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Five months ago, I added a male dog to the family, a 7-months-old, Boxer / Pit Bull mix (though he looks like a Shar Pei) named Butcher. The existing dogs are females: Brownie, 3-year-old, Weimaraner / Boxer mix, and Cochi, an almost 2-year-old, Boxer / Pit Bull mix.

Brownie is balanced; she remains very calm when Butcher is playing around her and teasing her. Butcher is hyperactive, likes to play all day long, and is a bit insecure; he often hides when he is barking at other dogs. Cochi is very energetic as well, it feels like she wants to protect everything from Butcher.

I have observed Cochi acting aggressively against Butcher since the beginning: she growls at him when he gets close to her. I don't want to interfere with the normal hierarchy. How can I improve the relation between them? Is it OK to protect the little one when my older dogs growl or bark at him? I can tell Cochi senses Butcher's insecurity; how can I make him more confident?

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Dogs in a pack tend to seek security, predictability, and everybody playing a role. One of these roles is that of the pack leader which undoubtedly at least one dog will claim. The pack leader owns everything and everybody in the pack. He or she will assert on other pack members by displaying acts of dominance:

  • Guarding a particular toy
  • Always eating first
  • Taking items or toys from other pack members to assert ownership
  • Not accepting unstable or unpredictable behavior.
  • Not accepting other pack members to display dominance while they are around

Human psychology tells us this is barbaric and hellish but to dogs they find this nature comforting and secure. A dog feels comforted in knowing that there is a strong pack leader that will take charge and look after everybody. For our pets it helps us to understand this so that we know to always let our dogs know that we are in charge and that everything will be alright.

Cochi clearly has a lot of stress around Butcher who is overly hyper and energetic, probably because she assumes that she is pack leader and this young pup doesn't seem to want to accept her role. Cochi needs to understand that in fact you are the pack leader and that you will not accept acts of dominance from either her or Butcher from now on.

When Cochi starts growling and guarding her toy, correct her immediately and take the toy from her. This establishes that you own the toy and that you are in charge. If Butchers gets too rough or Cochi has had enough then correct Butcher and coming between them if you can. If this doesn't work then separate them temporarily.

Butcher sounds like a typical puppy and is still learning the bounds of what is acceptable from both you and the other two dogs. It is normal for dogs to correct each other when they have crossed the line, but let it be known that acts of dominance amongst each other while you are there is unacceptable. They will grow more trust in you and in each other, and just generally be all around happier.

Another tip might be to introduce more frequent exercise for Butcher to help expend a lot of that pent up energy. A wound anxiety ridden dog introduces instability to a pack and this will increase the stress of the other dogs. Try running with Butcher or even supervising him on a treadmill to get rid of some excess energy.

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