Added a second dog to the family - is this "pack"-related, or something else?

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Luuuciii, you- have some- 'splainin to do
Barked: Sat Dec 4, '10 4:48am PST 
So we've had Luci for a little over a year (adopted, she is about 5 years old), she is believed to be a Shih Tzu, about 11 lbs, and a diva to boot.

Within the last month we adopted PJ, a 4 year old male Shih Tzu/Pekingese mix, he is around 15 lbs (but he's fat, so he's not a lot bigger than her - or he wont be for long! He will lose weight to a healthy size soon enough...).

Anyway, Luci is overall quite good at "tolerating" him and accepting him in the home. About 95% of the time, anyway. I don't believe she's ever been properly socialized, she barks like crazy if she sees another dog (not aggressively, just loudly), and when we originally introduced her to a friend's Lhasa Apso who tried to play with her, she looked almost confused by the general "play" moves dogs make (leaning on the front paws with their butt up in the air and wagging the tail, for example). After a few tries she finally reciprocated and it was like a flip was switched - she copied the other dog's behavior and almost as if she suddenly understood - they started chasing each other around the yard and were playing what almost looked like "tag", and finished by plopping down together to sunbathe. She now tries those same "moves" with PJ - but if he tries any other play-like moves, she gives him that same blank stare she gave the other dog before she seemed to figure out what it was, like she doesn't understand it.

She also doesn't like to be alone for even 20 minutes (it just so happened someone in the house was with her for the first 6-8 months after we adopted her, but recently found a job so she is alone during parts of the day now). So after a few months we decided it would be a good idea to adopt a second dog. We decided on "trial" periods with a couple of dogs before finding PJ. He came from a home where he had a German Shepard to play with, so he is obviously used to being around a bigger dog, which probably means he's used to playing a little differently.

So the first week or two, Luci would try to use her "tricks" learned by our friend's Lhasa to try to get PJ to play, but he was pretty sullen for awhile. When he finally started to settle in he would try to play back, they're still adjusting to trying to figure out how to play together. They have different playing styles. He plays rougher (German Shepard type play, not little dog play), but she doesn't. We've been observing them and trying to just let them find what works for them.

Now, to my question. Overall, Luci is pretty good with him. However there has been 4 times now where she has jumped on his back and with her mouth she grabs hold of his neck scruff and growls. Reading up a little, it seems this has to do with her trying to show him she is the dominant one? 3 of the 4 times were when he was outside going potty, and would come back to the sliding glass door and paw at the door to tell us he wanted inside. Luci doesn't paw at the door, she usually sits and just waits. Now, I don't know if she had been scolded as a puppy for pawing at the door, or what, but if PJ does it - she does not seem to like it. She jumps on his back and growls and grabs the scruff of his neck and just holds him there growling lightly. She isn't biting to draw blood but she clamps down enough to pinch the fur I guess? His neck has been left with wet spots, I assume from her saliva, but I haven't even found as much as a red/irritated spot from where she had been grabbing him. It seems to me as if she is almost trying to scold him for doing something she thinks is "bad"?? Like I said, she isn't being aggressive as in vicious/biting to draw blood or anything like that. I have seen her fight one dog once, this was prior to us realizing she had probably not been socialized whatsoever, and our neighbor tried to bring her small dog over, and we found out that Luci was apparently very territorial. She lunged at the dog and barrels over her, tumbles and scuffles, snarling and barking, nipping at the dog all over (not nasty biting, just nipping, it was odd). It was very different than how she's acting with PJ, so it doesn't seem like she's trying to really attack him in that way. We have since made sure to introduce her to other dogs on more of a neutral area, instead of just surprising her in her living room, and it's worked out well, we haven't had any problems since with "meet and greets".

The fourth time was actually earlier today, it was a little different scenario. She has remarkable hearing (she once woke up at 3am and started making all kinds of noise, barking to wake everyone up, we all come out trying to figure out what was going on, only to find two coyotes in our front yard. She was in a back room where she didn't have the ability to see them, and when she was barking up a storm, she was running to the front door as if she was telling us someone was at the front door). Well, today she was in the kitchen with me and sniffing around, she nears the dishwasher and suddenly starts acting very weird. Runs to the back door and starts whining to be let out (she isn't a whiner), so I let her out and she runs to the wall on the outside of the house on the same area where our dishwasher was, running back and forth between two of the crawlspace/holes that go under our house. We determined she must have heard a mouse after finding a hole chewed in a box under our sink. For at least an hour she was pacing around the house, inside and out, keeping her head low to the ground as if she was trying to track where it was going. Very focused on it - oblivious to her surroundings. PJ joins in and starts following her around, but it seems like he takes it as playtime, so he starts jumping around her trying to get her to play. She doesn't even notice him. Then he jumps on her. She suddenly starts growling/barking/yipping (kind of an all-in-one thing, the most aggressive noises I'd heard come from her towards him), and she again jumps on his back and grabs his neck, but this time she seemed to be pushing along the ground with her back legs while her front half was still leaning on him and she was still holding the scruff of his neck, kind of like she was trying to move him or push him?? She was growling louder this time, like she was pissed at him and scolding him loudly or something. I don't know how else to describe it. It wasn't the typical growl that tells you a dog is going to attack, it was more like she was giving him what for or telling him off by growl???

