Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Time heals wounds

I’m still watching Bonnie closely after the fight. Darlin’ is feeling her cheerios, but Darlin’ is also still learning to live with dogs. Bonnie was a little hellion over the last week, but I think the negative energy may be subsiding.

Bonnie was growling and barking as though she was about to go into full attack mode when she saw Darlin’. Saturday night we had Bonnie on a leash downstairs on the couch before I came down with Darlin’ following behind me. Bonnie had to be removed from the room a few minutes until we all took our seats. She went nuts after she saw Darlin’.

The last bloody towel to be washed. This was outside, I had two others that were a lot worse. I took Bonnie to the vet and when I came home the paw prints were still wet on the floors - there was that much blood.

A couple of nights ago Bonnie scratched at her kennel at 4 am, so we tried putting her in bed with us. A short time after she jumped out of our bed growling and ran after Sam, who just happened to be walking out of our room. He looked back as though she had lost her mind. I don’t think she knew it was Sam, I think she thought it was Darlin’. She loves Sam. We put her back in her carrier and she went back to sleep.

Yesterday morning my husband let Bonnie out with Sam. The other dogs won’t budge until I get up. Instead of putting Bonnie back in bed with me, he closed the door and left her in the living room. I put her in bed with me after hearing her scratch at the bedroom door and she slept fine. He put her in bed this morning and again she was fine. She was actually on the floor with Darlin’ for a few seconds before I snatched her up to carry her as I let Darlin’ and the other dogs outside. I didn’t want to start my day with dogs turning on each other before they ever left my room.

As of last night, the energy is only slightly better. I’m aware that Bonnie would walk up to Darlin’ holding her head high and might growl or provoke a fight. Based on what I saw Darlin’ do, I’m still on alert. Bonnie is on “Nothing in Life is Free” (they all are) she is sleeping in a crate, and we are still rotating. She knows Mom means business, her tail is down when I talk to her, and she won’t hesitate sitting for any treat. There were times I would take her a dog biscuit, but not now.

They have spent time in the same room resting, but neither has walked around together or brushed against the other. I have to prevent a fight at all costs. Five dogs is more than I can handle alone if a fight were to start. It’s raining today. Once the weather clears this week, one afternoon after my husband comes home, I think we will reintroduce them in the back yard together without the other dogs.

Last night Darlin’ and Toby started to play in my bedroom floor. Chloe (the rambunctious one) came running and barking. It’s just her way. Darlin’ raised her hackles and chased Chloe out growling at her. I saw it and quickly corrected Darlin’ telling her “no” and “sit”. Chloe is not a fighter, but she is expressive. Nevertheless, I’m still learning about Darlin’.

One afternoon before the fight all of the dogs went running and barking towards the back fence. This is the picture I took of Darlin’ as I called her to distract her. For a dog to raise his hackles gives me concern, although it doesn’t always suggest that a dog is going to act out in aggression. I’d rather not find out and distract her.

These were taken seconds apart. Click on photo to enlarge. Hit your back button to return to this blog.

Because of Bonne’s aggressive behavior this weekend, we did not walk them together. Darlin’ is so fearful that it probably wouldn’t have helped anyway. Getting her to walk on a leash is a lesson in patience itself. My husband walked Toby in front of us. In order to keep Darlin’ moving I had to walk fast which meant my husband had to drop behind me. Darlin’ still doesn’t care for my husband so she was more distracted looking back. Something I have noted on our walks. She must have found shelter in street drains because if she sees a drain she pulls as though she would climb in. She doesn’t realize that she wouldn’t fit, but I’m sure she did when she was skinny.

We only walked up the street a couple of blocks. As I tried turning a corner she sat down and wouldn’t budge. A guy stepped outside on his porch and she did not bark, yet she has barked at my family at the same distance. A woman was pushing a baby stroller and commented that Darlin’ was pretty. I told her she was a fearful stray. Darlin’ just sat there stiff and didn’t bark at that woman. So her barking at my family in the house and yard is definitely a territorial issue.

