Old Dog Intolerant of Younger Dog

Elderly German Shepherd is finding life hard with new younger dog

Chloe

I felt quite inspired being with this couple and their two rescue dogs – one elderly German Shepherd who without their offer of a home would have been put to sleep and a younger Belgian Shepherd who was found in a canal.

Since the four-year-old Jack arrived from Wood Green a couple of weeks ago, Chloe’s barking has escalated. It is hard for an old dog like Chloe to accept an energetic younger dog in her home.

The couple badly want both dogs to be happy together. They already have a very ‘positive’ outlook on dog communication, but some things need an outsider’s perspective.

This is quite a challenge. Many of the options for the sort of behaviour exhibited by GSD Chloe are impossible due to her being in quite a lot of pain from arthritis despite being on the maximum dosage of Metacam. Even getting up is a labour, so they are working on getting eye contact and reinforcing quiet.

The constant discomfort together with lack of mobility I’m sure will be contributing to Chloe’s intolerance of active new boy Jack.

To help her properly, they need to change the emotions that are driving her barking behaviour.

Newly rehomed Belgian Shepherd feels uneasy around their elderly German Shepherd

Jack

Seeing Jack petted and fussed may be upsetting Chloe. She barked at him when he was excited around me. She barked at him when he was chewing a toy. She barked whenever he came back into the room from the garden. She sometimes barks when he just walks about. She barks constantly on walks with him.

As we could see from his body language, Jack at times feels a little uneasy when entering the room or walking past her.  He is treading carefully – for now.

Their way to make him feel at home has been a lot of touching and petting, he’s certainly irresistible – but they are fair.  Chloe gets her share also. However, something tells me that it would be best for now if the fussing of Jack was kept to a minimum, best for him and best for Chloe.

Despite the Metacam, Chloe was stressed and restless the whole evening. It ended with a spat between the two dogs over a toy she had been chewing and which Jack then took and started to destroy. (They dealt with it beautifully – immediately and calmly separating the dogs).

Chloe’s barking on walks when she sees other dogs has escalated these past two weeks. This is a shame because she used to be so well-socialised and friendly as for now, fortunately, is Jack.

The couple is afraid that he will learn the wrong things from her.

For now the two will be walked separately in order to work on Jack’s loose lead walking and give him the exercise he needs, and to properly work on Chloe’s barking and reactivity. You can teach an old dog new tricks – with patience and kindness.

Then, all being well, they will be able to walk both dogs together again.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Chloe and Jack, which is why I don’t go into the exact details of your plan here. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. 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).

Belgian Shepherd Keeps Everone in Sight

GSD Collie mix has breed related herding and guarding tendenciesMarley is a beautiful Collie/German Shepherd cross age seven. He has been with the family for two years now.

This was their initial message: ‘Attacking anything that comes through the post slot. Cries and whines every time any family member leaves the house. Unwilling to sleep in his bed, sneaks into daughter’s room in the night or sits outside our bedroom door and whines. Continual whining and jumping over seats in car when someone gets out’.

Marley occasionally toilets in the kitchen in the middle of the night, but only on those rare days when he has not had a good walk. They assume this is down to lack of exercise. My detective work unearthed the connection between lack of a walk and their having been away for longer. It seems a lot more likely due to stress from having lost his ‘flock’.

They have no evidence of him being anxious when everyone is out which I would have expected. No crying and no damage. I suggest they video him. It has been proved that the most distressed dogs may well not be vocal. It could be another angle to work on.

Marely is a great family dog. He is polite and friendly – they have lots of friends and he is very relaxed around children of all ages. He loves the postman – but not those invading objects that crash through the letterbox (I’m a big advocate of having an outside mailbox to save a dog from unecessary extra anguish). They regularly take him to work with them and also to stay with friends. This is where his night time habits can be difficult. They would like him to sleep downstairs in his bed, but he gets too anxious if he can’t regularly do the rounds, checking up on them all.

It’s clear his issues are largely to do with  breed-related shepherding and guarding instincts.  Family members are his flock but he’s without a shepherd to direct him!

