5-month-old Cocker Spaniel Ruby is coming into early season and gaining attitude.
She is increasingly growling at their other Cocker – Chester. He’s 18 months old. It’s like she now goads him until he reacts and then, if not interrupted, a fight develops.
Most of the time they play and live together happily. The young couple want that harmony to continue but things now seem to be going in the wrong direction.
Growling at Chester
Ruby now growls at Chester if he approaches her when she has food in an item – a toy or wrapped in a towel. It’s not so much about the food itself, as the ‘thing’ it’s in.
They scold her. This is the wrong thing to do because if growling is stifled it will merely accelerate the situation towards aggressive action.
She will growl and nip Chester if he’s getting attention on the lady’s lap or welcoming someone coming home.
Arousal causes redirection
They walk the dogs separately, Ruby home first with the young man who walked her. Chester comes home afterwards with the young lady. Greetings arouse Ruby and she goes for Chester.
At times Chester has enough. He will growl and bark. This excites her so she does zoomies and Chester, to quote, ‘takes her out’. He’s very patient but has a tipping point.
Harmony between the dogs.
My first tip is for them to have a barrier in their living area with each dog fed either side. The two dogs then can freely have edible chews and toys – one each side of the gate. We know that chewing and working for food helps dogs to calm.
A gate or pen is better than a door in that neither dog is ‘banished’ They are still together.
Anything Chester has, Ruby steals and he lets her. A natural pecking order is developing which we don’t try to change.
If Ruby sees Chester on the lady’s lap having a cuddle, she comes over to growl and nip him. Ideally I would try to call her in advance, then share the cuddle. If too late, tip Chester off, get up, walk about sit down again then call both dogs for cuddles together.
How to react
When Ruby growls at Chester then lunges at him, they scold her. Scolding will only make things worse. They need to catch it sooner.
As soon as there is a hint of trouble, they will call her away (and reward her for coming). They may get better early warning from Chester’s body language than her own, as he can read her better. Watch out for lookaways, lip licking, yawning etc.
Then they can put Ruby kindly behind the barrier for a short while and give her something to chew.
I suspect when she’s had her season she will calm down a bit. I hope so.