We have a friend who is constantly “managing” her dogs. She has six and not all of them get along with each other. And the groups aren’t consistent – individual dogs who were buddies yesterday can’t stand the sight of each other today.
It must be exhausting. One of the absolute “musts” in our house is that all the dogs get along. It’s not that we don’t have occasional spats. Of course we do. Some days the dogs are like three-year-olds: “Mom, he looked at me!”
“He looked at me first!”
“Tell him to stop looking!”
“I’m not! Tell him!”
At which point we calmly, hands over our ears, leave the room.
Tempers can flare
Dealing with the occasional brother battle is different than bringing a new dog home for the first time, especially if the newcomer is a puppy. Monitoring all interactions with a new dog is crucial. And a good familiarity with dog body language is a big help.
Once we know that the resident dogs aren’t planning to physically harm the new dog, we pretty much let them sort out their relationships for themselves. We try to step in only when one of the dogs seems out of control, or someone else is tired of being harassed.
Get along, little doggie
The hardest case we’ve ever seen was Dax, Hope’s first French Bulldog. Dax wasn’t the sweetest dog, but she wasn’t particularly obnoxious, either. When Hope brought Teddy home as a puppy, he instantly adored his big sister. Followed her everywhere. Grabbed her face and hung on.
She completely and totally ignored him.
It was months before she even acknowledged his existence. And even then, it was to tell him to “knock it off!” – she’d finally had enough of him chewing on her face. It was probably about the same time he reached more than half her weight and his “attentions” really started to hurt.
Teddy was thrilled! His idol was finally paying attention to him. It didn’t matter that the attention wasn’t “good.” His persistence paid off. They became great friends and playmates for the rest of her life.
Persistence pays again
Our current cast of characters is pretty interesting, too. Simon just turned two years old this Summer. Tango is 11. Simon is a fire plug of a Boston Terrier, 18 pounds of muscle. Tango is a long, skinny, bendy Brussels Griffon. They adore each other.
Watching them, you’d swear we just lied. Every time Simon walks by Tango, Tango jumps up and yells at Simon. And Simon will deliberately rush at Tango and bop him with his paws, just to annoy him. Their interactions are incredibly loud, sound horrible, look nasty, and they both enjoy them enormously.
Watching what matters
It took us a while to recognize that. Both of the dogs were having fun. At first, we thought Tango needed protection from the younger, stronger, heavier Simon. Then we noticed that it was Tango initiating the fuss-fests at least half the time. It’s how these two dogs’ relationship has developed. They understand it and it works for them. The other two dogs stay out of it. Smart pups!
Just like little kids, unless disagreements become violent, it’s probably best to let them work it out on their own. There’s no guarantee that they’ll be friends for life, but you’ll have a chance for peace.