Dear Labby

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Dear Labby_oldDear Labby,

I’ve always heard that if you are going to have two dogs, it’s best to mix the sex, to have one girl and one boy, otherwise you run the risk of same sex rivalry and fights. Is there any truth to this? What do I do if I want three dogs?

Sibling Rivalry


Dear Sibling,

That is a commonly held belief, that two males in the same home or two females will fight with each other more often and more seriously than pack members of the opposite sex. While commonly held, it is certainly easily dispelled if you just look around at all the multi-dog families with multiple males or females in the home without a problem. It’s not really the sex of the dogs that is the issue, it’s the atmosphere and environment that they are raised in. They need strong leadership, consistent training and an understanding of proper and improper behavior. Certainly un-neutered males in their peak testosterone surge of say 1-year old are going to be a bit more excitable (just as teenage boys are), but as their leader, it’s up to you to establish the boundaries.  Here’s just a few simple tips to help mitigate against issues:

Jack & Maggie get along just fine.

Jack & Maggie get along just fine.

  1. Treat them equally – that means equal attention, equal food rewards, equal training and  consistency.
  2. Don’t allow resource guarding and that means of food, toys or YOU! Feeding them separately is never a bad idea.
  3. Establish clear and consistent rules for indoor and outdoor behavior.
  4. Exercise them together and let them work out issues through their workouts.

We have never had two dogs of the same sex, but I know that many of our readers have two males (My Brown Newfies), two females (My GBGVLife)  or 3 or more dogs (Keep the Tail Wagging or Talking Dogs), I hope they chime in with some advice with tips or techniques that they have found helpful in coping with a multi-dog, same sex pack.



We’re joining up with 2 Brown Dawgs for This ‘N That Thursday Blog Hop!


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  1. Mom has had two girls twice now with no issues. We have heard that males can be more troublesome and pets that are not neutered or spayed have more issues. If you want a third dog, try to find a bisexual dog, that should solve the issue, wouldn’t it 🙂
    emma recently posted…My Tales | GBGVMy Profile

    • Emma, you are so smart. I guess that would solve it 😉
      mkob recently posted…Dear LabbyMy Profile

  2. We have certainly had our issues in the past with having 2 intact males, but it was something that we worked through and learned from. There was a time when Leroy was about 1 year old where him and Sherman got in a few serious fights. It was scary having 2 giant dogs fighting and I was a mess over it, but we quickly were able to find the trigger which was resource guarding and we worked to solve that and ever since we have had no serious issues. It took time and consistency but it was worth it in the end. Of course, now they have their little “sibling” issues but nothing that makes me worry. Now, I personally would never add another dog into our home at this time. Female or male I think that would create a big problem, but that is because they are intact and it would change the whole dynamics in our house-if they weren’t intact I would consider it.
    Jen recently posted…What To Do When Your Dog Is LimpingMy Profile

    • Thanks for the input Jen. I can’t imagine facing a dog fight with your two fellas…I guess you gotta kind of step back and let them work it out. Resource guarding seems to be a theme with these types of fights…whatever that resource may be.
      mkob recently posted…Dear LabbyMy Profile

  3. Our littermates (3-1/2 years) are boy and girl. Our youngest (and the destroyer of dog bed this morning) is a boy.

    The tips here are perfect. One thing we also did was split them up – so my boyfriend took one dog and I took the other, to give them one on one time with us. This also helped with resource guarding the humans.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…AKC Good Dog Helpline Connects You with Dog Trainers #AKCDogLoverMy Profile

    • Thanks for the input Kimberly. Good point about the one-on-one time. I think that’s important even if your pack is perfectly peaceful. I try to do it with my guys as I know it’s really important. Epecially for my momma’s boy Jack. And…oh no about the dog bed…Blue, bad boy.
      mkob recently posted…Dear LabbyMy Profile

