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Canine Behavior/Dog dominance


I  adopted a  two year old redbone coonhound X beagle in April. My husband and I already had/have a ten yr/old Lhasapoo. They get along for the most part by ignoring one another,
except when it is time to eat...
The ten year old has always eaten off of the floor,or by hand, refusing food from a dish, thanks to my husband.
Now Bella won't eat from a dish, rather she knocks her dish over and eats the kibble from the floor too.

I have even moved her food dish away from the older dogs, she just picks the dish up, and brings it to where the older dog is eating, and dumps it on the floor, then eats it..
If her food dish is away from the older dogs, she begins to whine, then bark..

She sometimes tries to eat the older dogs food, which causes irritating barking, but this only happens when my husband is home.
What can I do to correct this behaviour?
Besides kicking my husband out? Haha
Both dogs adore my husband, so they compete for his attention, and Bella gets very jealous if the older dog gets more attention, than she feels that she is getting.
If we're all sitting on the couch watching a movie, she starts yipping because she can't fit next to my husband , so we all readjust ourselves, then she jumps up, then we are fine again.
Might I add, Bella was owned and trained by a male.  I was wondering whether or not this may be a correlation to this dominance issue, since it only happens when my husband is around.
She also has separation anxiety when my husband is gone. He could be gone for five minutes, but upon his return, Bella freaks out, like he has been gone for days, running around the house, chasing the cats and barking.
Please enlighten me as to what this behaviour means and ways on how I can correct/prevent it from happening again, any input you have, will be greatly appreciated

ANSWER: Well, too late to throw out the husband!  LOLOLOL

Yes Bella was habituated to a man at a time in life when she was most impressionable.  However, it's not uncommon for dog(s) in a household to perceive the man of the house as higher in social status for a great many reasons  none of which are important really in this case.

The dish issue:  She is mimicking the older dog who is, to her, higher in social status (as it should be, let's be thankful for the small things lol).  I would basically ignore it (even though it's messy).  When she tries to eat your older dog's food, it is most likely a benign "test" of social hierarchy and the older dog has her well in hand: barking is a communication and does not suggest aggression or fighting will ensue.  Supervise feeding by keeping an eye on the dogs without being too obvious about it and don't interfere UNLESS this escalates into snarling/snapping (in which case talk to me).

Her separation anxiety is to be expected.  No matter how long we are "gone" from a household, dogs do not measure time in the way we do.  Temperament determines how well a dog adjusts to our leave taking and return, as well as past experience.  

First:  treat the dog's separation anxiety in the following way:

1.  You can create an emotional independence in the dog by conditioning a "time out" article.
Simply place the chosen article (something you don’t use for any other purpose, like an odd garden statue) in full view of the dog every day for thirty minutes to one hour and call a "time out", during which you actively ignore the dog.  When you remove the article, reward the dog with praise, but don’t overdo it.  Over the course of two weeks, your dog will begin to recognize the article and begin to acknowledge your unavailability (many dogs go to a corner to lie down, or their favorite couch spot, etc.)  Once you observe your dog’s recognition of the article, put it in plain sight about ten minutes before leaving the house (but NOT in the room the dog is confined to, the dog will lose its conditioned response.)  In other words, use the article as a CUE to the dog that you are not available.

2.  Make your dog earn everything for about one month, including pats, entering/leaving the home, etc.  (This is called “Nothing in life is free”.)  You will be promoting yourself psychologically, which will help the dog to feel calmer.

3.  Purchase Turid Rugaas' book, “On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming signals” or go to her web site  Observe the dog’s behaviors before you depart to determine if your departure rituals are creating anxiety.  Use calming signals just before leaving the house WITHOUT saying “goodbye” to the dog (which can set the dog up for emotional distress.)  Dogs instantly respond to these signals and you’ll begin to see that response immediately.

4.  Change your departure rituals so you do not inadvertently "cue" your dog.  This means doing things differently EVERY day during treatment (which should last about two to four weeks.)  If you put your coat on last, put your coat on five minutes before you actually leave the house; if you pick up your keys last, put them in your pocket ten minutes before leaving the house, etc.  Again, given two weeks (at least) of this treatment, along with the others, your dog’s extreme sensitivity to your departure rituals should diminish and/or extinguish.  When you RETURN home, ignore the dog for a few seconds, and then ask the dog to “sit” and acknowledge him/her; keep your homecoming attention short and sweet.  If there is any destruction around (torn objects, etc.) IGNORE IT.  What you don’t want is the dog to fear your RETURN as much as s/he fears your leave taking.  