She seems to get in these hyperfocused states sometimes where she is completely oblivious to her surroundings and it can sometimes take awhile to get her attention away and focused on something else, even her favorite treats. So when he jumped on her, I get the feeling she reacted more aggressively than she would have, had she not been sniffing out a mouse. Because minutes later, almost like when she snapped out of her focus, she went over to him and rubbed noses with him and sniffed him all over, like she was checking on him. She's never done that before with him. She does it with my nephew when he cries (he is 1), she comes over and sniffs him all over like she wants to find out if he is okay. It was a similar behavior.

Other than that she has been almost perfect with accepting him. No problems with food (which surprises me - she loves her treats - and we haven't had any issues with that, I thought she might be protective of them). They even curl up by each other on their blanket or the bedding. Their food bowls are close, no food aggression; no problems with the dog toys - she seems to like to share with him. He loves tug of war, she's never cared for it, but when we played tug of war with him she suddenly seemed interested and tried to play with him by grabbing part of the toy and tugging back and forth with him.

Sorry for the insanely long post but I'm not fully understanding what's going on here? I get the idea it may be "pack" related but what is "ok" and what isn't when it comes to her proving her "dominance" with him? I understand she has never had a companion dog, or any real interaction with dogs, and she is overall a very good dog so I am a little baffled by her behavior.

What can I do to stop the behavior without throwing off the "pack" balance? He seems perfectly content with being the submissive one. I just don't want to cause more problems than I help by figuring out and stopping the behavior. I am also wondering if "solidifying" her spot somehow might stop any possible anxiety or frustration she has that's making her do that? I wouldn't have a clue how to go about that.

Also, crate training isn't a current option, as she does not go for it. I don't know her history but it seems she must have had a bad experience along the line with crate training. She acts like you're beating her if you try to put her in it. Crying, whining, and tries to run from it - like she's afraid of it. I don't have a clue why, because everywhere else she is so not a "scaredy" type personality - quite the opposite. So there would need to be extensive training for the crate itself before I could even use that as an option, and I would rather tackle this issue between the two of them first.

Edited by author Sat Dec 4, '10 5:05am PST


Miss Diva to- you!!
Barked: Sat Dec 4, '10 1:21pm PST 
She seems alot like Sasha was at first, we rescued Sasha from an abusive home and she was terrified of everything. We brought Gizmo in and at first she would ignore him, snap at him if he got near her, etc. She is the dominant one, no doubts about it and he is fine with that, it took a few months for them to kinda work all the kinks out so to speak. I would seperate them if I felt like they were being too rough, but other then that I just kinda let them work it out on their own. If you think she is getting too rough with him, remove her from the situation for a few minutes, then bring her back in. She will learn quickly, that certain things are not permitted. I think she is just trying to make sure he knows she is the dominant one, once she knows that he accepts it things will settle down, it just takes time for them to get used to one another and to feel each othet out.
Anytime you feel like they are getting to rough remove them from one another, they have onlybeen together for a month so I wouldn't worry about it and since you say it doesn't seem vicious its probably pack related blue dog

Earned my wings- Jan. 22nd
Barked: Sat Dec 4, '10 2:13pm PST 
It sounds like she was just letting him know that she did NOT want to be disturbed while hunting that mouse. That's ok. She doesn't have to love it every time the new dog wants to play. She didn't harm him, she didn't sound aggressive, she was just letting him know in no uncertain times, that she had more important things to do at that moment. I wouldn't be worried about that. If I saw the new dog "bothering" her when she didn't want to be bothered, I'd intervene and distract the new dog instead of allowing the situation to continue to where she felt like she had to be the one to tell him to bug off. They are still getting to know one another, and as long as she doesn't harm him when telling him she isn't interested in playing, that's ok. Did he get the message? He will probably think twice before pouncing on her when she's engrossed in something next time.