Last night. My husband was sitting on the other sofa. She finally relaxed, as close as she could get to me. This is common behavior for her.

Hopefully I will see this again soon.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Still adjusting after the dog fight

It’s been five days and we haven’t full recovered. We’ve had to keep the dogs separated to avoid further conflict. It took Bonnie six months to forget about a ball I took from her, no telling how long it will take to forget about the fight with Darlin’. Bonnie has never been in a true dog fight, she usually shows her dominance and the other dogs give in, allowing her the role of alpha female here. She will try and mount Chloe (Eskie) and Chloe won’t tolerate it, but the reactions between the two dogs are enough to make you laugh. Toby sometimes pulls her ears or cheek during rough play. In the seven months Toby’s been here, I only know of two times that Bonnie had enough and Toby ran under the bed after she corrected him. It’s over as fast as it starts.

Tuesday and Wednesday of this past week Darlin sure showed more confidence. So much so that I had to correct her several times as she rushes, nipped, or buffed up to the dogs. The dogs were coming in the house, always in a hurry, when Darlin’ sort of bumped Sam, our blue heeler, in the side and put her head over his neck. That is not appropriate behavior, but thankfully Sam just looked up at me and I praised him for his calm behavior. Darlin’ has calmed down since.

Bonnie has been the most difficult. Given half a chance she would provoke a fight with Darlin’. We have rotated the dogs all week, neither being allowed in the same room unless someone other than myself is in the room next to Bonnie. In addition the dogs must me in a calm state of mind, relaxing in their beds or Darlin’ on the couch and Bonnie on the other couch.

One day I was alone when Bonnie wanted in the house. Darlin’ was in her bed napping. I opened the back door for Bonnie and guided her in to her bed with an umbrella. I don’t have a tennis racket, but I may find one! Bonnie is fast and I feel sure if she growls at Darlin’, based on Darlin’ reaction the other day, Darlin may jump to the occasion and I’ll have another fight on my hands.

The energy changed in the house and Darlin recognized it. I could see it in her face and I was concerned we had a set back this week, but today she seems better. Darlin’ no longer had the freedom to roam the house. I was shutting her in my room when I went to the store and I’ve closed my office door. She has not been shut away so I know she sensed the difference. Wednesday night I took a picture of her on the couch and she had a lot of tension in her face. It hurt me to see her like that. She was also breathing very rapidly the other night which I haven’t seen her do in months.

I have fed them separately because I was afraid of a fight in the kitchen. Not because of food aggression but because the opportunity was there. Last night I allowed them to eat in the kitchen together. Bonnie started walking around so I kept a sharp eye on her. Then she made eye contact with Darlin’ and my husband had to carry her out because she had turned into a viscous little devil.

You can see the holes on the inside of her leg if you click on this image. Click your back button to return to this blog.

We’ve changed the way we sleep. Bonnie has been crated for the first time in her life. We’ve had Bonnie almost three years. My kids don’t think it’s right, but it’s Bonnie that I’m concerned about wanting to challenge Darlin’, not the other way around. Monday night she slept in our bed and the dog bed when I woke to the sound of Darlin’ whimpering at Bonnie and Bonnie was growling. It passed and we went back to sleep. Tuesday night I heard Darlin whimper again and Bonnie was in the bed growling and barking. It took a minute to settle her down, but everyone went back to sleep. Wednesday night changed the way we sleep. I have been nervous, not resting well because I know if Bonnie jumps off the bed provoking a fight in the dark I might not be able to stop it.

Wednesday night at 1:30 am Bonnie woke, growled, barked, and I caught her in the air before her feet hit the floor over on Darlin’s side of the bed. I swung her back over to the center of the bed, holding her down, when I looked back and Darlin’ was on her hind legs, one foot up, and the other on my bed. We put Bonnie out and closed the door. She has never been locked out of our room at night. Once we had enough of her barking we put her in bed and she calmed down. That’s when I decided to clean up a large portable dog carrier and bring it indoors. Bonnie protested about 15 minutes, some of her sounds made me want to laugh because it was more mumbling and grumbling than anything. I knew if I ignored her she would go to sleep and she did.

