Q: I’m looking for advice on how to handle the needs of two male puppies. I have an 8-month-old Rat Terrier and a 3-month-old Jack Russell. I can’t tell if the Rat Terrier is happy with his Jack Russell brother who seems to dominate everything. To what degree do I intervene with their fighting over toys, chews, etc.? The Jack Russell must have everything including my attention. I feel bad for my Rat Terrier. What should I do?
A: It’s natural for two pups to be a little jealous of each other and vie for your attention. But when one pup is too bossy and starts to overwhelm the other you’ll need to referee and help them learn to share. When you hand out toys, give two to each pup. That way the bossier pup will already have two and may be less driven to try to take one away from his “brother.” Even if the bossier pup takes one of the toys away, the softer pup will still have a toy. When you feed the pups or give them bones or food-puzzle toys to chew, it would be best to separate the pups so they can both enjoy their own portion without bullying or being bullied for it.
Teach your pups to take turns when you’re giving out treats, by saying the pup’s name to whom you are about to give a treat. You can do the same “name game” when handing out toys or other favors, too. Only the pup whose name you just said is eligible to receive the goodie at that moment. The other pup will learn that patience pays off, because when his name is spoken he will receive his own treat.
The same concept can help your pups learn to share your attention. Ask one pup, by name, to sit or do some other skill you’ve been teaching them. When he does, give him a reward of a treat, happy attention, and petting. Then give the other pup his turn to perform a skill and get rewards.
When your pups learn that you are the one who decides whose turn it is, they will learn to see you as director and arbitrator. They will start to realize that you give treats and attention fairly to each of them and they won’t have to worry about it.