Nala is a 10-month-old American Bulldog Bull Mastiff mix. She lives with Millie, a Springador age 6.
Both dogs are part of a large family – three young adults and two young children from previous relationships who com and go, along with several cats and a kitten.
Unfortunately Nala has now attacked Millie a few times. They believe it’s because she’s jealous of Millie, particularly if food is about. Instead of retaliating, Millie is scared and it’s affecting her quality of life.
Jealous if they fuss Millie
If they are sitting on the sofa, Nala has to jump and sit on top of Millie. She always pushes in if Millie is getting a fuss.
What has driven Nala to actually go for Millie on those occasions?
Questions have unearthed a couple of common denominators. Each time the two younger children, age 6 and 8, were with them. Each time there was either food about – or Nala thought Millie might be getting food.
This is a very exciting household for the teenage dog. People are always coming and going, making a big fuss of the dogs as they do so. The dad plays rough-house with Nala.
The two young children when they are there run about and make a lot of noise. They chase Nala.
Each time she went for poor Millie, Nala was over-aroused and much too excited. It seems this’s the state she is in a lot of the time and that her excitement will peak when the young children are there. In that state she will be a lot less tolerant, much more likely to feel jealous and to over-react to things.
The family will need to work together to help Nala to calm down.
One big lesson they feel they have learnt from our session is to show Nala what behaviour they do want rather than pushing her off or saying ‘down’ and telling her off which just winds her up even more.
The most important management change they will make is to put up a barrier between their kitchen/dining area and the sitting area. The house is large and open-plan so they can never separate the dogs unless Nala goes in her crate.
This means no chews or bones.
With a barrier, both dogs can do things that help them to calm down – chewing and working for their food in Kongs for instance. With a barrier, the family can eat without the risk of Nala going for Millie over a bit of dropped food.
A barrier means they can teach Nala not to rush to the front door, barking. They can put her behind it with something to chew or do when she is too excited and it will give Millie a break.
Dogs safely on the sofa
They like their dogs on the sofa with them, so they will teach Nala ‘up’ and ‘off’ the sofa. If she jumps on Millie or tries to muscle in like she’s jealous, they won’t push her off and say ‘no’. If she is feeling jealous this won’t help at all. Instead, they will immediately stand up, call her ‘off’, reward her and then invite her back up – but not on top of Millie.
Like so many cases, over-arousal is the main culprit and keeping Nala as calm as possible is the key. There are quite a number of people in the family who need some training!
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ and is always written with permission of the client. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help