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Integrating Big Dog into House with Small Dog

EastCoast
January 12th, 2011, 02:09 PM
My concern is with the 2 dogs interacting...worried that the big one could hurt the smaller one. We have a 5 year old purebred Shih Tzu female and we have taken on a 14 month old Rottie/Shepherd/Husky mix female.

Our Shih Tzu was not well enough socialized with other dogs and is used to being the only dog in our home and our lives. The bigger dog was raised with her brother dog ( another big dog) and also with kittens and a rabbit. We have had the 2 dogs together for 5 days now with constant supervision. The first two days the Shih Tzu was obviously scared and shaking and running away – jumping on the couch, etc… but she seems to have mostly gotten over that now – she will, at times, walk around on the floor now in the presence of the bigger dog and that is a big improvement – although she often tries to follow me and seems to want me standing in between her and the big dog.
The bigger dog concerns me a bit in the way she approaches the smaller dog…she always approaches with her tail wagging and does a lot of sniffing (which I think is a good sign?)…the smaller dog will let her do that and will sometimes hold her leg up for her to get a better sniff… but the bigger dog just does not seem to want to stop –she won’t just sniff and walk away, she wants to sniff and keep on sniffing and follow her around the house – pushing her little body with her big strong nose– and if the little one tries to walk away from her, she will take her big front paw and put it on the little one’s back – as if she’s trying to make her stay still…then the little one will growl and/or bark at the bigger one – at which point I step in and distract the bigger dog away. I have never let this situation play out long enough to see exactly what she is trying to do by placing her paw on her back. I should mention here that one day I did see the big dog lick the small one's ear and I don’t sense aggression from the bigger one - she never snarls at the little dog or growls or even has the look that she is going to attack her - but sometimes her eyes seem to lock onto the little one and she becomes sooooo fixated on following her and it makes me nervous…I think she probably wants to play but I’m just not positive about this and because of the huge size difference I don’t want to take any chances. Does she want to play or is it her prey drive kicking in - I don't have enough experience to know. When I see her eyes lock onto the smaller one I break the eye contact.

I guess I want to hear thoughts about the intentions of the larger dog based on my description and also any tips to help either one of them.

We purchased a large crate for the bigger dog and she has slept in it every night, except for the first night, and this seems to be going well. I will have to go to work at some point (dog groomer – I just work casual/part time hours). I have not left the house since the big dog arrived and I am nervous to put the big dog in the crate during the day and leave the little one in the house alone with her but I am going to have to try this soon. I guess nothing can happen but something about it worries me.

The big dog seems very kind natured but she is very strong and needs to release a lot of energy – this is where my husband comes in. He comes home for lunch and takes her for a jog/walk and then in the evening takes her for a really long jog/walk as well as plays in the snow with her and lets her bound through the snow banks etc. She adores my husband and wants to be with him all the time, they have really bonded. He tells her to sit and stay and walks away from her she will sit there until her tells her to come – she Is very eager to please and listens to commands well. As soon as she is trained to walk better on the leash I will take her for walks myself during the day but right now she is way too strong for me and tugs too much on the leash. We do take them for walks together but it’s pretty much impossible, at this point, to have them walking side by side.

The small dog is spayed and the big one is currently in heat and we will be getting her spayed very soon – not sure if this has any bearing on the behaviors or not.

BenMax
January 12th, 2011, 03:07 PM
As the bigger female was raised with smaller animals, and did not hurt them, then I doubt that she has a strong prey drive.
At this time they are in 'discovery mode'. The larger dog is probably facinated by the smaller one especially if the little one is causing a fuss.
The BEST way to intergrate both dogs is really by interacting with them as a family. Walking both dogs together, on leash is the best way to get them acquainted and at the same time you have control and can correct if there is any negative interactions.
Note that dogs can sense insecurities in people. If you are nervous, then the dogs will react in nervous behaviour.
When you say the larger dog fixates visually on the smaller one, what is the rest of the body doing on the large dog? Is it stiff and is she leaning forward? Is she hoovering over the little one? What else in her body language can you describe.
It has only been 5 days so there is a period of adaptation, and it is imperative that you monitor them closely.
Remember that a wagging tail does not necessarily mean that everything is fine. Again, is the tail waging high in the air, mid way or low to the ground. All this is significant.

hedgiemama
January 12th, 2011, 03:12 PM
I wouldnt worry too much about them interacting once they have met and accepted each other, i have seen many big dog play with small dogs and they are usually fairly gentle. That being said there is always the chance that the bigger one plays a little too rough the little guy, at which point you would need to break it up and get both of them to calm down. Any behavior you see between the two of them that you dont agree with you should break it up right away and just make them do something such as a sit or down and send them away from each other and be relaxed.

