Does your dog act out on some dogs, but not others? Mainly puppies? Here’s my story and I am confident it might be yours.
I have the most adorable furkid (don’t we all….). Milo’s almost 6. He’s a Mini Groodle, which is a medium size breed. He’s placid yet excitable, ready to chill but ready to run & play endlessly. He LOVES people. He also loves other dogs. For the most part.
Since he was about 4, I noticed he started getting growly towards some dogs and not others. If he got the chance – which he did on 2 occasions from memory – he would pin the dog down, stare at them for a few seconds, jump off, then beg them to play! And the funny thing is, the other dog would act as if nothing happened, and play excitedly with him! I noticed that this play would happen only on those occasions where he was able to pin them down first.
Once, Milo, tried to be growly with a larger puppy (a lab, i think), and that puppy let out the cutest little kick in Milos face, which made him step back in shock, then beg the dog to play with him!
What in the name of dogwood dogs had I raised?!!
I realised that Milo was asserting his dominance. It didn’t matter who came out the victor, he just wanted to know his place. He would never hurt another dog. I know we all say this, but seriously, he couldn’t. He’s just fluff and daftness. He acts tough but only if I am right there next to him. He’s literally the biggest wimp otherwise, and I love this about him. I also worry about his lack of defence abilities, but i’d rather this concern than the concerns associated with having an aggressive dog.
So, as I realised in Milos case, it’s a dominance issue to be worked out between dogs, just like they’ve always done since day dot. But how could I ask a fur parent to let Milo do what he has to do, and that I promise, they will both love each other afterwards, no matter who ‘wins’? I found that those who were familiar with dog behaviour knew how to read their actions, and would tell me to let Milo go for it, and everything would be hunky dory afterwards.
Eventually – like, months later – he’d stop taunting them when they’d see each other, and just play. I had NO idea why, but he would just ‘switch’ and be fine with them. This messed with my head a bit!! And then there’d be the occasional adult dog that he wouldn’t like, so that also threw me off a bit, but not enough to steer me away from his annoyance with puppies overall.
I would often find myself scolding Milo for being a ‘bad boy’, because I didn’t raise him to be such an arsehole to puppies!
I couldn’t work out how Milos behaviour started and why he felt the need to assert his dominance now, when he was always happy lying on his back and letting puppies play with him when he was younger. I just explained to people that he must have been nipped by one at some stage when i wasn’t looking. I’d read that somewhere, and it was the most logical thing to me, and made sense. Puppies have the sharpest little teeth…I remember jumping up on my man a million times a day to stop Milo nipping at my ankles as a pup. It was fun for him but painful for me!
After yet another park visit and another Milo vs puppy moment, I decided to call Milos trainer, Sam. We hired him when Milo was a puppy and he’s always on call to his clients. Sam told me that there wasn’t much I could do but walks the streets with him and ask people if Milo could approach their dog and teach him how to be with them that way.
That was the one time Sam wasn’t able to help. I was already walking Milo everywhere I went anyway – he even comes to work with me! – and he was absolutely fine and playful with the dogs he’d meet, with the constant exception of puppies, so I knew there was something else to it.
It wasn’t until a few months ago (yes, like, 20 months after he started being Sir Growl-Alot), that it happened…I worked it out!!
I was sitting at the dog park, next to a couple of other furparents, and someone else had rocked up with their doggo. As they approached, one of the furparents said to the other, ‘just keep an eye on your dog, because this ones not desexed’.
OH . MY . DOG. It all clicked. Milo has an issue with un-desexed dogs! Puppies are too young to be desexed! That’s why Milo has an issue with them!
Dogs that are not desexed are what they call ‘intact’ or ‘entire’, as in, nothing missing….yet. This is why every single puppy is a target for MIlos assertion of dominance! And once they hit a certain age (ie: they’ve been desexed), he’s fine with them! Hence why he’s ok with the puppies he once taunted, months later! They’ve been desexed!!!
It totally explained also, why random adult dogs were on his radar. These dogs, sadly, were also not desexed. This made them targets for dogs at the park who, like Milo, don’t like entire dogs. So they don’t get to play. Instead, they get taunted. In addition, the dogs who were happily playing before the entire one arrived, now have to get tied up because they will taunt and annoy the entire dog and possibly make them angry and attack through fear. So everyone is on edge, because an ugly dogfight can break out.
Milo is of course, desexed, and whilst his dominance issues over entire dogs means there is absolutely nothing I can do, it is a huge relief to know that he isn’t being a mean boy. He is just behaving in a very normal way for alot of dogs to behave around entire males.
Nowadays I have no shame in explaining why Milo is behaving this way. I simply let puppy owners know that once their dog is desexed, Milo will be their BFF.
If the dog is an adult, I let the owner know that Milo, and a few other dogs I an familiar with at the park, will likely be a nuisance to their dog because they’re not desexed. I let them know that Milo won’t hurt their dog but one of the bigger dogs might. If their dog is bigger than Milo, I just leave, as something bad is bound to happen as Milo won’t like their dog trying to play with him and might be grumpy with him, which might cause the entire dog to get angry, and well, you know.
I am a huge advocate for desexing, and don’t believe there is any excuse not to desex your dog if you want them to have the best life and lots of doggy friends, but let’s stay neutral here (or neutured, you might say…..!).
So if you think your dog doesn’t like puppies, take note if they exhibit the same behaviour around adult dogs that are not desexed. If so, your dogs vet or trainer might have a magic cure (ours didn’t), but until then, just know that doggo is just displaying typical dog behaviour!