Can These 2 Dogs Get Along?!

Dear WOOF:

I recently had to move from Texas to Michigan with my two male dogs. One is a 2 year old husky, and the other 2 year old mix (of what I'm not sure). We moved in with my family who has a 6 month old male Weimaraner who is very hyper and loves to play and bite them indoors. But once all three get outside, he cowers, and yelps anytime they go near him to play.

The problem is that my two dogs have been fighting with each other more and more lately. I never saw, or heard of them fighting while we lived in Texas, but now they fight at least once, sometimes twice a day. The fights always end with the husky on top, but as soon as they separate, the smaller dog puts his front paws on his back and stays there till the husky sits. I understand that they are going through some anxiety and dealing with the change in weather, and living conditions, and some dominance issues are coming up, but what can I do about them fighting over everything that the other one plays with or chews!

Dear WOOF:

I need some help introducing two dogs together. I have a 6 month old cockapoo - she is very friendly to people and other dogs and also very passive and just want to play. My boyfriend on the other hand has a 6-year-old Jack Russell who is VERY territorial, jealous, and aggressive (I think its aggression I'm seeing, maybe it's dominance).

The Jack Russell was never socialized as a puppy and has never been around another dog. We want the two dogs to get along or it may turn into a problem for us - he loves his dog and I love mine so neither one of us is willing to let the dog go. We took them for a first meeting yesterday - we took them to a park that neither of them had been to before. I kept mine on her leash and we let the JRT off his. My dog just wants to play. At first he came up to sniff her and she just stood there, but then he started growling and lunged at her! My boyfriend yelled at the dog and grabbed him and put him back on his leash. We tried letting the JRT get closer to my dog while he was on leash - but he kept barking at her and trying to bite her. We then tried taking them for a walk together and that wasn't to bad - of course the JRT had to be in the lead and he really didn't pay to much attention to my dog. Now my dog is afraid of him and I'm afraid he is going to bite her. I'm ok with him trying to be the dominant one - I could live with that - I just don't want mine to get hurt or bit.

His dog even barks at me if he kisses or hugs me. Is there something we should be doing or do you think this was a normal reaction to a first time meeting? I guess my questions would be:

  1. Was this a normal reaction for a first time meeting?

  2. Should they both have been on or off their leashes?

  3. How often should we get them together to get used to each other and how long do you think it will take for them to get used to each other before we might think about a trainer? We can't really afford one.

  4. Do you think a private trainer might be able to help us?

The JRT is 6 years old and very set in his ways. Even if you walk by his food dish he'll start barking at you and run over and eat his food. If you walk away he'll stop barking and stop eating. He is very jealous of me also. He has lived with my boyfriend alone for along time so I'm sure that doesn't help in my quest for friendship between two dogs. I know people that have two or more dogs and when they brought the new dog into the home everything was fine. I can't even imagine taking my dog to the JRT's house, that will really freak him out.

Please, any input you can give would be appreciated, I would hate for my relationship to end because of this dog, but if we can't get them to like each other we are going to have a major problem.

 

Thanks.


Hello:

Introducing 2 strange dogs to each other can be a tricky process but in most cases, if each dog has been well socialized things will usually go smoothly. There is no real way to tell how things will go until they are actually together, but there are some key things in your situation that give an indication that things were not likely to go well.

You indicate that the Jack Russell Terrier is 6-years-old, and has had no social experience with other dogs. This is probably the biggest contributing factor to your dilemma, as he has never learned to interact in an appropriate way with members of his own species. Socialization during puppyhood provides the opportunity for learning to read intraspecific body language with regard to greetings, and any subsequent interactions. Since he did not have these important social experiences with other pups and dogs during his early development, he is much less likely to respond well in social situations with other dogs as an adult. Rather than "dominance" being the reason for his behavior, he's more than likely acting out toward her to make her go away because he's uncomfortable and frightened.

 

You do not mention it, but if the JRT is not neutered, it should be considered immediately. Aside from the positive health benefits, it could help to reduce his reactivity toward her and other dogs in general.

You specifically ask the following questions in your email that I will address individually:

1) Was this a normal reaction for a first time meeting?
Yes, unfortunately the way this meeting went could be considered "normal" given the JRT's lack of social experience with other dogs.

2) Should they both have been on or off their leashes?
I don't have enough information to say definitively one way or the other, but given his social history, it probably would have been best to keep him on a loose leash too. A loose leash during dog greetings is always important for keeping fearful responses (tight leash = lack of ability to flee) from becoming a problem.


In my opinion, the trouble with this introduction was it's duration. You mention that initially he just sniffed her (a pro-social behavior) but soon after, he was lunging at her and acting aggressively. Maintaining interactions on a pro-social level for brief periods - even if it's just 5 seconds long! - then calling each dog away (being sure to reward their call away responses!) helps to cultivate a more relaxed attitude, and increase the potential for continued pro-social interaction (more sniffing) the next time they're together.

3) How often should we get them together to get used to each other, and how long do you think it will take for them to get used to each other before we might think about a trainer?
This question is impossible to answer, but I do like the fact that you took them for a walk together and you mention that went pretty well. Parallel walking can be nice way for dogs to settle in and get comfortable with one another. And it's perfectly fine if the JRT "ignores" her and who cares if he's walking ahead! Remember, he's uncomfortable, so if he's choosing to keep his distance and prefers to ignore her, let him! It's really important that he learn to become comfortable around her doing an activity that he enjoys (like walks) on his own terms. Pushing things will cause him to react in an undesired way again, and each time that happens, he's learning to continue the behavior and your poor little cockapoo is becoming more afraid! Since your cockapoo's developing fear of him needs to be addressed too, parallel walks could help her to feel more comfortable around him too.

