Dog pecking order advice

We got Mira from the pound about 6 weeks ago. She has been an amazing dog; she is about a year old, came fully house trained, is calm, never barks, great with other dogs, etc. But I am a dog person, and was not satisfied with one. Plus, Mira LOVES to play with other dogs. So I felt guilty not having a playmate for her. Anyway, we looked in the paper for a while and visited a few dogs, and found Sylvie . They played together beautifully on the first meeting (at Sylvie’s former home), they are about the same size (30lbs), etc. So we brought Sylvie home today, and she is a bit nervous, which is to be expected. She seems a little freaked out, but not showing any aggression at all. Mira is thrilled to see her, they get along well, until Sylvie starts sniffing Mira’s food. Mira makes it clear that that is HER food. Okay. No argument from Sylvie. I think generally with the food you are just supposed to let them establish who is boss, and leave it at that. We separated them for feeding tonight, and it went fine.

So here is my question: There were several toys lying around that Mira had no interest in before today. Now, when poor Sylvie wants to chew on any of the previously-shunned toys, she gets snapped at. They are still playing well together, but should I correct Mira for being a bitch or just let them work it out? So far I have been restraining Mira and making sure she gets plenty of petting and all that when Sylvie wants a toy. Sylvie is stressed out enough without dealing with being snapped at. What do you think?

By the way, this isn’t fight to the death sort of behavior, and I know they will work it out, I just think that Sylvie should be “allowed” to have the toys that Mira didn’t want yesterday. Also, aren’t they adorable?!

I’d say your first instinct to let them work it out among themselves is a good one. If you’re worried about play toys go to the store and buy some new ones, toss the old ones, and let them establish who has dominance over which.

It may well be that one dog is dominant no matter what. You’re not going to have an easy time breaking a ‘pack leader/underdog’ type relationship without introducing new dogs into the mix. As long as they’re not drawing blood they’ll be OK.

Mods: I meant to post this in IMHO. Please move it if you think it would be better suited there. Thanks!

Jonathan: Thanks. I know there will be a dominant one, it just violates my sense of justice that Sylvie can’t even chew on the Nylabone that Mira would barely sniff before she came. Dogs… :rolleyes:

Yeah, I get it. But do remember that your sense of justice is not a canine sense of justice. If one dog is establishing a position of pack leader and the other one accepts it the underdog won’t be upset about possessiveness on toys and such. It’ll just be a part of the background information to them.

Cynthia Branigan in ‘Adopting the Racing Greyhound’ (we rescue them and have had several as well as other dogs, cats, birds, dinosaurs, and such) defined the pack leader position as ‘civil service’. The leader is responsible for leadership, food supply, and so forth. Because of those responsibilities (even if they don’t really apply) the other dogs defer to the leader unless he/she doesn’t come through. Then they get challenged. That’s why you’ll occassionally see even well-adjusted house dogs get in small fights and nip each other.

Go with the flow as long as there’s no injury. Trying to change it will only confuse the dogs.

You’re right to let them sort things out and establish a hierarchy on their own, but with one caveat: Remember that you’re the leader of the pack and ultimately you get to say when enough is enough. The more dominant dog expects it and will respect you intervening if the “no, my toy!” snapping gets out of hand.

At one time I had two dogs, and one was much bigger and clearly the dominant of the two. A friend would periodically bring over his dog – smaller than both of mine and, of course, not resident at our house – to visit. Each time, my smaller dog would jump on the visiting dog and essentially ensure that the visitor knew he was now the bottom dog. We learned that this had to happen but would only take a moment and no harm would come to the visiting dog.
But interestingly, my bigger and dominant dog, would watch all this and sometimes decide that was enough. He would then rush in and physically get between them, breaking it up and essentially saying “Okay, that’s enough. Let him be.” My smaller dog would accept that and then all three would play merrily for the rest of the day.
My point is that establishing dominance and hierarchy is a natural part of a dog’s pack mentality, but the more dominant member (you) can always draw the line.

But you have to be the pack leader. Do you mean pack leader among the dogs, but you’re still the ultimate pack leader?
This is an important point that I think a lot of dog owners (not necessarily the OP) don’t get.

You’re certainly right about that (and I should have included it). Make sure the dogs know that humans outrank them. This has been a challenge in my life from time to time concerning my kids. But we got the dogs there eventually.

There’s no need for concern. Your dogs sound like they’re actually doing quite well. Compare my experience: when I got a new puppy, my older dog would not tolerate it being in the same room without growling and snapping for a long time. It was probably about four months before she would tolerate the puppy’s presence.

Now we have a third dog. The oldest dog (the one we had first) is still very possessive and take toys to show her dominance. If she sees one of the younger dogs playing with something, sometimes she’ll saunter over and take it from them. She’ll return to where she was laying, with the toy on the floor in front of her. She doesn’t want to play with it-- she just wants to take it from them. (On occasion, you’ll see her laying in her favorite spot surrounded by toys she has seized one by one.)

As long as the dogs are not actually hurting one another, I’d let them figure out their own hierarchy (making sure, of course, that they know you are Alpha Dog.) Once they settle down, it sounds like they’ll get along just fine. My youngest two dogs sometimes spat over toys and treats, but they also know how to share. (They can even eat simultaneously from the same bowl without fuss.)

They’ll figure out their relationship, all you need worry about is your relationship to them. Only intervene when you’re affected by the behavior because they’re acting out around you. They’ll sort out custody of the toys, but if you’re annoyed, let them know about it. When you do decide to intervene, do it with a firm, low pitched growly barking voice, saying something like “Mira, that’s enough.” Think Alan Rickman. Keep it low. High pitched yells sound like submissive yipping to a dog. Low pitched means you mean business.

