Many of the problems I deal with in homes with multiple dogs are created by owners interfering in the established pecking order.

Pack animals have a natural ranking system that separates the strong from the weak.

It has ensured their survival for thousands of years.

They are genetically programmed to respect strength and reject weakness.

To your dog, every living being in your home is part of the pack. He’ll respect those above him – dog, cat or human – and dominate those below him, be they child or guinea pig.

To your dog it’s the natural order of life.

Pack order isn’t determined by fighting to the death but by posturing and controlling. In our house the cat is higher up the ladder than a couple of the dogs.

Left to their own devices, your dogs will work out pack seniority and live happily with the outcome but should you intervene you are inviting trouble.

If you show preference to the weakest member in the mistaken belief he needs to be reassured you will simply encourage the stronger dog to reaffirm his superiority by a show of aggression.

He may even bully the weaker dog into a fight.

You must maintain the established pack order.

If you are going to show favour it must be to the strongest but you must be top dog and all members of your family must be higher in the pecking order than the dogs.

If kids set the rules and maintain boundaries, they will automatically gain respect.

Under no circumstances should you allow dogs to just ‘sort it out themselves’ by fighting. Setting pack rules and boundaries is your responsibility as leader.

Dogs can find their own place in the pack without resorting to aggression. Your job is to monitor their behaviour and intervene if you feel it is inappropriate.

Most important of all your dogs must respect you as a human and you must respect them as dogs.

Jumping all over you is as disrespectful to you as dressing a dog in silly clothes disrespects your dog.

Your aim is for mutual respect.

Vic Barlow's The Dogfather column in the Guardian

You can contact Vic Barlow by text on 07590 560012 or by email at