Dog Gone Problems is a weekly advice column by David Codr, a dog behaviorist in Omaha. David answers dog behavior questions sent in by our readers. You can reach him at email@example.com.
Me and my neighbor both bought our pups from the same litter. They are now 16 weeks old. I am a full-time grad student and most days my neighbor is a stay-at-home dog mom. She dog sits a lot of different dogs and she’s the sweetest, most active woman I’ve ever met.
In the afternoons while I’m at school, she picks up my pup from my house and takes him to her house so that he and his brother can play. At first I thought this was wonderful, because I didn’t have to worry about my pup being home alone for so many hours while I’m at school. From noon to about 3:30 or 4:30 (depending on the day) he is at my neighbor’s house. They play in the yard, in the house and even in her kiddie pool on hot days. In the evenings I return the favor and take her pup over to my house for a couple hours. At the end of the day they’re both very tired — just how we like it!
However, I started to notice that my pup wasn’t listening to me as much anymore and even stopped playing fetch (his brother doesn’t fetch so I guess now he doesn’t want to).
At first I thought I just wasn’t spending enough time with him. I tried putting more effort in spending individual time with him, but I still feel that, at the end of the day, he spends much more time at my neighbor’s house.
Because they’re always playing, we haven’t taken them out to socialize as much. We figured if they’re playing all day in a house full of dogs then they would be OK. But when I took them to the dog park for the first time, my dog was very aggressive towards any dog that came up to smell and greet him.
My question to you is this: Is my puppy spending too much time at my neighbor’s house? Does he not see me as his owner anymore? Or is he just being spoiled by her and learning bad habits? Please advise. I don’t know what to do. I love that he’s able to play while I’m away, but I don’t know what the right thing to do is (especially without hurting anyone’s feelings). Thanks.
Socialization is super important when raising a puppy — just like for humans — but remember, everything in moderation.
Puppies sleep an average of 18 to 20 hours a day. That means they're only awake for around four to five hours every day. While it's great to have your puppy play with your neighbor, spending three to four hours there, followed by one to three hours at your house after you get home puts your puppy at a sleep deficit.
Add two siblings to that and it's not at all surprising your pup is acting this way. The expression “sibling rivalry” didn’t happen by accident. These two have been sizing each other up since day one.
While having a buddy is great, you want to find a variety when socializing puppies. Pups of different breeds, sizes, energy levels, play styles and confidence levels help your puppy practice playing appropriately. With supervision, of course, so you can step in and provide breaks when needed.
Supervision and guidance are crucial, as puppies are practicing at everything they do. This absolutely includes play styles. It's not a good idea to let two or more puppies play as much as they wish.
Since your puppy is so young, I'd enroll him in a puppy socialization class that includes supervised play time like the puppy classes we have in Omaha. We break up play when any pup gets too intense — even if it's not aggressive. Otherwise, your puppy thinks that over-intense play is OK and normal.
I'd suggest you cut back play time to a few hours at your neighbors and only leave him there every other day. On the off days, you can invite your neighbor’s puppy over to play when you get back. But in both cases, when play gets too spirited, separate the pups and wait for them to settle down before letting play resume. You may need to move them out of each other’s sight to get them to settle down.
Good luck and remember — everything you do trains your dog. Only sometimes you mean it.
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Despite being a senior cat at 10 years old, Baby is full of energy and mischief. Here, she dangles from a bannister in her house in Gretna.
Karen Windle, copy editor
We’re Bruce and Ernie (left). We love sneaking raw bacon off the kitchen counter, lounging around the house naked, er, without our collars and making friends with deer. (The deer *love* to play tag, but for some reason we’re always “it.”)
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Buster can put a smile on your face like no one else, including those of neighbors who spot him dragging me along on a walk or run. Unfortunately, this high-energy guy recently has been sidelined by the doggie version of a torn ACL and subsequent knee surgery. He could use a little boost, so I'm nominating him for the OWH Pet Parade.
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At left is Clyde. He’s a dog. He’s 2 ½. He’s deaf. At right is Pieces. He’s a cat. He’s 13. He can hear. They would like very much for you to pick them!
Brad Davis, business editor
If you're an avid reader of the World-Herald, maybe you've heard of Cooper. Features reporter Chris Peters has written about raising Cooper. Here he is on the custom pallet bed his mom built for him.
Chris Peters, features reporter
At left is Daisy. Her best friend is a reindeer, who comes to visit a few weeks each year. She complains a lot to the non-magical beings she lives with, for obvious reasons. At right is Diaz. He's a handsome boy who doesn't care about that. He loves walks and belly rubs, all people, most dogs, one cat, and zero racoons and opossums.
