I am fascinated by the pack dynamics among my dogs. If your dogs don’t get along very well at first, don’t despair. In the canine world, the subtleties of the pack order sort themselves out over time. I have three Siberian huskies – I’ve seen my share of small dramas!
We’ve had Fiona since she was a small puppy of eight weeks old. When Fiona was three years old, we took in my father’s dog Shelby. They’d known each other since Fiona was born and she was like a mother to Fiona. They got along famously.
Feeding time with Fiona and Shelby was easy. We would fill the dog food bowls with kibble and they would eat an appropriate amount among themselves over time; we would simply fill the bowls when they were empty. Amazingly, the two dogs were the perfect, healthy weight all the time. They appeared to be self-regulating in their diet.
A few years later, our sweet Shelby dog became sick and died. Poor Fiona fell into a depression without her friend and companion. She would barely eat. She moped around the house. She was grieving and she was lonely.
After about four months, we decided to “get a puppy” for Fiona. We contacted the husky breeder where we adopted her and were told they had a two and half year old dog who needed a home. Her previous owner had died recently. The dog’s name was Secret, a female, and she was not house trained, not spayed, and in heat. Wowee, we did not know what we were in for!
When we brought Fiona to meet Secret, Fiona tried to get her to play and woo woo-ed at her in typical husky fashion, jumping at her energetically, grabbing her ruff, wagging her tail. Secret took this as not friendly, and growled and snarled at Fiona. We drove home, a seven hour drive, with two dogs making an uncertain peace in the back seat of the car. I wasn’t sure it would work out. My husband, always confident in the power of dogs to work things out among themselves, was sure it would.
Once we got home, the saga continued. Secret was in heat and grouchy, peeing everywhere. Fiona knew that this was bad dog behavior and would bark at Secret to get her to stop. Secret again took this as aggression and growled and snarled back.
Secret acquired a habit of grabbing Fiona by the base of her tail which would pin Fiona down and not allow her to free herself. We crated Secret when we were not home, more for Fiona’s protection than to save our floor and furniture. Secret, in typical husky fashion, soon learned to escape the crate and we gave up on crate training her.
With my heart in my throat, I left Secret uncrated and headed off to work. When I came home, both dogs were fine. No bloodshed. No house damage. No severed tails. Fiona, however, was hiding down the end of the hallway and refused to play with her toys or join the family. It seemed that Secret liked stealing away every toy that Fiona grabbed. Secret also would still drag Fiona around by her long, luxurious tail.
Secret is a voracious eater and we could not leave food down unattended as she would eat it all. Fiona was not used to eating like this and I had to entice her to eat in one sitting in the morning and one at night. She continued to lose weight. With persistence and creativity, we got both dogs to eat healthy amounts of food in two separate meals a day. I weighed them every two weeks or so to see how the feeding schedule was doing, to make sure the amount they were getting was on target.
With time and patience, we wooed Fiona from her hiding spot at the end of the hallway, to join us and Secret in the living room. Now Fiona plays with her toys, eats heartily and spends time with the family. But I think she resented the newcomer for a while. Secret wasn’t nice – at first – and she wasn’t Shelby.
Now Fiona and Secret still have their battles, but they do occasionally lie together and do cute things like make hearts of their joined paws!