My husband and I retired six years ago, and recently decided now is the best time for us to get two dogs. We had a dog many years ago, but life – work, children and so on – got in the way, and we have had to wait many years to be able to add to our family again.
Three weeks ago, we brought home Monty, a Wire Fox Terrier, now aged 20 weeks. And a week ago, we brought home Honey, a Havanese, now aged 10 weeks.
Monty cannot be trusted to be left alone with Honey, as he is very excitable and exuberant. Even though he only wants to play, he runs at her like an Exocet missile. Honey is tiny and she gets overwhelmed, and sometimes bowled over.
We never let them meet unless supervised. Their cages are next to each other; they paw and lick through the bars and we use distraction methods when they do meet, but the peace doesn’t last long. Please could you advise us of the best way of calming our dogs down, so that we can all be together in the same room?
Kirsten Dillon advises…
It is very important that you continue to be scrupulous in your management while Honey is still so young. Be hands-on every time they are together, and keep Monty from harassing her at all costs. The first 12 weeks of a puppy’s life are crucial in forming both positive and negative learning experiences, and if Honey is exposed to too many interactions that she believes to be negative, it may have a lasting effect on her.
Monty came to you at around 17 weeks, which means he learned most of his social skills somewhere else, and I’d guess they were with littermates or other boisterous terriers, hence his inappropriate play style. Although this is not the end of the world, as he can be taught manners, your priority must be Honey and providing her with as many positive dog-to-dog interactions as possible.
I advise you to seek out as many calm, friendly, older dogs as you can, and allow her to mix with them as much as possible. The more, the better. You may find a calm, older dog also acts as a ‘referee’ when Monty is around, which will have the bonus of providing him with feedback that his play may be too much in a language he understands. He runs the risk of becoming a ‘thug’ during this earlylearning period if he doesn’t socialise correctly a little more.
Do not allow Monty to bully Honey or be too physical, but the risk of an injury could really be the least of your worries at this stage. Honey needs to feel she has control over her own interactions, and absolutely must have the freedom to choose whether to engage with Monty or not – otherwise you risk her becoming pre-emptively aggressive to other dogs.
They will both grow up and calm down, and I am certain they will live happily together. Just be mindful that you must put the work in now to prevent lifelong issues occurring.