Rich Mills, copy editor
At the Ducey Farm in Dundee, we have the blackshirt gals who guard the back yard (Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt), and the chickens who help me garden (Brooklyn and Penny). They produce eggs and inspire pillows for the cutest and most fashionable dogs in the world (Phoebe, Gigi and cousin Tyson), who love to bark at the feral cats (Bunny and Butterscotch) who live outside and have matching tails!
Marjie Ducey, reporter
Gator likes eating snackies, expertly posing for pictures, getting floof everywhere and borking (not barking) at neighbor dogs.
Cory Gilinsky, features (and Sarah Jarecki, civilian)
Gracie the border collie and Beau the red heeler like long walks and frequent car rides, especially to drive-thrus that give treats.
Deb Shanahan, metro desk editor, and Kent Sievers, photographer
Isabel doesn’t enjoy her humans (especially the little ones) a lot, but sometimes likes a good chin scratch. Mostly she enjoys being left alone to sit on top of the piano and watch the birds outside.
Kevin Coffey, music critic
Izzy is 6 months old. She likes to chase her tail (and often catches it), climb up couches (and people), and bother Zake. Zake is 15 years old and unsure of Izzy. After all, Izzy has the high ground.
Zach Tegler, copy desk
Jameson may be named after whiskey, but this five-year-old gal is all sweetness. At first skittish after being rescued from a farm in Oklahoma, now her favorite hobby is stealing hearts — and covers.
Laurel Foster, online
We say Juni found us after my wife was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. This little Havaton brings our family joy, love and snuggles every day.
Jeff Robb, news reporter/data geek
Laika is, hands down, the happiest dog at the dog park. She is named after the heroic Russian cosmonaut dog, one of the first animals in space. Ciara loves to pray. When she joins our family in prayer, she sounds like Scooby Doo. She is fiercely loyal and protective.
Susan Szalewski, copy editor and news reporter
Lolo was adopted seven years ago in Louisiana. She's a mutt, and we think she's part nutria, otherwise known as a swamp rat.
Hunter Paniagua, digital sports coordinator
Minerva is a very hard worker. Two-year-old "Minnie" likes to spend her time cleaning, inspecting boxes and bird watching. (And looking adorable.)
Brandon Olson, digital content hub editor
Molly, a rat-terrier Chihuahua from NHS, loved everyone she met. She was an excellent high jumper and cuddler and gave us joy for 17 years. She died in April.
Betsie Freeman, features reporter
Nellie is a 10-year-old tabby cat who is more like 5 years old at heart. She enjoys sleeping in fresh, warm laundry, eating, chasing lasers and listening to stories with best friend, 4-year-old Sam.
Ashlee Coffey, Momaha.com editor
This is Oliver. He has three legs and a bullet permanently lodged in him. (We didn't put it there). He pretends like he's surly and tough but deep down he's very snuggly.
Roseann Moring, political reporter
Loves tuna, SBH and
A fireside nap
Sarah Baker Hansen, features, and Matthew Hansen, columnist
I'm Sasha. I was a stray in Oklahoma (where my ear was somehow torn) before a shelter rescued me & treated my heartworm. I just tested negative for heartworm, yay! I really like to play dead & get belly rubs!
Alia Conley, news reporter
Slugger, owned by the original Pet Parade Petitor in Chief and saved by Big Red Rescue in Omaha, chases his tail faster to his right than to his left. He ate a hole in the blinds to watch his owner come and go.
Steven Elonich, online editor
Toby is a 4-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback mix with a big personality. Given the protective tendencies of his breed, he’s very serious about watching over his property — and his owners. Until he isn’t.
Dave Elsesser, features editor, and RyAnne Elsesser
Toothpick loves biting bare legs, gazing longingly at birds outside and dipping his paw into bags of Spicy Nacho Doritos so he can lick off the Doritos dust (which his owners know is gross and bad but are powerless to stop).
Erin Duffy, news reporter
Boston Terriers, Willow, 8, and Dexter, 6, have a closet full of costumes, sweaters, scarves and even some pajamas. They only sit this nicely for photos because there are LOTS of treats involved – but really – they are crazy little puppies!
Tammy Yttri, copy desk chief
Nine years ago, we found Zed roaming the earth (it was a ruff life). He’s a good boy. He likes his toy lobster, pepperonis (which we call pupperonis) and keeping up with his fans at Zedwin.org.
Graham Archer, digital editor
Hi, my name is Zeus, I an eight-year-old American Eskimo looking to get back in the game. They say I am fixed, but I think my only problem is you aren’t in my life. I love long walks and treats. I want someone to chase squirrels with. Won’t you paw right?
Chris Machian, photographer