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.
I just recently adopted a new dog from the Humane Society. She's a 1-year-old mix; but I'm not entirely sure what she is mixed with. I have two other smaller dogs, and my new dog is a little bit bigger than them, and plays too rough with them. They don't like to play.
One of my dogs is over-protective of his space, and every time she enters the room he goes berserk and barks at her, growling and sometimes even trying to nip at her. When she tries to play with my other little Maltese, she shoves her around and I'm scared she might hurt her. I've taken her to a dog park and take her walking every two or three hours.
I'm mentally exhausted and I've tried calling trainers but no one has gotten back to me. I need advice on how to teach Poppy that they don't want to play, or even that where my male dog is he doesn't want her in there. She has a terrible recall and I've done my hardest to teach her. It's day two on having her at the house, and she's probably just excited and overwhelmed by the excitement of being in a home finally.
She can't play with her own toys around my male dog because he starts getting reactive and her attention is brought to him and it starts a fight. Is it even worth trying to have a bigger dog with two small ones who don't even like to play? I've been anxious and tired so easily, and I can't find a calm point in between and I'm debating if I should even keep her.
Please help me. I love Poppy, but I need my dogs safe around her, too.
Wow, you have a lot going on. It sounds like the two dogs you had before you adopted Poppy have some issues that should be addressed. Many people think adding a new dog to their home will help the existing dogs, but if those dogs are not calm and balanced, the new addition can send things into a tailspin. Sound familiar?
For years, I have been telling people that the most important factor to consider when adopting a new dog is its energy level. Does it match your lifestyle and what you have going on at home? Finding dogs with similar size and energy as your existing dogs will make things far easier and enjoyable for all involved. Since you only recently adopted Poppy, my advice would be to return her and focus on fixing the problems your other two dogs have.
To help your protective dog stop guarding, you need to help him feel comfortable and confident by proving that you have things covered as the leader.
When I have cases like this, I usually start out by going over the importance of rules and structure. Do your dogs have any rules? Are they able to tell you when to pet them? A lack of rules causes many dogs to think they need to guard or protect their humans from other dogs or people. This video goes over the importance of rules for dogs, suggests few and includes how to enforce them.
I consider petting a dog our way of paying them. If your dogs get to tell you when to pay them, this can, over time, lead to dogs who think pets are their divine right and not a reward or privilege. This video explains how you can train your dog and increase its respect for you as a leader by petting with a purpose.
As a bonus, this video covers some creative ways to exercise a dog inside. Adding a few of these indoor exercise options to a daily walk or two are great ways to set your dogs up for success and let off that pent-up energy.
Once you think you have the problems with your two existing dogs under control, I'd suggest you find a local rescue group that specializes in small dogs and offer to foster for them. This provides a much-needed service and allows you to see how your progress is going. If your dogs protest and display actions and behavior you don’t want, you know you still have work to do and can return the foster dog or manage things until he or she finds a new home (sometimes within a week or so).
Once you can foster a dog without any issues with your other two dogs, you will know you are ready to add a new member to the family. It may even turn out to be the dog you foster. We call this foster failure and it happens all the time.
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