  4. I’ve heard all my life that if you have two dogs, they should be of different sexes. I think it is an old wives tale and wholeheartedly agree with Labby!
    We’ve had as many as 5 dogs at one time. Same sex; different sex – zero issues. Currently we have 2 males (both neutered) and 1 female (spayed) and we’re seeing a tad bit of rivalry between the boys, but nothing worrisome.
    My first-as-an-adult dog was an intact male, when we added another dog, he was a male. Again, no issues. AND I want to add that ALL of our dogs are large dogs – 75 pounds and up. A few purebreds (Border Collie and Labrador), but mostly mutts.
    The only problem we ever had was my mother’s little Lhasa Apso who simply refused to get along with any of our dogs. In fact, it was the females he “went after” first.
    I’m no dog trainer, just a dog lover and owner who sets a lot of boundaries for my dogs from day one. Even puppies rapidly learn what is expected of them. Our dogs each have their own specific place and bowl from which to eat and trespassing is not allowed (by the humans.) We don’t allow bones here… we take no chances on resource fights.
    Bottom line: I truly believe success lies with the owner.
    Sue at Talking Dogs recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: Looking BackMy Profile

    • Thanks for the input Sue. You experience really adds to the conversation. The only time we’ve add same breeds together is when we’ve fostered and have had both two females and two males. But our dogs were seniors by that time and I think once you reach a certain age, that type of rivalry takes too much effort.
      mkob recently posted…Dear LabbyMy Profile

  5. Misty the alpha Poodle rules everything around here so there are no fights.
    jan recently posted…Comic Sans because dogs don’t talk in Times New RomanMy Profile

  6. There is no hard and fast rule. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence in favor of same sex pairings and even more that would suggest that same sex pairings (especially females) is a bad idea even in experienced homes.

    There are some breeds (guardian/working/protection) that are more prone to same sex aggression than others. Same sex aggression usually becomes apparent when both dogs reach sexual maturity (1-3 yrs depending on breed). There is a reason the saying “Males fight for breeding rights and females fight for breathing rights”.

    I have 3 German Shepherds (2 rescues, 1 as a pup). The two females got along very well despite the younger one’s fearfulness and reactivity UNTIL the younger dog reached maturity at 2 years old. They had a couple of tiffs ending in a big fight involving all three dogs and I suffered several punctures and a broken finger trying to break it up. They now cannot be in closed quarters together as the older one is constantly “on” the younger.

    It is not just the environment and way they are raised but instead you must consider the individual dogs’ personality and temperament. Just because your dog gets along with one particular dog of the same sex doesn’t mean that they will get along with every dog of the same sex, especially in their own home.

    • That’s exactly right – they do have their own personalities, likes, dislikes and habits – so you can’t make a blanket statement. Thanks for the input and persepective from your experience.
      mkob recently posted…Dear LabbyMy Profile

  7. I never gave much thought to dual gender households. I just figured I’d prefer females over males, since the males – according to legend – caused more problems. Turns out my male is my shadow and I wouldn’t trade him for anything. I also heard that litter mates, especially male/female, would be a problem. My girl and boy are litter mates and get along swimmingly. Your advice is spot on. Keep up the good work, Labby!
    Flea recently posted…I’m on a Giveaway RollMy Profile

    • Thanks Flea – glad to hear your pack gets on so well. I think you deserve some credit for that 😉
      mkob recently posted…Dear LabbyMy Profile

  8. From the time I was seven years old, we have had two female dogs in the house most of the time…no issues until Ducky came along. Every now and then, Callie will try to sneak over to Shadow’s food bowl and get growled at; but I stay close by to prevent any real “scrapes”. (I feed Ducky separately.) I don’t mind Shadow telling Callie to back off, but I don’t allow it to escalate beyond a warning growl. I just give a stern “HEY!” to Callie and she moves away. And, if Shadow finishes first, she very respectfully gives Callie time to finish her meal.
    Ducky is the resource guarder extraordinaire in this house. But she’s also a youngster yet. At 18 months, she’s like a 13-year-old with an attitude…just like I was at 13. The spoiled brat who really isn’t spoiled, just likes acting that way to get attention. She gets the same discipline that her older sisters get. She just gets more of it. “Rules, boundaries and limitations” as Cesar Millan would say. I may not like the way he occasionally sets them; but I do agree that all dogs need to be taught what they are. Ducky, I believe, DOES know what they are in our family; but she has that spoiled-brat attitude at times. But only with her sisters. She’s sweet as can be with us humans.

