Sirius is a one-year-old neutered male. (Neutered in November of last year.) Bean is a ten-year old spayed female. We’ve had her since she was a puppy, and she was an “only child” for most of her life. A year and a half ago, we got Polaris . Those of you who were around back then may remember my panicked threads asking for advice on how to get Bean to accept Polaris. It was a long and painful process, because Bean was extremely hostile to the newcomer.
We didn’t expect to get Sirius, but he was a dog who needed a home. He had been abused in his last home, so he’s very timid and scared around humans and new situations. (Though he’s doing LOTS better with Hubby and I.) He and Polaris have always gotten along very well. In fact, we think the best thing we ever did for Polaris was get her a little brother to chew on.
Bean grudgingly accepted him, especially since Sirius seemed to recognize her as the Alpha Canine. As he gets more comfortable in our home, he’s been angling for status. He’s already gotten Polaris to accept him as dominant, and now, to my horror, he’s challenging Bean.
Bean is a grumpy old bitch. She growls and snaps at the kids if they bother her, or even if they’re playing too loudly in her vicinity. She rarely uses corporal punishment on them, but she will if they don’t seem to know their place. (Generally confined to knocking the other dog down and giving them controlled bites until they submit.) She’s only done this a couple of times to Sirius, and he’s been “standing up” to her a little more each time.
Today, Bean and Sirius got into a fight. I don’t know what started it, but suddenly both of them were giving those “scream-snarls” that tells you instantly that this is not a bit of rough house play. I started shouting at them to try to break it up (usually a shout from a human is enough to send Sirius into a full-fledged cower) but this time, he wasn’t backing down. He was fighting back as good as he was getting.
My husband stomped into the room and bellowed, which broke it up quickly. (He’s Alpha Male, and they recognize the Voice of Authority when they hear it.) No blood was shed, and no one seemed injured, but I was extremely alarmed. “Frightened” might be a better word.
As I said, this is escalating. He won’t back down when Bean tries to put him in his place, and I’m afraid someone is going to get hurt. He’s one-sixth of her size, but he seems to think he’s bigger than she is. Bean is a good dog, but I’ve seen what those teeth of hers can do (she can chomp a small tree limb in half) and she’s incredibly strong. She could kill him in a heartbeat. I know the fact that she hasn’t means something, but I’m afraid if these tussles get any worse there may actually be bloodshed. She will not back down. There’s no way. She’s the most stubborn creature I’ve ever met. Sirius will have to be the one to surrender, and while he’s timid with humans, he’s as brave as a lion when it comes to other animals.
Every day, Sirius does something a little more disrespectful to her (in the dog world, that is, like walking up the stairs first–that sort of thing). Last night, he actually dared to snatch away a treat from her and dive beneath the sofa before she could get up to take it back. (He knows her elderly weaknesses.)
What can I do? There will be a war if this continues, and the fights will get more serious. How can I reinforce Bean’s status so he doesn’t anger her? Is there any way to discourage him from seeking to be Top Dog? (I can do things to reinforce her status while I’m around, but what about when I’m gone?)Hubby says I’ve got to let it go and let them work it out, but he’s so little! I’m afraid she’ll lose her temper and hurt him. I don’t know what to do.
Lissa (who’s feeling like she ought to put the vet on standby.)