Help -- we're so embarrassed! We've taken our corgi Henry, now 18mos old, on vacation to our relatives. They have a middle-aged female boxer named Hannah, an extremely sweet, extremely submissive dog, but Henry is behaving like a huge jerk to her! He freaks out and runs after her barking and snarling when she goes outside. He'll suddenly bark and lunge at her when both of them appear to be doing nothing at all. And heaven forbid someone puts down a bone or a treat, he'll be all over her snarling and squealing like he wants to kill her. But, all this is strangely intermittent. Most of the time, he and she get along great! They sniff each other, they share food, they nap and get petted and nose around without any concern for the other one. It's only sometimes, usually when Hannah gets excited to go outside or affectionate when someone new arrives. But it's also unpredictable -- sometimes it just comes out of the blue!

At first we figured Henry was just herding her and getting upset when she "tried to leave the pack" (went outside). But after he started bossing her around and attacking her over treats and toys, we got seriously concerned. Ours is a one-dog house; Henry is used to being to only dog around. And at dog parks he plays really well with all the other dogs, whatever size or breed. He doesn't appear to ever take a dominant position? What could be messing him up now, and what can we do about it? We intervene, we separate them, we remove the stimuli, but we need to train him to relax co-habitating with another dog. We just don't know how! Please help!

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I definitely would not leave toys and treats laying around.  If playing with toys they should be supervised and then when done the toys should be put away out of reach.  I would not have any food related treats laying around and they should be separated when food or treats are involved.  Also make sure that the dogs are both getting enough walks, I would even walk them together and tire them out.  I hope these tips help you out.

Walk them together and remove any high-value toys and treats while they are together.   Dogs are social creatures and it is confusing for them to be tossed into another dog's home with another dog's things and know how to behave.  Separate them when they can't be closely supervised, avoid situations that are likely to cause conflict, and don't be afraid to stick a leash on Henry so you can relax and enjoy  your visit while still keeping him under control.   

I have had strange dogs come into my house without preliminary meetings a couple times for various reasons, and it is always very stressful for mine, even though they are used to living with another dog and well-socialized with dogs outside the home.  Being in a house together is very different from playing at the park.  What you are describing is very normal; nothing is "wrong" with Henry.  Just do what you can to decrease conflict and increase control.   

I would keep it really simple and leave all the figuring out "why" to after I get home, if at all.  Keep him on leash at all times, or crated,  or in your room if he is reliable there and will not do damage.  When you are in someone else's home as a guest, your first concern is to not create any problems.  Keeping him on leash in the house will solve that problem.  If you need to leave him outside off leash, do so when the other one is inside.  He should have zero opportunity to make a nuisance of himself....If he's not happy about it don't worry, he'll survive.  Enjoy your relatives and your vacation and next time leave him behind.  Not all dogs are good candidates to be taken to other people's homes.

I second the keeping them completely separate advise.  Leash him or gate them off from each other, or crate him.  Take him for really long walks to tire him out as much as possible.   Who knows whats going on in his mind, but you definitely don't want the issue to escalate into something worse.  Good luck!


Leash, leash, leash! Attach the leash to yourself and let him follow you around while you are there. It is important for him to know that you are in charge of his activities. You don't say how old he is but if he is young, he may just be going through a bit of a "I am King of the World" stage and needs to see that he is not in a non-confrontational way. Being leashed to you enables you to give him love when he is behaving and corrections if he starts to act aggressive. Either way it tends to be instinctive to dogs to be aggressive to the weak, he needs to understand that this is not OK with you.

Thanks for the advice! He's young -- 18mos -- so it's entirely reasonable he'd be having some adolescent bravado. We did keep him tired out with walks and runs and, as described, the problem behaviors were very intermittent and definitely of a herding/dominating bent. Walking them together sounds like a wonderful idea, though!

He is very well socialized at the dog park and was on good behavior at a larger family gathering earlier in the year. At that event, several families with a total of three dogs congregated at a large house, but it wasn't the "home house" of any of the dogs, and they fell into a comfortable group very quickly. This time it was definitely Hannah's (the boxer) house, and she does broadcast weakness. We found ourselves intervening successfully but aggressively, and we felt that wasn't right. Above all, we don't want it to escalate into dog aggression, possessiveness, or disobedience. It is telling that anytime we stepped in and gave him a direct command, he obeyed and we were always able to defuse bad situations. It was only when they were unsupervised or "at loose ends" that he acted dominant towards Hannah.

After we get home, though, what's the training advice for teaching him to respect us as pack leaders in any situation? We realize now that the training we thought was complete clearly isn't.

Is Henry neutered?

Just like humans, sometimes we just don't like someone.  Your corgi is still young.  At the dog park my boy gets along with everyone except for two certain dogs.  He must sense something that I don't understand about that dog.  Also, corgis are very headstrong and wants to be the alpha dog.  I also put Bailey on a leash to avoid an uncomfortable situation and to show who is really in charge.

Honestly, I wouldn't take this incident as a reflection on your training or his obedience. It is a lot to ask of a dog to go and stay in another dog's house and behave all the time, especially if the other dog is naturally submissive. If the two dogs were living together, your relative's dog would probably take a more submissive role. But it's her house. So the dynamic is difficult. I would just control the situation while you are there and not take it to mean anything at all about your training program.

@ Beth, what Sarah described is overt, unprovoked aggression towards a submissive dog.  Although I agree it is not a reflection on her training, as she had no clue before this came up that he would behave that way, it is a reflection on his temperament, personality and obedience.  Obedience training and maturing could possibly correct this ( Sarah has not yet answered my question on whether Henry is neutered or not ) but some dogs are genetically more dog aggressive and stay that way.  These dogs need to be managed properly by knowing which situations they can be asked to function in and which are not appropriate for them.

Anna, the thing is we don't know how the dogs were introduced or managed. When I brought Maddie into the house, the two dogs were not allowed unsupervised together for weeks. We did not play with high-value toys. We separated them at feeding. Normally you don't introduce two dogs to a household by just putting them together and expecting them to work it out.

Since they are staying there on holiday, I doubt the dogs had enough time to be properly introduced. Throw in a bunch of people excited for the holidays (who also don't normally live together, and so there is no clear line of command among the humans either) and this can happen with many dogs. Forcing dogs to handle exciting situations in confined quarters will often lead to squabbles. Boxers are sweet but often clumsy and not very aware of where they are in space; there is probably more to this picture as to what is going on between the dogs than is being noticed.

When a submissive dog owns the house but a more dominant dog is brought in and does not live there, there is social imbalance. It MAY mean the dog is "dog aggressive" but certainly doesn't have to mean that.

@ Beth, all your points are well taken, however he is "dog aggressive" right now, the future remains to be seen.  Dog bullies, much like human bullies, will choose to aggress weaker individuals and may look perfectly fine in situations where others seem stronger or more in charge than they are.  There are however, as you say, too many moving parts to this picture to predict the future.  One thing I'm sure of, if he's not been neutered, this aggravates his tendencies.


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