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When do you intervene? (w/ 2 dogs)

Discussion in 'Behavior' started by mavendark, Apr 21, 2014.

  1. mavendark

    mavendark Forums Regular

    Oct 25, 2013
    Fremont, CA
    Tybalt, my 9 mo old Sheltie, is a total beta and very timid. We brought home a new puppy a bit more than week ago, the good thing is that they've been playing nonstop ever since.

    However, the other puppy is a lot more "confident" and not at all timid. So, it is very often that the puppy will snatch Tybalt's treats when he drops it on the ground (he sometimes has to break his treats in half, etc.) or will grab Tybalt's chew toy right from his mouth, etc. I feed them separately and also try to feed them treats separately but sometimes I cannot account for these "off situations" where the puppy is super fast and snatches Tybalt's treats before I can react. I also equally give them treats (give treats to both, not just one, especially if they are both in the room together). But I don't have much experience dealing with more than 1 dog and the dynamics between them.

    I have read that we have to leave them be to let them "establish" their own ranks amongst themselves, but I've also read that we (as humans) must be the "alpha" for them both and not allow them to behave inappropriately towards each other. I am not sure what to do at this point, because I feel super bad for Tybalt, he is always getting the short end of the stick, and he is definitely not the type to stand up for himself.
  2. SheepOfBlue

    SheepOfBlue Premium Member

    Oct 15, 2009
    I think you are on track. Sca is super mellow on everything but food. So Spitfire steals from him unrelentlessly. However they sort things out and Sca will even get things to temp Spitfire with then let him steal it. Now food the house rule is until the other guy leaves his bowl it is his.

    Also when I first got him Spitfire would banzai into Sca to steal the frisbee. Well at first Sca would give it to him. Then after a bit Spitfire would have to grab it. Well then he tried to hide it so Spitfire would leap on him to steal it. A bit more and Sca would time it and crouch as Spitfire charged then stand up and flip him, keeping the frisbee. Well that kind of ended the 'sharing' by Sca and now he gets it most of the time clean. However after a few throws he will have an oops and let Spitfire get it. And Spitfire still attempts to steal on occasion with no success. So they have sorted things out pretty good.

    Once in a while though I step in. For instance at the last flyball tournament I let Spitfire in Sca's kennell as he has wanted in and it is large enough. Everything was fine until Spitfire decided to lay on Sca. I took him out since Sca was already hot from running.

    But I am a they will sort it out advocate. Especially if no one is getting hurt or deprived.
  3. corbinam

    corbinam Moderator

    Oct 14, 2008
    I don't intervene, I set ground rules.

    Dogs are not allowed to take bones or treats from each other. If one has a bone or a toy, the other is not allowed to take until the first one is done with it. I never give a treat to one dog without treating the other. If food falls on the ground and one dog gets it, I give a piece to the dog who saw it but wasn't fast enough.

    These rules aren't for everyone, but they're perfect for us. The dogs never fight over anything.
  4. trini

    trini Premium Member

    Nov 13, 2013
    upstate ny
    When you bring a new pup into a home with an older dog, I think it is critical to give the older dog breaks from the pup several times a day. You don't want Tybalt to grow to dislike you new little one. However, when they are together, unless a confrontation gets ugly, I think it is important to let them sort things out for themselves. Even though Tybalt is the older dog, he may not end up being the "top dog". Right now it sounds like your pup hasn't yet learned his doggie manners.

    We have a really laid back, incredibly gentle collie boy, Kinnon, who typically tolerates just about anything from other dogs...but several few years ago we adopted a 9 year old tri sheltie boy, Cody, who had been a stud dog and was used to being the only male and the big shot. From the moment he arrived Cody pushed and pushed at Kinnon and didn't take the gentle hints from Kinnon that he really needed to back off. Finally one day Kinnon reached his limit and he flipped Cody onto his back and stood over him, teeth bared just inches above Cody's face for a good 5 minutes. He did not hurt Cody in any way...but the message got through...Cody never pushed Kinnon again. If Kinnon had tried to actually hurt Cody, then I would have stepped in immediately. But if dogs can resolve issues by themselves with no one getting hurt, the lesson is usually more effective than if we humans do the resolving for them.

    However, I would never leave them together unsupervised until your pup has matured and has learned more respectful doggie manners.

  5. Katagaria

    Katagaria Forums Enthusiast

    Jun 23, 2012
    Careful with the mention of "alpha" I don't know what you have been reading, but if it's anything to do with dominance theory you're potentially on a bad path with trying to figure out how to manage your dogs together, dominance theory has been scientifically proven to be the incorrect way to interact/handle a dog's behaviour.

    Anyway, I think what Trini said is good advice. I know with my two, they have settled it themselves when it comes to treats. One finishes his treat as fast as he can, the other takes his time, but if Cosmo gets too close to Jet and he hasn't finished his treat, he has no problem telling him to back off. Largely, in those cases the dog makes a lot of noise and gestures towards the other dog, rarely ever do they actually intend to cause physical harm, it's more of a mental fright they try to give the other dog.

