how can you tell if your dog would like living with another dog?
November 28, 2017 1:44 PM   Subscribe

My dog was kind of a jerk to my sister's dog over the holiday, does this mean he wouldn't be able to have a dog brother or sister someday?

Our dog is the light of our lives. We (my husband and I) do occasionally talk about getting another little dog someday. Our dog LOVES meeting other dogs when he's out on walks, and greets these other dogs with a wagging tail and curious playful sniffs 100% of the time.

However, I've noticed that when we take him to visit my family, he can be kind of a jerk to my sister's dog. This is the only dog he's ever spent extended periods of time with since we adopted him. The way that this manifests is pretty minor (to me at least). If the other dog approaches his food bowl, he will show her his teeth and growl a little, and he definitely tries to drive her away when we show her too much physical affection (though never in an aggressive way). She almost seems to just kind of get on his nerves?

Now that I'm typing this out, I realize that this all sounds kind of minor, right? Our dog is basically the center of our lives, he sleeps with us every night and is fawned over all the time. I wonder if we've made him into too much of an "only child" and this means he would be too jealous of another dog in our family? We don't know anyone else in our area (NYC) who has a dog, so I don't have many ways to test him with other dogs. For what it's worth, when we adopted him about two years ago the rescue told us that he likes other dogs. Does his behavior sound like it's in the normal range of "ok with other dogs" to you guys?
posted by cakelite to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Dogs' behavior with other dogs can vary depending on location—their home, another dog's home, neutral territory. If they get along with other dogs in a neutral territory, that's a good start. Many dogs get weird when a dog is first brought into their home because it's their space. My dog acts fine with other dogs at our place but got weirdly territorial about our friend's dog's toys at their house.

My point being...if he was only mildly jealous and slightly food aggressive at your sister's during the holidays, I wouldn't write off all dog siblingship.
posted by radioamy at 2:00 PM on November 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

My dog does the food protection thing with everyone but me (humans too). This means (I think) he sees me in the Alpha role. Anyone else (animal or human) is perceived as a potential threat, and may take his food away, so he growls. He treats kids like other "puppies" and plays more roughly and expects more activity from them than he does from me. If you were to bring home an adult or larger size dog, there may be some territoriality happening. But if it's a puppy, who's to say? He may "parent" it.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:04 PM on November 28, 2017

To me this behavior means he would be better with another dog in his life! He’s getting out of practice with sharing. Just like humans, dogs need to learn to control their emotions to “get along” in society, and they have a lot less time on this planet to master the social graces. It sounds like his default nature is plenty good with other dogs, he just is getting rusty with the whole jealousy thing in his personal space, which is totally normal, so get him more practice stat. I would get him another sibling sooner, if that’s what you want, and let him spend more time with cousins if you can.
posted by dness2 at 2:08 PM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I wonder if we've made him into too much of an "only child" and this means he would be too jealous of another dog in our family?

In general, dogs are pack animals and will get used to another dog being added to the pack pretty easily.

Testing your dog with other dogs isn't a great indicator - it can take a few days or more for the dogs to work out a pecking order and such - and they have different expectations that vary with location. Think of it this way - you put up with crap from a weekend guest you would never deal with from a roommate - your expectations change with that context.

All of the above being said - I think your dog seems pretty normal. What he's doing is resource guarding, which can become a big problem with some dogs, but I don't think it's that bad with yours.

I think that getting your dog more time to socialize with other dogs will make your life easier even if you don't get another dog. Many dog boarding places offer a "daycare" or "playdates" that can fill that need. Also, area humane societies and pet stores sometimes have classes that are good places to get the dog some more socialization.

I don't think anything you said would preclude him getting along with another dog in the house.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:09 PM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sounds like your dog is mildly food/resource aggressive. This generally resolves itself with strong guidance from humans, and once dogs establish their own relationships! Our new-to-us 3-year-old terrier-mix was mildly food/toy aggressive when we got him, and our 10 year old pit bull is not at all resource aggressive. After a few weeks of gentle redirection and reassurance of equal distribution of resources (they both get food/treats/attention/toys at the same time, humans go through doors first, no dog gets preferential treatment), the terrier suddenly understood that there was no need to compete or guard resources.

