2 dogs, 1 house
August 1, 2004 11:02 AM   Subscribe

Can two dominant male dogs peacefully coexisist in the same house? [More Inside]

My husband and I have a year-old miniature pinscher/yorkie mix. He's about 13 pounds. And he definitely has a dominant personality. When he's around big dogs, he tries to take them down. He's more timid around smaller dogs though.

Well, we have decided he should have a little brother or sister to play with. We met an adorable 14-week-old chihuahua at a shelter, and arranged a meeting. Once the pup got over being scared of the big dog, and they got through all the sniffing, the little puppy (male) began exhibiting some dominant behavior/play. (Okay, he was trying to hump my dog. It's not a sexual thing, it's a dominance thing.) We really like the puppy and our dog seemed to like him, but I don't know if we're asking for trouble if we would bring a second dominant male dog into the house. Plus, I don't know how our dog would act towards that behavior on his own turf.
posted by ferociouskitty to Pets & Animals (8 answers total)
Response by poster: Also, my dog is neutered, pup hasn't been yet.
posted by ferociouskitty at 11:08 AM on August 1, 2004

For many years my family had two male dogs (one Westie, one Scottie), both acquired as puppies at roughly the same time. They hated each other at first -- both definitely exhibited dominant behavior that invariably ending up in a nasty, squalling puppy fight (definitely not play fighting). We considered getting rid of the Westie (he seemed to be the "problem" dog initially) but sentimentality made us stick it out... and eventually the two of them developed their own specific dominant territories.

For example, the Westie (named Murray, by the way) got to be alpha dog when it came to ceratin types of social interaction -- he got to be the first to the door to greet family, first petted, etc., as long as the Scottie (Tyrone) was acknowledged immediately thereafter (otherwise hostilties ensued). When they went for walks, Murray got to be slightly in front (they really battled over this for awhile before Tyrone just finally let Murray have his way), but if any other dogs came along, Tyrone immediately assumed completely dominant growling/barking rights (like your dog, he always tried to take down much larger dogs). Tyrone had to be fed first (even if it just meant putting his dish down on the floor a second before Murray's). Much of this may have worked out due to the breeds' inherent personalities -- Scotties are more inclined to be aloof but fiercely protective, while Westies are more inclined to be very gregarious but not particuluary tough. (We always joked that if someone tried to break into the house, Tyrone would try to kill the intruder, while Murray would try to play with him.)

In any case, it took a year or two of them negotiating their alpha "places," but they (and we) eventually worked it out and were extremely close companions for more than a decade. I think, though, in this case we had the advantage of bringing them into the household at roughly the same time and age -- it wasn't like one of them had truly established their physical territory. In your case, your pinscher/yorkie may be irrevocably the alpha, and the puppy may be "pushed" into a more submissive role than either of our two dogs wound up taking. (Ours were both neutered within the first year or two, if I remember correctly, which may have helped the situation.)
posted by scody at 11:38 AM on August 1, 2004

One piece of advice - unless there's going to be a serious injury, don't intervene. If you disturb the natural balance, there will one day be a great reckoning when you're not around. Let them sort it out, if you can.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:38 PM on August 1, 2004

Best answer: Same sex, similar age (less than four years' difference) dogs living together is very often a recipe for disaster, and it often ends up with expensive trips to the emergency clinic and/or dead dog(s) (females are FAR worse than males in this regard and will frequently kill each other). I wouldn't risk it, myself, I lived with two males who had to be kept separated at all times (more than one trip to the emergency clinic happened when they were accidentally allowed out together), and it was like living in a prison camp. Do not underestimate the stress living like this can cause. They may get along well forever, they may get along well for a few months or years and then suddenly take a dislike to each other, but there is really no way of knowing ahead of time (I have known more than one pair of same sex, similar age dogs who lived peacefully together for years before turning on each other, it's very unpredictable and humans are not good at all at reading the more subtle body language of dogs' pack dynamics). My advice: don't do it, find a female if you really want another dog, a mentally stable male dog will not intentionally harm a female dog.

As to the "don't intervene" advice: the general rule is that the worse it sounds, the less damage will be done, dogs will often shout and scream at each other to try and work out issues, however, an actual fight will often result in dead or seriously injured dogs if you're dealing with dogs who live together, because they know that the other isn't going anywhere, so they tend to fight for keeps (in a wild pack situation, one or the other of the dominant dogs will be driven off, this does not happen in a domestic situation). If you do go through with this (and I hope you don't, it can be heartbreaking, stressful and expensive to live with dogs who don't get along), I strongly suggest you learn how to break up a dog fight safely (even a small dog can do you a serious injury in the heat of anger), and after ONE fight, you keep the dogs separated at all times. Dogs who don't like each other and who live in the same house tend to get worse with each other, not better, and the fights will escalate. It may sound like I'm over-emphasising this, but believe me, it happens more often than you'd like to think, and the repercussions, and overall effect on your home life, of living with two dogs who hate each other, can be enormous.

By the way, the concept of "dominance" in dogs is often misunderstood by people, because it tends to be very fluid and doesn't apply across the board from one situation to another. There are very few dogs who are truly dominant in all situations, so it's not a terribly useful thing to use when deciding on a dog.
posted by biscotti at 1:05 PM on August 1, 2004

The puppy of course has to exert himself to not be too much the underdog. But he is a puppy, and your older dog might be ultimately tolerant. I've seen this occur. What Joe's Spleen said, let them settle things on their own. Mostly animals don't do serious harm in disputes with their own species.
posted by Goofyy at 1:14 PM on August 1, 2004

Mostly animals don't do serious harm in disputes with their own species.

This often isn't true when the animals live together, because the function of the dispute (which is to oust one of the animals after a clear dominance cannot be established to allow peaceful co-existence) does not take place. Dogs kill or maim one another all the time, especially in situations like the one being discussed here (it has happened to two people I know in the last six months alone, one situation resulted in a serious injury and the owner rehomed one of the dogs, the other resulted in the death of one dog and a life-threatening injury to the other, along with a very nasty hand injury to the owner when she tried to break up the fight). The age difference between these two dogs isn't great enough for the "older dog and puppy" dynamic to stay present past the puppy's maturity. They may get along fine, but this is exactly the sort of situation where things can go very wrong, and it is extremely unpleasant when they do. Opposite-sex dogs are a far safer bet when you're talking about dogs in a similar age range.
posted by biscotti at 6:28 PM on August 1, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice. I pretty much already knew that it wasn't going to be a great idea putting these two particular animals together, but I'm thinking I'll be limiting my search to lil' girl pups. Back to petfinder.com for me....
posted by ferociouskitty at 7:48 PM on August 1, 2004

fwiw i knew someone who knew someone whose dogs (bitches) fought to the death. but they were pit bull + rottweiler, which probably didn't help (and the family had a small child - don't get me started....)
posted by andrew cooke at 6:10 AM on August 2, 2004

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