    Nowadays Cosmo keeps a respectful distance to him if he is not finished.

    But in the meantime, until they are of adult age together, I would recommend not letting them find themselves in a situation where one can steal from the other. If you're giving both a treat, supervise or separate them.
  6. Justicemom

    Justicemom Premium Member

    Oct 2, 2009
    I for the most part do not intervene unless they are about to fight. This usual depends on the dog.

    I just got back for a trip to nationals and we have 10 dogs with us. One of them was a brash little 13" 8 month old tri intact male named Ekko who is just starting to think he is something else.

    The rule was intervene before he touched the brown dog(Justice, only brown dog danger danger) or if the brown dog looks at him cross eyed. All the girls gave him lip snarls and that was ok if he did not get the hint which he did 99% of the time we intervened. With Birch, we just let him dig his own grave. Birch is very tolerate, confident and not sensitive to being jumped on, he has a long track record of playing with very young puppies and being very gentle. He has played with Ekko since he was a baby. They would play and interact but if the little man got too carried away Birch would lay on him. One time Birch was playing with his sister Willow and Ekko starting jumping on Birch and biting him hard on the side. Birch growled and turned around and puffed up. We let it go. They went back to playing and Ekko continued and Birch turned, roared and took him to the ground and snarled at him. Then we broke it up. But Ekko was much calmer and played nicer the rest of the trip. Birch did not hold and grudge and happily played with him.

    I as a rule do not intervene with toys or chews unless there is growling or posturing that indicate a fight is about to happen. If one dog gives up the object so be it. I do not like surpressing signals and I rarely have issues. I feel I can also read dog language pretty well and know when it is getting serious. My dogs do know id I speak cease and decease right now.
  7. mavendark

    mavendark Forums Regular

    Oct 25, 2013
    Fremont, CA
    Thanks guys, it seems I'm mostly on the right track. :smile2:

    For the most part, I keep them separated when food is involved, but like I said, there are those off 10% chances where Tybalt's treat drops down from his mouth and the other puppy comes in and snatches it before I can even react. I'll take Corbinam's advice on the food thing, I just want to make sure it's relatively equal for both dogs.

    And yes, I definitely give Tybalt breaks from the puppy, but because Tybalt is so dog oriented, sometimes we also need to give the puppy space away from Tybalt. Tybalt clings to the puppy like glue and never lets him out of his sight. And he constantly wants to play with the puppy.

    Tybalt also lets the puppy do anything to him. The puppy is on top of Tybalt almost all the time, and unless there's growling involved, I usually just keep an eye on them and not intervene. I don't know if Tybalt will ever "man up" and and ever growl at the puppy, I just hope that one day he can learn to stand up for himself. :ick
  8. Caro

    Caro Moderator

    Jan 14, 2009
    Canberra, Australia
    I don't entirely agree with what is being said. A great behaviourist once said these sage words to me - your house, your rules.

    If you don't like what is going on then stop it. How do you expect your dogs to learn how they should act if you don't teach them? And I certainly wouldn't be allowing an adolescent and a puppy to set the ground rules. At that age you should still be giving them guidance. Given Tybalt is already timid you don't want to end up making him worse and the puppy being a bully. I see way too many bully dogs whose owners don't correct their behaviour with other dogs, or strut out the my dog is alpha crud, when the problem is their owner didn't teach them manners.

    It isn't about being apha, you are their teacher and guardian, if you don't show them what's expected then don't expect them to act the way you want.
  9. Mom2Melli

    Mom2Melli Forums Enthusiast

    Oct 2, 2013
    Central California
    I have an ultra timid shepherd. Mind you he is twice the size/weight of the sheltie. She will bully him, take his treats, blame him for things, discipline him for things, and full on attack him when food is involved if allowed. I have intervened. She has learned a call-off interrupter "be nice" and I have learned to feed and treat them separately to prevent 99% of incidents (the other being loud noises outside that freak her out and she goes after him).

    Incidentally, the shepherd has started to "man up" and roll the sheltie or jump on her if she doesn't call off. I let him when it is deserved and then pull him off. He needs to show her she can't act like that to him.

    Mostly, I diffuse situations before it can get to the fang and snarl point. We don't want that behavior and we are intervening to stop it.
  10. dondlhmn

    dondlhmn Forums Novice

    Jun 13, 2014
    Reno, NV
    We treat our two sheltie males (father and son and both intact) very similarly......everything absolutely even-steven. We have had the father for about 9 1/2 years (the younger dog is almost 6 now) and the father has always been a house dog that has access to the yard through a doggie door. He was not a real problem to house break and the son was no trouble at all....seemed to just pick up our household routines and the "rules" from the older dog.

    They get along VERY well together and I am basically the "leader of the pack", but they do what we call a "POWER CHECK"---posturing and growling at each other--a couple of times a day and the father has always been the dominant of the two, though we suspect that the younger dog will become so one day sometime in the future.

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