Now, to start off, I can’t guarantee love. While I can help you get your dogs to get along with each other (i.e. tolerate each other), every doggie relationship will be different. Let me share with you my experience as an example:
When I was in my young teens, my family bought a Chihuahua/Poodle mix puppy from a family-friend. His name is Odie and he is an amazing puppy, but he contracted Parvo when he was one. He fought through it and beat it, but Parvo changed him. After weeks in the hospital, Odie became on edge around people and other animals.
Fast forward about 3 years and we adopted a Lab/Great Pyrenees puppy from the local pound that we named Dallas.
When Dallas came, Odie wasn’t very thrilled. Odie was absolutely miserable and growled at Dallas all the time. We felt guilty for bringing home a new dog. However, to this day, we still have both dogs, and they tolerate each other. Here are 4 tips I used to help my dogs get along.
Don’t Force Them Together
Dogs are quite picky about who they want in their personal space. You need to respect this and try to not force anything. Pay attention to your dog’s body language when in the same space as another dog. You need to be able to separate the dogs if one looks scared or angry (a.k.a. aggressive). Some dog parents make the mistake of trying to force the dogs to be together all the time, but this can make them warier of each other. Let them get together at their own pace and be ready to step in if necessary.
As an example, when we first got Dallas, he stayed under our ottoman growling at everything that moved. He was scared. This was a good indication that he wanted to be left alone at that time. We needed to wait until Dallas came out by himself, and keep Odie away until Dallas was ready.
Give Each Dog Enough Attention
One big mistake dog parents can make is not spending enough time with each dog one-on-one. Giving each dog your undivided attention creates a greater bond between you and your dog, and helps curb some of the jealousy that can come with having multiple dogs. At the same time, recognizing activities that your dogs both like can also help them create a positive association with being together.
When it seems like Odie is distancing himself from us or just in a bad mood, we take him on a coffee date (he loves Puppuccinos!). For Dallas, we take him on a hike (Odie has little legs so hikes aren’t very fun for him). We love getting to show him the attention that he deserves and his dog-gone smile as we trek along the mountainside trails. We also make sure to get them both out together, like when they both go to their Nana’s house. It’s neutral territory and they get along great there.
Give Each Dog Their Own Space
Everyone, including dogs, needs a space they can call their own. If your dogs are forced to be together all the time, fighting will become inevitable. Put their beds or crates away from each other, and give each their own toys/toy baskets near their beds. This will allow your dogs to separate if they want to. Dogs get in moods just like we do! There are just some days that we want to stay as far away from any breathing thing as possible, but dogs can’t tell you when they feel like this. If they want to be left alone and aren’t, they can start to get aggressive and snippy. Let the dogs work their way out of their own funks without letting each other get in the way.
Understand Their Position In “The Pack”
A good thing to keep in mind when you’re trying to gauge your dog’s relationships is to see how they view themselves in your “pack”. Your dog can fall into a few different categories:
Alpha | The alpha position means your dog thinks they are the boss. This means that not only will your dog think they are the boss of the other dogs, they will believe they are the boss of YOU. This can lead to a lot of bad behaviors like aggression, refusal to obey, and resource guarding. Thankfully there are ways to train dogs out of these behaviors.
Beta | Contrary to what you might think, beta dogs can still seem like the leader of the pack. They will be more dominant during play, and will let the other dogs know when they do something the beta doesn’t like. However, these dogs are also more likely to listen to you. These dogs still need a strong pack leader though to keep them in check, or they may start testing the waters and start pushing back on your commands.
Omega |Omegas are the most submissive of dogs. Basically they will listen to you and any other dog in the pack. These Omega dogs have no intention of climbing to the top and are perfectly content following along with their pack. These dogs really have no negative interactions with their siblings, as they are just trying to please everyone.
Keep in mind that there’s a lot of debate on if this pack structure is useful or not. The reality is that many dogs can be a mix of multiple types, and sometimes they can change their position in the pack over time. The takeaway is you should be aware of your dog’s behavior and how they interact with other dogs. Some dogs are naturally going to be leaders or followers, and that’s ok. You just have to make sure that dominant dogs are trained so that they will listen to you when needed.
In our house, it works quite simply. Odie takes orders from us while also commanding Dallas. Dallas recognizes when he’s getting on Odie’s nerves and then leaves him alone. On good days, they chase squirrels and trot around the backyard together. It’s a delicate balance.
If your dogs are anything like mine, it might seem impossible that they will ever be on civil terms. However, dogs are less stubborn than we are. Approach them with patience and love and they will adapt, change, and learn to form a relationship with their siblings like no other (including wearing matching sweaters). Become a spotter for dog training tips and tricks every week!