The Dogcharmer: Coco and Loretta

When Big Brother is the best toy.

Coco and Loretta. Courtesy Sylvana Carmella.

Hi Tom,

Usually my two dogs are inseparable BFFs. However, lately my rescue Coco seems to be getting really annoyed with his little sister Loretta. She jumps all over him and won’t stop. I’ve trained her with the “off” command to stop jumping on people. Is there any way to get her to give her brother a break? I’ve tried using the same “off” command, but she doesn’t listen at all when she’s jumping on him.



Sylvie and Coco


Dear Sylvie — and Coco,

Sylvie, the general rule for getting dogs to get along is: Interfere as little as possible, let them work it out. And the great majority of times, it works out fine. But then there are the exceptions; that’s when I get called. Just saw a couple of dogs last weekend with my apprentice Jeremy where one of the issues was similar, but instead of the older dog getting annoyed, she was at risk for getting injured because she is too old for the intensity of the play fighting that the young dog accosts her with. It’s a tough one, because the old dog is game to play, and the last thing you want to do is chastise them for getting along so well and playing. Yet there are those times when the roughhousing escalates, and interference is warranted.

I’ve had plenty of two-dog families over the years where I had both hard-playing dogs dragging a 30-inch piece of a flat leash with the handle cut off — too short to get tangled in play, but great to grab as I said “Whoa” while getting their attention with treats in my hand and while getting them to sit and to settle. And after 30 seconds of soft talk and relaxing, they get the treat. This is much more likely to work assuming you’ve worked with the dogs on the basics, and they’re reasonably cooperative. If you stop their play as a punishment, you’re injecting tension, which could make things worse. No tension.

Sylvie, you said that Coco is “getting really annoyed,” and what generally happens in these situations is that without hurting her, Coco will straighten Loretta out when he’s had enough, and Loretta will start getting more respectful. They work it out. Unlike Coco and Loretta, the problem with the old dog that’s game is that she’s not looking to straighten out the young hooligan — she loves the action. As for you, Coco, take some of the testosterone out of your pocket, and be a bit more lovingly firm with your little sister.


Good luck,
The Dogcharmer


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