Canine Behavior/New Dog
We just picked up a new male dog (a Pugle) today...(we answered an ad about him). He was 2 hours away and so we brought our female dog (a Schnoodle)with us to make sure they got along. She is usually a very happy, fun-loving, dog-friendly dog. However, when we went inside to meet him and he came up to her to sniff her she growled at him (which she never does) and continued to snarl at him whenever he came close. Which she hasn't EVER done with any other dogs. After about 10 min she seemed to calm down and we felt that it would be fine after some time. They rode together in the back seat with no issues for over 2 hours. Once home, she picked up the growling anytime he got near myself or my husband, and would nip at him. The new male dog is a very chill happy dog and hasn't shown her aggression at all. The only behavior we've noticed in him is peeing in different areas in the house and barking when we close the door and leave him out. (Whether using the bathroom or outside to have him pee). His owner just died of cancer and his previous owner's distant relative took him in temporarily. So help please...???... Both these animals behaviors are new to us and we don't want to screw things up for them or make things worse for them in the long run.
Thank you for your question.
When looking at the behavior you describe from your Schnoodle, I find myself counting the number of stressors she was faced with when she met this new dog. 2 hours in a car is a very long time for a dog - even one who enjoys car rides. So we have to assume she was tired which lowers her tolerance for anything else that she might find stressful. Then she was brought into a new space where other dogs live which can be uncomfortable for for many dogs because they're not in their comfort zone. Then the new dog approached closer than she was comfortable with and she felt the need to request more space.
You indicated that your Schnoodle is usually quite friendly when meeting new dogs. If she met this Puggle at a park local to your home, she may have been more tolerant of him. But because of multiple stressors occuring in a close period of time, her tolerance was lower and she just needed more space than the Puggle was giving her.
There was no issue in the car because in the car there's no space to escape. The particularly tight quarters actually force a tolerance that might not be there under normal circumstances. And because it was a 2-hour drive back to your home, your dog was even more tired as this was now the end of a very long day and that could have made her less tolerant once you were all back in your home.
Dogs communicate with each other using distance-increasing signals and distance-decreasing signals. As suggested by the terms, some communication is specifically meant to create more space between the communicating dog and whatever they're communicating toward. It's actually designed to AVOID actual conflict and confrontation. The fact that your dog growled means that she needed more personal space than the Puggle was giving her. The bigger question is: did the Puggle heed the request and back off? If yes, then they're actually off to an OK start and there's a reasonable chance that they'll learn to get along as they get to know each other. If the Puggle didn't back off, if he kept invading her space, or if he backed off and promptly returned, then there may be some work to do to help him learn to respect your Schnoodle's space.
If your schnoodle growled and snapped, but made no physical contact or only glancing contact with no actual injury, then she's communicating with the Puggle but isn't actually trying to cause damage to him. That she's doing this when the new dog comes near her people (you and your husband), it is actually a form of resource guarding - protecting values that the dog considers high in value. Don't mistake this for your dog protecting you from an actual danger (e.g. putting herself in harm's way to protect you). She's protecting you as she would a bone - as an object that she owns and feels is at risk of being stolen. This is not atypical when a new dog comes into the home and the existing dog is worried that their place in the family unit may be usurped.
The very best thing you can do during this process is to REASSURE the Schnoodle that she is still the center of your world. The thing you definitely don't want to do is punish her for communicating. If she says "get away from my people. They're mine and you can't have them" and then the people respond by scolding her or isolating her in another room, then the people are actually confirming for her that she's absolutely right to be concerned about the family dynamic. The people are showing her that she does get punished when the new dog is around and that she gets excluded when the new dog is around.
So instead, what you will want to do is fun activities, positive reinforcement training sessions that utilize food rewards, toys or games as payment for doing requested behaviors, and generally making sure there is special time for each dog separately and together. It may be that you need one person to interact with the Puggle while the other is with the Schnoodle while all are in the same room. Or you may need to tether the Puggle on one side of the room while the humans are loving on the Schnoodle on the other side of the room. You may need to set aside the Schnoodls' very favorite treat and only ever offer it to her when she's in the same space as the Puggle. So, if she would do backflips and walk on the ceiling for string cheese, then for the next few months, she will only ever get string cheese is the Puggle is in the room with her, and when she's closer to him, she gets more cheese than when they're on the opposite side of the room. Doing this will create an association for her that the very best things happen in his presence and she'll come to seek his proximity.
The Puggle peeing in different areas of the house is an effort to mark this as his new home. That may or may not be an issue with their relationship with each other and it may incite her to potty inside as well. Because he's brand new to your home, it's not surprising that he gets upset if he's left outside on his own. For the first few months at least, he should be supervised for all potties. This means that there is a human outside with him for every potty. This not only helps him feel that he's not being excluded from the family, but also allows the humans to monitor and make sure that he has in fact gone potty before coming back inside.
Finally, I should point out that not all dogs will get along with every dog they meet. Just as it is for humans, we may get along with most people we encounter, but some just rub us the wrong way. And even some that we like well enough, may not be someone we'd ever want to live with... this is true also for dogs. So, while these two may find a reasonable relationship allowing them to live together harmoniously, even if they're never best friends, it is possible that theyr'e not very compatible. So as you go forward, pay attention. If the dogs are stressed, if they're bickering, if they're not settling in and finding their groove with each other, it may be that no matter how good your intentions are, the Puggle just isn't the right fit for your home.
If you're unsure if what you're seeing is a giant red flag or just a small something that should be noted, then I encourage you to speak with a local behavior professional - one who has a solid understanding of canine behavior, and utilizes positive reinforcement training methods - nothing aversive or coersive in their training.
Good luck with the new family member. Please feel free to followup if I can be of any further assistance.
Los Angeles Behaviorist