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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 20178
Experience:  Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 18+ years
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My wife and I have two yorkies. Whenever I need to leave the

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My wife and I have two yorkies. Whenever I need to leave the house and my wife is alone with the dogs, they fight. The dogs have had small squabbles over last 6 years since we adopted them (the male was adopted at the age of 3-4, the female adopted at 1-2..both are rescues) but recently the fighting has gotten much worse. I just returned from the petrol station after refuelling my wife's car. I was gone for about 15 minutes. I came home to both dogs with faces very bloody and my wife in tears. I just do not understand. I never have a problem with them when I am at home alone. What is causing this behaviour? What can I do to put a stop to it?

Hi JaCustomer,

My name is ***** ***** I’ve been involved professionally with dogs in the health and behavioral fields for over 18 years. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.

In order to supply you with an informed answer, it is necessary for me to collect some additional information from you. When I receive your response or reply, it will likely take me between 30-45 minutes to type up my reply if I am still online when I receive notice that you replied. I hope you can be patient.

Which dog is larger?

Which dog did you have first?

Are they spayed and neutered?

Do they have any obedience training?

Who did the training?

Are they allowed on the furniture?

Is your wife willing to put time into correcting the situation?

If trained, do the dog's listen to her?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi Jane,
Alfie is 12" abt 5 kg, adopted May 24th 2010...Lula is 6" abt 2.5 kg, adopted June 15th 2010. Both are spayed/neutered. No obedience training, though they both come, sit, stay via my 'training'. Both are allowed on the furniture. They both come to her and will sit for treats.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I do believe she will invest time to correct this behaviour. Rehoming would break both our hearts. In general they get along great and always have a morning play session. I know I am the alpha as they both behave fine and will lie together in my lap quite contentedly.

Great. I am working on your response now.

To me it sound like the male dog does not see your wife as his boss. The female may not either but definitely the male. They know you are the ultimate boss so they behave when you are home. I'm sure you have made it perfectly clear that fighting is not allowed when you are around. So they behave when you are around. When you are not around, the male feels he has to reprimand the female for any perceived misbehaving. Given the males size and weight, he is the likely alpha of the dogs.

Now your wife may be a contributing factor as well. If she has a preference for the female, the male may not like that the female gets attention when he isn't. As the alpha dog, he should get attention first, be fed first, come in and out first and even get treats first. If your wife takes turns or does it differently, the male will not be happy and take it out on the female.

To correct the behavior, the dogs have to see your wife as the boss behind you. The fastest way for them to learn this is for your wife to start obedience training with them as well. You might teach her your way or she can use the following site. Be sure and click on the link to the page on obedience at the bottom. and links on subsequent pages leading to detailed instructions.

Training works best if you train at least 30 minutes a day (two 15 minute sessions). I would start making your dog work via the Nothing in life is free program (NILF). It is outlined below.

Additional training can also help. Both dogs should be leashed and if one dog even looks at the other dog, a correction should be done. Any sign of aggression including a prolonged look, hair raised on the shoulders, a growl or even a stiff legged walk, should be corrected. A correction is a quick tug of the leash and a firm low toned "NO". Once she does this couple of times, she should notice the dogs ignoring each other. When that happens, she will want to reward them for the desired behavior. Again, use tasty treats like the hot dog slices. This teaches the dogs that she WILL not tolerate fighting in the pack.

It will help if she learns body language too. She will then be able to see what the dogs are saying to each other with their posture, tail set, ears, etc.


I would not allow them on the furniture. Dogs that are allowed on furniture (even if put on the furniture) tend to feel that since they are elevated to your level or higher if on your lap, they mentally feel elevated as well in the pack order and thus are the boss. Keeping them on the floor can help lower them mentally back to a submissive position in the pack. So the first thing is to not allow him higher that the humans or even on the same level. Attach a leash and use it to remove him from the furniture. Give a correction in the form of a short tug to get his attention and firm "NO" when he attempts to get on and a treat when he starts not trying to get on the furniture. Thus you are providing negative reinforcement for the getting on the furniture and positive reinforcement for the desired behavior (not attempting to get on the furniture).

If you want to pet them , then you can make them obey a command and then ask them to come up. Once done though they have to get down immediately on command. They should not be allowed to just get on the furniture at will.

I hope this information is helpful to you. If you would like any additional information or have more questions please don’t hesitate to press the reply to expert or continue conversation button so I can address any issues you still have . If you do find this helpful, please take this opportunity to rate my answer positively so I am compensated for my time.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks for getting back to me. I will indeed initiate your suggestions. It's a shame they have to be relegated to the floor though I do understand the necessity. Usually at night the female sleeps beside my wife and the male lays in my lap while we watch t.v., keeping us warm in the bargain. Iwill miss that. But, if it will stop this terrible behaviour, we will just have to make the sacrifice. I assume that includes bedtime. Kennels may be in order. We obviously have made this problem ourselves. In 59 years of dog ownership I have never had anything like this with any of my previous dogs. It truly saddens me. I have never owned dogs that I could not have in my lap or on my bed. I think it might be better for both of them to be rehomed separately. Yorkies were bred to be lap dogs. I don't think their lives will be happy, even if it eliminates the fighting, to be kept on the floor or off laps. I'll see how it goes with your suggestions. But if neither the dogs nor us as owners are satisfied with a 'big dog' relationship, rehoming may be our only alternative.Thanks for your help,
Blue Thompson


Staying off the laps and furniture is just until they start seeing your wife as the boss. Once that happens you can make the decision on whether they can be up with you. If they are going to fight when you are not there, then they need to be on the floor. Improvement is usually seen within a couple of weeks.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks Jane...will do everything you suggested. I'll let you know how it goes.Blue

you are very welcome.

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