The acquisition of an additional dog in the home can happen for a variety of reasons. The most common reason is the idea that the existing dog needs a canine companion. One human family member may want a companion that is more their special friend than another’s. An active family member may now need a younger dog to do certain activities with. A lot of good reasons exist for the introduction of a new canine member into one's home. Be aware though, this often comes with work to maintain a harmonious relationship between the two.
(Republished from years ago. Leon, Jackie,and Jazz have since passed away. These are my dogs used as examples below of how individual pack members drive pack dynamics)
While science may try to dispute pack theory, there is no question that group dynamics are relevant and exist when dogs and/or humans hang out together. I first became aware of how a group of dogs could change with the introduction of just one new member when I used to volunteer to train Dobermans at Doberman Rescue Unlimited. In fact, the dynamic impressed me so much, that in the future I would like to offer rotating group classes where the individuals switch up constantly in order to improve obedience with a VERY powerful distraction.
There are many reasons why this new member may be fascinating to others, may be intimidated by others, may be bossy towards others, or may cause others in the group to be very concerned. Dogs are expressing themselves in a foreign language (to us humans) to each other that include body language, eye contact, mouth position, tail movement, and other various methods to which we are largely unaware, unless humans happen to be to dealing with groups of dogs on a regular basis.
A fair amount of my dog training business deals with multi dog issues. This relationship is more complex than a one dog to human family relationship. So many things may be affecting the dogs from unrealistic expectations of what the relationship should be, resource guarding, power struggle, geriatric issues, health issues, lack of training overall, nor rules or boundaries or allowing another dog to abuse another (just to name a few).
In my pack, some changes have started to launch the pack dynamics around here. First my grand dame, Jazz, has died. She has been the undisputed boss of the canines (besides myself of course) for 13 years with me. She was fair, just, tough, and fun all at the same time. Every time a new boarder came, the very first thing she did was lie on their bed with or without them. The message I believe was "you are welcome here, but understand this is my domain." Instead of upsetting the dogs with this, I noticed that all dogs respected and looked up to her. We have had many pass through here that sought to learn from her and definitely play with her. A very special presence has left me, my dogs, and my client's dogs lives.
Another element which has started to mix things up is when Jackie had an unfortunate altercation with a daycare client who collided with him during a dash through the woods a few months ago. That seemed to change every one's demeanor for a bit, and start Jack off with bullying Leon (our other Doberman). At this same time, I have been getting Jack ready for open, which has launched his hardwired resource guarding issues. I readily admit that due to the amount of work to get him to where this is, I had put working him around key items on hold. Now that work is being done, which also means things that were simply managed before have made it to the training threshold point. This is not a short process that is solved in hours, days, or weeks. We are talking about months for improvement to take hold in a consistent and reliable fashion. Again, his brother, Leon, remained the favorite punching bag.
Therefore it's important to consider every one's needs or the Pack's needs if you will. Leon needs to feel safe and free in his own house. My husband and I need to feel that Leon's safety and the safety of our client's dogs are not in jeopardy. At the same time, even though it's concentrated training time for Jackie, his needs are also important in respect to exercise, attention, stimulation, and having fun. Training also remains an activity that can supply this, but it's important to know that your dog can not be in working mode 24/7. Service dogs, police dogs, and all sorts of dogs need a breaks even when they totally love their work.
A leader's most important tools in working with a project like this are knowledge of their dog's personality and triggers, rules and boundaries, consistency and a well thought out training plan. Mine has relied on the additional skills that my dogs know such as "place", "go", "fetch", "give", "out", "leave it" and "over". These are in addition to basic obedience skills of heel, recall, stand, sit stay, and down stay. A pack problem is truly difficult if you have done no reliable training work with your dog. Leon's fetch, for instance, has helped Jack understand that I approve of Leon "getting" items for me, and this is not to be interfered with.
It's not about dominance or dominating Jack. My only goals are to 1) make it clear that Leon is not his to abuse, 2) make it clear that performing the commands has huge rewards, 3) remind Jack the benefits and joys of having Leon as his friend, and 4) teach Jack alternate ways to deal with his resource guarding. I did something like this with my dog, Neptune, and dog aggression many years back. It worked so very well, and I am beginning to see Jack pick up some understanding of this. Retreating, looking to me for direction, giving a look instead of attack, bringing his toy into his crate (by the way he is never unsupervised around toys) ET are all appropriate ways to get his point across.