    • Thanks for adding your experience to the conversation here. I think you are right, Ducky is acting like a typical teenager. We’ve had nothing but seniors for many years now, so I don’t see much of that behavior…but I remember it 😉
      mkob recently posted…Dear LabbyMy Profile

  9. I’ve always heard mixed sexes work better but never really thought about it until recently when I was thinking of rescuing another. I am more partial to male dogs and would love to have another male. However, ultimately it would be Titan to choose who he gets along best with. As a child, we always had girl dogs together and they got along fine.
    Bren recently posted…The Lesser of Two Evils?My Profile

    • You are spot on that it’s really Titan’s call as he’s the one that has to be most comfortable with the newcomer. Thanks for adding your advice and insights.
      mkob recently posted…Dear LabbyMy Profile

  10. I think it has more to do with the dogs’ personalities than the gender. We thought we had more fights between the two girls and the two boys at first, but then Moses and Cricket got into it and blew that theory. It was always over food or toys. Things have been quiet for a while, and I don’t know if it’s because Moses is gone and he was the trouble maker, or if it is because we have been working harder to get them more exercise.
    Jan K recently posted…Wordless Wednesday – Shakin’ & Rollin’My Profile

    • It’s always over the fun stuff isn’t it – food & toys. I’m sure the exercise helps, but certainly the dynamics are different now with Moses gone. Thanks for adding your thoughts and experience to the discussion.
      mkob recently posted…Dear LabbyMy Profile

  11. When we decided to add another dog I asked our trainer if she thought Sampson would do better with a male or female, she said female so we added Delilah. Besides the first day, when I wasn’t sure they even liked each other, there was only one time that Delilah snapped at Sampson and that was when I was sorting chicken necks for their food. I immediately removed her from the room and she hasn’t been allowed since. Good advice Labby!!
    Jodi recently posted…Once Upon a TimeMy Profile

    • Thanks for joining the discussion. It seems like food is at the center of many disputes!
      mkob recently posted…Dear LabbyMy Profile

  12. I have 2 females one that is spayed and one that is not (which is the one’s daughter), I have 2 males one which is neutered and one that is not (which is the one’s son). I do have an occasional issue but mine is because the older dogs were there first and are the dominant ones in the pack so they will start something to show there dominance. The young ones know there place. The two altered dogs happen to be father and daughter also. Just yesterday they got into a tuff because Norman had his ball Gambler wanted it so Norman was growling to let Gambler know not to bother him then Nellie (norman’s daughter who is spayed) got all worked up and pegged Norman for whatever reason. I stepped in to stop them and they both knew they were bad for fighting. It takes a strong person to be the leader and show these dogs who is boss and that non of that fighting will be tolerated. Like Labby said same sex can live together they just need to know who is in control and it isn’t them. When looking at a shelter for dogs you need to get one that is dog friendly and can live in a home with others. If getting a puppy it is all in socialization and training to get everyone to get along.
    joann stancer recently posted…This ‘N That ThursdayMy Profile

    • Great feedback Joann, thanks. You’ve got a real mix there with father’s & sons and daughters and neutered and un-neutered. But I agree the key is leadership and an understanding of acceptable behavior.
      mkob recently posted…Dear LabbyMy Profile

  13. I have 3 males, and even though I have no scientific evidence to back this statement up… I truly believe that success relies so much more on the individual personalities of the dogs and the management and training strategies employed by the people. You shared some really great tips that should apply to adding any new animal to a home, regardless of gender. Good luck adding your new pup!
    Maggie recently posted…Accommodating a senior dogMy Profile

