behavior, and now, she never gets any raw hides. Better safe than sorry.

    We have, like you mentioned, a two female dog household, but I am home with them 24/7. I interact with them all day long and always always keep a watchful eye on my sweeties. I have noticed that when we bring home some new toys, that Nikita claims one of them as just “hers” and she has growled at Bella when she tried to take it, but in no time, that toy became not new any longer and all was fine again.

    If you are a pet owner, whether it is one dog or more, you have to be “involved” in their life, know what they are up to, know the things that they can get into that is not good for them, be aware of any dangers, keep them on a short leash when they approach other dogs in the neighborhood as to protect them and the other dog to avoid a possible fight. You just can’t own a dog, and that’s it. You take on a whole lot of responsibilities in their care and well being, and you are not just a person who hands out treats to them.

    I take being a dog owner very seriously, and I would do anything for my two dogs. Be true to yourself and your beliefs Morgan, we love everything that you do! Hugs & wet doggie kisses to you! ~Valerie~

    • See, I knew you would be one of the people that did everything in your power to prevent anything! And I know your girls are very well-behaved and happy, which of course helps. Thanks for being such an awesome dog mom!

      • Aw, thanks! I do watch everything that they do and am an integral part of their lives! You just can’t own a dog, you have to be involved! Also, this will be our 4th year of helping give back to the APL where we rescued both our dogs from, as we help collect donations. I will be posting information on that in an upcoming post when they start their annual Pledge For Pets fundraiser. We hope that you will help us spread the word about this event too! We love doing all we can to help those animals who cannot speak for themselves! I even go door to door in the neighborhood to collect too!

      • We are so proud that this is our fourth year coming up participating in this annual event for the APL. Each and every year we get a few more people to donate that all helps the animals. I make buttons too so that everyone can add them to their blog to help out! Since we got both Nikita and Bella from the APL, our heart goes out to their wonderful efforts. You should look up Nikita’s story on the Media Page, and look for when she was published in the APL’s newsletter. You will cry.

  3. Love your honest posts! Working in packs on a daily basis, I totally agree with this statement. The ladies in our playgroups are often the ones getting into tifs and trying to gain rank over all the others. Of course we can have issues with males as well, but not as much and not as seriously.

    • That’s seemed to always be the case when I’ve done anything with playgroups, too. Obviously any dog can have issues, it just seems the little ladies have a wee bit more attitude 😉

  4. Very thought provoking. Thank you for sharing, I have never thought about girl on girl issues at all, in fact I have probably rather naively thought after a while together the dogs just got to know each other and so you can treat them almost like children – temperament depending!
    Looks like I’ve still got loads to learn!

  5. Totally did not realize this. But it really makes sense after thinking about it. Not all aggression comes from testosterone. We have girl on girls fights in tons of breeds – humans included! Thanks for the advice and food for thought…..

  6. Notes from a two-lady-dog household. Here are some of the many, many reasons we have been, so far, completely problem-free.

    1. Lola is a doll. She is completely non-reactive to other dogs’ bad behavior. In public other dogs have snapped, snarled, lunged, barked, and all out gone after her, and all she does is step backwards and look up at me as if to say “Mom, what is that poor dog’s PROBLEM?” Of course, she is not quite two, and I have read that some dogs may become more reactive and aggressive to other dogs as they become adults. This is something we have to keep an eye on and not assume she will always be the most easy-going Staffie in the whole world.

    2. I leave toys out only in multiples and if, in supervised play, neither girl has shown the tiniest bit of possessiveness toward that particular toy.

    3. I’ve read many, many articles about how to distinguish rough but appropriate play and I stop behavior that comes close to inappropriate. I have a command that means “Chill out, bitches” specifically for making them calm down before they can start playing again. However, the only time I’ve ever used this is when their play becomes so noisy I can’t hear the movie we’re watching, not because their play becomes inappropriate.

    4. I exercise the hell out of them. Literally. Manic or hyper dogs in my house get taken outside to chase the ball. And chase the ball. And chase the ball. Sad-faced, pouty dogs get the same treatment. If my dogs are ever annoying me, I exercise them, cause then their behavior is within my control. (Or I can pretend it is, anyway.)

    5. I tolerate nothing short of them loving and adoring each other. Seriously, I cultivate a mental attitude that I try to beam into their doggie heads on a regular basis. I don’t assume they won’t get in fights — I demand it.

    6. I have a husband who is a dictator about how many dogs we can have in the house. Seriously. No matter how much I beg to foster a dog, even offering temporary weekend relief to friends who foster permanently, he will not give in. And mostly I think he’s right for OUR household (I am NOT saying that you can only have two dogs in a house) because Yagé, normally the best-behaved dog in the world, becomes almost crazed around new dogs. It’s like she becomes autistic for a while. And that’s just a pack dynamic he and I aren’t smart enough to handle.

