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Sunday, March 2, 2008

Pup Terrorizes Older Dog

I have a 6-year-old male lab which is the most laid back and mellow of dogs. Recently I got a new female lab puppy. She is now 9 months old. Almost from the start she would bully and attack the older dog. He is very gentle with her and even when he gets riled up, doesn't seem to convey that she should leave him alone. I know the puppy is only playing, but it's very rough, he doesn't like it, and she has him in a state of fear. He is afraid to enter any room she is in, or go up the stairs since she often ambushes him when he does. She is not at all aggresive with me, and is a very good pup otherwise. When it really escalates I tell her no or otherwise intervene and she stops. For about a minute. I know I'm supposed to let them figure this out but it's sad to watch how intimidated he is. Any suggestions? Thanks for your help.

Mark, your female is obviously a much more dominant personality than your male. This means she also needs more LEADERSHIP from you...and this alone will help her tone down around the other dog. Even though she's a "very good pup otherwise," she can probably be a lot better than she is. She will be a higher maintenance dog, which means she'll require more structured body-and-brain exercise (leash-walks and school-training). These activities will help wear her down so she won't have such an edge with the older dog.

She can also be taught to treat the other dog appropriately but it requires you to be PRO-active instead of RE-active. You have been waiting until it escalates beyond the comfort level and then saying "No" to her. From now on, give her a DIRECTIVE (like "Leave it") the next time you think she's THINKING about bothering the other dog. The directive will give her a job to do, and will break the circuit of energy between her and other other dog BEFORE it escalates.

Start training her to do a good, solid solid that you can put her in the position and leave her to escort the older dog back into the same room without fear. The older dog will see that you have the young one under control, and will gain new confidence in YOU and your judgment.

Practice doing down-stays with both dogs together. Let them know they are teammates rather than rivals. A great way to get them started this way is to take BOTH dogs on energetic migratory walks with you, the leader, each day. You should have one dog on each side of you, and on fairly short leashes. This exercise will build teamwork and a sense of "pack."

It's one thing for a nine-week-old puppy to play roughly with an older dog, and a totally different thing for a nine-month-old pup to do the same. That truly is bullyish behavior, which need not be tolerated by you. Stopping the behavior with a "No" is like putting a Bandaid on a wound covered in grease. It won't stick. Instead, stop the thought, before she has time to act out the deed. She will think you can read her mind...and indeed, you can!


1 comment:

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