Friday, May 3, 2013

What to do when dogs won't share their toys

Sinead the Boston terrier splayed in the middle of toys
Sinead and her toys (isn't she modest?)
Bringing home a new puppy means, sadly, teaching the old dog how to share. For Liam the pug, this has been an extremely difficult lesson. Up to this point, he's had exclusive and unrestricted access to each and every toy inside this house, and while he's ignored many of them for years, he has some toys that are quite special and quite important. He doesn't like sharing these toys.

When I first introduced Sinead to the toy basket, Liam used some crazy retrieving skills that would have made any golf-course owner proud. Each time I threw out a new toy, he dove for that toy and brought it right back. The faster I threw the toys, the faster he moved. At one point, he was just a beige blur of growling, creating a pile of slobbery toys. Little Sinead had no idea what to do with this, and each time she even ventured toward the toys, he came back to steal said toy before she could have any fun at all.

I figured this was a story that wouldn't end well, so I sorted through the toys and picked out a few that were Liam's special favorites. At any point, I thought, he could have these toys all to himself. However, I also found a few toys Liam had no interest in at all, and I deemed these toys Sinead exclusives.

Once the toys were sorted, I ensured that some Sinead toys and some Liam toys were available at all times, and I supervised all play sessions. In the early days, this involved a lot of commands and correction for poor Liam, ensuring that he wouldn't steal anything or get protective. As time went on, however, I had less of this to do and I could praise him for playing quietly with his toys while she plays quietly with hers.

It's been a week, and at this point, very few squabbles take place. Both dogs seem to focus on their own toys, and there are plenty of toys to go around. I've even seen these dogs sitting side by side, chewing on their toys with no thieving behavior taking place at all. I think that's pretty good.

Unfortunately, I am still not comfortable with the idea of allowing these dogs to play with the same toy. They both seem to want to play tug games with one another, but I can see how a game like this could quickly turn into a fight, and that could undo all of the hard work I've done. For now, solo play must be the norm.

I owe a huge debt to this website for a successful dog/dog introduction. If you need help in getting your two dogs to get along, I suggest that you start here.

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