    Please don’t take any of these as criticisms — these are just our experiences. I think that having six dogs in a house is fine. Some dogs are just fine if you leave bones or rawhides out all the time. And I don’t think that if your dogs have ever gotten into a fight it is YOUR fault, or even could have been avoided. Not everything is in our control. Some things we cannot stop or prevent — they just happen.

    • And this is why I think you are one of, if not the very best, dog owner I know. You are quite possibly the most conscientious person I know. I love how much you love them. Thank you for sharing all of this! I hope some other people take the time to read and learn from your wisdom.

  7. Wow, I’ve never heard of that before. It does make sense. If and when I ever get dogs, I will keep this in mind. I will reblog this on my blog as I think my readers would be interested in this as well. Thank you very much for sharing. Do you think you will talk more at a later time about your experience at VCR?

  8. I had never heard of it either until the fights broke out. Then suddenly everyone broke out of the woodwork and told me their stories of females fighting with females. Wish I had at least heard of such incidences. I had 4 dogs at one point (3 male and 1 female) and nobody had to be crated. Looking back definitely young and naive on my part. One fight was when I went out the door to get the mail (at the end of a very short driveway) and another happened when my daughter went to go pet one and my older one went ballistic. Like yours my younger girl still would try to snuggle up. It was devastating to say the least. However we see the damage it’s done to her. She had to start trusting again. When we brought our foster home, we went very slow (there is no such thing as too slow) and little by little, she went from anxious and run in to her crate (he would put his paw on her back) to now initiating play and can match up to his rough and tumble. He has also learned boundaries. When she’s had enough, she runs to her crate and he leaves her be. He’s melded so well with our family, it will be tough when he finds his perfect family. But I’m glad we are able to show him that living in a loving household with rules and boundaries is a good thing and he will be happier in the long run.

    • I couldn’t agree more, there is no such thing as too slow! It’s great to hear that she has learned her boundaries and when she needs a break she takes it. That’s something I wish my dogs were better about. I am SO glad you are there for your foster. He’s quite the lucky little man!

  9. That’s really interesting. I’ve lived in a two-female house where the girls did get along, but I will say when we moved out, my girl had a more subdued personality than she did when we arrived. I wonder if she became more submissive as a coping tactic to avoid conflict? Hmmm…

  10. Excellent post and information for all of us pet parents and dog lovers in general. I am a pet sitter so there are times when I have a total of 5 dogs, that includes my own dog Alex, and I have males and females living together peacefully in a home environment not a kennel environment. Excersice, discipline, boundaries, love, etc., are essential and unsupervised time for them is something I never do. With that being said, I’d venture to say that what I look at in a dog is not only the gender, but the personality of that dog. 2 dominant females is a recipe for disaster just like 2 dominant males happen to be. I look at the following: breed, gender, age, personality, etc., to name a few. Some dogs, regardless of whether or not they are of the same gender cannot live together in peace. My fist dog, Casey, male pit mix, hated my female dog, Alex, also a pit mix with a passion. Casey saw Alex since she was 3 months old, but he just could not live with her. I took him to Obedience I, Obedience II, and CGC while working with a trainer and he still remained the same. One male, one female and it did not work out. My suggestion for all prospective pet parents is to foster a dog first, before making the decision of adoptin specialy if you already have a dog at home.

  11. Great post, and you’re right it’s your blog and you can say what you want and what you think!

    In our house Dottie rules the roost, she’s the one that will pick a fight with Boomer if things aren’t going her way. And, she’s the one that newcomers have to make nice with and if they’re female they have a harder time. This is the main reason we can’t and won’t be fostering anytime soon even though I really want to.

    • Hey, if I’ve learned anything it’s that you have to put your own dogs first. Kudos to you for recognizing that since many people (myself included) don’t realize that!

  12. We found this out the hard way, after adopting two pit bull mix puppies from a friend’s dog. Two girls. That was about eight years ago now. When they were a few years old, they went through a phase where they’d fight. No blood, no injuries, but enough to make us worry. After A LOT of digging through research online, I came across a few articles about the combination of two females being the highest at risk of conflict. We also noticed that ALL the fights were started over toys, so we removed the toys and gave them each a daily walk instead. No more conflict. This doesn’t mean every female/female combination is going to result in conflict. Or that it can’t be managed. It’s just something that’s worth making everyone aware of. Awesome post 🙂

    • Thank you! I definitely agree, it’s not a guarantee for problems my any means, but definitely an increase in the risk factor. I’m glad you figured out the trigger and solved the problem before anything got out of hand!

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