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Canine Behavior/Gumbo and Taffy don't mix


QUESTION: We brought a ten week old puppy, Taffy, in to our home two  weeks ago.  Our nine year old dog, Gumbo, is "tolerant" but, not happy.  Gumbo and I are an animal assisted therapy team with Pet Partners and she is very mild mannered and I have now found that she easily gives up her bed, toys, food etc...  I have been vigilant with Taffy and make sure she doesn't overpower Gumbo.  So far, if I'm not actively watching Taffy she is on a leash next to me or in her kennel.  
  Well, yesterday and today when I took the girls out to use the bathroom, Gumbo climbed under the shed to hide.  Yesterday she was under there for almost five hours!  I put Taffy in her kennel and tried to coax her out with food, praise etc... to no avail.  I finally drove around the block and pulling the car back into the driveway worked.  This morning, it happened again and I used a plastic rake to encourage her to crawl out.  I have since put chicken wire around the shed.
  What should I do to help facilitate this relationship?  There have been glimpses of friendship and Gumbo hasn't been aggressive at all, just avoidant.

ANSWER: Ten week old puppy is very easy to re-home if you know what you're doing.  Call the Humane Society (NOT THE KILL SHELTER) in your area, they may be able to help.  Look for rescue groups, check their references.  Gumbo is being emotionally stressed to the breaking point.  If you and Gumbo are a therapy team, you should already recognize the obvious signs that this is not working.  Do not acquire another dog without a serious evaluation for temperament and an introduction OFF YOUR PROPERTY, at least ONCE.

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QUESTION: Dr. Connor,
I appreciate your response but, I'm not prepared to give up just yet. They did meet in an outside environment beforehand and the response was neutral (they're both labradoodles btw). My hope was that Gumbo could mentor this new pup. Having known what I know now, I obviously would have waited. Yesterday afternoon I took Gumbo out to do a hospital visit and that actually seemed to help. She is my best friend and I DO want the best for her but, giving up on Taffy this early seems wrong. Do you truly think it's not capable of being successful? Thank you again for your time and candid answer.

ANSWER: I can't see anything from here (and it's very frustrating when I have to answer delicate questions such as this one).

Do I want a ten week old puppy to go from an excellent, experienced, loving home to who knows where?  NO.  BUT....I also want to protect Gumbo.  

Here's what I suggest:  (a neutral response upon meeting means nothing, btw): Gumbo is not socialized to neonates (that's what a 10 week old puppy is) and for good reason: how many people CAN socialize (consistently, for 18 months starting at origin of ownership) a dog to everything and everyone?  very few!  Including me!  Gumbo may never "mentor" the puppy, THAT IS YOUR JOB.  The puppy is YOUR COMPANION, not Gumbo's and, as such, must be socialized heavily and independently from Gumbo.  You DO NOT WANT this puppy to bond to Gumbo unless the puppy is first bonded to YOU.  

Can it succeed?  Depends upon Gumbo's temperament, Taffy's temperament, and your interaction with both, individual and together.  Again, I can't predict.  If I were able to SEE, evaluate, interview, both dogs and you of course, that would be a different story.

I suggest, since you are such a loving person and so committed to both these dogs, you might want to spend some $ with a CERTIFIED APPLIED ANIMAL BEHAVIORIST (NOT a dog trainer!)  This individual will, in person, be able to see what I cannot and be able to make suggestions, change social hierarchical order as it emerges, help you to socialize Taffy without Gumbo while maintaining Gumbo's status in your life and home.

You can find one in your area (I hope) from one of the following sites OR by calling the Veterinary College in your geographical area:

Meanwhile: continue with Gumbo AS NORMAL.  Do not defer to Taffy no matter how strong the urge.  Take Taffy out once a day without Gumbo to see and experience things (discuss with your veterinarian the adequacy of vaccination protection).  Take Gumbo out with Taffy to do his "job" and just for "fun".  Make certain Taffy SEES that Gumbo is greeted first, fed first, allowed privileges Taffy is not (nor should be, with or without another dog in the house, such as free run of the house), etc.  If Gumbo SHOWS FEAR, IGNORE IT.  Leave the room or area.  A ten week old puppy is not going to hurt Gumbo BUT (like a two year old child!) can cause mayhem and assault the senses of any adult dog (and Human, too!)  Gumbo will not hurt this puppy.  He is looking to YOU for direction.  If you ignore his fear and REWARD his normal behavior when Taffy is around (even being a bratty "kid"), you will raise Gumbo's social status and help him to adjust.


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

QUESTION: Thank you for the added advice Dr. Connor.  I was so distraught thinking I royally screwed thing up, especially for Gumbo.  I had been researching puppies for two years beforehand, preparing since October for Taffy.  While Gumbo was/is great with all types of creatures, you are correct in that she was only exposed to puppies twice at around a year old and there wasn't too much interaction. I will find a certified applied animal behaviorist right away and start implementing your suggestions now.  I know that it's hard to get the entire truth of the matter through the internet so I do understand your first response and I give you my word that I want what's best for both dogs and our family. I will make sure I put in the time to do just that.

OH I KNOW YOU WILL!!!!  And this WILL work with a little expert guidance.  You're a wonderful dog "owner" (hate to call it that lol) and this puppy can also be a Therapy dog at some point.  Please update me after you see the CAAB.  I'll be gone the entire month of September.  I'll be back answering questions September 25.  If between September 1 and September 25 you need expert advice, try Jody Epstein on this site.  While I don't always agree with her answers (I don't read them all, read just a few) she's very good.  Bon chance!

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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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