Sunday, February 21, 2010

New Dog Woes

The new dog, Nikolas Almanzo, Niki for short, is causing very few woes, actually. He is well-behaved, loves having his hair brushed (thank goodness...he is like a tiny little collie for hair!), hasn't tried to mark in the house since the first few hours he was here, submits to Tula being the No. 1 dog, and is generally a sweet little doll.

But I worry that I have made a mistake in bringing him. Is he making Tula sad? It's hard to tell with a cocker spaniel. They always look sad.

She's not enjoying him, which I didn't expect right away. She's only actively mean to him when there are toys involved (more on that in a minute), but I worry that she will never like him and will always feel sad in her own home from now on. We decided to get a second dog because she is alone for so many hours during the week, but maybe she preferred that. We also decided to get the second dog because she seems to enjoy playing with some other dogs (not all of them, though! That's why we had to choose carefully.). And we also decided to get the second dog in the hope that it would teach her how to have better dog manners in general.

So, as I said, she is mostly nicer than anticipated. She lets Niki lay by us on the couch and bed, walks nicer with him on the leash than she does alone, and, amazingly, lets him eat and drink out of her bowls (and she returns the favor with his food and water). Also amazingly, I can sit them down next to each other and give treats without her trying to take his. Anyone who knows Tula knows that this is not an area where we might expect her to behave because she LOVES treats.

But Niki tries to play, tail wagging, and she growls and gets aggressive. Niki doesn't really offer to touch her toys, but I bought them some matching ones -- crooked toothed stuffed squeaky aliens for my crooked-toothed special dogs -- and Tula is absolutely awful when I bring them out. I have figured out a method by which I time their journeys to get the toys so that they are both running in opposite directions and not getting back to me at the same time (Niki has comically short legs and does not run very fast while Tula is a gun dog), and that sort of works, but Tula still growls and acts mean. If Niki happens near her, she goes after him, growling and barking (but so far, not trying to bite, thank goodness).

I know part of it is normal dog behavior, teaching him boundaries, but I don't know enough to tell when to stop it. Niki, for his part, does not participate. When she gets like that, he drops his toy and lays down far from Tula, looking the opposite direction. I think that's a pretty good new dog. It might just take Tula time to figure out he's not trying to horn in. After an episode like that, she'll sit there and hide her toy under her feet and growl at him. Then I take both toys away, which she hates but doesn't fight, until she is calm again. And when she's nice to him again, bacon treats come out.

It's only the first day, though. I just hope I'm doing the right thing, not reinforcing the wrong thing. And I hope it's okay to keep letting them eat out of each other's dishes.

When I try to read about what to do, I keep coming up with articles that say, basically, "You selfish person! Some dogs just like to live alone, and you shouldn't force them to do otherwise!" I wish someone would say, "This is normal dog behavior, and they'll learn to like each other eventually."

I have dog friends to ask, but I can't ask them because I'm fasting from Facebook for Lent. And I can't gripe about that because if you gripe...or even mention it, as I just negate the effects of your fasting. Sigh. Like poor Niki, I am just trying to do the right thing.

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