Are my dogs getting along?
August 6, 2009 8:11 PM   Subscribe

I just got a new puppy, a goldendoodle who is now nine weeks old and kind of strong-willed. I also have a submissive dachshund who is more than 10 years old. They've been living together for about two weeks, and I'm wondering if the little one is bullying the older dog. How can I tell, and how can I stop it?

The dogs are about the same size (10 pounds for the doodle, making him one of the bigger pups in his litter, vs. 13 pounds for the dachshund, who was the runt of her litter), so I think they may be jockeying for dominance over the other. I don't think they are seriously hurting each other, but they're nipping at each other's face, ears, etc., and fighting over toys. The dachshund is very gentle -- she wouldn't bite me even if I stuck my fingers in her mouth while she was gnawing a chew toy. The puppy is teething, so he's biting, though not hard (at least not me), and I am trying to train him out of the habit. I know that will take some time. Finally, the dachshund has neck/back problems (she had surgery when she was four), and though the vet said she's healthy enough to have a playmate -- which is one of the main reasons we got another dog -- I worry about the roughhousing. I've heard that humans shouldn't interfere too much as the dogs figure out their pack order among themselves. Is this true? Are they just going through a temporary boundary-setting period and this is totally normal? Sometimes I can't resist refereeing when they are really annoying each other, but it can get exhausting and I don't want to be unnecessarily paranoid. Is everything okay as long as they're wagging their tails? Will the dachshund put the puppy in his place if she's getting hurt, or does that depend on how submissive she is? What are the signs that their playing is getting too aggressive, and how can I get them to play nice in the long term?
posted by curiouskitty to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The puppy is teething, so he's biting, though not hard (at least not me), and I am trying to train him out of the habit.

If the pup does start biting you, I recommend a high pitched, loud, "OUCH!" Just like pups do to say "hey that hurt!" Withdraw your hand and look startled and hurt. Really ham it up. It worked instantly for me. Otherwise puppy won't know he's hurting you. Your daschund will probably do the same thing, puppy will probably back off even if just for an instant.

At 8-9 weeks the pup is definitely playing. Dog play can look like fights to people. Signs they are NOT playing: drawing blood, hard glare, bared teeth, hard growl (as opposed to a soft, pay-attention-to-me-kinda growl). Wagging tail can go either way. Wrestling, rolling around, roughhousing, ankle and ear biting if neither dog complains - playing. Sheer doggy joy, in fact. If your vet says it's okay, let your daschund have all the fun he wants. Odds are you won't need to sort anything out.

That said, puppies can be tiring. Does your daschund have a place to hang out away from puppy? A small crate, perhaps that the pup can't get into? Does puppy have a crate of his own?
posted by txvtchick at 8:55 PM on August 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

It sounds like you don't know that much about dogs in general, or puppies in particular. Here are two books I'd really recommend you read, both in order to understand dog behavior AND how to communicate effectively with them.
- Don't Shoot the Dog, Karen Pryor
- Before and After Getting Your Puppy: The Positive Approach to Raising a Happy, Healthy, and Well-Behaved Dog, by Ian Dunbar

I would also recommend watching some of these dog training videos by Sophia Yin, learning about clicker training, and enrolling in a positive reinforcement puppy class. Do not listen to Caesar Milan aka "The Dog Whisperer" if you are new to dog behavior and/or puppy training.

Ensure you are taking them on separate walks for the first year or more. Ensure your older dog has somewhere to go when she wants to quiet down and leave the activity. Monitor their interactions for the immediate future. Things like a puppy being strong-willed at 8 weeks are not really based on science but your perception of the situation -- that perception will be helped greatly by reading these two books, and sourcing out other books by the same authors, as well as those of Jean Donaldson.
posted by barnone at 9:17 PM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

One of my friends established the pack order in his house. By getting involved whenever the dog he chose as beta would try to keep a toy from the other dog or growl and such. But in order to enforce this, you can't referee. The beta dog always loses any conflict. It was explained to me that a dog feels secure when it knows it place. Remember you are always the alpha.

As for whether the dogs deciding it themselves will be trouble, it really depends on the personality of the two dogs. If one dog backs off, everything is usually fine, but if they don't then it can cost vet bills.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 9:25 PM on August 6, 2009

Also, keep an eye on their play as the puppy gets bigger and bigger, without necessarily knowing her own strength or velocity while playing. She could push the older dachshund too far, especially since she had a bad back and that breed is prone to bad back issues. She'll still be a playful puppy for another few years (at least another two years) -- all while the dachshund gets older and possibly more frail. Once the puppy is old enough and has all of her shots, I'd really recommend getting into a good puppy class and exercising her separately so that she doesn't use all of her energy on the older dachshund. Good luck!
posted by barnone at 9:31 PM on August 6, 2009

At nine weeks your pup still has the puppy-license; older dogs are very forgiving of puppies when they're young. That runs out around four or five months (as I recall) when the puppy starts learning how to be an adult.

txvtchick's advice works brilliantly, by the way. I did this when my dog was a puppy. She's exceedingly hand-careful, now. She'll let go of a toy if a finger brushes her face.

Your older dog will do the same thing if the pup plays too rough. Ordinary dog play can look pretty rough, but they're dogs, that's what they do. If the pup needs to stop, the older dog will let it be known, and if you're in earshot, you'll know the difference.

