"sibling" rivalry

Posted by ciaras-mom
Jul 17, 2009
About two years ago we adopted a GSD from our local no-kill shelter and named her Ciara. She's highly energetic and intelligent, and one of the things we both really enjoyed was playing ball in the house. She'd give me the ball, i'd roll it the length of the living room, she'd retrieve, etc. - and sometimes we'd chase each other around the room. Because she is so high energy, we decided to get her a playmate - this time a "rescued" GSD. Big mistake. While we love Abby dearly, although only six months older than Ciara, she is extremely low energy - with good reason: she has problems (i suspect neurological) with her back legs. The dogs get along great most of the time, there is absolutely no food aggression, and they take turns being dominant and submissive in their doggie games.

However, Abby has decided all the toys are HERS and will not let Ciara play ball with me, or even have one of the balls to chew on. How can i make Abby share, and allow me to play ball with BOTH dogs?

Also, Ciara loves to run around the perimeter of the yard, as though it were a race track. Abby will chase her for a bit, but cannot keep up and tires easily, at which point she will wait for Ciara to run past her and then nip her in the side. The first time she did this, we had to take Ciara to the vet because Abby had torn a chunk of flesh out of her! Fortunately, that has not happened since, but she still nips. We have been told there is nothing we can do about this, that it's up to Ciara to put a stop to it. Is this true?

Thanks so much for your help.
Posted by arader
Jul 17, 2009
I am glad you wrote this...i do not have an answer but basically the same problem with our two golden retrievers. Sanders is our older dog (2 year male)and Corby is our puppy (5 month female). I have talked with a friend who works closely with dogs and she told me that they have to basically work it out! Sanders lets corby have/do whatever and eventually he gives up and goes outside or comes in-away from her. They have a great relationship but I feel that Sanders does not get the chance to "play" the way we used to because corby comes in and takes the toy. Corby is low key until we begin to play with Sanders.

We have begun to separate them when we play but corby is so determined to get back to sanders that she won't play. I kind of miss my time with Sanders. Corby is a wonderful dog-just very different than what we expected.
Posted by KOPsarah
Jul 18, 2009
Hi arader and ciara's mom

Problems with dominance order are common when introducing a new dog, I hope the tips below will soon help you sort out your little dog packs:

[B]Organising a dog pack[/B]
Just as it is important for your dog to know where it stands in the pack order in relation to humans it is also important that each dog in a multi-dog household knows where it stands in the pack in relation to others. You can use the basic principles of alpha dog training to sort this out too.

In a wild dog pack the dominant pack member controls :

-access to food

-access to favoured or important areas

-any interactions with lower pack members

-access to favoured items such as toys

You want the order of your pack to be; you, other people, (other pets such as cats), and then your dogs in order of calmness, age and/or size. The exact order of the dogs shouldn’t matter too much as long as you pick one and stick to it. In general however calmer, older dogs are better as dominant. Aggressive or overly excitable dogs should be placed lowest in the pack.

In order to show each dog its position in the pack you and your whole family can take advantage of the keys points of dominance in the following ways.

1) All dogs must eat after all people at every meal and should never get treats from the table. When it is time to feed the dogs ask them all to sit and give the dominant dog its bowl first and then a little while after give the next most dominant dog it’s bowl and so on.

2) The dogs should never walk through doors before you. A good way to practice this is to walk around the house and make them sit at each doorway and wait. Similarly the most dominant dog should always be taken in or out of the car or house first and then the next most dominant etc.

3) If you intend to allow access to areas such as beds or couches first access should go to the most dominant dog. If you have an aggressive dog (which will therefore be lowest in the pack) do not allow it access to such places.

4) When you arrive home completely ignore the dogs for 15 minutes. Don't look at them, talk to them or pat them. After this go to them one at a time in order of dominance and give them some quiet attention only as long as they are relaxed and calm.

5) Give first access to prized items such as toys to the more dominant dog and then later to the others in dominance order.

This may seem unfair or like favouritism but remember the dog pack is not the same as the human family and non-pack leaders are familiar with such controlled access by their dominant pack mates.

I hope this helps you both and if you have any further questions don't hesitate to ask.
All the best,
Posted by arader
Jul 18, 2009
we have tried to establish our older dog as the dominant but he "allows" our younger female to be it. he won't eat until she is finished, if he is on the bed, he gets off when she gets on. He allows her take his toy without much of a fight. Should we just take the cues from Sanders and allow corby to be the dominant? I was told that under most circumstances, the female-regardless of age, will eventually become the alpha.

Our dogs do wait for us to enter/leave and they have to wait for an invite to join us on the bed. They also have to "work" for their food. I am confident that we have established OUR order-it is theirs that is frustrating!
thanks again for you help
Posted by KOPsarah
Jul 21, 2009
Hi again aradar,
If sanders refuses to take the dominant position and your new dog continues to not be aggressive towards him or hurt him then it is probably best to leave them to it. I would continue to give sanders time with you alone and try and give both dogs an hour or two apart each day so that they maintain a sense of independence from each other. This will help prevent any anxiety later when the dogs are separated for whatever reason such as one is at the vet etc.

Corby is still young and will be approaching her teenage months in a while, things may get a little more difficult during this period as she tries to test the boundaries both with you and with sanders however once she is past this she should calm down a bit and both dogs should settle into a comfortable relationship.

All the best,
Posted by arader
Jul 21, 2009
thanks for your help. I think we may be on track then! Sanders participates in agility classes once a week and corby goes to obedience classes. We also try to walk them independently several times a week as well as sanders gets to run with family members.

I appreciate the help and the confidence booster for us! our goal is to have well behaved and respectful dogs!