Dog Blog: Do your dogs always get along?

AnchorageApril 22, 2013 

For those of you with multiple dogs, a question: Do they always get along? Are they affectionate or at least tolerant of each other? And, on the occasions there is a conflict, do you know what causes it, and can you bring peace back to the household?

Years ago, a psychologist who loves dogs -- not quite a behaviorist but on that track -- told me of the importance of having a balanced pack. My dogs were fighting at the time, and she said my pack was unbalanced. 

She gave me lots of things to try -- increased exercise, supervised toy time, etc. -- and we finally got to the point where she said we'd achieved balance. The fighting stopped, and everybody learned to get along.

We've had some ups and downs over the years, but for the most part we've always come back to a state of balance, where I can trust them alone together.

Flash forward to the past few weeks, and we've hit another bump in the road. Eddie's CCL surgery has tipped the balance again. He has to be isolated in a large X-pen when he's not being directly supervised, and he has to be leashed during short walks outside. Of course, that extra attention he's getting makes the other dogs curious and maybe even resentful at the extra time he's getting with us. I can see them watching when Eddie and I are spending time together; other times, they seem timid around Eddie.

Eddie, meanwhile, is down to "as needed" meds, and he's getting his energy back. He's been restless. I play low-stress games with him and try to occupy his mind, but he's been unpredictable at best. He snapped at Lucy when she got too close recently and yesterday he snapped at me. He was sitting on my lap and I was brushing his back and his good leg, and he spun his head around with teeth flaring as if he were going to bite me. 

My reaction was one of shock. He may have nipped me in the past when I was breaking up a fight, but he's never intentionally shown aggression toward me. I responded by giving him a timeout in his X-pen.

I'm not terribly worried about a change in personality -- after all, he's still recovering from surgery. Perhaps I unknowingly had his bad leg in an awkward position or put some pressure on it. But I am worried about getting the pack back in balance.

Fortunately, he's 4 weeks into his recovery, and he's allowed to take 10 minute walks. That's helped him burn off some energy. And since I'm walking him with the other dogs, they, too, should start to realize that nothing has changed in the pack. 

I'm just curious to see if other multiple dog owners go through the same thing and what you do to try to bring peace back to the household.

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