I hope this helps and that they get along:dog:

Im sure someone with more knowledge then me should be along soon.

EastCoast
January 12th, 2011, 03:52 PM
Thank you so much for anwering my post.
I have just been watching them together again and the big dog always approaches with her tail as high and as curled upwards as it can be...she goes in for a sniff and then she almost imnediately puts her front paw on the little one's shoulder area and then the little one growls - at which point the big dogs tail goes from up high to about level with the base of her body and her ears perk up and she jerks her head away for a second - as if in shock - quickly followed by increased interest - hovering/towering over the smaller one - she also starts pushing her with her snout (definately increased pushiness and determination after that first growl)....and she just looks like she will not walk away from the smaller one any time soon. I have not let the situation go any farther than that.

When I see her fixate visually, her tail is up high and I would say her body does not look particularly stiff - until the little one runs - and then the big one's neck will stretch out and she will chase (she has tried climbing over a couch to get to the smaller one twice). She will stop when given a firm command to do so but obviously I could not leave them alone together.

I agree, I am nervous and they know it and it helps none of us! I need to get over it or at least pretend that I am not so nervous.
I try to not give in to the smaller dog's stress but at the same time I can't allow her to be hurt.

We will continue with the leash walking. The only problem is the big one tugs so badly that I don't know if they realize we are even walking together...I can barely keep up! She was not trained well on a leash so this is a work in progress.

We are comitted to ensuring that both dogs are happy and we want the big dog to feel at home here - she really is worth the effort.

mirtilo
January 12th, 2011, 05:17 PM
I had a very similar situation, but with me the big dog was the one we had for seven years and the small dog was a newcomer. Needless to say, we were worried about how my big Dane/Lab mix would react to this young little puppy suddenly being around her house all the time.

Surprisingly, the worst of it was just what you've described above. Sniffing, zeroing in on her, the paw on the shoulder, everything! The big dog would actually spaz if we ever picked the pup up, and she would react by lunging at his neck with her mouth wide open. She never tried to bite him or anything, she was just trying to get him by the scruff of his neck and put him back on the ground, but we had to train of her out of it anyway, obviously. All that lasted for little under two weeks, and now the big dog is super calm and composed with the little one :)

There's definitely a lot of time before you need to get worried about kind of behavior!

t.pettet
January 12th, 2011, 06:54 PM
I would muzzle the big dog and see how they relate for 1 hr. or so, atleast that way the little one couldn't be bitten.

BenMax
January 13th, 2011, 07:49 AM
I wish I could see the interaction to be able to pinpoint what is going on. However, you do mention that the tail is high and curled. In a normal state, what does the tail look like? Is it low and flat?

You are doing right by breaking the focus and detering this behaviour. From what I can tell the bigger dog is dominating the smaller one. This is somewhat normal however this must be monitored very closely.

Did you try putting a haltie on your larger dog? Or maybe a gentle leader? This usually helps control the bigger one as the balance is in the head. You will have good control and assist her in walking properly. Mind you it may be trial and error as not all dogs do well using these devices but in my experience I have had more success than failures. Give it a try.

In the meantime, I would consult with a trainer or behaviouralist to come to evaluate what the communication is going on between both dogs if you do not have the experience. With this consultation you personally will benefit from this and you will learn as you go.

Keep monitoring and I think you are doing good by distracting the interaction if you feel it is threatening. I would be.:thumbs up

EastCoast
January 18th, 2011, 03:44 PM
Hi BenMax,

We purchased a haltie and it is an amazing difference! She walks almost perfectly with the haltie! My husband had started walking one dog on each arm however we have to wait until it is not quite so cold to continue with this. Minus 20's is too cold for our ShihTzu, her little paws get too cold.
I did notice that when we each walk a dog...if I go ahead a little bit with the Shih Tzu the big dog will run to overtake us every time...and she does not like walking evenly with us...she wants to be ahead of us.

