Georgia visits and Rainer gets exiled

My husband graduated from his graduate program this weekend, which was very exciting, and my in-laws came to visit, bringing along their sweet pup Georgia (whom you may recall from our earlier visits).

Georgia baby!
Georgia baby is growing up!

She has gotten bigger, but not as big as I thought she’d be! Georgia is about six months old now, and I’d say she’s still only about 30 lbs. For those with goldens or golden mixes, how big would you think she’s going to get? I imagine she may never be much more than 40–50 lbs. Sweet little thing! She is still so spunky, and has such a fun, cuddly personality, and we love her…

… but Rainer? Not so much.

Rainer’s introductions to Georgia did NOT go well. Their first meeting was outside, on leashes, and Rainer ran full throttle into Georgia and got her by the throat. Really bad sign. No calming signals, no politeness, nothing: just straight into attack mode.

I was shaken by this, obviously, as was everyone else; thankfully, Georgia was OK. After things had calmed down, we let Rainer into the kitchen with the baby gate up and kept Georgia on the other side of the gate in the living room. But things did not improve. She tried to sniff him, and he lunged at her, ready to bite. We waited for a while, hoping he could calm down, but he seemed incapable of it; he was just fixated on her and doing whatever he could to knock down that gate and get to her.

This was not behavior that we could manage all weekend in our tiny house, so Rainer got to live in the sunroom for two nights.

Rainer in exile
Rainer in exile in the sunroom.

Rainer still got time outside with Pyrrha in the backyard, and I took him on two walks by himself, so he wasn’t completely isolated, but I know he was sad to not be inside with us. We just couldn’t have him snacking on Georgia, so this was the best solution for the weekend. Sigh.

Kitchen table chats

That aside, however, the rest of the weekend with Pyrrha and Georgia went well. They still get on very nicely, even though they had a few sibling squabbles over toys (nothing too serious and nothing that a time-out for both of them couldn’t fix).

At least these two still love each other.

Pyrrha will be spending a week with Georgia in June while we’re at the beach, so I am of course always glad to see how much they enjoy each other’s company.

Caged beasts
Caged beasts!

Moral of the weekend: Thankful to have taught these dogs that crates are happy places! Rainer, Pyrrha, and Georgia all got treats and kisses when they went into their crates, and they go into them willingly, without a fight. This made the whole dog-separation shenanigans all weekend SO much easier. And easier on my conscience, because I knew that they didn’t feel like they were being punished when they were crated.

The other lesson learned, however, is that Rainer probably isn’t great with small dogs.

Based on my short descriptions of his behavior, what do you think about Rainer’s aggressive behavior with Georgia? It didn’t really look like fear aggression to me. Do you think it could have been territorial aggression? Or just straight-up prey drive? Ever seen such a thing in a dog before? (No signals, no typical dog-greeting behaviors, just straight into attack mode.)

What do you think? And how can we help Rainer with this? I am now frightened for him to meet any small dogs going forward.


11 thoughts on “Georgia visits and Rainer gets exiled

  1. Georgia really is a cute looking little dog. Always difficult to make any comments about these situations if you have not been there to see what happens. Try as hard as you can not to let you make this nervous of allowing Rainer near other small dogs. Rainer will pick up on that fear and it will only get worse. If there first meeting was on lead, that can often times cause it’s own set of issues. Sorry I can’t help more but I’d really need to know more detail

  2. It’s hard to say without seeing his body language from a distance. I know we had one scary incident with Morgan where my husband couldn’t see anything coming, because he was right beside her even though he was watching her and focused on her. However, standing a couple of feet away with Bunny, I could see a lot of signs that told me something bad was going to happen, but it all happened so fast, there was nothing I could do.

    My bet is that Rainer needs to be an only dog. Pyrrha has been telling you that she’s not comfortable with him and it seems that Georgia found out the hard way that he’s not a social butterfly. There could be A LOT of underlying issues that could cause it, but one thing I would suggest is getting his thyroid checked. Dogs with low thyroid can have behavior changes that cause them to behave in some of the ways you’ve described and it can be easily monitored with medication if it turns out to be the problem. He could also be feeling pain somewhere that causes him to lash out. I’m NOT a vet though and I haven’t seen him in person, so these things are just guesses to ask about and check on as you try to whittle it down to what the problem really is.