    • Thanks for adding your voice. My advice is purely non-scientific too, but from the great feedback we’ve gotten today from folks that are really experienced in multi-dog homes, I think we are on the right track!
      mkob recently posted…Dear LabbyMy Profile

  14. Thanks so much for participating in TNT! I always like when Labby joins the hop!

    We have two intact males and until last week one intact female. Yes the males have been growlie lately. I think that is because Storm was getting ready to come into season (when she was not at home, they were fine). But now that Storm is spayed hopefully they will be less growlie. We know it will take a bit for hormones to fade. Also, we plan to get Thunder neutered in the next little bit so then we will only have one intact dog. That may fully resolve any issues. But it is not unheard of that two Chessie males can have trouble living in the same home.

    We won’t be taking any chances of a fight. We keep the males separated, but not totally separate. They can see each other and sniff and such through the pet gate, but we let them each have their own space.

    The funny thing is that when either boy is bugging Storm by being too forwards she will bark and growl and snap at them and we don’t worry or think anything of it. I guess we aren’t worried about an all out fight. This has nothing much to do with your post, but I just find it funny. 🙂
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…This ‘N That ThursdayMy Profile

    • Storm knows her mind and wants to keep those guys in-line! Good for her. Thanks for adding your perspective on this. Do Thunder & Freighter ever play together – and how does it go?
      mkob recently posted…Dear LabbyMy Profile

      • Yes they have played together, but we have to be watchful due to the size difference. Freighter is catching up, but he will never be as big as Thunder. Poor Storm was injured when she was young because she and Thunder kind of collided. Probably would not have been an issue if they were the same size.

        Storm’s breeder gave us a bit of advice. He has been in Chessies for 40 + years and a Chessie breeder for 30 + years. He said the worst dog fights he has seen started out as play that got rough. The older dog decides that he isn’t going to let the youngster push him around and the fight is on.
        2 brown dawgs recently posted…Follow-up Friday 9-6-13My Profile

        • Interesting. I worry when the play gets rough – it does seem like a thin line between play and fighting sometimes.
          mkob recently posted…Cardio Exercises for Your DogMy Profile

          • We had them together this weekend and I didn’t see any macho growling. I guess with Storm spayed they have nothing to feel macho over…lol.
            2 brown dawgs recently posted…Follow-up Friday 9-6-13My Profile

          • That could be…the thrill is gone 😉
            mkob recently posted…Black & White Sunday 9-8-13My Profile

  15. We only have Mr. N so it hasn’t been an issue. We might be getting a foster dog soon though and we’ve been advised to ask for a female dog.

  16. I’m a lone dog. My sapiens say I’m a good handful already. Although it would be fun to be having 2 other pups in the house. .I don’t see that happening in the near future
    Ruckus the Eskie recently posted…Could You be the Next Mayor of Your City?My Profile

  17. I served on a Lab Rescue board for about 5 years.

    Like many others said, for every one case of male to male fighting, there are a hundred households with two male dogs who live very happily; or female to female or whatever. I have a male and female, but I’ve also had many many foster dogs of both sexes. Dogs like people have their own personalities, and I think day to day interaction are more a matter of the individual dog(s) and not their sex(es).

    In the rescue, we saw the most issues between true siblings (littermates) regardless of sex. No matter what the adopters did or didn’t do, around a year old, the two siblings would get to the point where one of them absolutely had to be rehomed. The fights were brutal (again regardless of two males, two females, or one of each), yet when one of the dogs was moved to a different home, both dogs would be completely fine with new canine housemates. We eventually enacted a policy where we no longer placed siblings under a year old together.

    • Interesting – I wonder what that is – I’ve never had littermates. Years ago, our Lab Maxine had a litter of puppies and we homed one of them with a neighbor. Now, I know it’s not siblings, but that male pup who eventually grew to about 90lbs was totally deferential to it’s little 60lb mother. It was pretty cute to watch how with just a look she could get him to do most anything.
      mkob recently posted…Black & White Sunday 9-8-13My Profile

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