For starters they will work on getting him accustomed to being left alone downstairs behind a gate while they go upstairs – very short periods initially. They will leave him shut downstairs when they are out – to get him used to some physical boundaries as well as being left downstairs. They will work on a family member walking out of the house while another family member keeps his interest and makes it fun.

People departing needs to be good news and people returning needs to be boring. It will be hard work, starting with going out, shutting the door and coming straight back in again, increasing the duration of absences very gradually.

The same sort of thing needs to be done with family members getting out of the car, one at a time. He cries throughout the journey – probably in dread because most days he’s left in the car while the lady and her daughter walk away from him to drop the child off at school. For now they can take him to the school gate with them whilst getting him to associate journeys with good stuff (chicken?).

At present Marley’s not much interested in food, but that is because it’s left down all the time. I have suggested more nutritious food as diet can effect mood and not to leave food freely available so that it gains more value.

They feel that they owe it to this lovely, biddable dog to do all they can to reduce his worrying and insecurity. They understand that it will probably take quite a long time to relieve Marley of responsibility for the family’s safety and whereabouts.

Feels Unsafe Quiet Places. Fine When Busy.

Feels unsafe in quiet places

Meg

Fin is an alarm barker

Fin

A dog can find a park full of people easier than a quiet field with a lone person or dog. She becomes hyper aware of them and feels unsafe.

More invisible in a crowd

We are the same really, aren’t we. In a busy place we feel less exposed. It can be more comfortable to be on a crowded tube train than sitting alone opposite one lone person. In a crowd we feel invisible. There is no attention on us so it can be far less stressful.

Meg is quite extreme in this respect. They can take her through a busy town or a country show and she is fine with lots of people and dogs – accepts being touched even. But, if they are out in their quiet village streets, Meg feels unsafe. She is very reactive to any approaching dog or person. It starts with growling and then she will become very noisy. She is scared.

Meg is a beautiful 8-month-old Belgian Shepherd and she lives with Australian Shepherd, Fin, age 6. She is yet another Shepherd-type breed who is skittish and scared of people and other dogs – but not in all situations.

Feels unsafe and is easily spooked

If they are out in the fields and she spots an approaching person, Meg will panic. If someone stops to talk to her owner in the street, she becomes very noisy. When a person comes to the house and into her presence, Meg backs away and growls. Even when she gets used to them, a sudden movement can start her off again. She doesn’t like approaching hands.

Meg goes to dog training classes where she is stressed and uneasy around people and dogs – growling at them when they come near her. I feel, because she is trapped in a situation where she feels unsafe, this won’t be helping her at all. If classes had succeeded in ‘socialising’ her, she would be okay by now.

However, when she goes to watch Fin’s agility classes where there is a lot of commotion and activity, she is fine.

It’s a bit puzzling. She was alright until about three months old. Her breeder was careful to introduce her puppies to everyday sounds and household objects. Maybe there weren’t enough new humans and other dogs in the mix? Their other dog, Fin, is a big alarm-barker at people passing or entering their house, so perhaps this is infecting the young Meg?

Training hasn’t helped

Meg has had plenty of training – but that as such isn’t the answer. ‘To alter the behaviour we need to alter the emotion’.

They have a good starting point with Meg being OK in crowds. I would suggest dropping out things they know stress her like the classes and do a lot of work just within her comfort zone. Firstly they will work in comfortable crowds, and gradually places a little quieter, always associating the experience with good things.

For her to trust them, they themselves need to behave appropriately in a her doggy eyes.

Dogs, for a start, don’t walk directly towards another dog or person they don’t know, unless it’s a friendly welcome or stalking. They would arc around them, leaving space. If frightened, a sensible dog would take evasive action unless cornered.

The bottom line is – Meg feels unsafe. Just why is a mystery, although I have found it is very common in Shepherd dogs, bred to guard and often highly sensitive, intelligent and reactive. A Shepherd’s socialisation and habituation to people and other dogs from a very young age, just a few weeks old, is especially vital.