Last night we crated Bonnie again. As Darlin’ walked in the room to go to her bed, Bonnie saw her and went crazy in that crate like an attack dog. I covered the crate, although it’s mostly plastic, and she settled down right away. We slept well. We will continue to crate her until I feel secure that she won’t threaten Darlin’.

We have a downstairs den so my husband will take Bonnie down with him in the evenings and I’m able to sit on the couch upstairs with Darlin’. This is our usual routine anyway; the only difference is that Bonnie hasn’t been able to leave a room without supervision.

Going back up through the downstairs door as Bonnie goes outside from the upstairs door.

The dogs are not allowed in the yard at the same time so we are rotating Darlin’ and Bonnie when Darlin’ goes out. Bonnie loves the outdoors so she’s happy to stay out longer. Darlin’ has to be with me or she sits at the back door.

This incident has been upsetting for me. It’s raised my level of anxiety and fear, although it’s getting a little better. Emotionally I find it upsetting that I can’t let Darlin’ out with all of the dogs, nor can I trust Bonnie not to provoke Darlin’. I was just at the point where I wanted to leave the back door open more frequently and allow Darlin’ the chance to see that the yard isn’t a bad thing without me. That she would be able to come and go and not have any fear that she couldn’t get back inside. Now when I leave the house I have to put Darlin’ in my room and I’m not sure that I will be comfortable leaving them together for a long time to come.

Bonnie is recovering from her injuries. You wouldn’t know that she was in a fight and had us all worried. She’s been herself every since she woke from the sedative, but her temperament is that of a dog aggressive female Jack Russell right now. When she enters the house her tail is down and she shows submission with me, but I’m sure if Darlin’ were nearby she would go into attack mode.

I’d like to give Bonnie the benefit of the doubt and think that her reactions to Darlin’ may be fear based right now. She has shown some signs of discomfort by licking her lips when Darlin’ is on the couch and she’s over on the other couch in her bed. That said, she’s showing dominance and aggression by barking, growling, and trying to lunge off the bed. Perhaps there is a little of both.

Staring at my neighbors while they were outside singing again yesterday. That woman is nothing but obnoxious. They cause Darlin' anxiety.

Last night. Toby is always by her side.

This morning.

Bonnie on the other couch with a little tension in her face.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

We’ve had a dog fight!

And I’m finding it hard to relax today.

A couple of days ago, Laurie, from Three dog blog left some comments and asked if I had concerns about Darlin’ biting. No, I do not have concerns about her biting my family, myself, or other people. I do keep a watchful eye on her with the dogs because she has shown some instability – whining, whimpering, and head and chest held high. Whenever she did that I would correct her to snap her out of it because I didn’t want any of the dogs to feel they had to defend themselves from an unstable dog.

That said, I don’t think anyone could have five dogs and never have a dog fight of some sort. We’ve have had them here, but they didn’t last a minute where the dogs work it out amongst themselves. Animal behaviorists probably wouldn’t consider what has happened fighting, but more one dog correcting another.

I have learned to watch the way they communicate and avoid situations that might trigger aggression or dominance between the dogs. For instance, Bonnie, my Jack Russell, is a dominant female. She used to take her chew to bed and guard it. If Sam, our blue heeler, walked in the room late at night she would growl and jump off the bed letting him know to stay away. He could care less and she usually jumped back in the bed as fast as she jumped out. This sort of behavior leads to fights so I stopped giving them chews that they couldn’t finish or took the chews away before we went to bed. In fact, no one in my home is allowed to give the dogs chew or treats that are not eaten immediately. This way I have more control over any guarding or aggressive behavior that one of the dogs might exhibit. Dinnertime is not a problem, everyone eats in the kitchen, and sometimes one dog will eat what another walks away from. Sometimes they rotate bowls eating a little out of each others bowl. I haven’t had food aggression issues with any of the dogs eating dinner or when giving treats.

