Sunday, 17 October 2021
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Dog Gone Problems: My new rescue dog is upsetting my other two dogs

Dog Gone Problems is a weekly advice column by David Codr, a dog behaviorist in Omaha. David answers dog behavior questions sent in by our readers. You can reach him at

Dog Gone Problems,

I just recently adopted a new dog, Poppy, from the Humane Society. She’s a 1-year-old mix (not entirely sure of what she is mixed with). I have two other smaller dogs. She’s a little bit bigger than them and plays too rough with them, and they don’t like to play with her as a result. One of my dogs is over protective of his space and every time she enters the room, he goes berserk and barks at her, growling and sometimes even trying to nip at her.

When she tries to play with my other little Maltese, she shoves her around and I’m scared she might hurt her. I’ve taken her to a dog park and take her walking every two or three hours. I’m mentally exhausted, and I’ve tried calling trainers but no one has gotten back to me.

I need advice on how to teach Poppy they don’t want to play, or even that where my male dog is he doesn’t want her in there. She has a terrible recall and I’ve done my hardest to teach her. It’s day two on having her at the house and is probably excited and overwhelmed by being in a home finally. She can’t play with her own toys around my male dog because he starts getting reactive and her attention is brought to him and it starts a fight. Is it even worth trying to have a bigger dog with two small ones who don’t even like to play?

I’ve been anxious and tired so easily, and I can’t find a calm point in between. I’m debating if I should even keep her. Please help me. I love Poppy but I need my dogs safe around her, too.

You have a lot going on, which can be stressful for anyone. It can take a dog up to a week or two to feel comfortable in a new home. I often tell people that many dogs are in a state of shock for the first few days in a new home.

While it’s wonderful you adopted a dog from the Humane Society, not every dog is right for every home. I often tell people the most important thing is to find a dog whose energy matches your home and lifestyle. Here are a few dog behavior tips you can try to help Poppy integrate with your other two dogs.

— If you live in a home with a stair case, you can do some up downs quite easily. Go to the top of the stairs with a handful of high value treats. Touch one to Poppy’s nose, then toss it to the bottom of the stairs. When the dog licks it up, say, “Down.” Then show Poppy you have another treat and call her to come up. When she comes up, give her another treat and say “up.” Repeat that as many times as the dog will go up and down, counting each up down as one. When you find out how many up downs Poppy can do, then try to do an up down practice session two hours between walks or any time Poppy starts playing too rough with your Maltese. By getting Poppy some exercise indoors, you can save yourself some time and use this as an energy-relieving valve throughout the day.

— Another exercise option is to use a laser. For some dogs, this is too much and they get almost manic. If your dog responds to the laser that way (overly fixating, panting, crying, etc.), don’t use this option. But if the dog will chase it without the symptoms I listed, running her around the room can be a nice way to burn excess energy. Just make sure you don’t put the dot on her eye, and I’d recommend doing this away from your other dogs.

— Scent training is another great option to drain excess energy. Putting a few strong smelling treats hidden around the room is a great way to get the dog using its brain, which can be very draining. There are many books on how to do scent training or scent games. Try googling “scent training” to start.

— You may also want to incorporate a doggy back pack. This looks like a harness and allows you to add bottles of water or other weighted items which make the exercise more efficient.

I’d keep walking her, but incorporating these other activities can help reduce your time commitment. And since they are inside, they will be easier for you to use.

Dog daycare

You may also want to enroll Poppy into dog daycare. Not only will this burn off excess energy (which the other dogs will appreciate), it will help Poppy practice social skills with other dogs.

To stop your dog who is protective of his space, put Poppy on a leash in another room after properly exercising her and giving her 10 minutes to recover. Approach your male dog with Poppy on a short leash and, as soon as he gets stiff, stop walking and toss a treat at him. After tossing it, turn around and leave the room.

Keep note of how close you were before he gets stiff, stares or stops breathing and stop one step before you get there for the future treat tossing. After some repetitions, you should be able to get one step closer without his reacting. Keep practicing and only take another step closer after you have approached and tossed five treats in a row without any reaction from your male.

Eventually, your male dog will start to associate Poppy approaching as a good thing — as treats fall from the sky when she does.

Good luck and remember — everything you do trains your dog. Only sometimes you mean it.


The Bark Box

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