I had been giving the dogs bully sticks to chew on during times when we were leaving Spencer and Bruno at home alone for a few hours. I later realized this was a mistake. I had been doing it for quite some time and all had been fine. However, one day I came home and things seemed off. Spencer was being very cautious about where he walked, where he lay and how close he got to Bruno. He refused to get into his dog bed if Bruno was there. Hmmm, what was going on? It did not take long for me to figure it out. I walked into the kitchen and Spencer was standing in the corner with his head facing the wall, his back legs were shaking. Bruno was behind him; he had him cornered. "Atttt!!!" I put a stop to that! "Bruno, just what the heck do you think you are doing? No way are you going to bully your kid brother around. In this house, all dogs are equal. You will not be boss of Spencer." While we were gone Bruno must have tried getting Spencer's bone and succeeded. He rather enjoyed his step-up in power and decided to establish his role above Spencer. Now our job as the human pack leaders is to tell Bruno in doggie language that he is not Spencer's boss. Spencer has always been the insecure type. It was apparent from the day we brought him home because he would not walk on the hardwood floors. Bruno, being as strong-minded as he is, is taking advantage of Spencer's weakness. Dogs read insecurity as a weakness and Bruno started zoning in on that and feeling pretty powerful about it. Having Spencer has really taught me what it is like to live with an insecure type and what it takes to keep them balanced.
I spread the word to all family members: Bruno is bullying Spencer. Everyone knew what this meant but I confirmed it with them anyway just for my own peace of mind. For now, Bruno is to be last with everything. When we let the dogs out humans go, Spencer goes and then Bruno may go. When we feed the dogs, we set Spencer’s food down first. When the dogs get into the van to go on an outing, Spencer jumps in before Bruno. When we get to our destination, Spencer gets out of the van before Bruno. When we are going through gates, we invite Spencer to go before Bruno. Whenever we see Bruno being a bully, we tell him "No." When you have a pack of dogs all dogs must be on equal ground. However when you have one dog that is boss over another, in order to equal out the power the bossy dog must be last.
The language of the dog is tricky because while dogs bark, most of their communication is subtle looks, body language and energy (reading emotions). Bruno will shoot Spencer a look and I just don't notice all of the time. What I do notice is Spencer's reaction. While I am getting better at noticing the "looks" I have been confirming what I see by the way Spencer is acting. If Spencer is tip-toeing around Bruno, if he refuses to pass him or refuses to get into the dog bed with Bruno, I know Bruno is in bully mode. Bruno's tail is just a nub so I do not always notice what position his tail is in. The position of a dog's tail can tell you a lot about how a dog is feeling and what it is saying.
This issue first became apparent only a few days ago and already things have improved tremendously, although Bruno still attempts to keep his position above Spencer from time to time. For example, just now: Spencer walked over and stepped onto the dog bed. Suddenly he jumped back off as if something just bit him in the butt. I watched because I really was not sure if something had bitten him. I told Spencer to go to bed and saw the look on his face when I asked him to get on the bed. I noticed his tail; it was not relaxed and was partway under him. Then I saw the look on Bruno's face. The dogs were talking to one another in their own language. Bruno was telling Spencer that he was not allowed on HIS bed. Oh no, dear Bruno boy. You see, that is not YOUR dog bed. That is MY dog bed and I am letting you use it. I snapped a leash on Spencer and walked over to my bed. I sat right next to Bruno so we were touching. Bruno is extremely submissive with humans and I am clearly his boss and he knows it. Not an ounce of doubt about that. Therefore I knew I was safe and did not have to worry about getting bitten by Bruno. He is my dog and I know and understand him very well. Now it was time to tell Bruno in his own language just who owned that dog bed. I led Spencer up onto the bed, positioning him on the other side of me. I was in the middle, Bruno was on one side and Spencer was on the other. I told Spencer to lie down and I moved closer to Bruno. Very slowly I took over the bed. I kept moving closer and closer to Bruno, pushing him off the bed. He tried to look around me to Spencer and I moved into him with my chest and blocked him. Nope, you are not going to make eye contact with Spencer. You are going to get off MY bed, Bruno. I kept moving in slowly, giving Bruno less and less room. Bruno yawned, a sign that he was unsure. Finally, Bruno got up off of the bed. I spread myself out to cover the spot where Bruno had just been. Bruno licked my face with his huge tongue, turned his body sideways and gave me his back. I should not have, but I laughed just a little to myself when I thought about his submissive lick and the way he was standing right in front of me curled up in a half circle, his head low and his back to me. As soon as I laughed, Bruno wagged his nub of a tail, still twisted in a circle with his head low showing me his back. He is such a goofball. He just stood there holding his position. Bruno was saying, "Dude, I am not going to challenge you. Fine, it is your bed. I give up."