Dolly is an adorable, playful one-year-old Shi Tzu with no problems at all – a really stable little dog.
A week ago nine-week-old Bella joined the family. She is a Malshi (never heard of that before, but a cross between a Shi Tzu and a Maltese). As you can see on the right – absolutely adorable.
The family has been used to Dolly who has always loved being handled. She lies on her back like a rag doll on their laps![divider type=”white”]
It was all too much for the new puppy
When Bella arrived they understandably treated her the same way. They have two little boys and many friends, and in the first few days she was cuddled by children, passed about and held high by a man. It was all too much for her.
In these first few days she was also scared of little Dolly, squealing when Dolly went near to her.
Then her behaviour started to change. Now, when someone approached and tried to lift her out of her bed, she growled. Initially they thought it was funny, that is until a child was holding her and she started growling, and when nobody took any notice Bella nipped the little girl.
Bella also was becoming very brave with Dolly and the play was growing rough. People were now getting concerned.
I watched the two little dogs playing and indeed it’s tricky. It was the sort of play you’d find OK between two dogs of the same age, but too rough for a puppy, although Bella herself now instigated a lot of it. It was simply too much for her.[divider type=”white”]
When enough is enough
They will now step in sooner. It’s like you might say to your children, ‘that’s enough, it will all end in tears’, or you would say to your older child, ‘don’t get her too excited, be gentle’. We all felt it was good that the two dogs were getting on so well and sometimes they would be lying down together – but at what stage in play is enough, enough.
At what stage is it too much? The gentleman is inclined to panic where the lady tends to let them get on with it. I stand somewhere between the two.
They have a large wooden floored house. I noticed that with all the doors open and there was a lot of space – too much. Dolly would charge at little Bella from a distance, bowl her over and pin her down with her mouth. She did the same thing to her in the garden. Bella was learning to be rough.
Play would be much more equal in a smaller area. So, for a start I suggested shutting doors when they play or putting both together in the puppy pen they have bought. They should not to have them playing freely out in the garden either for now.[divider type=”white”]
When to step in
As I watched, everything would be okay for a couple minutes then, each time, there came a moment when the play tipped over into something more. It needs to be stopped before this point is reached.
They need to limit play to no more than five minutes at a time, possibly only a couple of minutes to start with. This is so puppy isn’t over-tired, over-stressed, over-excited or scared. If possible they will redirect play onto an item they can tug between them rather than play fighting.
Nine weeks old is such a baby and Bella needs to be taught to play nicely with dogs. Dolly has a couple of doggy friends of her own age and size whose play is very noisy and boisterous. She is doing the same with Bella but it’s too much for the tiny puppy. She is learning bad habits.[divider type=”white”]
How to approach and handle Bella
I explained that not only was the approach of large humans very likely to be intimidating to Bella, but not all dogs like to be handled all the time in the way that Dolly does.
Growling is the puppy’s way of saying ‘I’m not comfortable. Please don’t do this’. To laugh or to ignore it is leading to trouble. If growling is ignored or discouraged, what is the puppy forced to do next?
They will now avoid picking her up altogether unless really necessary. They will give her the opportunity to come over to them for a cuddle while they sit on the floor – if she wishes. Guests will be asked to do the same. They will leave her in peace when she’s asleep.
When they lift her in and out of her pen, they will now give her a tiniest bit of chicken as they do so, to associate hands and lifting with something nice. I also showed them how to start teaching Bella to become comfortable with an approaching hand.
This is a crucial time in her life, and her experiences need to be nice ones. At present everything is simply too much