Probably helps that our pit bull doesn't give one single damn about much of anything other than barking at the mailman. :D
posted by erst at 2:16 PM on November 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

My elder dog is a sweet 100 lbs beast, but has a history of snapping at other dogs after prolonged contact. He is fine at the dog park , but when hosting or staying with someone with a dog, he may bite them after a few days. Then we got a puppy. There was plenty of snapping, but after a few months he learned how to live with another dog. His behavior is much better now, he even took to a roommate's dog with no drama.
posted by munchingzombie at 2:18 PM on November 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't have many ways to test him with other dogs

Fostering would be an excellent way to test-drive this if you're comfortable putting in the (hard) work it would require for both dogs. Of course you'd want to describe your concerns to the foster organization - but it's nothing that they haven't heard before, I'm sure.
posted by mosst at 2:34 PM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's hard to say from that experience. Because taking a dog onto another dog's turf is weird in a totally different way than bringing home a dog onto your dog's turf, and the other dog's personality matters, and time matters.

If you don't have a basic set of obedience routines with your dog so that you can reassure them that you are in charge and they don't need to be the Big Dog, I would say work on that so you have a framework, and then look at introducing a new dog into that framework - maybe even do some fostering to see if you can get some insight into the sort of personality that meshes with your dog's.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:44 PM on November 28, 2017

To clarify - cautiously fostering. You wouldn’t want to put any foster dogs in a bad situation. But with careful supervision of social behaviors, it could be beneficial for both dogs.
posted by mosst at 2:45 PM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Your dog thinks he's in charge where other dogs are concerned, at least. If you're the leader, two dogs will get along well enough, so if you decide on another dog you will need to pointedly, like erst did above, make sure that they stop worrying about which of THEM is in charge and leave the decisions to you.
posted by acm at 2:50 PM on November 28, 2017

Gertrude was fairly aggressive toward other dogs on walks, we wanted to get another dog and we explained Gert's issues when working with the rescue org who recommended Sally. Sally is very chill, and as was described as "she doesn't really assert her dominiance, it seems that the rest of the dogs just grant it to her." We took Sally on a trial and aside from a few skirmishes and a lot of vigilance at the beginning, Gert and Sal had a long, happy friendship. Gert has gone to the dog park in the sky and Sal is now mentoring Jill, our new super-shy hound mix. So yes, it's totally possible, but you may have to do some work to make it all work.
posted by sarajane at 2:55 PM on November 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

. The way that this manifests is pretty minor (to me at least). If the other dog approaches his food bowl, he will show her his teeth and growl a little, and he definitely tries to drive her away when we show her too much physical affection (though never in an aggressive way). She almost seems to just kind of get on his nerves?

This is typical resource guarding. Your dog is guarding the resource of his food, and guarding the resource of his people. All of my experience with this is dogs guarding against other dogs rather than against people, and in fact we've a Dogue de Bordeaux foster who is exhibiting this with our own dog right now.

You can tackle it. We started by feeding the dogs in different rooms; then separated by a baby gate; then in the same room; then within 5 feet of each other. We stand between them and we never leave them unsupervised at feeding time. For the people, we sit between them with and feed treats and petting to them both. I'm sure a dog behaviourist would have a better approach but this has worked consistently for us.

Dogs generally work out their shit but you may be surprised and find out that it's your 2nd dog rather than the 1st who is the boss!
posted by DarlingBri at 2:57 PM on November 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

My dog does the food protection thing with everyone but me (humans too). This means (I think) he sees me in the Alpha role...
posted by I_Love_Bananas

Your dog thinks he's in charge where other dogs are concerned, at least. If you're the leader, two dogs will get along well enough...
posted by acm

I respectfully suggest that you take any advice that's coming from a perspective of dominance/submission with a large grain of salt. Dominance theory is not scientifically sound and is disregarded by all (or nearly all) behaviorists. Dogs may have a pecking order amongst them, but it's probably situational and fairly fluid. Your interactions with your dog(s) should be driven by reinforcement, not rank.
posted by workerant at 3:01 PM on November 28, 2017 [8 favorites]

One thing to consider is that your dog is likely nervous when he's in someone else's house. When you take him to family, he's in that other dog's space. Everything smells like that other dog! The beds/couches/toys are all the other dog's! The food bowl isn't where his food bowl normally goes! EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT!!!! That's pretty scary. I'd be guarding my resources, too, under those conditions!