Yesterday afternoon I went out back with the dogs just like I do everyday. Darlin’ will not go downstairs without me, although sometimes now early in the morning she will go pee and quickly run back up. If I want her to spend time in the yard then I have to be there. If my neighbor is outside cutting the grass or if she hears unfamiliar noises in the neighborhood she is hesitant to go down even though I escort her.

You should know about my neighbors.

We thought it was strange that when we moved into our home that our neighbor on one side didn’t speak to us. They didn’t wave or welcome us to the neighborhood, nor did they seem friendly. Maybe you have neighbors like this, but I have not. We have lived here two summers now. Our dogs are playful outside and only bark for a minute or two when they hear something unfamiliar. Sometimes they bark and they chase each other around the back yard, but it’s not often, maybe once a week. Usually they will go off when the black Lab two houses up is out barking, but there are dogs that bark in the night and my dogs don’t make a sound. When we’re outside, they walk the yard, go to the bathroom, and a couple will lie at my feet while one paws at the water in the pool. I promise you most times you wouldn’t know I have five dogs. Besides that, they are house dogs so they don’t spend that much time outside.

They have barked when my neighbor is on the other side of the fence. They have a detached garage where he keeps his ladders (he’s a painter) and sometimes he’s banging around and a couple of the dogs will run the fence and bark at the noise coming from the other side. What does my neighbor do? He hits my fence and yells, “Shut up!” What do they do when he hits the fence? They bark more and run the fence line. It’s a privacy fence, they don’t know what’s on the other side.

The steps to our decks face each other so if he’s walking down his deck and my dogs are on my deck, it appears that the neighbor is walking towards the dog. The dogs will bark, but only for a minute, probably just seconds. What does he do? He yells, “Shut up!” Although I was outside with my kids a few days ago so instead of saying “shut up” he said, “hush.” He has issues with dogs, I have issues living near him. I’ll be glad when we move into a home with a little more distance between the houses or to a home where we are not sharing one side of our fence with a neighbor. If my next neighbor likes dog, even better.

This summer a woman started showing up and spending time with their son. The son is 28 years old and has the appearance of down syndrome. He doesn’t work, he is home all day, but I see him outside, or checking the mail. I found out his age when my neighbors were outside and I offered them two large bags of clothes that my son outgrew. The woman was nice as I helped drag the bags to their garage, but her husband gave me a weird look. That was this past Spring.

So now they have a woman in her early 40’s that spends most days at their house. If it’s not raining she and their son will sit out on the back deck all day laughing and singing, sometimes hollering. She wears headphones and sings loud, but because of the headphones she can’t hear herself. Let’s get one thing clear. She cannot sing, not at all, not in no way shape or form.

One night I was standing out back with my dogs waiting for everyone to go potty and they were out there at 10 o’clock at night. The dogs and I were quiet until I called them to go back upstairs. As I was walking up the steps and the dogs were racing to the door, I heard, “We’ll be back tomorrow night.” That’s when I realized she was a trouble maker.

Most days my dogs don’t react to what’s going on because they are used to it now. However Darlin’ becomes fearful and shows some anxiety when they are noisy. She will usually sit by my chair or sit in the yard looking over in their direction. She has to go down because they are out almost everyday when the sun shines.

So what about the dog fight?

Yesterday I went down with the dogs and sat in a lawn chair while that woman was out hollering. She was laughing obnoxiously throwing soda boxes off the deck. I realized later that she was trying to make the city trash can sitting near their garage. Three of my dogs were roaming the yard, Bonnie (my JRT had a rock), and Darlin’ was frozen stiff next to me on the porch watching the neighbors and breathing hard.

I walked over to Bonnie and took her rock because once she’s had it a few minutes she’ll bark at it. Rocks are a new obsession for Bonnie. The day before I bought a mini Kong thinking I could swap the rocks out for the Kong with some peanut butter inside. She wanted her rock back losing interest in the Kong right away. Bonnie thought I had the rock, but I had tossed it in a flower pot. She turned and buffed up to Darlin’ warning her not to get near me with the rock.