Her normal tail position is not high or low, it's about mid-way I would say. Mid-way to high up.

Just a few minutes ago I received a scare. I was sitting on the floor petting the head of the big dog, as she was laying down. The small dog approached to sniff a big rawhide bone that the big dog has and the big dog made this horrible vicious sounding growl and huge bark that was so loud and scary sounding that I jumped and the little one went running back up to the couch.
Should I not allow bones like this ?

Humans can take food right out of the big dog's mouth and she doesn't seem to care...but if the small one shows any interest in her food, she certainly does not like it.

It is becoming more and more apparent to me that the big one does want to dominate. She is more than just interested in the little one, she wants to be in control of her and the only reason she isn't is because we won't allow it. Now, whether or not that means she wants to be physically mean - I have no idea but I am not going to try to find out either.

I agree with you that I think we should have a professional come in to assess the situation.

In the interim...can you give me suggestions about this latest incident - the way she guards her food from the smaller dog?

I have had to leave the house a couple of times this week (2 hours away maximum so far but this will change in the next month or two) and I have put the big girl in her cage in the living room and I have left the little girl upstairs in the bedroom with all of her food, etc (this is where she sleeps so she is pretty comfortable there). Is it right to keep them both confined when I leave? The little one always had the run of the house when I left but I had a feeling that if I left the little one free while the big one is caged that a) it would not be fair and b) it would cause problems between the 2 of them...

EastCoast
January 18th, 2011, 03:58 PM
I just thought of one other thing...we have always let the little girl be on the couch and she likes to sleep on our laps etc. She just always wants to be with one of us - or at least near one of us.
We don't let the big girl on the couch but there is one chair that we allow her on.
If the big dog feels that she is boss - wouldn't this be confusing to her that we allow the small dog on the couch and on the bed?
I don't see how I can change this after 5 years of letting the little girl up on all furniture (I would feel so mean to change it now)...but from what I have read recently the boss dog always wants the highest position.
Am I making things worse between them by letting the little girl continue to be on the couch, etc?
I feel so stupid about these things, there is just so much that I do not know.

EastCoast
January 18th, 2011, 04:10 PM
Here are the girls

luckypenny
January 18th, 2011, 05:26 PM
Judging by your last two posts, you've adopted a gem into your family!

...if I go ahead a little bit with the Shih Tzu the big dog will run to overtake us every time...and she does not like walking evenly with us...she wants to be ahead of us.

Pretty normal since walking at a heel doesn't come naturally to dogs. It doesn't mean she's trying to overtake you, that's just how dogs walk/run when not at a heel and when not on leash.

Her normal tail position is not high or low, it's about mid-way I would say. Mid-way to high up.

This could simply mean she's aroused, either curious or wanting to play.

Just a few minutes ago I received a scare. I was sitting on the floor petting the head of the big dog, as she was laying down. The small dog approached to sniff a big rawhide bone that the big dog has and the big dog made this horrible vicious sounding growl and huge bark that was so loud and scary sounding that I jumped and the little one went running back up to the couch.

As weird as this may sound, YES :highfive:! If your new dog wanted to hurt your little one, she certainly would have done it at that point. Instead, she gave her a warning and your little one respected it. Believe me, that's what you want.

Should I not allow bones like this ?

We never allow bones or other high value objects lay around the house. You can give such items in their 'safe spots' to enjoy (eg. crate, bedroom, etc) and remove them when they are done.

Humans can take food right out of the big dog's mouth and she doesn't seem to care...but if the small one shows any interest in her food, she certainly does not like it.

Again, perfectly normal. You can feed them separately if your Shih Tzu is likely to approach the other girl's food.

It is becoming more and more apparent to me that the big one does want to dominate. She is more than just interested in the little one, she wants to be in control of her and the only reason she isn't is because we won't allow it. Now, whether or not that means she wants to be physically mean - I have no idea but I am not going to try to find out either.

Without meaning any disrespect, I think you're reading too much into dominance theory. If she wanted to hurt her, she would have by now. Just look at them in that photo, wonderful :cloud9:. Train them both well so that they know what's expected of them and you shouldn't have any problems.

