Same Sex Aggression in Dobermans

More often than not, large breed dogs like Dobermans can live happily with a dog of the same sex. However, Same Sex Aggression (SSA) is real, and must be considered when determining the perfect dog to add to your household.

Experienced Doberman owners, breeders, and rescuers have long been aware of the SSA issue based on experience and anecdotal evidence. Further, a study by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that 79% of inter-dog household aggression involved same-sex pairs. 68% of those pairs were females. It is commonly understood that SSA between two spayed females is the most significant risk, followed by, to a lesser yet still relevant extent, two males.

Over 70% of the time, the aggression was instigated by the younger of the pair, and/or the newer dog to the household.  Additionally, many of the dogs that had issues in the study were seen to be at higher risk as a result of living in multiple households or being acquired from a shelter.

Of course this doesn’t necessarily indicate that SSA will always happen (many of our foster homes have dogs of the same sex), but when issues do happen, SSA is often the reason. As a result, we manage risk and optimize adoptions by often avoiding same-sex matches.

Should exceptions ever be made? Yes, we always use common sense and our incredible professional resources to determine when exceptions should be made. Examples of exceptions may be:

  • When all dogs in the household have passed social maturity (usually after 3-4 years), and we are better able to evaluate what their true temperament will be for life. During social maturity, dogs may change from when they were adolescents. A dog that is a good same-sex match at 6 months, may not be at 2 years.
  • When we are matching a large and small dog together. However, some studies have also found that Terriers of any size are also prone to SSA, so we also consider breeds.
  • Both dogs have a documented history of doing well with the same-sex, and an evaluation has been conducted by a professional.

Sometimes, the issue is not just about aggression. If two dogs of the same sex are unhappy together – for example if the submissive of the pair is forced into an uncomfortable role – life can be stressful for the dog which can manifest in other behavioral problems. This is why a professional evaluation is so important.

When two dogs of the same sex are placed together, it is important to continue play management, and to minimize stressors.

Dog relationships, like human relationships, are ever evolving and influenced by the dogs’ interactions. If you notice your dogs beginning to have tense interactions or arguments, don’t wait – contact a trainer or DHDR to get you the necessary resources.