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Thread: Need help introducing new 4yr old rescue heeler to our existing 8yr old heeler

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
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    WA
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    Exclamation Need help introducing new 4yr old rescue heeler to our existing 8yr old heeler

    Hello, we need help.

    We have an 8yr old male, blue heeler (Reef) who we adopted 14 months ago. At the time he lived with a young family and appeared to have been left in the back yard with minimal interaction once young children were born (3 years?). We do not know how much (if any) socialisation Reef had had with other dogs. We had Reef de-sexed (and vac, wormed, chipped) as soon as we got him.

    There is just my husband and I in our house, no kids.

    Over the past year, we have done basic obedience training with Reef to which he has responded well. However, he has always been a very good guard dog and whenever someone comes to the front door, Reef barks ALOT until he eventually meets them, and then he is fine.

    Reef tends to whine and sometimes bark if we come across other dogs while out walking. He is ok with other dogs at the beach; although he is usually very focussed on retrieving the ball and so doesn't pay much attention to other dogs around him. Whenever we are home, Reef is inside the house with us and can go wherever he likes. He is 35kg (not fat, just BIG). The hierarchy in the house is Husband 1, me 2 and Reef 3. BUT at times I think that Reef thinks he is No. 2. He certainly follows Husband around more than me.

    Recently, after much consideration, we decided to adopt a second dog. We have 'on trial' a red heeler, Rusty. We think he is about 4 years old and the rescue group had him de-sexed a few weeks ago. He is a very gentle, happy dog. Very affectionate. He is 23kg, so quite small. Rusty is not arrogant or pushy.

    We brought Rusty home last weekend and introduced the two dogs at a nearby football ground that neither had ever been to. We started with them on loose leads quite a distance apart (husband with Reef, me with Rusty). As we got closer, Reef started to growl and snarl and eventually lunged at Rusty and bit him. We managed to pull them apart. So, back on the leash and separated we just walked laps of the oval at a distance so they could smell each other etc.

    Since we brought them home, it has been very difficult. We have had to keep them separated or Reef growls, snarls and eventually goes to attack Rusty. We have used all of our obedience training to make Reef stop, sit, move away, break his stare, distract him etc.

    We have had to set the house up so that Reef has access to an enclosed patio and inside. Rusty has access to the laundry and the backyard. We have a pool-fence style gate separating them and they can see and smell each other through this.

    Inside the house, they can now sit quietly just a few metres apart provided there is a baby-gate between them or they are on leashes attached to us or heavy furniture. If they have free rein, they fight. So far there have been three fights that we have broken up as quickly as possible.

    When we take them out for walks, they are ok with each other. In fact they can walk right next to each other and are more interested in their surrounds than each other. We stop regularly and just all stand together (husband has Reef, I have Rusty). Husband has also walked the two together without me and without incident.

    We had our local dog trainer around who said we were doing all the right things and perhaps to try Tryptophan for Reef. We did, and it didn't seem to have any effect - perhaps it takes some days/weeks to build up in their system?

    Today, we decided to try a muzzle on Reef so that the two dogs could be closer together without the risk of Rusty getting hurt. As soon as they got close, Reef tried to attack and Rusty defended himself by attacking Reef. Rusty NEVER initiates the fight, just defends himself. This just seems to be getting harder. So we also put a muzzle on Rusty. They spent quite a long time just sitting observing each other but soon enough they attempted a big fight but couldn't bite each other due to the muzzles. I can't bear to see this happen, it makes me feel sick. I hate the sounds, the aggression and i feel like Rusty is being a crash-test dummy. We broke up the 'fight' with a few buckets of cold water. We were able to all sit on the back lawn at a distance of about 3m. Rusty tries to avoid Reef and walks big wide arcs away from him and tries to be near me (for protection I guess).

    Since then, we have separated the dogs for some time out and quiet.

    I am terrified that we are inflaming the situation and am seeking any sensible, constructive advice as to what to do next, if anything. Are we fighting a losing battle? As much as we would love to keep Rusty, we want him to have the best possible life and home and we don't want that to be one where he is bullied, attacked or miserable.

    Do you think they will eventually settle and get used to each other? What else can we do?

    Does it just take time?

    Looking forward to your comments.

    thanks.

