I'm the owner of two Shih Tzus, 12-year-old male Oscar and 6-year-old female Jane. They were a bonded pair when we adopted them six years ago. Thick as thieves.
Oscar struggles with separation anxiety, bonded to my wife Sara. He moves from room to room with her, even in the bathroom when she's on the toilet. He never really cries or complains, but he's not truly relaxed until he's with her, and best, on her lap.
Oscar is also dominance aggressive with dogs outside on walks, whining and yelping at nearby canines when we pass by. He will wag his tail and seem to want to get to know them, but every time we've ever gotten close enough for him to actually meet other dogs, he switches to barking and yelling and aggressively lunging. He even bit the ear of our neighbor's pitbull. It's like a mix of dominance and fear aggression. If the other dog has any friendly/happy/excited energy, Oscar tries to shut it all down. He's an angel at home, doesn't have issues with people anywhere, and has never had a real spat with his best buddy Jane.
Enter Mandu, the 1 1/2-year-old Cocker puppy who we adopted from a neighbor. He's not neutered (but will be in a few weeks). Super sweet, wants to play, but Oscar hates him, of course. When Mandu first showed up, we let the three of them meet each other in the backyard. Oscar was crabby, but not mean. He did snap at him, but it seemed like it was for show.
For now, we're keeping them separated by a baby gate between kitchen and dining room. At night, Mandu is confined to a pen next to our bed. Oscar and Jane roam free in the bedroom, but their bed is on the other side of our bed. They stay away from Mandu's pen.
The issue is that Oscar growls and yells at Mandu through the baby gate sometimes. Additionally, whenever I leave the house, even when Sara is home, Mandu cries, barks, and even howls for about 10-15 minutes, sending the other two into a barking and howling frenzy. Sometimes Oscar comes over and tells Mandu to shut up on the other side of the gate, being more aggressive with his barks, like "would you shut the hell up, man?!"
Jane and Mandu get on fine, though Mandu tries to hump her, which she protests, but there's no significant tension between them.
We've taken them all on walks together with Sara leading the walk with Oscar, with me behind them with Mandu and Jane. No issues. Oscar is aware of Mandu being close, but doesn't seem to have an issue with him.
I need to know:
- How long to keep Oscar and Mandu separated by gates or pens?
- How do I know when it's time to let them mingle? Where should I do that?
- How do Sara and I deescalate Oscar's the barking and growling at the gate? I'm told we shouldn't scold Oscar (which I mistakenly did a few times at first). For now I just make a smiling "shhhhhhhhh" sound and wave my hand, then say, "Let's be niiiiice. Mandu is a nice boy, see?" then pet Mandu and Oscar's heads on either side of the gate, giving praise when they're near each other when Oscar's not growling.
- How do we solve both Oscar's and Mandu's separation anxiety? Mandu is in a new house after having been in a foster house for two weeks, so I'm sure he's just latched onto me for safety and comfort. Not sure how hard to push separation at this point, but of course, I have to go to work and go out of town on business.
Any help and advice is welcome. I don't think this is a doomed situation. Sara and I just need to know what to do. We're going to have a professional trainer visit our house, but that's not until June. We need help NOW.
Peace to all,