Dear Dr. Diane,
I have three cats and two dogs, one a three-year-old
Yorkie, and one a rescue from the shelter (two years old). Recently, my
boyfriend (and his two cats) moved in with us. Over the past couple
weeks, my Yorkie has begun to exhibit some strange behavior toward my
boyfriend, who has never been mean to her or hurt her. She
alternately cowers and runs from him or is aggressive, snarling and
biting, at him, and the rest of the time she is his best friend. She
only displays the aggressive behavior when I am not around. At this
point we are both at our wits’ ends and we cannot seem to find a way
to correct this behavior….can you please help us and maybe give us
There are many possible reasons for your Yorkie’s undesirable behaviors. She may be jealous of your boyfriend now that he is living with you in what she regards as HER home. She may resent his presence in her territory now that it is permanent.
As you have been her caregiver, she is suspicious of the care and affection you are displaying over your boyfriend and his two cats. While he is alone with her, it seems that she is displaying fear-aggessive behavior – the cowering and then the snarling and biting at him.
She feels safe and secure when you are present, but is anxious and insecure when alone with your boyfriend. It would be a good idea for your boyfriend to devote some extra time and energy to the Yorkie – as well as praise, treats and affection. You may wish to keep her crated when he’s alone with her – or in a special peaceful and comfortable room with her favorite toys and chew treats.
When you and your boyfriend are home together, you may leave the room for very short periods of time and praise her when you return and each time you leave, make sure your boyfriend is praising her, playing with her, petting her and speaking soothingly to her. Once she KNOWS that she is safe alone with him and gets accustomed to your coming and returning, I think she will calm down.
Be patient with her – try both behavior modification techniques and also a safe crate in the same room with your boyfriend and other pets or a room in which she can stay peacefully and comfortably her favorite toys and possession, i.e. blanket and kong I think she simply needs time and extra affection and attention until she is familiar with the new additions to her family.
Dr. Pomerance is an animal behavior specialist and an expert on topics such as deciding which puppy is best for your family, how to pick out a rescue, and on healing from the loss of a pet.
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