In my experience, playing dogs have loose posture, ears and tails up, mouths hanging open, indirect or intermittent eye contact. Watch them and get a feel for how they both play - you'll know them better for it, and you'll also be able to sort out trouble before it starts, if there is any.
posted by cmyk at 9:32 PM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not a dog owner, but my friend's a very experienced dog owner who got a puppy companion for her 10 year old dog. Her dogs got along quite well, but there was some growling and stuff like that. One thing she said, which I thought was very interesting advice, was that she never scolded either dog for growling. In her view, growling is just language, and it's the dog's way of politely communicating, "hey, back off before I nip you." If you let your dogs growl freely, she said, their antagonists would get the point and leave them alone. However, a dog who's taught not to growl might not be able to fully communicate her displeasure, so it might ramp up without anyone realizing until she's really upset and then she'll seem to bite out of nowhere. So my friend always lets her dogs "talk", even when that talking sounds scary to outsiders.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:37 PM on August 6, 2009

If the pup does start biting you, I recommend a high pitched, loud, "OUCH!" Just like pups do to say "hey that hurt!" Withdraw your hand and look startled and hurt. Really ham it up. It worked instantly for me. Otherwise puppy won't know he's hurting you. Your daschund will probably do the same thing, puppy will probably back off even if just for an instant.

YES YES YES! This advice worked incredibly (and instantly) well for my miniature schnauzer puppy who was well on her way to being a hand biter, and a nuisance to our much older dog. My understanding is that when puppies are taken from their mothers between 6-8 weeks, they are missing the crucial stage in their development when they socialize with their siblings while mom polices the situation. The high pitched "YELP!" or yipping imitates the sound their siblings would make if the bites hurt or were unwelcome. I also recommend ignoring the pup for a minute or two after making the noise - this reinforces the notion in the puppies mind that biting is an unwanted behavior. Return with a toy for them to chew on, and repeat this process every single time the dog bites your skin.

There may be times that the puppy will get all riled up and may not respond to the yipping. When this happened to us, my mother (who we designated as being the dominant one in the house) would gently flip the pup on her back and gently hold her there until she calmed down, which never took too long.

I wouldn't wait for the dachsund to tell the pup when enough is enough - my older dog was also very submissive and there were a few times that she would let the puppy bother her until she snapped, and, she could have hurt the pup, but we also felt bad that we were allowing her to constantly be bothered. Remember, it's been a long time since your dachsund has been a puppy, let alone lived with another dog. She may not know or remember HOW to get the puppy to relent, or may feel too dominated in the situation to assert herself. When we started the yelping to get our pup to stop biting, it also had the unexpected effect of calming her down in relation to our older dog.

Using the technique above showed results within a day, and had completely erased the problem within a week. Oh, and unlike every other dog training whatever, it doesn't cost a thing :)
posted by Gonestarfishing at 7:59 AM on August 7, 2009

Forgot to add, you'll feel ridiculous doing it, but seriously. Do it. It works SO well, and our once bitey, angry, terror of a puppy is now a docile, malleable lap dog who wouldn't bite you even if you put your finger in her mouth mid chomp. Our older dog passed away earlier this year, but their relationship changed from tense to loving after we started using this technique...when she was close to the end, our puppy would greet her in the morning with a gentle nose touch and lick on the face. I can't imagine how it would have been otherwise.
posted by Gonestarfishing at 8:14 AM on August 7, 2009

A thought about the toys... Female dogs are said to be especially possessive about their things. I don't know if that's generally true, but it's certainly true of our girl; it can be a toy that she never, ever, looks at, picks up, or plays with, yet if another dog comes into the house and touches it, she freaks. I've learned to put toys and food away when another dog is visiting (she seems to be okay about sharing water :) ), and if treats are happening, they both get the same at the same time; but I generally try to avoid the whole scene. Nothing out or offered to fight about. But this is for a dog visiting for a couple of hours, and obviously much different than your situation. You might want to seek out advice from the experienced/experts specifically about how to introduce/manage toys, etc. to minimize the tension.
posted by taz at 3:28 AM on August 8, 2009

Oh! I forgot to mention this: it's terribly subjective, of course, but what I've been told by a number of more experienced owners, and what I've witnessed with my dog, is that female dogs are quite likely to snap and snarl at younger male dogs especially, to put them in their place and "teach them some manners." She may not be upset so much, as schooling the lad.

/absolutely not an expert! Repeating advice I've received!
posted by taz at 3:34 AM on August 8, 2009

Thanks to everyone for the great tips. It's true that I don't know as much about puppies as I would like to know, but I'm learning! (I started living with my dachshund, originally my husband's dog, when she was already an adult and generally well behaved. He didn't get her until she was four months old, so he missed some of the puppy stages as well.) I've starting reading the books by Pryor and Dunbar, and I've also started clicker training the new pup. He's picked up some things already (e.g., "sit," "come," and a few other words), and he's on his way to being housetrained, though on some days he still has an accident inside, usually after vigorous play with the older dog.

Re: biting, I've been using the "ow!" technique, and he's still trying to bite me in certain situations -- not hard enough to hurt me, and he doesn't do it when he's calm. But if I do something he doesn't want, like trying to clean his eye area, he'll try to bite and keep doing it even if I cry "ow!" I guess I just have to keep reinforcing that his bites are unwanted. He'll be starting a puppy socialization class in a few weeks, which I've read will help him learn bite inhibition, so that's good. The puppy does have a crate, and we keep the dogs separated for parts of the day in separate rooms so they can have "alone" time. It does seem that they're only wrestling for fun rather than trying to attack each other and inflict pain; I guess I'm just not used to seeing dogs play.
posted by curiouskitty at 6:33 PM on August 13, 2009

« Older No decision if birth control fails - what should I...   |   Activate Windows AGAIN? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.