'Second' Dog Problems
Dogs that are raised with another dog in the family can be a disappointment to owners when they fail to measure up to expectations based on the first dog, or behave unacceptably. This is because 'second' dogs often have a stronger bond with the other dogs in the household than with their owners. The lack of good relationship with owners can mean that the dog isn't as sociable as they would like, doesn't listen to requests, and gets into trouble through acting independently.
Why does it go wrong?
If a puppy is raised with dogs and people, it will naturally choose to play with the other dogs as they are so much better a puppy games and, hence, more fun. The puppy will also understand the other dogs’ body language and behaviour more easily than that of the humans and so they will spend more time in the company of the other dogs and learn to enjoy being with them more.
If the bond between the puppy and the other dog(s) is strong, the puppy may fail to develop any sort of meaningful relationship with the owners, especially if the owners are busy and don’t put much effort into play and training. Owners often say ‘the puppy doesn’t need training as he just copies the other dogs’. They often don’t realise how little relationship they have with their puppy until it becomes mature and problems develop.
Sometimes people acquire a dog through rescue that clearly prefers to be with other dogs than them and has very little interest in people. These dogs have often been raised with other dogs and it can take time and effort to turn them around and make them into suitable pets
What can go wrong?
Puppies raised with other dogs are often less sociable with people, less responsive to cues, less playful with people, and more likely to have behaviour problems. The reasons for their disappointing performance compared with puppies raised alone are:
- stronger bond with other dogs than with humans
- no need to learn human ways as they have other dogs
- never learn to play properly with humans as other dogs are more fun to play with
- reluctant to learn from humans as the other dog is more fun
- general lack of control as dog is not interested in working with owner
- often less well socialised with dogs outside the family as they were busy playing with other dogs at home and so the owner took them out less
Common behaviour problems in puppies raised with another dog:
- not coming back when called
- running off on walks
- chasing problems, especially livestock
- bad manners such as too boisterous, barging, stealing
- aggression to strangers
- aggression to other dogs
- severe separation issues when separated from the other dogs
Who would your dog choose?
To test if your dog is more bonded to your other dogs than you, arrange for someone to take your dog to the far side of a large field and wait there for 5 minutes. Before they return, arrange for your dog to be tied to the fence at the other end of the field. You then need to stand about 20 metres from this dog on the same fence line. The person with the dog being tested then walks towards you down the centre line keeping the lead as loose as possible. As they get closer, the dog being tested will choose who to greet first by walking towards them (the handler should allow this). Does he choose you or other other dog? If he chooses the other dog, he has a stronger relationship with that dog than with you.
Before you try to solve any behaviour problems your ‘second dog’ may have, it is important to establish a good relationship with him. Building a bond with a ‘second dog’ can be difficult so expect him to be quite distant and aloof at first. It won't be easy if your dog is already adult, but it can be done.
You will need to separate your 'second' dog from others for about 6 months – 1 year (depending on age and state of your relationship) using stair gates to keep them apart, and teach him to play with toys with you, learn from you, have fun with you, and feel supported by you when the other dogs are not around. The dogs can be together several times a day to maintain their relationship, but they shouldn’t be allowed to play together and it shouldn’t be for too long.
Behaviour problems later
Tackling behaviour problems is always much easier if you have a good relationship with your dog. Building a good relationship with a ‘second dog’ takes time and energy so it probably best to concentrate on this at first until you see signs of your dog starting to enjoy being with you. Once your dog will choose you over the other dogs, it is time to start working on behaviour problems.
If you need further help, please ask your veterinary surgeon to refer you to a behaviourist that he/she recommends, or contact the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors to find an experienced pet behaviourist in your area www.apbc.org.uk
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