Q&A: How do I get my dogs to play nicely?

Hi, I have had a male beagle/lab mix for 6 1/2 years and we just got another dog. She is a 2-year-old wire hair terrier. My male dog loves other dogs and is eager to play- he is also very submissive. So when I first introduced the 2 dogs I had no worries about my male dog. He came right up to the terrier and went into play bow. She on the other hand growled and bite his ear. I have been reading a lot of articles on training and trying to work on her but now my male dog is kinda fearful of her. When he goes to do something she will run up to him and go to attack his ear so he gives up. She rules him and he lets it happen. He no longer tries to play with her and he just mopes around. She has a happy go-lucky personality but controls my male dog. I don’t know what to do, I want them to play nicely and I want my male dog to be happy again and be able to walk around without her nipping his ear. Can you help me with this? ~Shelby

Hello, and thanks for reaching out.

Your beagle/lab mix sounds like a sweet heart! I don’t like to generalize, but wire terriers can be feisty around other dogs as they are quite independent creatures who have a history of working alone. It’s not unusual for them to not get too along with other dogs, especially if they weren’t socialized much when young. For this reason, some dog owners report them to be “a one-dog pet” as they do best in homes where they are the only dogs. This is quite the opposite of your mixed breed dog which has beagle in him (a highly social breed with a history of being bred to hunt in groups with other dogs) and Lab, (the classical friendly dog who generally loves other dogs and is eager to play). So you have quite a combination there!

When things like this happen, it can be quite upsetting, but it’s important to carefully evaluate what’s best for both dogs. The terrier doesn’t seem much eager to be around your first dog and your first dog seems to be suffering. I don’t usually recommend trying to re-home a new dog, but when one dog (especially a formerly happy-go-lucky one) starts getting fearful of the other, it’s not fair to change their world upsides down.

Yes, there are sometimes ways to allow them to tolerate each other, but you will always have to supervise and make sure she doesn’t revert to the ear biting behavior, which may be difficult at times and exhausting as some terriers are very determined.

Here are some options. You can try training a solid cue that tells her to go to her mat, come to you or some other cue such as a sit or down that stops her in her tracks, but again, you will need to reach a certain level of control to do this and it may take time and there are no guarantees that your male will be able to relax knowing that she might go back to ear biting the moment you turn around. To train these cues reliably you will need to work on them when your beagle is not around and practice a whole lot for a few weeks, using positive reinforcement (give rewards for complying). Then, you would have to put a leash on her and practice with your beagle at a distance. Then, once she reliably complies, put her on a leash tab, a short leash with a handle and if she is about to bite his ear, give your cue to go to her mat, come to you or sit or lie down and reward generously if she complies. If she doesn’t, promptly get the leash tab and remove her from your other dog.

Another option is to keep them separated for a good part of the day, let the terrier drain all her energy before being introduced to your male so she may be less likely to pester him. You may want to contact a trainer to help you out, but last but not least, consider that you may have to rehome the terrier if things don’t work out. Not all dogs are meant to get along, and we must sometimes accept the fact that some dogs would do better if they would lead separate lives. This doesn’t mean your beagle is forced to lead a solitary life for the rest of his years. Your beagle mix may find a better friend in the future, and an option may be fostering a dog for the shelter for a few weeks and see if things work out. Ask for a dog that has a friendly disposition towards other dogs. Last but not least, you may want to have your beagle/lab mix’s ears checked out. Sometimes dogs get ear infections that make the ears irresistible for other dogs to chew on! I hope this helps! Best of luck!

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