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Let pup and older dog work out their own relationship
Dr. Spiegel: We have three Great Pyrenees. The eldest female is 13, her daughter four, and her nephew four. All spayed and neutered. They are beautiful laid back companion dogs. On Dec. 4th, an eight week old Newfoundland arrived PDQ from Nebraska, a birthday present to me. Everyone gets along beautifully. We have a fenced in acre and they all play and roam at will. PROBLEMS: When Sophie cannot keep up, she grabs hold of one of the long haired tails and just HANGS ON! Both females disengage her one way or another but Skipper (the male) suffers this indignity patiently while Sophie takes advantage! What to do? Sometimes she gets a mouthful of hair that could choke her! Continual swipes with a rolled up newspaper and loud NO's are ineffectual. Till I hear advice to the contrary, the newspaper and "no" will persist and perhaps win out in the end. Yours truly, J.S. Frederica, DE
Dear J.S., Congratulations on your birthday and your new pup, Sophie. It sounds as though she will be a source of great pleasure for years to come. Although you feel that Sophie is taking advantage of Skipper, and that you need to do something about this injustice, Skipper apparently does not. He is choosing to be patient and allow her to do this. He could just as easily get away from her or turn and threaten her, but he does not. This could be for different reasons. Perhaps he likes her, is very tolerant by nature, and is just naturally accepting of Sophie's own natural tendencies. Perhaps he knows that the females in his family have a stronger drive to take the lead, and he accepts that natural drive. If it is only a matter of time before she will be walking all over him, and he knows it and doesn't care, then that is the nature of their relationship and they are both just exercising their parts. While this may not seem equal or fair, this is part of the natural social order of dogs. We, humans, have a tendency to want to make everything equal for everyone. We feel sorry for the picked on ones and want to support and comfort them. And instead of helping them to find their natural place/role in the pack (our family), we end up putting them into conflicts and confrontations that they would otherwise be avoiding, through deferral and subordination. Their natural ordering process is disrupted, and we end up creating greater problems by meddling. If you insist on believing he needs sticking up for, then you are actually the one perpetuating the indignity. Why? Because you are sending the message that he is not capable of standing up for himself. He is probably close to 200 lbs., and if he doesn't mind her pulling on his tail, you may want to consider respecting his way of interacting with her. She will learn that this is a game that he allows her to play, whereas others do not. Since he is neutered, he is not a show dog... so it really doesn't matter if he loses some tail hair. If she should choke on some hair, this would make the immediate results of her actions displeasurable, and would therefore decrease the probability that she would want to persist in this action. You can certainly watch her to see that she doesn't choke, and help her if she needs assistance (but she will, most likely, be fine). Sometimes the most difficult, but well-advised thing to do is to do nothing at all. If she could care less about your "no's," then at this point it has become a game for her; ........Oh what great fun... Look what happens when I pull on Skipper's tail... Mama comes out waving her newspaper and shouting like a crazy lady... What excitement, What fun! Unless a correction is short and sharp (in essence - scary!) and directly associated with (less than or equal to 1.5 secs. from) the start of the troublesome behavior, it is probably not serving as a correction. Excitement is something that assertive puppies like; and this being the case, your behavior may be inadvertently reinforcing hers. "Leave them alone, and they'll come home wagging their tails behind them."