Bonnie is alpha dog here. She has looked at Darlin’ several times over the last seven months and Darlin’ looks away. Usually it’s when Darlin’ is whimpering within the pack and the dogs look at her like she’s unstable. This is how they communicate with each other and I’m not one to try and change what works.

Yesterday when Bonnie buffed up to Darlin’ over that rock Darlin’ reacted as though she had been provoked. Within a second they were fighting. When you have more than two dogs you are bound to have other dogs wanting to fight too. This is called misplaced aggression. So Darlin’ and Bonnie were fighting and my Blue Heeler reacted. To keep from having three dogs in a fight I grabbed Sam. He was bucking like a horse. Then the other two dogs ran over to get in on the fight, but I held Sam because he’s the most powerful. I could barely hold him, couldn’t get him in the house, and at one point he slipped his collar so I got him by the scruff by the neck and put his collar back on. Normally Sam will submit by giving me his belly, but not yesterday. I called out to Bonnie and Darlin’, now 25 feet away out in the yard fighting and the other two dogs fighting with them too. I wasn’t worried about my other two (a small JRT and my Eskie) because they are not dominant types. There wasn’t anything I could do. If it had been Darlin’ and Bonnie with no other dogs around, I would have broken the fight up regardless of what the rule books say.

Finally it stopped, although it only lasted a minute or two. Bonnie was on her back, Darlin’ was on top holding her down and the other two dogs came running to me. I managed to get Sam in the downstairs door as Bonnie and Darlin’ walked to me. Bonnie was limping and had a lot of blood on her. As she walked towards me she kept looking over her shoulder. Darlin’ was walking almost beside her looking down at Bonnie. If either of them had turned it would have started all over. Gosh, I was afraid it was about to start again! I picked up Bonnie, did some quick maneuvering and left everyone out back, except Bonnie. I took her inside the house to clean her up and look over her wounds.

Bonnie wanted down; she doesn’t like to be held. So I put her down and watched her walk. There was blood pouring down her legs, but she managed to walk upstairs carrying one front foot up leaving wet bloody paw prints everywhere she stepped. I quickly grabbed a towel and wrapped her in it and grabbed my purse to take her to the vet. I was worried a main vein in her leg was punctured and that her leg was broken. It looked bad and in all my years I have never seen so much blood.

My vet was closed for lunch so I sat with Bonnie in the car and waited four minutes until they unlocked the doors. She was probably more upset about being in the car than she was her injuries because she hates riding in the car. They know me well at my Vet because I have five dogs and because I have had other rescue dogs treated there. Terry, the assistant, took Bonnie from me and said they would call and let me know when to come get her. I was calm, not my strongest characteristic, especially when it comes to one of my dogs. However, Bonnie is ten foot tall and bullet proof like other Jack Russell’s and she is a healthy and robust little dog so emotionally I did pretty good if I say so myself. This is the same dog I was crying over when I had to leave her to be spayed!

What you don't see is the inside of her leg is black from bruising. I noticed when uploading this picture that her back leg below her knee is also bruised.

I examined Darlin and only saw this small spot on her face.

Bonnie is a dominant female, but she is usually very easy going. She is no trouble at all unless she’s found a frog. We have to chase her down for her frogs; she’ll throw herself against the fence as you toss the dead frog over. She plays with all of the dogs, but her and Darlin’ haven’t had much interaction. Bonnie was my biggest concern when I brought Darlin’ home because of her dominance. She would walk up to any dog with her head held high. Bonnie is the kind of dog that as long as you don’t interfere with her frogs or rocks she just ignores you and does what she does best – hunts.

Darlin’s anxiety was already high because of my neighbors. Bonnie had anxiety because I took her rock. If I had it to do over I wouldn’t have tossed the rock in the flower pot, I would have thrown it over the fence. Bonnie would have ran towards the fence and there wouldn’t have been a fight.