    Rusty.jpg2011_07 Sandy Cape with Reef - 077c-400.jpg
    Last edited by blueandred2; 09-01-2012 at 07:07 PM. Reason: added pics

  2. #2

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    Everything in life that is worth it - takes time.

    It is really early days with your two dogs - and I would continue on with the walking and separating them in the house. Some dogs can be together earlier on - others can not - sometimes - not for ever !

    As far as putting a muzzle on Reef - that was not what I would class as the right thing to do - and he told you in a no uncertain fashion.

    The dogs need to trust and earn trust from you both - and that all takes time ! So - Baby Steps !

  3. #3
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    Sep 2012
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    WA
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    Thanks Riley2. We have taken a very calm approach last night and today. Keeping them separated and lots of quiet time. This morning we all walked together for a few hours without incident, no heckles, growls or snarls. Quiet, separate time for the rest of the day and we'll just be taking it very slowly. I think we are all a bit flat after yesterday and were hoping for too much too soon. The muzzles have been stowed and never to re-surface.

  4. #4
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    Aug 2011
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    Canberra
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    I really don't have the experience or knowledge to give advice on this, so I hope other more knowledgeable members will.

    Just wanted to say they are great looking dogs. Love heelers. But I have always had the impression that they are not the most sociable dogs. Though I definitely have met a few on my walks who successfully live in a multi-dog household in town.

    Have you told the rescue org about this? They might have some tips too and they would probably appreciate to be kept in the loop when the dog is still on trial.

    You sound very committed to your dogs so hope it can be resolved in the end. Good luck!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    Rural Western Australia
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    I have owned cattle dogs for years and what you are experiencing doesnt surprise me. Poor Reef has finally found a home where he has attention. Cattle dogs are very loyal to one person so am not surprised that he has picked out one of you to be his person. Introducing a new intruder has upset his world. I introduced a new cattle dog into the household when my loyal cattle dog was 6. I dont think she ever forgave me. The dogs eventually worked out an uneasy truce and coexisted for the next 10 years.

    Cattle dogs need structure, training and exercise in their life and I would continue with some intensive obedience training with both of them. Give them plenty of exercise out and about together. It might even be worth crate training both of them so they have quiet place to safely relax in. Mine love their crates and happily settle in their when I ask them to.

    I currently have a rescue male koolie that I bought into my house and he and my resident male Border collie have never really got on. However plenty of exercise, training, learning to relax in their crates and separating them when I am not there to supervise them has worked well.

    You will just need to take your time and hopefully eventually with structure and training they will settle. Try not to put them in a situation where they get the opportunity to practice aggression with each other. This is where crates can be helpful. They may or may not be best mates but they need to learn to either tolerate or ignore each other and you have to make that really clear.

    Both my current cattle dogs are good with strange dogs and people, they are very strong willed and have a definite hierarchy between each other that doesnt include my other dogs, which is quite interesting.

    Your 2 will need to develop a hierarchy between each other but this going to take some time. The situation is very new and they are both from less than ideal beginnings.
    Last edited by Kalacreek; 09-02-2012 at 10:56 AM.

  6. #6
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    Jun 2011
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    Bringing in a new dog on an existing dog of Reefs age with limited socialisation skills isn't easy. He may come around or he may never accept the newcomer given his start in life.

    Only time will tell. Luckily Rusty is old enought to look after himself but at the same time he is of an age and sex that Reef is most likely to not accept.

    I certainly wouldn't bring them together in the house without a barrier until they are completely comfortable on neutral territory together.

    I would be feeding them treats whenever they look relaxed in each others company even if it means giving one of them a treat thru a barrier. Be careful of course that neither is food aggressive or this won't work.



    I would also be getting Rusty out and socialising him with other friendly dogs so he doesn't see every dog as a possible attack.

  7. #7
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    WA
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    Thanks Mac, all good advice. We have been doing these things. We have a baby-gate in place (elevated) so they are separated between a few rooms and we have also been giving treats when they are close together and relaxed with lots of encouraging words but relaxed tone. No food aggression and we feed them their evening meals in separate places too.

    Thanks for the tip on getting Rusty out socialising. Our plan is to take him to basic obedience school and around other dogs asap.

    All just slowly slowly now.

