Superman has Lex Luthor. Jerry Seinfeld had Newman. Most of us at one time or another have had an arch-nemesis, a foiler, someone who ruined our day, trampled on our garden, and soured our grapes. All they had to do was walk in the room, speak, or even breathe (how dare they). A majority of us aren’t above this little flaw in human character – a flaw that has the need to blame our bad days on one being … our arch-nemesis.
But you’d be surprised to learn that even dogs have this affliction, too. The kindest, gentlest, most relaxed dog on the block might get his fur all tangled up in a bunch from one single look by the cocker spaniel next door. Suddenly your nice, friendly dog becomes a teeth-baring, snarling mad dog chomping at the bit for just one swipe at that spaniel and her smug look. And why? Who knows? Sometimes dogs just rub each other the wrong way.
Rational or not, it happens. Even nice dogs can have an arch-nemesis. More important than trying to decipher the ludicrous nature behind the behavior, is the need to address the problems you might face in this scenario.
How to deal with your arch-nemesis
Chances are if your dog has an arch-nemesis, you see that dog somewhat regularly. Perhaps it’s a neighbor, or a fellow dog-parker. Either way, the reality is you can’t design your life to avoid this dog. Sure, you could learn the dog’s schedule and shape your life around it. You could walk your dog at 5 a.m., and again at 3 p.m. And you could go to the dog park during those times when the only other canine around is the half-dead 20-year-old mutt who’s equally ragged looking owner is still recovering from an all-night bender.
But who wants to live like that? You do have other options.
Talk to the owner
Your two dogs are not going to sit down for a pow-wow anytime soon. As the adults, and humans, in this scenario, you have to figure out a way to work things out. Now, if you’re like me, you might discover that your dog’s arch-nemesis is owned by someone who’ll soon become your own arch-nemesis. That’s because you might discover that this owner finds it humorous that your two dogs don’t get along. He may actually encourage the bad behavior.
The last thing you want to do is allow this to bother you. The most effective way to approach the owner of your dog’s arch-nemesis is to do so without accusations or finger pointing.
- Don’t say: “Your dog is giving my dog a hard time.” Instead say: “Our dogs don’t seem to get along. I wonder why.”
- Don’t say: “You’re not doing anything to stop your dog!” Instead say: “I’m not sure how my dog will react right now. Can you keep your dog nearby for a moment until we pass by?”
You want to make it clear that there is a problem here, between your dogs, without passing blame (in reality, no one’s to blame). After you make the problem obvious, you want to come up with ways so that everyone involved can live happily, perhaps something as simple as agreeing to leash both dogs when they’re near each other.
Of course talking to the owner is just one part of dealing with your dog’s arch-nemesis. But it’s an important first step to ensure the safety of everyone involved. The next step is figuring out WHY your dog has an arch-nemesis.
Getting to the why
Dogs have an amazing knack for living in the moment, meaning they can be abused as a puppy yet still live a rather wonderful life, having let go of the trauma of their youth. It’s this specific trait that can help you help your dog end his need for an arch-nemesis. Here are some reasons why your dog might have a distaste for a specific dog:
- Breed. Some dogs don’t like a particular breed, perhaps because of something that happened in their past (perhaps they were attacked by a German Shepherd, for example). You can test this out by introducing your dog to other dogs of the same breed. If he reacts badly, you know what the issue is. Proper and professional training can help.
- Recent fight. It’s not possible to monitor your dog 24/7, especially if you take him to the dog park. Sometimes you won’t even realize that your dog had a quick scuffle with another dog. This little scuffle could make him sensitive to that dog’s presence in the future. You might never be able to solve this issue, unless you and the other owner are on board with each other. What’s the best, quickest solution? Create a mini-pack. You and the other owner should take both dogs on long walks at least once or twice a week. Recreate the relationship based on exercise and focus and soon these dogs will have (at least) a working friendship.
- Bad energy (look at the owner). Dogs don’t like bad energy (unless it’s all they know). Perhaps your dog is picking up on some bad mojo. Chances are you can tell if this is the case if the other dog’s owner gives you the creeps. What’s the solution? Well, what would you do for yourself in this situation? You’d probably stay away from the owner whenever possible, right? Do your dog a favor and do the same for him. Bad energy is just bad.
If your dog is a happy-go-lucky dog who just happens to hate another dog, you’re not alone. It happens all the time. Why does it happen? Who knows, but you can figure out a way to live peacefully and in harmony, and rid your dog of his arch-nemesis.