The Vet had to sedate Bonnie to clean her wounds. They found a few small puncture wounds, but the worst damage was done to her leg. He said that Bonnie’s leg is punctured front and back, completely bruised, and it will be sore for a while. He thought it might be broken because of the way she held it, but the x-rays showed that it is not. If she doesn’t have enough circulation while it heals then we could be looking at a lifetime issue of the skin dieing off and wound care. He gave her antibiotics, pain medicine, and an anti-inflammatory.

We brought her in the house and put her in her bed on the couch. She jumped right down and wobbled to the back door so I picked her up and carried her to the yard. She went potty (both) and started to wobble walking across the yard. I picked her up and carried her back inside where her favorite person (my daughter’s boyfriend) sat next to her. Sam, our blue heeler, wanted to sniff her, but she growled at him, not wanting anything to do with the dogs. Sam knew and walked away. She rested most of the evening. We decided to put her dog bed in our room so she wouldn’t have to use her leg jumping to get in the bed. She stayed in her bed about 5 minutes then she jumped up in the bed and tucked in behind my legs like she does every night. At some point she jumped down and laid on a blanket under a cabinet in our room. We found that out at 3:30 this morning when we heard a dog whimpering. It was Darlin’! She was in the floor whimpering at Bonnie and Bonnie started to growl. I picked up Bonnie to take her for a drink of water, I knew she must be thirsty. Darlin’ ran down the hall beside me leaning up to sniff Bonnie. Bonnie kept growling and I knew I had a problem on my hands. I put Bonnie back in bed with us and she went back to sleep and Darlin’ eventually went to lie down as well.

Bonnie has made tremendous progress already. She is using both front legs so I don’t think we’ll have to worry about circulation problems. She is going outside and using the steps as always. I've even seen her out digging. She's a tough little dog! However, she does not want to be around Darlin’ so to avoid conflict between the dogs I have kept them separated today.

Darlin’ is showing too much confidence and is not as submissive as she has been around the dogs. This morning I decided to put a leash on her to give me better control just in case I needed it. As soon as I brought the leash she tensed up. Chloe, our Eskie, loves the leash (it means a walk) so she ran over excited to sniff it as I tried to attach it to Darlin’. Darlin’ snapped at Chloe!

So today I have rotated dogs all day. I can’t take the chance of another fight breaking out. Bonnie does not want to be in the same room with Darlin’. I do think it’s partly because Darlin’ is over confident walking up to Bonnie and sniffing her while Bonnie hasn’t forgot what happened yesterday. There is negative energy between them and I will continue to do this as long as I can manage or until I see signs that they can be in the same room together. Darlin’ has spent time with all of the dogs except Bonnie. I let a couple of dogs out, but when it’s time for Darlin’ I make sure Bonnie is in the house. When Bonnie wants in my office, I take Darlin’ to my bedroom. I can’t live this way, but I will this week. I may even feed them in different rooms tonight. I'm unsure. Bonnie is usually the last one in the kitchen and doesn't eat much of her canneed dog food. At this point I want to avoid any triggers that might result in further aggression between them.

Well, I've heard the stories, watched the shows, and read about dog fighting between family pets. I know that I can control most of what might provoke a fight. Now I'm hoping Bonnie will forget what happened so we can live peacefully again. Wish me luck, I'm going to need it!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

First bath

Yes, Darlin had her first bath yesterday. I've had her seven months, but by the time I brought her indoors, I'm sure most of the road grime had fallen off of her. I applied Frontline Plus her second week home so I didn't have any concerns about fleas. She has never smelled either. She didn't want to come to me when I called her to the bathroom. Toby had just had a bath so she seemed to understand what was coming. She ran to her bed in the bedroom. I had to carry her and put her in the tub, but she was no worse than any of our dogs. She just stood there not especially happy about it, but she did well. Most dogs shake like crazy when you give them a bath. Not Darlin', she sat in the corner and allowed me to dry her. She only shook once after I allowed her to leave the bathroom.

She was still damp. Her winter coat is starting to come back.

