The Truth is Not Always Easy
I hate being the bad guy. I’m a social person by nature, and I don’t like having to tell people things they don’t want to hear. But sometimes as a professional dog trainer I can’t remain silent, especially when people put dogs in situations that are just not good for the dogs. This was the case with a woman who contacted me recently about her senior Chihuahua who is aggressive toward other dogs and unfamiliar people. The dog has had the issue for many years.
A few days ago, the woman’s brother, who lives with her, brought home an eight-week-old Husky puppy. The reason she had contacted me for help was to teach the dogs to get along, especially as the older dog was already showing aggression toward the puppy. I absolutely appreciate that she was reaching out for help. But here’s the thing: the situation is not good for anyone. As I explained, it is unfair to the senior Chihuahua who doesn’t like other dogs to bring a puppy into the house. Would you make your grandfather who truly dislikes being around kids live with a rambunctious young child? Not only is this a puppy, but it’s a breed that is going to be much larger than the Chihuahua, and is prone to having a strong prey drive. And, what happens when the Chi attacks the Husky, and the pup defends himself? As for the puppy, growing up in a house where his early and ongoing experience of other dogs is one of being constantly attacked, chances are he will develop fear-based reactivity toward other dogs, when he might otherwise have been perfectly well adjusted. Besides, chronic stress can do bad things to a dog’s physiology, including giving them gastric ulcers and lowering the immune system, which opens the door to illness. It isn’t fair to put that stress on either dog, never mind the humans living with them.
To the woman’s credit, she listened and seemed to take in what I was saying. I had asked whether her brother was definitely keeping the puppy, and she said he was. She asked if they should keep them separated, and I said if it was possible, then yes. I am afraid they will call around and find a trainer who will tell them that any behavior issue can be fixed, including this one. While it’s true that some dogs who initially don’t accept a new pup into the house do come around and even become friends with the puppy, a senior dog who has had lifelong issues with other dogs and who stands a good chance of being mauled or worse by the new dog as he matures should not be put in that position. Again, I hate being the bad guy, but sometimes it’s necessary to be the voice of reason and at least offer the information and hope it helps. _________________________________________________________________________
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