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Pugnacious Pugs

Pugs WrestlingHi John,

I was hoping you could help address a issue I am having with my 2 spayed puggies, Rose who is 15 months old and Anna at 9 months of age. I think Rose is mentally unbalanced. She constantly picks fights with Anna for no reason. We could be just sitting on the couch, Rose on one side and Anna on the other, everything is quiet and peaceful. They might even be sleeping and then all of a sudden Rose flies at Anna and attacks her. I have Been in the middle and have been bitten in these attacks. If I see that Rose has that mad ‘stare’ I will curl my hand and subdue her by the neck until she settles down.

Poor Anna is always under attack. She is the submissive one and is always washing Rose. Although when Rose attacks Anna, Anna almost always wins the scrap. She is a very mild mannered dog and Rose is extroverted to say it mildly. Is there anything I can do to change this negative behavior?

– Mandy


Hi Mandy,

Here’s a dog math question for you. What does one pug plus one pug equal? Sometimes three times the work and four times the trouble. At least for a lot of unsuspecting dog owners that is sometimes the answer.

Your pugs are young and just coming into their own physically. Anna especially so and perhaps Rose sees her as a developing threat. They send signals to each other even when they are playing. It’s a ballet to learn who’s strongest, fastest, smartest, and wants it more. Anna’s growing strength may be making her more confident and she may feel more entitled to her share of the goodies in life. Rose may be a little worried and is trying to undermine Anna’s confidence while she is little with preemptive strikes.

Social groups need social structure otherwise anarchy reins and disaster is the inevitable result. The smartest, strongest, fastest, most interested are the ones calling the shots. There are perks that come with associated responsibility. If you’re a dog and you want to eat first you eat first. If you want the first bit of attention from your owner, you get it and so on. If another pack member infringes then the gloves are off. The difference between house dogs and their wild cousins is that the latter don’t have one or more humans complicating matters by handing out valued meals, treats, attention and affection etc. hither thither. The lower dog that has accepted the terms of the prior established treaty finds him or herself getting unsolicited preferential treatment and relationship tension begins to build between the two of them until the top dog feels it has no choice but to teach the lower a good lesson. “But I didn’t take it! She gave it to me!” is not an acceptable answer to top dog.

Situations like yours often arise when the owner doesn’t respect the relationship dynamic established between two or more dogs in a household and inadvertently upsets the balance by doing something like prematurely interceding when a scrap breaks out. At this point, from a safety perspective I understand why you are restraining Rose when she gets her “stare” but it isn’t going to endear Anna to her if in her mind Anna has done something and she’s getting the punishment. Equally disruptive in dog’s relationship dynamic is when an owner bestows favors valued by the top dog to the lower before top dog has had first shot. The phrase “bones of contention” is based on this canine behaviour. After a while, the context in which each dog sees the other is predominantly combative, the good times all forgotten and a fight can break out at an imagined slight and life becomes increasingly miserable for much of everyone’s time together. Conflict becomes a way of life, sparked seemingly over nothing from the human perspective. There are occasions when two dogs achieve adulthood and are so evenly matched that a clear top dog resolution is never achieved and in the wild or in the house the results are the same. Somebody has to go. Otherwise death or serious injury will result.

In order to reestablish your household’s equilibrium you’re best to start with establishing your self as the overall top dog . That means if you say, “Jump!” Anna and Rose have to understand, “How high and when can I come down” is the correct response. They are still going to have to work things out but it will be at a pace you set. You may need some help figuring out which of your pugnacious pair is more inclined to lead as well as determine what that top dog cares about so that you can avoid unnecessary conflict between the two. See if you can find a trainer in your area to have a look at the dynamic between the three of you in your own household. A good trainer will help you achieve that top dog status in a balanced manner and show you how and whether to intercede when tensions arise.

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