 

4) Do you think a private trainer might be able to help us?

Yes, contact a qualified positive reinforcement trainer - who has lots of experience working with dog-dog relationship problems - right away. They should be able to tell a lot about the potential for a pro-social relationship through observations and more in-depth exploration of each dog's social history, and also give you a plan for how to proceed to help increase the chances for success.


If you are in the Metro Detroit area, please call us to set up a private consultation. If not, please visit out FAQ's page here for a list of organizations whose members are guaranteed to use only animal-friendly, positive-reinforcement methods. All sites listed have "member search" links, so you should be able to find someone in your area.

 

One last thought. Consider a positive reinforcement/clicker training class for the dogs, especially the JRT. You'll benefit from learning more about how he learns which will help you work through some of the other problems you're having, like the barking. He's just repeating behavior that works for him, so leave the notion of "jealousy" out of it and try ignoring him for the barking, and rewarding him with treats and attention when he's quiet instead!

Best of luck and thanks for writing,

Lisa Patrona, Dip. CBST, CPDT-KA, ACDBC, AABP-CDT



Hi:

I am so sorry for your loss. At this time especially, you need some peace in your life and home. Your commitment to your dogs will make all the difference as you help them to work through this! Most dog-dog relationship problems can be overcome and I think that a few fairly easy changes may help. I'll start with the fighting you've mentioned between your 2 dogs.

From your email, it appears they are scuffling over possessions/resources (chews and toys). Dogs are natural "resource guarders" and this is a very common problem with housemates! In fact, in my experience with resident dog fights, the culprit in just about every single case can be traced back to this as the root cause!

 

Valued possessions such as food, chew bones, toys, sleeping spaces, petting/affection (also a valuable resource for some dogs) can all contribute to tensions that over time result in an actual fight that appears to have "come out of nowhere". Far more often than not though, there's an established history of one of the dogs "stealing" the others chew bones and/or toys, visiting the others food bowl (often times while the other dog is eating!) and the like. While these types of encounters at first seem like no big deal, they're usually a sign of trouble to come, when the dog who's being pressured by the other to give up his resources/possessions, has had enough, and decides that he won't give up so easily this time, and a fight ensues! Thankfully, incidents like what you've described are more like scuffles or arguments (no significant injuries or vet visits) but they sure look and sound scary! This is not always the case, and of course sometimes more serious, injurious fight episodes do occur, but in your case if you intervene now, you should be able to prevent things from escalating to that point.

 

Being in a new environment and living with a new dog now too is bound to be stressful for all of the dogs, so it's important to keep frustration and tensions between them to an absolute minimum. The future of their relationship rests on the quality of their experiences together now, and you can help them learn to co-exist peacefully!

 

Here's my advice on how to proceed:

- For starters, pick up the toys, chews, etc. and keep them up out of reach. Only provide these things when you're able to keep the dogs separate - consider crating for chew times. Upon release from crating, put away the chews and keep all crate doors closed to prevent any chance for an issue there.

 

- Do a sweep of the yard too. If there are trigger objects out there laying around (bones/rawhides/favorite balls), pick them up as well.

 

- You don't mention a problem between them around their food bowls, feeding times, or food prep time, but there are usually problems there too when resident dogs are getting into fights over other resources. So I suggest that you separate the dogs completely for feeding times (each in their own separate rooms, or crates) Once both dogs are finished, pick up and put the away (even empty food bowls can be a trigger for some dogs!) and release each dog from their room or crate. NOTE: Preparing meal time for the dogs can potentially be another trouble spot, so having each dog in his or her feeding space first, will prevent scuffles during meal prep times.

 

Training is important for all of the dogs as individuals, and in a group together, but immediately managing their environment to help them relax more around one another is in my experience and opinion, the most critical first step. After a couple of weeks of no squabbles/tense encounters between them, start the training process - here's an excellent article on clicker training in the multiple dog householdhttp://www.clickertraining.com/node/3118


As for the weirmaraner's behavior outside with the other 2 dogs - it sounds like a fearful response to me. Perhaps something happened between the dogs while out in the yard that was scary for him, but I'm also concerned that there may be a painful medical problem involved, so have him examined by a veterinarian to rule out any possibilities there as soon as possible. Hopefully all checks out well.

 

If he's fine physically then I'd suspect a fear response. From your description of things, he's cowering and yelping preemptively because he's afraid of the potential for interaction with the other 2 dogs for some reason. So, I suggest that you help him develop more confidence in play outdoors with one dog at a time. Start the weim with the one he seems most comfortable with. You mention that the weim seems to like interacting inside the house, so perhaps you could wait until he's soliciting play from that dog inside, and excitedly usher them outside together! My hope is that the play with that dog would continue out in the yard.

 

Do the same with the other dog and the weim too. Once the weimaraner has gained some confidence and is happily interacting with each of the dogs on their own outside, he should feel less fearful of them and you can have all three in the yard together for brief periods, working up from there.

 

As for the idea of a sort of "dominance" problem being the cause for trouble between the dogs, I hope this article has helped you understand that there's a different culprit to consider! Here's an article called "The Mythical Alpha Dog" by Dr. Ian Dunbar, that will help to further dispel this commonly held belief! Click here to read.


One final suggestion; more one on one time between you and your dogs separately...more walks, rides in the car, games, etc. Connect more with each one individually as well as paired. The increase in exercise and some quality one on one time with you can also help to reduce the stress that they are undoubtedly under with all of the changes that have come about recently for them too!

I sincerely wish you and your family the best of luck, and hope that you find this information helpful.

Should you need further assistance, do not hesitate to contact us again. Thanks for writing.

Best of luck,
Lisa Patrona, Dip. CBST, CPDT-KA, ACDBC, AABP-CDT