What a puzzle!

Jack Russell/Lancashire Heeler cross


Piggy, 2, a Jack Russell/Lancashire Heeler cross and eight-year-old Lenny, a Corgi mix used to get on famously, even sleeping together in the same bed.

They had the occasional minor altercation, but all was fine until a combination of the clocks changing, Halloween and early November fireworks. The fireworks freaked Piggy out.

They have had Piggy for a couple of years and he came from a remote farm. He has had to get used to a lot of new noises, people passing, other dogs and so on – and he can’t cope. He is a very stressed and anxious little dog. Lenny on the other hand had a great start in life and is calm and confident.

Things have got so bad that the two dogs can no longer be in the same room without a fight quickly erupting. Their fighting has changed everything. Even if Piggy senses Lenny’s presence in the house he will mutter, growl and bark. If Lenny barks from upstairs, Piggy is immediately ready for action.

Corgi mix Lenny who fights with Piggy


When I was there, despite Lenny now sleeping happily in the shed way down the garden, Piggy was all the time growling and guarding the kitchen doorway where perhaps Lenny would appear – you can see him in the picture. I was there for three hours before he finally settled. It was evident that we couldn’t be bringing Lenny back in for me to actually see the dogs together.

The anomaly is that the two dogs run happily together on walks with no fighting. If they know they are going out they can meet at the door and have leads put on. They also come back in together but then have to be parted immediately. They are okay out in the garden together too.

The problems are only in the house and mostly around doorways.

My educated guess is that Piggy’s instability and extreme stress winds Lenny up who then wants to sort him out resulting in fighting. Lenny himself suffers from arthritis, so possibly he’s not as tolerant as he used to be.

All the time I was there Piggy prowled and he growled. It was virtually impossible to distract him. Although Lenny wasn’t there, it was like his ghost was. It almost seems that although he is obviously scared of Lenny, he also is dependent upon him in some way and needs him to be there.

Where to start with a solution? Nothing much can be done whilst Piggy is so aroused, so reducing his stress by every means possible is the first priority and they should not do anything else meanwhile. Then they can build upon what they have – extending the time the dogs are together after a walk, leaving leads on with one person per dog, feeding both dogs all the time to build up positive associations. Baby steps.

Each dog has his turn in the sitting room, and positive (food) associations can be built up when he hears or senses the other dog upstairs.

Because understandable owner tension will now be playing a part, over the next few days both dogs will be taught to love wearing a muzzle, so that later in the process they can be together in the same room briefly while their owners can drop the leads and relax.  At the first growl from Piggy or eyeball from Lenny the dog can be calmly and kindly walked out of the room. The lesson learnt from this being that either they were together for too long too early, or Piggy was too stressed for work that day.

I have big hopes that because the dogs are such good friends outside, things can return to how they were a couple of months ago.

After a setback a few days after this when they relaxed on their management strategies and allowed another fight,  I received this message – though they can never completely relax their vigilance but it’s a great start and is a good omen for the future: ‘The two of them have been playing together in the house and we have let them roam free but while also keeping a very close eye on them. Piggy tends to go to his room upstairs sometimes when things get too much for him and he does a bit of growling but on the whole there is an improvement.’

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Piggy and Lenny, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good, particularly where aggression of any kind is involved. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).