Attachment Disorder is the name that I have given this particular situation because it seems appropriate.
What happens if your dogs bond to one another and not to you? How does this happen and can it be changed?
I have encountered this situation about four times while working with different clients. In all cases, the owners of the dogs aren’t even aware that the situation exits. They call me for behavioral issues that are seemingly just “dog issues” on the surface but it becomes very clear to me shortly after meeting the dogs and their owners, that there is more going on than they suspect.
The two environments in which this tends to happen are when two puppies from the same litter are raised in a home at the same time or when a puppy is raised in a home with an older dog. In both cases, the owners made little attempt to train or establish individual relationships with the puppies. The dogs ended up spending most of their time with the other dog and not their people. The dogs bonded with the other dog.
So why is this a problem? Because now the young dog gets its confidence from the presence of the other dog, and not from the owner. When an attempt is made to separate the dogs and to train the young dog individually, away from the other dog, the anxiety in the young dog is so high that it literally cannot think. This is a very sad situation and is very hard to change.
The work that it would take to change this is monumental. The owner would have to train the dog consistently in a separate environment (the other dog no where near) for a long period of time and maintain that over the dog’s life.
Positive Reinforcement Training is ideal for this and over time the relationship would change. However, the amount of work it would take is something that most pet dog owners simply will not do.
There is little written about this subject, in fact I don’t recall it ever mentioned in the major publications on puppy development. No wonder people are unaware of it.
What should you do if you have puppies in one of these two situations?
You need to train each dog individually, in different environments, well away from the other dog, throughout the dog’s development. You want the dog’s confidence to come from his/her relationship with you and not from the other dog. You need to become your dog’s benevolent and confident leader.