How do I keep all of my dogs happy?
August 31, 2007 6:18 PM   Subscribe

New Puppy filter: New addition to the pack. How do I keep all of my dogs happy?

I have two older dogs. A neutered male ~1.5 year old Britney weighing in at 34 lbs who is the dominant dog (Milo). An unspayed female ~1.5 year old lab/pit weighing in at 38 lbs (Nugz). The Britney was adopted from the ARL. The lab/pit was adopted from a friend who could not take care of it. I've had the Britney it's entire life and the lab for about 6 months. Both are well adjusted and play together fine. Housetrained and very docile normally.

About one week ago I adopted an abandoned Lab puppy from the ARL. She is a beautiful black lab. Spayed, weighing in at about 30 lbs. She is approximately 16 weeks old.

I have a decent sized house and a large yard

The lab puppy is very close to being housetrained and is adjusting to the house and the yard very well. I'm very careful not to give special treatment to any of the dogs and each dog gets it's alone time. I've purchased new toys for all of the dogs in order to try and prevent fights over the toys.

My problem is that both of the older dogs are very aggressive and grumpy towards the puppy. She is very inquisitive but most of the agression is uncalled for. The other dogs will go out of their way to steal her toys and bones and harass and attack her without provocation. I've tried disciplining the older dogs but without effect. If anything it appears to have made it worse. I'm afraid for all of my dog's physical and mental health, most especially the puppies as she is still very impressionable and not able to defend herself. It doesn't help that my Britney has had some recent health issues that have made him somewhat distant. But it also doesn't explain the aggression on my other lab's part. Or the general aggression. I've never had this much trouble introducing a dog into the household before. Is there anything I can do to ease the transition of the new puppy into the house? My wife and I are at our wits end about this. We love all of our dogs very much and it would break our hearts to have anything happen to them.
posted by unvivid to Pets & Animals (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, first of all you must never leave the puppy alone with the older dogs, the puppy needs to be crated when you are not home, older dogs can kill puppies under the wrong set of circumstances. This is a potentially serious situation which could end up with the puppy seriously injured or even dead. A bit of grumpiness is normal, and females will often be far less tolerant of puppy idiocy than males, however, it sounds as if you may have pack behaviour directed against the puppy going on and that can be very dangerous. Are the older dogs actually attacking the puppy, or is there just a lot of snarling and growling going on? Has blood been drawn? Do the dogs back off when the puppy yelps? What do you do when this happens? Remember that much of dog communication seems far worse to humans than it actually is, and some degree of establishing things is to be expected.

That said, I'm sorry to say this, but if there is actually attacking with intent to harm going on, this could easily get worse as the dogs get older, the older female and the puppy may never get along, and the problem may escalate to the point where serious injury or death may occur. If bitches take a serious dislike to each other, all the Cesar Millan bullshit in the world won't change it, it's not something you can train or discipline away. You need to be prepared now that these dogs may need to be separated for the rest of their lives, if you cannot do that, please find a home for the puppy while she is still young. I am not exaggerating, bitches can and do kill each other, same sex, similar age dogs (and anything much under 3-4 years apart is similar enough for trouble) often do not get along, and females will take it to extremes, there is a saying among dog people that males fight to make a point but females fight for keeps. I would certainly have advised against your taking on a female puppy when you already have a young female dog in your house, this is a classic recipe for problems and dogs actually fighting with each other is a very dangerous situation for all concerned.

The puppy is awfully young for your lab to have taken this much of a dislike to her (assuming that there is actual aggression here and not just misconstrued but normal dog behaviour), but frankly, I don't know that I would be pushing this situation if I were in your shoes. Sure, this could be an adjustment period, but it could also be permanent. Your Brittany is likely just following the lab/pit's lead (but keep in mind that pits were bred to be dog aggressive, and they are especially same-sex dog aggressive), but the lab/pit may make this situation far too dangerous for the puppy to be safe in your home. More information would be helpful. Also, why is your lab/pit not spayed? Those hormones floating around are not helping the situation.
posted by biscotti at 7:12 PM on August 31, 2007

Get your older dogs fixed.

This is pretty much normal pack behavior. The little dog doesn't get toys and treats unless they are undesirable to the bigger dogs, and by definition anything the little dog has is desirable because the little dog has it. I would crate train the puppy (or isolate him in another room) so that she gets some quiet time and some chew time (reduces anxiety) with a nice chewy toy.

The older dogs' behavior is meant to teach the younger dog how to be a dog, and how to be a dog lower on the hierarchy than them. That's just what they do, and the behavior can be a little more startling when the new dog really is a puppy because she's very puppy-like and they are grumpy elders. That doesn't mean I'd leave them alone together at this point, but you have to let them go to a degree when you are supervising. However, YOU are the big dog, and they may need reminding in all this upheaval - changes in the pack mean that lower dogs can bid for alpha. I find a spray bottle of water works very well (I only need to reach for it now to get a reaction; in fact there doesn't even need to be a bottle there, they know the reach).

Exercise. Everybody gets a daily or twice-daily walk, alone at first, to calm the body and mind. Get a volunteer to help you walk all three - you walk the older dogs, the volunteer walks the puppy behind you. Then try walking more or less side by side. I can't walk three dogs alone, some people can, but mine are kind of big and there's nowhere for my feet to go if I've got them all. There are very few mid-grade behavior issues that can't be managed with enough exercise (though with a lab puppy, there is no "enough", there is only "some," which is better than none. Unless you know someone with a dog-friendly pool, and then you might be able to tire her out briefly.).

Mind exercise is good too, if you can invent a game that involves some puzzle-solving (hide a ball under a cardboard box, or buy a cheap agility set at the pet store and work on jumping the hurdle and going through the tunnel), or if you can give each one some alone time with a Buster Ball or other treat puzzle. One of my dogs was terrifyingly obsessed with the BB and would growl at furniture or shoes for looking at her toy, so I had to give it away, but you could try it and see what happens. When the oldest dog was an only puppy, that thing saved his life because it calmed him down and he stopped eating the furniture.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:21 AM on September 1, 2007

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