Sibling Dynamics

It’s been slightly over a month since Sam was joined by a little raven haired sister. Apart from Elsa’s diagnosis of epilepsy shortly after arriving, her integration as a dog into our household continues. Mostly it’s been without incident but the past week or so, there have been a couple of big kerfuffles which seems to suggest the ‘siblings’ are a bit jealous of one another. As the little miss gains her confidence, she realizes that the attention and loving care she is receiving is a pretty good arrangement. The past couple of incidents were the result of her apparently not getting all she thought she was entitled to, or that she was jealous at a misperceived favoring of Sam.

If you weren’t aware, let me just say I’m a big sports fan. As in…huge. Following along in that theme, there are times when I’m trying to decide if the Ranch has turned into a hockey arena or if it’s Madison Square Garden’s fight of the week…or maybe a combination of both. Sure there’s lots of jockeying for the puck (guess the puck would be me) with the ‘goal’ being to score favor in mom’s eyes. If you lean more toward being a pugilist…the combatants go to their neutral corners. If I sit on the floor, they come running to garner my 110% attention by sitting in or near my lap, to have their ears scratched. Usually it involved Elsa deftly maneuvering Sam out of close proximity. She’s a real master positioning herself between him and me. Being fairly close in size and weight, she has figured out just how to subtly herd him out of the way. Most of the time Sam wanders off on his own confused, but at other times, Elsa makes sure he wanders off with the precision of a military drone sniper strike. It always ends quickly and both look at each other and then at me as if they’d been possessed by demons with no explanation as to how that dust-up happened. Luckily there are no food aggression issues.


With siblings there always seem to come a pecking order and we’re still trying to sort out that order, in addition to integrating a puppy mill dog who has no clue about manners let alone how to properly be a dog. Add in trying to manage her condition and it becomes a muddy mess. In the meantime, I’ll be the one wearing a striped shirt, blowing a time-out whistle and refereeing these games, be they hockey or Golden Gloves.

How do you handle ‘sibling’ competition?

Live, love, bark! <3

48 thoughts on “Sibling Dynamics

  1. This is a great post! I have two precocious felines myself. One female gray calico princess & one orange tabby lover boy. I love them both dearly & they both have their own amazing personalities. I do notice however, if I’m gone for longer than usual during the day, they both vie for my attention more than usual. The male will meow, beg me to pet him, & paw gently at my hands so i will. The female will come in, butt her head against my chin &sleep curled up on me anywhere she can find a spot. It does make me feel so wonderfully loved. It’s harder for me to play with them & give them equal time. The Female loves to play but will stop playing if the male comes around. If the male sees me playing with the female he will just jump right in. So I’ve found that’s my biggest challenge with kitty sibling rivalry 😊

  2. There are times when I literally have to push Delilah out of the way. You could have sat with her for 1/2 an hour then reach for Sampson and she gets jealous. I think in some ways the individual walks have helped, but then there are days when I don’t think they have.

    Mostly we just manage.

  3. There is not a lot of argument here – the WaWa sort of rules and Benji defers to her. He has gone for her a few times and has hurt her once, but it makes no difference – she comes right back again. She doesn’t really attack him sort of herding him out of the room so she can have Annabell and I all to herself.

  4. As Bonnie is an ‘only child’ we don’t have much to say on the matter but I hope it’s just a matter of still getting settled in as it is still very early days (I think I heard before that it can take even 6 months for a dog to truly settle in and show all of its personality which is definitely what we seen with Bonnie – she was a bit of a nightmare to look after at the beginning as everything was so new to both of us!) I believe the learn to earn program is also recommended for when there are difficulties between dog siblings – so sitting for pets, their food etc.

    1. Thanks for the tip. With Elsa’s puppy mill days still fresh in her mind and recently diagnosis of epilepsy, ‘corrections’ are gently dispensed so as not to contribute to even more stress for her. Luckily they have both responded well to a firm ‘No!’ and Sam is being (mostly) quite patient with her.

  5. Kloe is definitely an affection hog but I don’t think it is out of jealousy as much as “Hey – Kali’s getting some attention and I’m gonna get me some of that! and she proceeds to put herself between the “attention giver” and Kali and hogs up all the love. Kali mostly takes it in stride as that’s her nature to be tolerant and patient; unless there’s food involved then all bets are off!

    We also have the fight of the night that goes the full 15 rounds spread out throughout the day. Kloe is almost always the instigator initiating the round by slamming her body into Kali’s, chewing on her legs or ears, or taking a toy and smashing it into Kali’s face as if to say, “try to get it”.

    I think with dogs the best approach to handling the jealousy is the same approach you’d take with your human kids. Love, compassion, and an occasional time out for the sibling who pushes the “look at me first” envelope.

  6. My original two cats (who really were siblings) fought with each other all the time, and it was so cute. Especially when they’d go lay on the bed together after a rowdy round of rasslin’….

