Big dog Little dog -- who's the dominant one?

Posted by AmyRey
Mar 1, 2008
I've been looking around the forum and trying to learn as much as I can,as quickly as possible. I foolishly brought home an Australian Cattle Dog/GS mix from the animal shelter a week ago today. She's beautiful and really smart, but she has a ton of behavioural issues, mostly of the separation anxiety type. I had a border collie/shepherd mix for ten years -- she passed away last fall from a brain tumor. So Janey's characteristics (the new dog) are somewhat familiar, though she is a) way more energetic than Emma was, and b) far friendlier with people and other dogs.

One immediate problem is with our other dog, Kara, a pekinese/chihuahua/spaniel mix (ugly, but sweet as can be). She's a lap dog, very attached to her people. She tends to be aggressive toward other dogs, especially bigger ones! If Janey gets too familiar with her, tries to sniff her, gets too close, Kara bares her teeth and growls pretty vigorously. Then Janey reacts by getting very excited, poking at her, dancing around her, yelping and whining (herding behavior?). Kara stands very still, keeps her head up and will eventually strike. Earlier this evening such an encounter happened and resulted in a dog fight, with Janey pinning Kara to the floor. No injuries, but Kara was pretty shaken up. I didn't see all of it, but it looked to me like Janey was not biting. We shoved Janey outside and made her stay out for a bit, then let her in on the leash. She's tied up right now and behaving herself. Janey also gets very agitated, yelping and whining, when we pay attention to Kara, or when she sees her up on our laps. Her previous owners apparently did let her up on the couch and on their laps -- she weighs about 40 pounds! She acts like a dog who's been in a one dog, doting permissive household with no discipline.

When I read the information about introducing a new dog to the house it was suggested that we need to figure out who is the dominant and who is the submissive, and then reinforce those roles. But I'm just not sure. Janey keeps doing stuff like trying to take over Kara's bed, but only when Kara's not around. If Kara is on the bed, Janey stays away. (it's a big bed meant for the old dog, who would have nothing to do with it, so Kara took it over). So my sense of things is that Kara's the dominant, Janey's submissive, but Janey is really trying to push Kara's buttons -- perhaps I'm seeing herding behavior, rather than aggression? I'm worried about Kara getting hurt. My sense is that we need to keep reinforcing us as the alphas and keep both dogs in line, reprimand Kara for growling and Janey for acting up. But that's different from the approach in the book.

By the way, we're walking both dogs twice a day for at least 30 minutes. They get along just fine when out on their walks Janey pulls but is learning. Kara gets an extendable leash and usually leads the way. They get along fine in the yard (my husband and I are the problem!) Working on sit, stay, down, and wait with Janey. She learns fast, but is stubborn, persistent, and sensitive. I think I'm doing all the alpha dog stuff you've listed food, doors, etc. She also chases cats, jumps brick walls She'll be a great dog someday!

Sorry for the long post! Thanks for any help you all can provide!
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Mar 1, 2008
Hi there.

I have 2 rescued border collie mixes, that we brought home at different times. I have also fostered 2 dogs from the shelter and this is what I have been doing and it has been very successful:

Every time I bring in a new dog, either adopting or just fostering, my biggest interest is the physical and mental stability of our own dogs. New dogs will have to adjust to our home rules. The new addition shouldn't be a threat or annoyance to our own dogs. Dogs from shelters know that you have taken him/her out of there and very thankful to you. They start out a little shy and soon figure out how far they are allowed to go. That's why it is very important to implement your house rules and boundaries at the beginning. This includes that he/she is not allowed to be aggressive to both human and dog family members.

In fact, we are now fostering a 7-8 mos border collie/flat coated retriever puppy but she is as big as our adult border collie mixes. Since she is still a puppy she gets excited easily and sometimes gets too rough and our dogs don't like that. I have to remind her every now and then that she is not allowed to act like that. She tries to calm down whenever I step in their rough housing. Other times, I let her on the couch next me and give her a lot of love and attention and snuggle with her.

I think you should control the relationship between Kara and Janey by stepping in. You should do this as soon as possible. I think the first one week is very critical time to sort things out. If you are the leader, Janey will respect what you tell her to do.

By the way, I love cattle dogs/heelers. My last foster dog was a red heeler and she was as smart as my border collie mixes. I am sure Janey will be a wonderful addition to your family with an appropriate guidance given to her at the beginning.

Good luck
Posted by AmyRey
Mar 1, 2008
Thank you so much. That makes a lot of sense to me. Janey is very sweet, and I do feel that with time and patience she'll be fine. She's certainly won our hearts in a very short time, and though I never thought I'd say this, she's even smarter than our border collie mix. I also think that Kara is going through a bit of a roller-coaster the last few months, losing her pal, then getting to be the lucky only-dog (though a lonely and bored one), and now having to adapt to this wacky upstart. Her life has suddenly gotten a lot more interesting.

Thanks for the quick response!
Posted by kjd
Dec 31, 2009
Hey, AmyRey,

It's been almost two years since you brought Janey into your household. How are she and Kara getting along now?