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.
We got a 2-year-old Basenji/Border Collie male dog on a trial basis in August who was given up because the owner already had eight dogs.
The story we were given is the owner found him as a 6- to 8-week-old puppy on a country road and took him home and named him Teddy Bear because he cuddled with her.
In September, we adopted an 8-week-old female Akita puppy and we named her Sophie. They got along and played outside when we first got home, but when they came inside and Teddy was getting a drink of water, Sophie went to get a drink, too, and Teddy attacked her.
We were on guard and watched Teddy like a hawk, but mostly kept them separated. The next day I was getting their food ready and decided to do it in a neutral area, but Sophie must have gotten too close to me and he attacked her again. Teddy seems to prefer females, as he follows me everywhere.
On day three we headed out for three-day mini vacation we had already planned last year. It went OK; we went on a long walk and Teddy seemed fine with Sophie. When we returned from our walk, we sat on the deck and Teddy would growl and show his teeth, but when we corrected him he would stop. We were always on guard. The next day we went on another long walk and they got along. When we were sitting on the deck again, before we knew it he attacked her again.
We do not want to give either one up. Is there hope that, with work, Teddy could get along with Sophie? We haven’t introduced him to our son’s 8- or 9-year-old male Australian Shepherd or our daughter’s 3-year-old female terrier mix. We’ve grown to love him in the short time we’ve had him, but are we putting the puppy at risk. Is it possible Teddy could hurt or kill her?
To answer your last question first — yes, Teddy could kill her. He has already shown the ability to hurt her. This puppy is counting on you to keep her safe and, although you have been watching, things have still happened.
If you cannot guarantee the puppy is safe, you need to re-home the puppy. I always try to keep dogs together, but on some occasions, the safe thing to do is find a new home — as gut-wrenching as that sounds.
Puppies can be challenging for most dogs under the best of circumstances, but you have a situation where you have brought two new dogs into the home right on top of one another.
Rescuing a dog is great, but these dogs often have issues you need to flesh out. This can take several months and should be your primary focus. Until that dog is comfortable and behaving how you wish, you should not be adding a second dog into the situation.
As for their interactions together, you should not be correcting Teddy for growling or baring his teeth. As humans, our first instinct is to interpret that as aggression. It is not.
Baring the teeth and growling is a dog’s way of saying “I disagree.” If you were corrected or punished when you disagreed with something that scared or frightened you, or that you didn’t like, you would learn to deal with it in other ways. Dogs do the same thing.
Sadly, many dogs who are corrected or punished for growling simply stop doing it. Sounds good, right? It's not. These dogs now simply bite without warning first.
If you do keep the puppy, you need to limit her time around Teddy — at least for now. When they are together, there should be no high-value items like food, chew items or water, since this has triggered aggressive and protective behavior from Teddy in the past.
I'd recommend setting up a puppy play pen where the puppy can sleep, eat and be left safely when you can't supervise the dogs together. I'd also make sure Teddy has multiple times a day where he is alone or alone with one of you. He needs some “me time” to feel good and not have the puppy lurking.
You also need to enroll the puppy is a puppy socialization class, where she can develop good social skills playing with puppies of similar size and maturity. This will help greatly.
Make sure Teddy is getting at least one hour of exercise every day. This is best done in short, more intense exercise sessions happening every two to four hours. This video includes tips for creative ways of exercising a dog.
Lastly, this post includes a number of tips that can help Teddy learn to like the new puppy.
I'm hopeful that these changes will give you and the dogs some breathing room to get acclimated to the new living situation. If things don’t improve in a month after making these changes, you should sit down and reflect on whether or not re-homing the puppy is what is best for everyone involved.
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.”)
Katy Glover, online editor
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.
Julie Anderson, news reporter
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