Introducing a new forever-dog into the home is totally different from visiting someone else's house for a short period of time. Just prepare to deal with the resource guarding, and be as careful as you always should be when adding another doggo to the home.
posted by meese at 3:15 PM on November 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

I would not worry about this; dogs like or dislike other dogs for a range of reasons. Your little guy, to me, seems like someone who would benefit from a big, confident, gentle, tolerant girl dog of the same age who would be indifferent to resource competition and secure enough to not get pulled into anything silly.

Sex and age matter, in my observation, with dogs. Opposite sex dogs of the same age seem to get along best (acknowledging the total lack of science on that), but there is nothing more important than complimentary temperament. My big police-ish shepherd dog is extremely respectful of my parent's little poodle mix, who puts her in her place and eats all her food.

There is simply no question of who is in charge, it's the little poodle.

I feel like they both find a certain peace in the clarity.

In the end, though, sometimes friendships surprise us.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:46 PM on November 28, 2017

We had a dog that hated other dogs. When confronted with another dog, he either shook violently and cowered, or ran away. He had no interest in, and apparently a huge fear of, other dogs.

A few years later, after a week of fostering a puppy (that my main dog hated), the two of them ran around together for a few minutes in a closed parking lot. He actually played with another dog!

So we went to a rescue event and walked him with two other dogs, the one my then-partner wanted and the one I wanted. The first ignored our dog completely, and the other attacked him. Either way, our dog didn't want anything to do with them.

And yet: there was a weird, scrawny dog there that our dog kept following around and sniffing. This other dog wasn't on our personal want lists, but our dog sure seemed to like him. We walked them together and they walked with their sides touching, pacing each other.

So we adopted him, and they curled up together in the back seat on the way home. For many, many years they were inseparable. Could not have been happier together. And for me and my then-partner, he turned out to be an amazing dog even though he wasn't on our lists.

Long story short: your dog may eventually be ready for another dog, if they and the other dog want to be together. Give your dog opportunities to socialize with other dogs, and when they let you know they're ready through their behavior, expose them to some candidates and don't try to force it.
posted by davejay at 6:41 PM on November 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

Our first dog was a jerk to my parents' dog during brief encounters with her and I had many of the same fears. But he did okay at dog parks so we thought we'd give it a shot.

He couldn't live without his sister. He thinks she hung the moon. These days if he's rude to another dog it's because they're trying to play with his sister and he doesn't want to share her.
posted by potrzebie at 6:48 PM on November 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

Really any time you put two dogs together you need to be vigilant, but obviously people do all the time and the dogs work it out...or they don't. I have two who cannot be within reach of each other ever, which developed after years together with one of them being a dog who had firm but initially non-aggressive opinions about how everyone should do things and the other being a dog who one day got sick of the first one's shit and decided she had to be ended.

But I have a third dog who is absolutely fine with letting the first dog have her way always, and until they got old and decrepit would play-fight with the second dog so rough I would make them stop before they scared the neighbors, but she never ever would have laid a tooth on him in actual aggression, even if she got pretty pissy when he'd try to hump her. If I'd only ever had one of the girls, I might have never known how bad two dogs could fuck each other up, and still consider him firmly bonded to each of them (everyone gets swapped around via a complex series of baby gates, so he is always with one of them; his health, unfortunately, is the worst of the three now that they're all 12-13, and my greatest nightmare is that he'll die first and I will have two bereft dogs who cannot comfort each other).

A lot of dogs do have some very specific one-dimensional traits, like they *always* react to certain stimuli in a specific way, but they also have a ton of relative/situational/hierarchical traits. If your dog was aggressive to dogs he visited AND dogs on the street AND dogs out the window AND dogs in the vet waiting room you would have something like a data point, but getting dominant with one dog in one situation only tells you a little bit of a story.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:37 PM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think you'd be doing your dog a favor to get another dog. Look at his face! He's sweet and lonely. His behavior sounds completely normal to me - a little touchy in another dog's home environment over the holidays. Not a big deal and certainly not an indication of future behavior if you get another dog.
posted by mulcahy at 8:43 PM on November 28, 2017

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