The NILIF (Nothing In Life Is Free) is probably a good thing to keep in place for a while, for Bella ONLY.  This gives her two strong signals:  you are higher in social rank and so is your older dog (who will soon recognize what's going on since she does NOT have to "earn" anything).  The "sit" must be taught with positive reinforcement only and out of sight and earshot of the older dog:

Put the older dog's food down first, then ask Bella for a "sit" and put the bowl where you prefer it to be.  If she picks it up and moves it to mimic the older dog, bite your tongue LOL.

Bella has been in your household a short time.  Even as "young" as age two makes her ability to habituate to a new household difficult and it will take some more time for that to happen.  The dogs are presently ignoring each other since the older dog is refusing interaction to make a statement of rank and Bella is acquiescing.  She actually sounds like a fine dog.

Re: couch.  She wants to be near your husband.  Since you don't have a problem with your dogs on your furniture (I don't either, never have), when it comes to rearranging yourselves so she can "fit" ask for "sit" first, then "invite" her up with a calm encouraging word or two.  

The NILIF will calm her as weeks pass and being "invited" after "working to earn" the couch position will also.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Thank you for such  wonderful and helpful advice!
Although this does not pertain to my situation, why do dogs perceive the man of the household as alpha? I am just curious.
The dish issue:
Until today, the older dog would get snarly and viscious with Bella, over the food...So I brought out Bella's food dish, given to me by her previous owner, and put it away from the older dogs food..she cant carry it in her mouth and move it to where the older dog is eating, like she did with her lighter food dish ..
But she did spill it all over the place, and began to whine when the  older dog was eating his food where they both used to eat in competition..
I used a firm "no" and she went to eat her food, that she spilled all over..
I am happy to say that I am on the couch and they are both beside me, separate, but still beside me..
Separation Anxiety:
I fear that she may have been neglected in her past, judging by her actions when one of us is gone and returns home, it is worse when we both leave the house, and return..
I am on vacation this week and am going to follow through with your suggestions on this ..very informative..
Bella is a ''fine dog'' as you so nicely referred her as..and learning, from you, more about dog behaviour, between her and our older dog, makes perfect sense, thank you
Tonight she laid down on the floor, under my husbands feet, while the older dog was on the couch, she whined a few times, but was pretty good generally..

Yes, well now I've had some time to think about your husband.  You picked the right apple from the right tree, there, hold onto him LOL.

Sounds like you are solving the sloppy eating and "competition" issue, good for you.  Bella may just finally stop throwing the food around but, I have to tell you, that scent hounds (this includes Coonhounds, Beagles, etc.) "hunt" for "food".  Many, many breeds originally designed for hunting (including, of all things, the Toy Poodle!) will remove food from the bowl, carry it a few feet away, and eat it.  Mine does!  Perfectly normal.

Couch issue seems to be coming along.  Again, NILIF is always a good thing for a dog under stress so do use positive reinforcement to teach her a simple "sit" (and she's smart, she'll catch on, so will the older dog after a while and may even follow your cue for "sit" and must be rewarded also).  

Why dogs perceive the male Human as higher in social status ("alpha" is not a term that truly pertains to the domestic dog except for certain breeds): male Humans don't normally "fawn" all over a dog or humanize it (treat it like a child); male humans are running Testosterone (in certain breeds this can actually precipitate a serious problem but it's rare and won't appear here); men just behave differently (more casual, less effusive, you know how they ARE LOL) and that promotes them psychologically.  Also, a dog that has been strongly habituated to a man in its neonate period (from birth through age 14 weeks) is naturally going to see the male Human in the household as the first attachment.  These are not hard and fast rules; remember, I see only PROBLEMS (often quite serious problems).  No one calls me or asks me questions on this site about their wonderful dog that does everything exactly the way they wish.  So I lean to being conservative in my evaluation.

This is a young dog, she seems to be adjusting quite well (as does your older dog) and you are obviously marvelous caretakers.  I commend you for taking in this dog and I assure you that it appears to me she will be a lifelong, wonderful companion.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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