Edited by author Sat Dec 4, '10 2:15pm PST



Luuuciii, you- have some- 'splainin to do
Barked: Wed Dec 29, '10 10:14pm PST 
So, things have changed a little. When we got PJ, he was overweight, and he was sent with the remainder of a bag of Kibbles 'N Bits. Luci was on Wellness Simple Solutions for her skin, but he refused to even touch it, so we switched to Wellness Super5Mix small breed, since it said it had Omega 3 & 6 for skin and coat for her, as well as supporting healthy caloric intake for weight control, which he so desperately needed. Since then, he has lost weight. He would walk kind of stiff, like his hips or knees bothered him; he would also sit differently, his lower back seemed to curve inward when he sat from his belly. He didn't run or jump much either. Since then, he has trimmed down so his waist is slightly smaller than his ribcage the way it should be, and he doesn't seem to have much trouble walking or sitting anymore. His energy level has also skyrocketed; he jumps and hops around the house and has no problems running around like a mad man when he is playing. Before he would try to run, but would quickly give up and plop on the floor. The most we could get him to do is play tug of war, but only if he could stay in the same spot. Now he hops all over the place and plays fetch too. I am glad he is obviously feeling better, he doesn't seem to walk like his hips are sore anymore and is quite playful now, which is nice.

He and Luci also play pretty well most of the time. Their play involves chasing each other around the house, zipping from one end to the other like they're best friends. Tails wagging and the excited little wiggling they both seem to share (maybe it is the breed? Their butts/legs wiggle with their tail as if their tails just weigh too much for their legs to stay still as it swings back and forth lol).

Anyhow, when his energy went up, he also changed how he interacts with her. Up until a week ago, the incidents had become fewer and farther between, maybe once a week. She calmed down and it seemed that we could figure out each "reason" she would jump on him, whether he was scratching at the back door (she is still being potty trained, and doesn't alert us to let her out, it seems to annoy her that he would be so bold lol), or trying to say hi to visitors first (a friend she had met before but he had not was at the house and he jumps all over the couch trying to say hi, but she will only stand in front of you with her front paws as high as she can get them to try to get you to pick her up, so when our friend came and sat on the couch, and PJ flops on her to say hi, Luci lunged at him and pulled him off of the couch. I kind of think she was taught previously that things like that weren't okay? I don't know), things like that. She never did it just randomly as she walked by or anything though.

Anyway, now he has also suddenly decided to fight back. Their fights have increased, each one a little bit louder than the last. Today, she was on my bed, and PJ was on the floor next to the bed. She jumped off to leave the room, and he starts a fight. She may have startled him, who knows. I grabbed her by the scruff of her neck as I usually do (I know, "never stick your hand in a dog fight" is the rule, but since she is always on top of him grabbing at the scruff of his neck, they aren't really tumbling much, it is usually quick and easy to grab her and quickly pull her out; if it wasn't so easy, I wouldn't dare try). Well, this time the mass of fur is quite a bit heavier, and I realize it's because he hasn't let go of her. So, he is holding on to HER neck - and not the top/back of her neck, but the front; so he was basically hanging from her neck. I had to grab him by the scruff of his neck to pull them apart (I'm just glad they're small enough for me to be able to do that so easily...).

Neither have ever seemed to get any cuts/scratches or anything in the past, the worst I'd seen was a patch of wet fur on the scruff of PJ's neck where Luci had been holding on to him. Today, Luci had a drop of blood on top of the fur on her neck. I don't have a clue which one it came from, because it was on top of her fur so it dropped there from somewhere else. No cuts on either one, so I thought it was their gums, however by the time I was able to check both, I wasn't able to find anything. They both wear Harley Davidson studded/spiked collars, they're not sharp (they have rounded tips), but it could easily jab their gums during their scuffles. But, PJ's nails are quite long, as they were extremely overgrown when we got him. We have been slowly trimming them back but they are still too long. So, that could have caused it. I don't know. But, I don't want it getting any farther than that...

Most of the time they are just fine. They play, lay on our ottoman together, and have even begun to bark together at the cat next door, (one of Luci's favorite past times), even running to the fence side by side. But, the last few days the fighting is occuring more and more (there's been 5 in 3 days). I don't want it to escalate where one actually does get injured, and hanging by her throat does worry me, since he's a few pounds bigger than her.

It took Luci nearly a year to fully come out of her shell, if he is anything like her then we will see more of him for awhile, & if this much has changed for him in such a short period of time then I would like to nip any negative behaviors before they become habit.

I suggested to my dad to let it play out once, instead of pulling them apart. Right now, another person in the house nearly has a panic attack after each incident, so it's been difficult to allow them to play out as she acts like she is viewing a fight to the death, or something... but, in about a month they will regularly be alone in the house for a few hours a day. I would like to get this "fixed" before then, so I don't have to worry about coming home one day to one or both of them injured...