I agree with you that I think we should have a professional come in to assess the situation.

Always a good idea if you're unable to read dogs. But please, don't hire any trainer, ensure that it's a qualified, licensed, and experienced behaviorist. Don't be shy to ask for references and follow up on them. Are you near Moncton? This center comes highly recommended. If you take a look at the "qualifications" section, that's what you want to find in any trainer working with you and your dogs. http://www.doggonepawsitive.com/index.php

Is it right to keep them both confined when I leave?

No problem confining them when there is no one around to supervise.


Am I making things worse between them by letting the little girl continue to be on the couch, etc?


I think the way you have it now is just fine.

I think you may enjoy this book... Feeling Outnumbered? How to Manage and Enjoy a Multi-dog Household by Karen London and Patricia McConnell.

EastCoast
January 18th, 2011, 05:43 PM
LP, thank you :) Reading what you have said has made me feel a whole lot better!
I am near Moncton and I will check that out for sure. I have heard the name before but never investigated it.
I will also get the book, sounds great!

BMDLuver
January 18th, 2011, 06:52 PM
If my calculations are right then the honeymoon period is not yet over. you are doing all the right things but remember that it would be advisable to never leave the two alone unattended. You have some pretty high prey drives in that mix and although shihtzus are tough little characters they have a weight disadvantage. I think if you work slow and steady then it will work itself out. I would only say that the shihtzu should not be on the couch or bed nor should the new dog. to me it sends mixed signals. but that is JMHO

BenMax
January 19th, 2011, 07:08 AM
Well LuckyPenny once again summed everything up perfectly. The point she made about the bigger dog warning the little one is absolutely correct. If the big one wanted to dominate or hurt the little one...it would have happened. You have just learned a huge piece of information on your new dog.:thumbs up

Also LP stated not to have high value items around. I could not agree more. We have a pack of 5 dogs and 4 cats. None of our animals are given these items together. If we do provide them (bones), each are crated or in their 'safe zone' away from any that wish to snatch the bone. Funny enough, the worst culpret happens to be the 5 lbs min pin so we must take extra precautions due to her size and the biggest being 155lbs who could inflict deadly results.

BDMLuver also brings up a great point. There is something called the honeymoon stage. It is usually anywhere between 2-4 weeks. This is the stage where the dog is actually summing everything up. She/he will know what boundries there are or there lack of. They are seeing where they fit in and how. Usually they are on their best behaviour during this time and for this reason, to maintain this behaviour, you must establish your position with all that are in the home. Training is crutial during this period to establish control, direction and obediance. Being consistant with everyone in the household is the key.

EastCoast
February 20th, 2011, 02:58 PM
Hi there!
I just wanted to post an update on my big dog, little dog situation.
We have come a long way! I took all of your comments seriously and I also allowed myself to calm down and relax about the 2 dogs...I was far too tense. I now realize that the big girl never mean't any harm - she just wants to play sometimes.
Both dogs will actually curl up and sleep beside each other now. I never thought I would see that day happen.
I love our new dog and can not imagine life without her amazing, comical personality!
So, thanks to everyone who answered me because you were all a big reassurance for me and you really did help!

BenMax
February 20th, 2011, 03:18 PM
Hi there!
I just wanted to post an update on my big dog, little dog situation.
We have come a long way! I took all of your comments seriously and I also allowed myself to calm down and relax about the 2 dogs...I was far too tense. I now realize that the big girl never mean't any harm - she just wants to play sometimes.
Both dogs will actually curl up and sleep beside each other now. I never thought I would see that day happen.
I love our new dog and can not imagine life without her amazing, comical personality!
So, thanks to everyone who answered me because you were all a big reassurance for me and you really did help!

EastCoast - that is marvelous news. I was wondering how you were doing. In the beginning it is very overwhelming for most. Heck, I have fosters that come in regularily and I have 16 years of experience with this, and still with every new one that comes in, I always have that feeling of 'what the heck did I just do?'. Over the course of a few days, while everyone (animal that is) re-groups and re-establishes themselves, things always have a way of working themselves out.

You are a great person for helping the process and a wonderful doggie momma!

So proud of you!:thumbs up

mirtilo
February 20th, 2011, 06:16 PM
What magnificent news, I'm so happy to hear that everything is going so well :D