Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sibling Rivalry

We have a 5 y/o neutered male blue heeler, who has free run of the house. He is well trained, but high energy. Last week we adopted a 5 month old red heeler, spayed female. They play well outside in our fenced yard, and she begrudgingly accepts it when he corrects her. I watch them constantly, and when I am not around to supervise, she goes in her cage. My question is this...when he tries to get up on sofa she growls at him and sometimes lunges to bite. (This happens when i.m sitting on the sofa. He doesn't even want to sit by me, but on the other end.) I take her off the sofa and tell her no. It has gotten to the point that he won't get up anymore, even though he has always laid up here. This also happens in the car. Can you offer suggestions on how to fix this problem?
 This is actually a bit of a serious issue, because it could easily progress into something worse.  First things first, I would stop giving them each free run of the house.  The issue here is that your little girl is claiming the couch / car / etc as her own.  Really, though, all these things belong to you and you are allowing her to enjoy them out of the goodness of your heart.  So, let's start by setting guidelines.
Neither dog should be allowed on furniture unless you invite them up.
I'm a fairly understanding person.  I get that you don't want to have to lie on the floor just to snuggle with your dogs, and you'd like them to be able to enjoy the couch.  That doesn't mean, however, that they should be allowed on the furniture whenever they want to get up.  It means they should be allowed on the furniture whenever you want them up there.  So, at this point, if they get up on their own accord, make them get off.  If you want them on the couch with you, use a word or cue to let them know they're invited up (I use "hup" as a shortened version of "hop up").  I also recommend making them do something (like sit) before they're invited up.
Show them guidance in other areas of life as well.
Let them know that they should follow you in all areas of life, not just when the sofa is involved.  Make them sit before meal time or down-stay while you're eating.  Make them sit when opening the door or down before playing with a toy.  The idea is that all good things come from you and they have to work for it.  This will help to reinforce the idea that the couch / car / etc is yours and you dictate what happens on it.
Are you noticing an overall theme here?  Dogs, much like small children, need structure.  They thrive on it.  The point I'm trying to make is to give your dogs a good, structured routine.  Let them know that there are rules in the house and you set those rules and keep them in place.  This will help them in many areas of their life, and it should make for a happier, more harmonious household.

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