Ask Piper - Mom's All Mine
Q: Piper, I have a love problem.
Can you advise me please?
Sometimes I am hanging out in my lap getting petted by my mom and feeling SO so so so so happy. Then my little runty sister comes up and sticks her NOSE under mom's HAND and I just can't deal so I snarl and snap at her. Mom shrieks, sister shrieks, I shriek, but I don't really have any other way to tell sister to BACK OFF. How can I convince Mom that she is ALL MINE?
Cuddly in Colorado
A: Dear Cuddly,
Well, shoot. I have some good and bad news for you.
The good news is that it's perfectly normal for you to think mom is all yours and want her to cuddle you forever. After all, we dogs evolved right alongside humans and need their presence to feel safe and happy.
The bad news is that most humans don't view our ways of saying "back off" as socially acceptable, and a lot of humans are worried that this might escalate. And ya know... it can. So they're not totally off their rockers.
So what I'm going to need you to do is be reaaaaal sneaky and pass this note to your mom so she can help you out. And big confession here: I do this too. Well, I used to. Now I can cope. Here's what mom did.
You'll like these parts:
1) Help the other dog be polite. If another dog tries to butt into a cuddle session, ask them to sit or lie down and wait their turn. This can prevent vying over a valuable resource (affection).
2) Reward your dog for being polite. Practice having both dogs sit and get petted, then get a treat, as long as they haven't snarked at the other dog. Repeat with them snuggling in bed, on a couch, or other problem areas. Note: if the presence of food makes it worse, do NOT do this step!
Ok, the parts you won't like:
3) Look for small signals of discomfort and intervene early. If your dog twitches her lip, puffs her whiskers, or her eyes get round, go ahead and walk away from the situation instead of letting it escalate.
4) Rude behavior ends good stuff. If I snap at my sister when she jumps on the bed, I get unceremoniously lifted right back down to the floor. I LOSE what I was trying to keep. Daaaangit.
Usually these tips can help reduce those annoying sibling squabbles where nobody's getting hurt, but moms and dads get frustrated. If anyone is getting seriously chomped, plan to use a muzzle and call a trainer!