You can also grab Mira’s scruff or the skin around her neck on the sides and (gently) tug on it while bringing her nose under your chin. She’ll likely lick you under your chin or around your mouth. This is her sign of accepting you as boss. If she won’t, if instead she wriggles and tries to get her nose above yours, you’ve got dominance issues and need to see a trainer ASAP.

Both girls and you should be in school anyway, IMHO. Dog training is about 35% about training the dog and about 65% about training the owner how to be a good, dominant pack leader. Dogs aren’t “free spirits”. If they’re not given a clear, strong leader, they feel anxious and worried, which leads to all sorts of bad doggie behavior.

I can’t answer your first question. But I can answer your last question. Yes, they are aDORable!!

I am pretty sure we don’t have any people/dog dominance issues. Mira listens to me quite well (only had her for 6 weeks, remember) and has never acted dominant toward me or my husband. Silvie has been here 6 hours, and has been pretty nervous so we haven’t put any pressure on her. I really doubt it is going to be an issue, though.

My husband and I had two Weimaraners when we lived in the states. (We couldn’t bring them with us when we moved here, but found an amazing home for them) Anyway, they were really big dogs with plenty of confidence and they never questioned our authority and were pretty well behaved for Weims. With them, the male had no interest in toys, so it wasn’t a problem that all the toys were the female’s.

For those who have been through it: Will Sylvie never get to play with toys because they will all be Mira’s? 'Cause that’s kind of sad.

Thanks :smiley:

It could be that once one dog establishes dominance, THEN she’ll be generous to the other one. But it could depend on how evenly matched they are. If one is only a tiny bit more dominant, she’s going to have to work hard to maintain her position…which will include a lot of Middle School type status games.

In May 2004, I bought my daughter a schnoodle for her birthday. She is now about ten pounds soaking wet. In March of 2005, we were given a beagle/lab mix female pup who is now over 30lbs. Who’s the dominent dog? Yup, it’s the little schnoodle who bites and snaps to keep the big mutt in line. I never fail to find this humorous but the big one seems to have no problem with her role.

I’ve seen this first hand. In the case of our two dogs, the pecking order is clear and stable. The underdog is, however, VERY interested in whatever toy the dominate dog is chewing, playing with, whatever, and will steal it at the first opportunity. Dominate dog lets her have it and goes and finds something else.

On the food thing, that is a whole 'nuther deal. I’ve never seen a dog that wasn’t absolutly possesive about thier food.

Yes. However, from the pics it appears that the photographer is 7’ 5". :wink:

The most difficult question I am asked as a veterinarian is, “Aren’t they the cutest puppies you’ve ever seen?”. I always (pretty much) answer questions honestly. So it is not unusual for my answer to be, “Well, you have to understand that I see lots of litters of puppies, but no, yours are not even in the top 25.”.

It’s not clear from this: have you provided them each with their own food dish? Because you definately should, or this will be a continuous source of disputes.

Best is to give them dishes that are obviously different (metal pan vs. plastic bowl, for example). And let them each have their own place for their dish. Place them within sight of each other, but apart (about 1-2 times the dogs’ body length apart). Keep them always in the same place, and (once they’ve decided who is top dog) always put food in that dogs’ dish first.

And your general policy is correct: let them work this out for themselves.

Nah, she’ll stop being so vigillant after a while. My oldest dog (the toy stealer) ignores when the other dogs play with the toys most of the time. Every now and then she seems to feel like she has to display her dominance, hence the hoarding.

My two youngest dogs, Polaris, and Sirius , share really well when the oldest dog, Bean is not around. (They get protective sometimes when they sense she might be planning to take something.) They share their toys and switch off every now and then. It’s kind of fun to watch. Polaris will lose interest in her chewtoy and go over to see what Sirius has. He’ll look up, drop his toy when she sniffs at it, and walk over to the one that Polaris abandoned.

My dogs share a food bowl. I tried getting them to eat from seperat bowls, but they wouldn’t do it. They treated both of the bowls as shared. Watching them eat is neat, too. It’s a rather well-choreographed rythym: Polaris will get a mouthful and walk away to chew it while Sirius grabs a bite. He will walk away to chew and she will go back to the bowl and get another mouthful. They keep doing this until they’re full.

Give your dogs time to adjust. I virtually guarantee that by November, they’ll have everything worked out. What you can do is praise them whenever you see cooperative play and sharing.

Until she gets used to Sylvie, distract Mira by petting her when Sylvie is playing with a toy or give her a special treat which will take a while to consume (like a Kong filled with peanut butter.) Make sure she feels that she’s still getting plenty of attention and love, which will make her feel more secure. Give her extra exercize. A tired dog doesn’t usually bother with asserting dominance.

That’s kind of harsh, no? Couldn’t you just go with, “Well, they are awfully cute.” Because that’s true, too. Puppies are pretty much always awfully cute.

And I’m 5’3", but the dogs are short.

Thanks for the advise, everyone. The dogs are currently rolling around on the floor contentedly chewing on each others faces. I think it is going to work out fine.

I think every puppy I see is the cutest puppy in the world.

I can see you’re going to have trouble with Mira. Those eyes of hers would be utterly irresistable if they were employed in Begging Mode. I think I’d end up giving her whatever she wanted just because she’s so adorable, and she’d end up weighing three hundred pounds.

In my experience, the stupider the dog looks, the happier they are. Sylvie has the same idiotic grin as my Polaris does, so it seems from the photo that she’s already very happy to be part of your family.