Once Friends, Now the Dogs Fight

Whenever tiny Yorkie is out in her garden, she runs up and down by the fence, in a frenzy of barking

Mia

Both little dogs got on beautifully until Coco matured and then the conflict started – with a fight over a chew. Things escalated until tiny Mia was badly injured. They are now enemies.

Now the dogs have to be kept apart.

Tiny miniature Yorkie Mia, left, is now 6. When she was three years old they got a puppy – Wire Haired Daschund Coco. They are much loved little dogs.

Coco lives with the couple and their young children, and Mia lives next door with her parents. They dogs used to have a special hole in the fence so that they could go freely from one house to the other, but no more.  Their hole is now blocked.

A lot of problems can be averted if we learn to read our dogs

Coco

Whenever Mia is out in her garden, she runs up and down by the fence, in a frenzy of barking and trying to dig under it to get to Coco. It’s very similar to behaviour she does when the air blower is on. I videoed it. http://youtu.be/jUr_x1Lj79U. They thought Mia  enjoyed the action because her tail is wagging and she looks up at them. I feel, to this tiny dog, it’s like a puffing monster at nose level behind the wall, and she is frantic to make it go away; she is looking at them for help.

People often think that tail wagging means happy but it’s not necessarily so. It means aroused in some way. Another misreading is when Coco lies on her back with the little 2-year-old boy. They think she is asking for him to tickle her tummy. She may be saying ‘I give in, I’ve had enough’.

A lot of problems can be averted if we learn to read our dogs.

We have a plan to get the two dogs back together. Everyone knows that it could take a long time and they are up for the effort and self-sacrifice. Both little dogs are extremely excitable and think it’s their job to protect their homes and gardens. This needs to be addressed. They need to value food more so that it can be used for working with them (not left down all the time). Over time they will learn to come whenever they are called and to be each side of the fence calmly.

The plan is that eventually two much calmer dogs who no longer feel that guard duty is their responsibility will meet out on neutral territory, starting with walking parallel at a comfortable distance. We will take it from there.

Over-exciting and hands-on play with a dog would equate to tickling and ruffling a young child who would doubtless end up in tears. Egging a child on in the way people wind up their dogs, wrongly believing they find it fun, would probably end in a temper tantrum with a child.  Just as good parents create a reasonably calm, safe and controlled atmosphere for their kids, we need to do the same for our dogs.

I am sure the eventual outcome will be the two dogs back together. But their humans must never go back to their old ways or so will the dogs.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Mia and Coco, 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. 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 dogs (see my Get Help page).

A Growl Tells Us About Stress

Daschund having a cuddle

Schnitzel

Wirehaired Daschund

Schnitzel

Two lovely-natured and much-loved little Wire haired Daschunds (doesn’t the picture on the left tell a story!). Both are eighteen months of age but not brothers. They are competitive teenagers.

Schnitzel is a confident little dog – not needy at all. He loves a cuddle but is also happy to be alone. He is very happy with the very busy family life, all the friends and children who are in and out of the house. When he’s had enough he simply takes himself off. His way of showing attitude is by marking in the dogs’ beds and crate, sometimes staring his owners in the face as he does so!  This is MY space! There is competition between the dogs as to which is the greatest.

Little Noodle is a more highly strung. Things sometimes get a bit too much for him and the stress may build up until he’s had enough – enough of excitement, children and being pulled around. He has tried warning with gently growling but has been either scolded or ignored and he has now gone on to snapping the air and found this did the trick – the child quickly left him alone so he no doubt will do this again. He did, once, snap at their four-year-old’s face, marking it.  It can be hard teaching a child that grabbing or hugging dogs, or putting their face right into the dog’s, is something most dogs would not enjoy. The nearest a dog would know of a hug would be humping, and that could be an unwelcome and dominant action by the humper.

Just because the dogs are small and seriously cute, they are still dogs. Whilst they may love fuss, they can have a lot to put up with. A child might pick one up – because she can. Then the child may well be given a warning growl and if the growl is ignored – an air snap. Dogs can’t talk. It’s perfectly reasonable. If these little dogs had been born German Shepherds or Labradors they would have been treated very differently from the start.

What is now needed is a little understanding of Noodle’s personality and that sometimes he has simply ‘had enough’. He also can be defiant – he is a teenager after all. People need to watch for the signs and give him space. If confrontation is avoided he will learn to willingly cooperate if rewards are used. A reward is only like saying ‘Thank You’ after all. Both dogs need a safe haven away from young children when things get a bit too noisy.

The rule must be, for children in particular, ‘don’t pick the dogs up’! They are wonderful friendly little dogs, good with all people and other dogs. Absolute treasures in fact. It is important that children are not allowed to take advantage of their good nature.

Dear Little Wirehaired Daschund, Wary of Young Child

Wirehaired Daschund isn't happy when the child is nearNot a good photo as he merged with the background and the flash gave him eyes like flashlights!

Matty is a lovely friendly little dog, six years of age. He was with the breeder for the first three years of his life and came to my clients not well socialised at all.

They have worked very hard and with great success at habituating him to  real life, people, traffic and other dogs, and he is now a pleasure to walk – with the odd lapse when he sees a dog that for some reason he doesn’t like.

Recently a new child joined the family – a three year old boy, Sammy. However, Matty isn’t happy with him. There have been two mishaps. One when Matty suddenly leaped across the room, barking fiercely at the child and was fortunately intercepted by the lady, and another occasion where he grabbed his shorts. The lady, already nervous, is now on tenterhooks. In addition, there is a new baby due in a few months’ time.

The main ongoing problem has been that Matty is very reactive to all noises, on guard duty at the front door and charging around barking. He can wind himself up into a frenzy. The gentleman who works from home is finding it very hard, especially when he is talking on the phone to a customer and Matty is barking frantically in the background. Understandably Matty is shouted at which may stop him temporarily but doesn’t help him at all long term. All this barking will be raising his general stress levels, leaving him less tolerant of little boys and other dogs.

If the child is always kept away from Matty he will never learn that he’s harmless. In the same way that they have patiently socialised Matty by habituating him to real life, traffic, the town and so on, they need to do the same thing with the child – but making sure the environment is completely safe for both of them – in the same room but unable to actually make contact. Everyone must be relaxed and not fussing or on edge else Matty will pick up on it, and calm behaviour from Matty can be rewarded with food. It can be a slow process.

Matty’s humans need to take charge of the ‘perceived danger’ and barking, and help him out. A calmer dog will be much better able to cope with an active little boy.

A Christmas email, nearly three months later: “Just to let you know that we had the family here on Christmas day, my son, his partner, Sammy and the baby! All your advice has come to fruition and the pen definitely helped Matty and Sunny adjust and adapt to each other.  Matty was so good with Sammy and they more or less ignored each other all day!!!We cant thank you enough for your help and advice, it definitely would never have happened without it. Your help is priceless…and so very much appreciated! We cant thank you enough….”
 I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.