  7. Well, in my experience, the females are usually dominant. When your two get it sorted out, you then have to support whoever has risen as dominant as the dog alpha. i.e. going in or out the door first, feeding first, petting first, etc. It will help keep peace, even if it doesn’t seem fair. Good luck!

  8. No problems here. Kali is dominate and Kaci is submissive. Be happy that they’re not ganging up on you. It’s best that they do different sports (hockey puck and screwball).

  9. Ducky and Shadow have been rivals from day one. Rivals for Callie’s attention, and for our attention. Callie handled it perfectly; us, not so much. For the most part, the snarkiness has subsided; but sometimes it still has to be dealt a blow. Usually it happens when Ducky is in one of our laps and Shadow comes looking for some attention as well. The moment Ducky starts to grumble, she gets put off our lap while being told “NO!” And Shadow continues to receive the sought-after attention. At first – 4 years ago – Sam was convinced it was Shadow starting the arguments. Maybe once or twice he was right – and maybe it was in self-defense – but I later realized it was Ducky more often than not and started watching her VERY closely, in order to circumvent any bad fights. Once I started letting Shadow know I had her back – as they say – she pretty much stopped fighting back. I still keep one eye on Ducky almost constantly, but old habits are hard to break. Without Callie around to play peacemaker between her younger sisters, it’s not as dicey these days.

    I know it’s hard to know the best way to handle it when Elsa gets pushy; but it sounds like you’re handling it well. Let them have their sibling moments, just be ready to step in before it can get out of hand. Even if stepping in means standing up between them so neither one can get in your lap, and then put them in place at different ends of the room until they “cool off”.

    1. 🙂 Awww, why am I not surprised about sweet Callie or the mischievous Ducky?! Neither has ‘pawsitively’ responded to being grounded from using a cell phone. Must think of another ‘consequence’ for dogs. LOL

  10. Stanley always like to hog up mom’s attention. If I am getting petted and there is no room on the chair Stanley will jump up and force me down. Luckily I am very chill about these things. As long as I am fetching I don’t care if he is getting petted for 87 hours!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

    1. You’re lucky Murphy…Sam could care less about fetching (he thinks that’s what I’m for…his private minion). It’ll all work out and they’ll develop a rhythm to how they interact. Paws crossed!

  11. I get a little of that with my youngest cat. The two older ones are used to getting attention and will calmly (somewhat) wait their turn for scratches and a brushing. However, the youngest (at age 4) seems to think that she should be first, always, for everything. I have to feed her first or she’s downright pesty to the others trying to eat. Mostly they manage the pecking order themselves although we do have kerfuffles and the fur flies.

  12. We have been advised not to get into a sibling situation with Ray however, we can relate to a dog with no social skills, fear aggression, and a severe distrust of anything that moves. It has taken Ray over 3 years to accept the purely social intentions of other dogs (and people). Hang in there and be patient. Elsa is no doubt doing the best she can with what she knows. It’s obviously not her fault that she hasn’t a clue! 🙂

  13. sam has been displaced actually. He used to be your only shadow, and now he might feel lost. They are looking at you. Literally looking at you to decide. What if you placed them on a “wait” command while in front of them you petted the other one, then alternated. They would watch quietly while you petted the other one and the first one could alternate. In the dog world if a new one enters the pack, would they be the one to wait first? In the Martin Clunes video he emphasized pack order, and they are looking to you to help establish the pack order. Elsa is more like me, step up and ask for what you want, and Sam is more like my husband who is very quiet and gentle and stands back a bit. Our little pack of two.
    They remind me of the two poodles we met last month. One stood back, the other pushed him out of the way to get to me even when I reached for the quiet one.

    1. I’ve been trying to give him extra TLC when she’s not close by to reassure him he’ll always be my baby. I know they have to sort out their pack order, and they break up right away when ordered. We’ll figure it out…just one more thing to add to the “Taking Care of Elsa” list. I’ve been struck by the dynamics of actual siblings when they’re wide and disparate personalities. So fascinating!

  14. Arty and I still go head to head sometimes, but everything usually works its way out 🙂

    PeeEss..Don’t forget to stop by our No Tricks Just Treats for Shelters today

  15. Between Kitty and Bear, it was all out war. Then again, Bear did follow Kitty around everywhere (in the litter box?!?!) and watch everything she did (sleeping?!?!). I’m pretty sure Bear’s glad he hasn’t gotten a little brother or sister to do the same thing to him.

  16. Oh my! Sounds like you have your hands full for a while. I like that they act like they were demon possessed and have no idea how the scuffle happened. LOL I’m sure it will sort itself out soon. Sorry, I can’t help you. I only have Tippy, so there is no sibling rivalry to deal with.

  17. Elsa is a girl… and they know what they want :o) it’s amazing to see the special communication between siblings… I sometimes think together they make real strategical plans :o)

  18. That sounds like a tricky position to be in. Being a hockey puck cannot be easy! I have no siblings, so around here I am top dog 24/7. God help anybody who tries to change that!!

    Love and licks,

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