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For humans, it does. Sometimes for dogs, not so much. So last week, I was really upset to hear from my friend Neila that she had a real problem in her household. Neila is a Rottweiler person. I know I’ve talked a lot about Rotts in this blog, and that’s probably because most of my friends are “big dog” people. Not that I don’t love the little guys too, but we’ll get to that another time.
So, Neila has a house full of rotties. Pretty good mix, I thought, since she has two females (one intact and one spayed) and an elderly neutered male, and everyone gets along. Last week, she brought home a puppy. Dallas is adorable. He’s just eight weeks old, bright-eyed, active, beyond affectionate, and just generally everything you want a puppy to be.
The problem is that Lucy, the intact female, hates him. And I mean full-on hate. Now, in a year or so, when Lucy comes into her next heat, she will think that Dallas is even better than Pupperoni. But right now, she wants him dead.
I’m not exaggerating. This is a very dangerous situation. As soon as Neila put Dallas down on the floor, Lucy went for him and made him submit. Okay, that’s pretty normal, just working out the hierarchy – when it stops there, but it didn’t. Dallas rolled over and submitted, and Lucy went for him again. If Neila hadn’t pulled Lucy off him, she probably would have killed him.
Neila is stuck between a rock and a hard place. She loves Lucy to distraction. But she loves Dallas, too. She knows that jealousy is the big thing, and she has been trying to show Lucy every way she can that Lucy is still Mom’s bestest girl. Lucy is having none of it. Every time Neila picks Dallas up, Lucy goes bugshit crazy, and Neila’s partner has to grab Lucy back to keep something horrible from happening.
Neila called her vet, asking for advice, which I think is the best course of action. The vet thinks that things will work out, but if they don’t in a few months, Neila will have to re-home Dallas.
For now, Lucy is on leash when she is near Dallas. The vet thinks that as Dallas gets a little bigger, and a little more like a “fixture” in the household, things will even out. But he has told Neila that for now, she will have to be vigilant, keep Lucy on the leash, and wait. Maybe for months.
Honestly, I don’t know. This could work out. Or not. I think the best course of action here is to look at the “body language” of the dogs very carefully. There could be dominance issues at work. Dallas might be harassing Lucy, or the other way around. The humans in charge have to be IN CHARGE. They have to watch for growling noises, and they have to know that showing teeth could mean play, or not play. They have to be very in tune with what is going on.
The humans also have to teach the puppy respect. Puppies often harass older animals as a way of trying to establish dominance, and they can be very rude. If a puppy pounces on an adult dog, it has to be corrected – not punished, just pulled away and given a firm “NO.” Adult dogs also cannot be allowed to be aggressive, and are best corrected on leash when puppies are involved. Remember, too, that an adult dog showing teeth is not necessarily being overly aggressive, but the behavior should be monitored. Adults are allowed to stick up for themselves, but not to the point where a puppy could be hurt.
During the adjustment period, it is a very bad mistake to favor one over the other. A jealous adult dog can feel heartbroken over the introduction of a new puppy, but should never be “sooked” to the point where he or she thinks that they have the edge over the puppy. It works both ways, too – don’t favor the puppy. Try to show them in every way possible that everyone in the household can be loved. You are not playing favorites.
Think about it – you have two human children fighting for your attention. You do not tell one “good” and one “bad,” do you? Don’t do it with your dogs. Show them both equal love. It will probably work out. Keep at it.