I went to Rottie Jake and 11-week-old Bert yesterday. Jake is a very mellow character who, despite being given the free run of many unfenced acres day and night and is a formidable guard dog, encouraged to chase visiting cars down the track as they leave, is also a gentle family pet with their children, something I found really surprising.
And now they have Bert who so far was behaving like the perfect puppy! I was considering calling the meeting off.
Soon I discovered that Bert was an altogether different personality to Jake. He is allowed to give Jake grief and they leave Jake to ‘teach’ him. If all Jake’s quite scary warnings continue to be ignored he may eventually crack and hurt Bert. Despite Jake being extremely self-controlled, Bert is learning that aggression, growling and snapping is acceptable as is his own pushy, rough behaviour with Jake. He has been hit for doing the usual puppy things of grabbing and nipping the girls’ clothes and skin – and apart from anything else, this can’t be the way to teach him to be gentle. He has already started to growl at the children if they touch him when he’s resting.
Don’t get me wrong – the dogs are greatly loved, and little Bert is given plenty of time in training and being taught manners. The children play an active part.
The overall situation could well become difficult when Bert is bigger, with two large male Rottweillers running free outside, especially if the two dogs ‘pack up’. I hope the relationship between the two dogs doesn’t become a problem when Bert, a much more dominant character, grows able to physically assert himself over Jake. For an environment that includes children, the dogs in my opinion have far too much freedom and ‘ownership’ of territory. Jake has never run off, but who knows what a bigger Bert might do if he sees a deer or a hare?
Some of my forebodings were justified as I was leaving and saw just how stressed Jake was and how he very nearly redirected onto the man – one step further and he would have bitten him. This was due to a build up of stressors. Jake was surrounded by people as he lay on his bed – enough to make any dog uneasy. I had been taking a photo of him which also made him uneasy. He was licking his lips and nose – a sure sign of anxiety. Bert was then on top of him giving him grief. The man then knelt down and stroked him on the head which, with Bert all over him, would have been the last thing he wanted. His warnings to Bert (and possibly the man too) went unheeded and nobody helped him out, so it quickly escalated. The wonderful boy did his very best to keep himself calm, but there is a breaking point.
Poor Jake is now living under a lot more pressure and I would worry if the children were alone with the dogs when stressors build up as they did just before I left. Family pets need parenting/leadership, and this means physical boundaries with owners making the decisions as to where the dogs go and when, to take responsibility for protection and guard duty along with control over how their dogs behave towards one another.
All this freedom day and night may be okay for guard dogs, but not good for family pets.