Management had worked up until this point. I may not have even picked this battle up right now, except that Jack did two very inappropriate things that were inappropriate in two situations with Leon. Had these remained at a "let them work it out themselves level"; I may have chosen to regard this as an internal household mild issue that came up now and again. It became clear though that Jack was trying to gain inappropriate and damaging control of Leon, which was affecting Leon's quality of life. There is always the option of keeping the two dogs separate or always under strict supervision when together. In analyzing the situation though, I could see the additional work that could be done with Jack. Had I already met that threshold and no improvement had been made, this most likely would have been my solution to the problem. Jack always seems to improve even through my doubts on some things. For instance, the obsession he had with seaweed when we first got him. I didn't think he would EVER be able to just walk on the beach.
Be aware, relationships can change with your dogs, and it doesn't mean you need to throw in the towel. It may mean you need some help to evaluate exactly what is going on. Some are easy to solve, and some are more challenging. I have yet to see a multi dog situation that was not able to be resolved with a bit of elbow grease and maintaining some rules, boundaries, and consistency. That is not to say that there are not sometimes really wrong matches in dog relationships. Most of my cases to date have been dogs that have lived together for a long time, but "something" has changed the chemistry of the relationship.
Having problems in your pack? Call, e-mail, or fill out our client interview form. We can help you, your pack, and your dog.
I have a number of rules that I put in place for the taking on of new clients. I have to admit that every now and again, I wonder if I am being silly. Maybe I should just bend the rules, ignore the fact that a dog is not fully trained, and perhaps that slightly pink flag is nothing to worry about. So what if they refer to their dog(s) as "furry children", and are not concerned that their dog can't go into a sit on the first command in the least distracting of settings.
Should I give in to this, it is a mistake on my part. In fact, I can name a few times I did ignore my rules, and lived to regret that decision. There are very nice people and dogs out there. Some of them can not conform to the things that I need in order for them to be clients of a certain type.
This does not make them bad humans or dogs, but bad for certain situations in my business model. Many times, I will read negative reviews about another dog facility that turned away business. The dog's owner is usually quite offended, but often times I see this from the facility's standpoint. I also understand that the client can not see the real issue at hand, not having worked with so many dogs in one small area. They think their dog has been seen as a "bad" dog or a "problem" dog. This may not at all be the case, this dog just might not fit into either the pack or business model that this facility caters to.
The pack can be a tricky situation. Packs that work here are expected to have a certain level of basic obedience. If one does not have that level of basic obedience or a way to reinforce a command should the training not be up to par, I have been aware in the past that it causes problems. As time marches on, it is easy for a person like myself to forget the problems that can crop up, if I bend the rules for someone.
The problem with bringing a dog into a pack that can not respond to the first command given during distractions takes away from the leader's ability to promote well being within the pack. If that one dog is allowed to freedoms which they have not earned, it will cause problems. Should a problem occur, more than one dog may need to respond to a command in an immediately. It is not about just that one dog, but the relationship among the whole pack including me. Managing a pack is about teamwork between the human and all the canines in the group.
Another problem is that the other dogs who are well behaved loose their freedom by needing to be put from command to command more often, to keep the untrained dog from getting into sticky situations that they can not handle. The canine groups may not able to communicate to the newer member the ways in which they would like to be interacted with. Often I help this communication among unfamiliar members with the use of training which has produced workable commands. There are some dog day cares that cater to mostly untrained dogs by screening out other untrained temperaments that will not work in their structure.
Human owners who feel their dog is "trained well enough" often have suggestions for you in having their dog to come to your daycare. Often this includes commands either commands that do not work as they have not been taught to the dog or an expectation of free training from the daycare provider. Often even when the owner sees their own suggestion does not work even for under their own guidance, the owner will not acknowledge that or just does not get the level of performance that is required. As a dog professional it's more important to see to the needs of the group than the one.
For a daycare owner and operator to ignore that is a big mistake. My advice to other dog professionals is to not forget what your protocols are. If they have worked for you in the past, then please do not forsake them for the sake of not hurting someones feelings or offending them. It's better off for all involved if you just stick to your guns. In this economy, it's always hard to turn away business especially for a nice (yet untrained) dog and people. Sometimes, it's just the right thing to do.
Human clients please be aware that if you are turned away, it is nothing at all personal. There often is a larger scope to think about than just your dog. An area where a lot of dogs gather is so much different than a dog with your friends and their dogs that they see once a weekend at the beach. Dogs have relationships as much as we do. Like our relationships grow and change with other people, so do dog relationships especially in the beginning.
At Mannerly Mutts, all our dog daycare clients have been past training clients, who have been approved for daycare. If you would like to start on your journey of training your dog, please call, e-mail, or fill out our client interview form.
Author, Robin Rubin
Owner and Head Dog Trainer in Maine, Robin Katherine Rubin, started her Maine dog training business in September 2004. Our dog training facility is located in Southern Maine in York Beach and we help families enjoy their dogs more, making sure they listen reliably and resolving unwanted behaviors.