Her barking isn't any better. Some days it's worse than others. Yesterday she started barking and acting territorial when my husband came home so I told her to "Go" pointing by finger and watched as she ran to the bedroom. I didn't close the door. A minute later she came back and was quiet.

I took Chloe to get her hair cut a few days ago. When we came home Darlin' ran up to her and nipped her! I snapped my finger and told her to knock it off and she does, but she continued to show some anxiousness. She did the same thing to our blue heeler (Sam) when he came home from the vet. It's like she didn't like it that I had them with me. She does not like me to leave her.

We went out of town over the weekend and I was gone almost 10 hours. My son tried calling her to go outside, leaving the back door open, but she would not leave my bedroom. I arrived home and called her to go out. After her barking and whimpering at me she ran down and pottied immediately after her feet hit the grass. I don't know how or why a dog that lived on the streets is able to control her bladder (and bowels) the way she can. She wouldn't mess in the house for nothing. Poor thing would go on herself in her bed if it came down to it, but someone would carry her outside first. If I had been away any longer, I would have asked my daughter to carry her outside and put her in the grass.

She's getting big. I'm anxious to see how much she weighs now. I'll have her weighed when the mobile vet checks to see if her heartworms are gone in a few months.

Darlin' gets along with all of the dogs, but Toby is still her favorite playmate.

She still watches the back doors when she's outside, but not nearly as much as she has. There are times I see her acting like one of the pack sniffing the yard without any signs of fear or anxiety.

I bought the book, Help for Your Fearful Dog by Nicole Wilde. I haven't had a chance to read through it yet. I'll let you know if I read anything helpful that applies to a dog like Darlin'. Right now my only concern is getting past her territorial barking and guarding.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fearful submissive dog becomes Territorial

I mentioned in previous posts that Darlin’ had been growling and barking at my family when they entered our home or a room where she and I are. Usually she reacts this way in the kitchen, out in the yard, or sometimes in my office. She is still fearful of my family, but has never shown signs of aggressive behavior.

She has been living upstairs with my family for five months so I had hoped she would be comfortable with everyone by now. Her barking started once she was comfortable walking through the house. Before that she spent so much time in hiding under my desk or in the corner of my bedroom, either in her bed or behind her bed against the wall. No one ever knew she was around.

Her body language has shown me she is becoming territorial. One paw up as though she is stalking her prey. Sometimes running to the corner of the room to get a better look at the one who walked in or who is approaching. Then she’ll run back to my side and bark her head off. Even my husband recognized that she seemed to be protecting me when he walked in the house after work.

Other times she’s caught by surprise while eating dinner with the rest of the dogs and she’ll stop eating and bark. If I don’t stay with her in the kitchen she will not eat. If she gets nervous and stops eating I tell her to eat and she will continue, but the one that caused her to feel threatened has to leave for her to eat. Gee, I just realized I’m standing guard for her!

If we are out back in the yard and anyone walks out on the deck or to the yard she runs to the middle of the yard and barks at them. I tried correcting her with words, “hush, that’s enough, knock it off.” About the only thing that stopped her barking was poking her and giving her the sit command. She would sit, but she was grumbling too. She has hound in her mix so her barks are hollow and loud. I realize I am repeating myself from pervious posts, but this is where we are now.

Some days when my son walks in from school I can’t even hear him say hello. He’s 16 and hasn’t had a lot of patience. Not only do I have to rehabilitate a dog, but I also have to educate my family on canine body language and make sure they don’t make matters worse by their approach or reaction to the situation.

I finally got to the point that I didn’t know what to do about her barking. I have a submissive gentle dog that never made a sound now turning territorial. Before this change in behavior I heard her bark one time, the night I approached the trap with her in it. Even then she only barked once and it stopped.

I wrote canine behaviorists for suggestions. She has recommended I teach her the “Go to” command. I am to designate an area and teach Darlin’ to go by tossing food. Well, this girl isn’t motivated by food, but she does love her chicken and cheese. Since I have four other dogs and considering the layout of our house, this method does pose some problems.