  8. #8
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    WA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beloz View Post
    I really don't have the experience or knowledge to give advice on this, so I hope other more knowledgeable members will.
    Just wanted to say they are great looking dogs. Love heelers. But I have always had the impression that they are not the most sociable dogs. Though I definitely have met a few on my walks who successfully live in a multi-dog household in town.
    Have you told the rescue org about this? They might have some tips too and they would probably appreciate to be kept in the loop when the dog is still on trial.
    You sound very committed to your dogs so hope it can be resolved in the end. Good luck!
    Thanks Beloz. Yes, heelers do have a reputation for being a bit unsocial. However, we have had several heelers (before these two) over the last 25 years and have overcome any concerns with other dogs and any anti-social behaviours.
    So we will just keep plodding along.


    I have attached some pics of our last bluey, Skipper, who we had for exactly 16 years from a 7 week old pup. Just a gorgeous, loyal blue friend.

    2007-10-29 Skip2L.jpg
    Skip as puppy 004 - low res.jpg
    2010_02_20 Skip at Waikiki - 011.jpg
    2011_01 Skipper 029.jpg
    Last edited by blueandred2; 09-02-2012 at 05:45 PM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
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    Southern NSW
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    We used to have Blue heeler work dogs, I do love them they are so loyal

    I like some of the previous posts...if you are committed, you might get there in time. I live with two dogs who hated one another and are now managed in the one household together and never separated now. But it was a hard long road. And sometimes I wonder as to wether i was fair to our little tess. As she was attacked by Annabelle once quite badly.

    We did pretty much what you are doing, lots of obedience background and lots of together working side by side. I also used the umbilical system and hubby and I decided which dog was ours and we stuck with that dog and gave them an owner each. That made things a lot better....We bot still did things with both dogs, but mostly with the one.

    We also changed our household a bit in the general way we treated the dogs. We made rules of engagement (LOL) We ignored the dogs when we got home, until they settled. We called them to us and we never walked over to the dogs to pet. If there was a grumble or growl, we just puled them apart, said nothing, especially no yelling or screaming as most people do. We made no fuss and they both went in separate areas for "time-out". We still do the same if we see or hear a potential disagreement. When we allowed them back in to the areas or back with us on lead, we would not acknowledge them..Again ignore.

    Sometimes our reaction to disagreements is also part of the problem. Our reaction can make things worse. having a really good recall and reward history helps. Make the dogs have an automatic recall with a good reward history. That means if you see them in a supervised get together and things bristle, you can recall one each and reward them for coming to you.

    I never realised how a reward history and calmness can be the best thing in these "crackling" times. And initially always be there and supervise and on lead. Hubby and I had them with us all the time in the house. Any grumbles or such were "timed-out" or if they recalled well, we rewarded the recall...We sat closer and closer and if one misbehaved..time-out. this went on for months ( 6-9), so it is not overnight.
    So you need to discuss this as to if you are happy to take on such a huge commitment. Or if you can.

    Now the dogs are automated in their response, even if other dogs go for them.

    I also know of people who have dogs that do not get on and they keep them apart forever. I cannot live that way. My dogs need to be able to be in the back of the car together and in the house together.

    It's a tough road, you need to think about it

    You could be lucky and it might not be so long, but I am just saying it could be. I have worked with several couples and dogs that have had similar problems. And those that were able to take the time have been successful. But some were unable to due to whatever reasons.
    Pets are forever

  10. #10
    Join Date
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    Adelaide
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    As we got closer, Reef started to growl and snarl and eventually lunged at Rusty and bit him.
    I would have increased the distance as soon as Reef started to show he was unhappy about the situation. I would have then worked back and forth - just on the edge of Reef's comfort level. If he could not approach the whole way on loose lead without growling - I would never have let him greet the other dog. I think he needed time to get used to the idea and he didn't get it.

    Personally - if that's how my dog reacted to another dog that I was considering adopting - I would not have adopted it. Life is too short to be worrying if your dogs are going to kill each other every time you have to leave them at home.

    Cattle dogs - often do like to be the only dog. But you already know that. They can accept another (cattle) dog but it has to be the right one. My dog is a grovel dog - so she's quite welcome with most dogs. But not all of them.

    PS - it is really important not to scold or punish Reef for growling. Because all that is likely to do is train him to attack with out warning. What you want is for him to see the other dog as a source of good things for him. So you might want to investigate LAT and BAT - which involves rewarding Reef for looking at the other dog, and then looking at you... with something really yummy, until he can look at the other dog and expect something good from you and so he looks forward to seeing the other dog.

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