New dog wants the power!

by Kelly
(Sandy, Ir)

I use to laugh at my brother and his "yappers" (little dogs) until I was love-struck too. My current partner had two dogs when I met him: a German shepherd (Jerry) and a chihuahua (Cholo). How could I not have fallen for Cholo? I had to call my brother on the phone and apologize for laughing at his little dogs.

Jerry is an outdoor dog and lives in the garage, Cholo on the other hand was always following my partner (Marc) wherever he went. He had both dogs for about 7 years. When I moved in with him we adopted Rosie (Chihuahua/Pomeranian mix) and the three dogs got along really well.

Unfortunately tragedy happened and one day Cholo was spooked and ran in front of a car. The loss of this little guy destroyed Marc and even Jerry went into depression. Six months later tragedy knocked on our door again, Rosie was diagnosed with Hydrocephalitis (water in the brain).

Now it was just the two of us and Jerry (who finally got a lot of attention) but not for long... I adopted Susie. I believe Susie may have been abused in her previous home but as we keep working with her she seems to be getting better.

Sorry the story is so long, I wanted to give a little bit of background. Now to the point:

Susie (5 lbs) wants to be the BOSS of Jerry (50 lbs) and he lets her. But it seems to upset him. I try to get her to stop. When they play together nice I give her "good girl treats" but it doesn't last. What can I do?


Hi Kelly!

Thank you for submitting your question. I don't think I will be able to help you a whole lot because I would need more information. For example, what do you mean by "wants to be the BOSS?" Is she aggressive towards Jerry? Maybe she steals his toys/food/bed? Have they hurt each other? What exactly happens (she barks, snaps, bits, etc.)? In what context does all of these happen? How frequently does it happen?

The truth is, dogs never want to "be the boss", they simply react to their environment and their feelings. Most of the time dogs "fight over resources" out of fear or frustration. With Susie's possible history of abuse, it could be that she is constantly afraid to lose resources (she doesn't understand that they are freely given to her).

I want to clarify this point because it is a very popular misconception. It is FALSE that "Dogs want to dominate".

You can read more about the myths of the dominance theory in this link, it will help you better understand your dogs and try to think about alternative things that may be going on. That said, good job on using treats, that is a great start!

For now, because I do not have many details to go about helping you, just a few basic tips:

  • If you think one of the dogs could hurt the other one in a fight, please keep them separated.

  • Keep praising and rewarding Susie and Jerry for good interactions together.

  • Give Susie something else to think about, you can teach her tricks, enrich her life with toys, take her out for walks and teach her to relax in the presence of Jerry (google Suzanne Clothier's Really Reliable Relaxation protocol).

  • Give Jerry some time alone, so he can relax and have a break from Susie.

Thank you for sharing your story with us!

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