A week ago, their new rescue dog began to bully their other dog.
Six-year-old Cookie is a cute and somewhat nervous, anxious little terrier. Rudi, a Wirehaired Terrier, joined them six weeks ago.
It began with the calmer and more confident Rudi eyeballing Cookie.
Next, one of the young daughters was fussing both dogs and suddenly Rudi went for Cookie.
The next occasion was triggered by someone dropping and smashing a food bowl. Things then came to a head with a fight over a bone.
Rudi can bully Cookie just by looking at her.
For the past week poor little Cookie has retreated upstairs to hide under a bed.
Because the growing trouble between the dogs has only been going on for a few days, hopefully we have nipped it in the bud before the behaviour becomes entrenched. It’s essential Rudi gets no more opportunities to bully Cookie, to rehearse the behaviour.
The new female – the ‘pretender to the throne’ if you like – is finding her feet. The previous stray is establishing her new territory. When she first arrived, she thoroughly marked everywhere in the house, including on the beds.
Temperamentally she’s a lot better suited to the role of dominant female.
Perfectly okay when with the mother
Each day when the lady owner has left for work, her mother picks up the dogs and walks them to her own house.
Very interestingly, there is none of this behaviour when they are with her. Rudi won’t bully Cookie when alone with her.
When the younger lady to whom she is very attached takes her for a walk, scared Cookie barks at all vehicles, people and dogs. “Go Away!” However she seldom barks when the older lady takes her. If she’s scared of a large vehicle, she quietly hides behind her.
Does this suggest that she ‘trusts’ one lady to protect her but feels she herself has to protect the other?
On their toes
For now the two dogs can be together but only with one human each. The people need to be on their toes whilst acting relaxed. Rudi’s human will look out for any hint of tension or eyeballing. Cookie’s human will look for signs of uneasiness like lip-licking or looking away. (Cookie will pick up Rudi’s vibes and body language a lot sooner than a human can).
Rudi is being a bully, not because she’s bad or naughty in any way. She is finding her niche in her new family. Very likely she feels insecure in her own way – all the marking seems to indicate that.
Cookie on the other hand is unconsciously inviting aggression. The lady needs to gradually encourage her to be a bit more independent of her.
There’s a human parallel. Nobody would dare bully certain people. There will be something about them that doesn’t invite it. Weaker ‘victim’ types are vulnerable to a bully.
So it is with dogs. It seems that the adorable Cookie’s anxious and more needy temperament in effect is ‘asking for it’.
The overriding thing is to keep both dogs as calm as possible. If Cookie is calmer and more confident she will be less anxious and needy – and consequently less of a red rag to Rudi.
They should help each dog to associate the other dog with good things. Food and encouragement. Never tension or scolding.
They will keep them on leads when both are together. At the first hint of eyeballing or trouble, they will call Rudi to them or make some sound that breaks eye contact. Then they will do something nice. If they put a lid on it by scolding, it will merely erupt later and worse.
There are various other things they can do to help the overall situation including improving the dogs’ diet. Diet can effect behaviour big time.
Using a gate in the doorway and second crate, the two can be separated without banishing one and the other escaping to hide. At present there is a danger of Rudi taking over the kitchen as her territory so now they can alternate which dog goes the other side of the gate.
Dogs separated, they can give each a chew, toy or Kong. Importantly, they will lift all resources afterwards.
Patience and kindness
With patience and kindness I sincerely hope they can stop further bully behaviour.
Two females. If one had been male I doubt there would be any of this.
I accept that the word ‘dominant’ isn’t liked in some circles. I don’t use it as a label. Rudi isn’t a ‘dominant dog’. Its a relationship thing – the balance between two individuals. She is asserting her dominance over Cookie alone.
Feeding Cookie before Rudi to try to force a change in ‘rank’ alters nothing. It may even cause resentment. The issue is about basic personality.
There are various reasons for this kind of aggression, including territorial and status.