I was wondering if we could be making it worse by not allowing one or the other to "win"? Or, now that they are both putting in effort towards the scuffle, should we be pulling them both apart and putting them in "time out", like two separate rooms for a little bit, to show them that their escalation is not okay?

I just don't know which is the better route, or just separate them to show them it is not allowed. We do not have kennels, so the best we can do is use the two spare rooms to send them to "time out".

Thank you!

Edited by author Wed Dec 29, '10 10:31pm PST


Luuuciii, you- have some- 'splainin to do
Barked: Fri Jan 21, '11 9:42pm PST 

I just wanted to post and say never mind on my last post. Things have improved smile

A few months back, before we adopted PJ, I babysat my 1 year old nephew 3-4 days a week. He went through a smacking phase when he was trying to pet Luci but hadn't grasped the idea of being gentle. I would constantly tell him to "be nice" while showing him how to pet gently, I could probably tell him to be nice up to 100 times a day because he just loves to play with Luci when he is here, and she is so gentle with him.

Well I happened to say "be nice" to her one time when she looked like she was trying to bite the scruff of his neck, and she immediately backed off. They have only been in one fight since that time, and I wasn't here to remind her to be nice. I am assuming she picked up what "be nice" meant from the many times I had said it to my nephew, because it seems like those were and still are the magic words to get her to back off when I tell her to.

There's still a few kinks to work out between the two of them but I am glad I at least got lucky and found a simple solution to that problem, it has made it so much easier to work on the rest of the other pretty mild concerns I have with the two of them.

Better yet, my dad and his wife went on a 3-day road trip and took PJ with them while Luci stayed here with me. I am pretty sure she missed him, she paced the house from room to room, almost like she was looking for him. And it sounds like he missed her too, my dad said he seemed quite sullen while they were gone, and as soon as he came home they started chasing each other around the house, and he continued running even when she had plopped on the floor to cool off. He seemed quite excited to be home. It was good to see lol

Pocket Wolf
Barked: Sat Jan 22, '11 12:02pm PST 
I find that saying ""be nice" works really well for my dogs too. We got foxxy in october of 09 and tag in july of 10, and we thought foxxy did need a playmate because she enjoys her time at the dog park so much that she gets depressed when we don't go regularly.

Well, Tag was a little aggressive with her around food. He attacked her twice over kibble, and foxxy won't eat at all now when tag is loose, so Tag gets his food in a crate. I thinkit was because the pound wasn't feeding him right. They nutered him and pulled impacted baby teeth as well. he dropped 2 pounds in a month, and he was obviously starving, but the food he was being given was hills science diet, so no wonder. the kibbles are huge for a little guy like him! Especiallly after dental work.

so now, we are on dogswell nutrisca with occasional raw treats. He isn't as agressive with food.

I'm sure you've probably researched this, but kibbles and bits has a massive amount of sugar in it. the sugar is what makes the otherwise dry food moist and chewy. Dogs get addicted to that sugar, which is why they will refuse healthy food. It's also why dogs will get fat really quickly. I'm glad you're on wellness, although as far as wellness goes, Wellness core is the healthier line in that brand, especially if you want to detoxify your dog after a lifetime of preservatives, colors, flavoring, artificial vitamins, empty calorie grains, agricultural waste quality meat sources and sugars.

That's probably one reason you saw a personality and activity change in your male.

As for your female, her world was turned upside down. What happens is equivalent to a single female human suddenly being commanded by her parents to be roomates with a random guy, and being in a situation where she can't escape that decision. Sure, they might get along eventually, but they will have to learn about each other through time and trial. On top of that, it sounds like she has had limited socialization. What you described with them over the last year or so sounds pretty normal to me, my dogs do the same thing, including the biting on the back of the neck. Dog pack order is fluid, so disputes happen all the time. Biting on the neck is how they say "hey! you overstepped your bounds as I understand it buddy." then they may dispute it. When mine do it I just watch. I intervene if it starts to look serious. They will stiffen up, put their hackles up as well as stiffen and raise their tails it's getting serious, or they will lower their bodies in a crouch rather than a bow, and they will stare with a hard expression and stiff lips. I clap my hands or stomp, say "be nice" and that usually distracts them enough to stop. Both of them go into the crate then for about 5 minutes, because I am the arbiter of doggie disputes, and I am the only one allowed to get serious about it.

On the other hand If their tails are wagging, and if they're doing a lot of sneezing in between growling and biting it's probably okay. It's especially ok if they are trading off biting on the neck, trading off who is domanant and who is submissive. It's the same sort of play that they start doing in puppyhood, and wolf puppies do the same kind of play, only they grow out of it, unlike dogs.