    1. I second the comment about Pyrrha. She seems to have pretty solid dog skills, and if she’s super uncomfortable around hi, she is most likely picking up strong signals from him. We had a dog in daycare that really spooked a lot of other dogs. We thought he was just kind of dominant and bossy, but soon realized he was indirectly “picking” on the other dogs which lead to some bad situations.

      That being said, definitely consult with a behaviorist and let him/her observe his exact reactions to another dog before jumping to conclusions.

  3. Keep looking for the signs. At first, we thought Eddie was reacting to my dad’s dog with no warning signs. And he didn’t have any of the signs we’d read about – lip licking, yawning, whale eyeing, backing away, growling, staring. Eventually we realized that he was giving a sign. Before he lunged, he would refuse to look towards Nellie.

  4. Oh no, poor little Georgia! I’m sorry that the weekend was a little bit more stressful than you were looking for. I do find it weird that he would go after a puppy, so I agree with you that the behavior seems off some how. I would consult with a behaviorist, one that works with the rescue so they can be kept in the loop and maybe also see if there are any health concerns going on.

    How was he once Georgia left? Did he run around the house seeing if she was still around or was he pretty chill?

  5. I’m glad Georgia wasn’t too rattled, and that Rainer had a nice place for confinement! Some dogs don’t like puppies, and it’s not necessarily a size thing, but the whole puppy package. Sometimes a dog just doesn’t like another dog, for whatever reason.

  6. This is why fostering is such a great mission. Knowing this incident is going to be so helpful for finding him the right home.

  7. I have observed that some otherwise sociable dogs just don’t like puppies–especially males. We’ve seen it when we’ve fostered puppies.

    Please be very honest with the rescue about Rainer’s behavior.

    1) they may have a connection with a behaviorist who can give expert advice
    2) you want Rainer to find a home where he’ll be happy forever instead of having him go into a situation he can’t handle

    Sorry you had such a scare. But it’s great that all your work with crating gave you a workable solution to get everyone through the weekend safely. Good for you!

  8. I think you guys are doing a great job with Rainer! I do have to say though, that I think maybe you could have been a bit more cautious in order to set him up for success when meeting Miss Georgia. When we do first introductions with dogs that have questionable social skills, we always start by parallel leash walking (around a neighborhood, path, whatever). The dogs are not allowed to interact whatsoever (not look at each other, not touch each other) until they are all exhibiting calm body signals. If they become distressed (barking, lunging) we increase the space between them. This allows us to gradually increase their proximity ONLY when they are behaving appropriately. Also, remember that some dogs are more defensive when on leash or behind a barrier… both factors in his interactions with Georgia. It doesn’t sound like he will ever be ‘fond’ of her, but these are some tricks we’ve learned that might help you as you continue to foster. If we had taken our foster’s first reactions to other dogs without continuing to work with her, she would probably be in an only-dog home right now… but instead, she is a happy and well-adjusted member of our pack! Regardless of what the outcome is with Rainer, he is lucky to have you guys!

  9. Speaking from experience – you are absolutely right to be cautious about having him around other dogs, be they small or puppies or large or adult. If he has gone after one dog the way he did with Georgia, he is capable of doing it again.

    When we adopted our Kiba, even though we had experience with aggressive (fear, or outright) dogs before… we had no idea what a mind$%&@ Kiba would put us through! He seemed eager to meet our dogs, but snarled and lunged when we tried. He wagged his tail and licked our female, but once off leash he left her with a puncture wound. After months of trying, he again nailed a puncture into another of our dogs and proved incapable of meeting any other dogs off leash or on leash! He now lives with our four, semi-peacefully (save for food protection) but can not, ever, at all, meet a new dog successfully without going into over reactive aggression mode!

    Some dogs, even though you give them the benefit of the massive doubt, just aren’t predictable. I think its invaluable information to have learned about him prior to his adoption! Good luck.

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