Her second recommendation was to put a short leash on her and as soon as Darlin’ barks to remove her to another room, closing the door behind her and leaving her on time out for 30 seconds. This way she will associate the bark with having to be separated from me. The behaviorist did recognize by my description that Darlin’ is protecting her most valuable resource – me! Also, Darlin’ does not behave this way when left alone with my family. It’s only happening when I’m at home!

I have removed her from the kitchen, but all I have to say is, “Go”. I point my finger and walk to my room and she goes without any problems. Of course she would, she wants to be with me at all times. I shut the door, go back to whatever I’m doing, and allow her a few minutes alone. When I go back for her she’s standing at the door. She does not like to be alone when I’m home. I think this may work for us, but I’ll have to be consistent. I have not been consistent this past week.

She follows me downstairs to the den, lies under the kitchen table at dinner, usually under my chair, and is doing well around my family. The only time this happens is when we are in the kitchen or out in the yard alone. Last night we were outside going potty when my husband walked out and she started barking her head off. I have neighbors that I don’t want upset by my dogs barking so I ask him to go inside. Darlin’ probably thinks she’s done a good job of warding off the enemy!

I think this is our only real issue right now. I do wish I could leave the kitchen when she’s eating, but when she loses her fear of my family this may also correct itself.

She does go downstairs to the yard without me first thing in the morning! That’s one less trip I have to make downstairs. I sit or stand on the deck and watch her in the yard, but at least I can stay upstairs. Other times during the day she won’t go, she’ll stand at the back door waiting for me. This dog has a ten gallon bladder, she can wait 12 hours easily.

We went for our first walk yesterday since the first time I took her out in July when she slipped her collar. I bought her and harness and she’s gained so much weight and filled out I could barely get it on her. I had a harness on her and a leash on her collar which I wrapped around my wrist. It wasn’t the easiest thing to manage having two leashes on a dog. The first walk in July was good, she was nervous, but walked well beside me.

Yesterday she was back and forth, in front of me, beside me, just all over the place and we only walked a few blocks down the street and never turned a corner. As soon as we got next to my neighbors property she froze. When I tried to encourage her to walk she bucked like she did the day she slipped her collar only this time it didn’t work! There is something about that lot that makes her want to bolt to the woods. She may smell water in the creek just beyond their yard, I don’t know. My husband came up behind her thinking she might move forward because he’s not her favorite person, but instead she submitted and rolled over on her back to give him her tummy.

It took a couple of minutes to get her to move forward, then she ran up the steps and sort of cowered in the corner by the door. When I opened the door she ran through and wanted desperately to get to my office. I quickly removed the leashes and harness and she ran under my desk. She was hot, nervous, and drooling as well – mostly nervous. I realize two walks in three months isn’t going to do much to get her comfortable walking on a leash in the neighborhood, but I have had some fear issues myself after almost losing her in July. Now that the weather is cooling off we will try a few times a week.

Regarding her weight: One day shortly after bringing her home she ran from me and hid behind the hot tub. There is a small gap between the hot tub and the house. It took a few minutes to get her close enough to me where I could pull her out. She was still very fearful at the time. Two weeks ago we were outside when my daughter and her boyfriend walked out back. Darlin’ got scared and ran to hide behind the hot tub. The only part of her that fit into the small space was her head! Her shoulders are so broad now she doesn’t fit so we heard a loud thumb when she crashed into the hot tub!

My friend stopped by unexpectedly over the weekend. Friends and family live miles away so the only guest we ever have is my daughter’s boyfriend. Darlin’ has adapted to him as well as she has my own family. Darlin’ barked at my friend when she saw him, but she quieted down right away and ran to my bedroom. While we sat at the kitchen table I noticed she had been running back and forth to the kitchen doorway checking us out there on the table.

Toby, our rough coat Jack Russell, is Darlin’s favorite playmate. She doesn’t seem to know how to initiate play with the others, but she wants to. She’ll sometimes run past them in the yard and whimper. She’s done that for a few months. The dogs just look at her confused when she whimpers. There have been two or three occasions when she got excited and ran circles around the yard. I get pretty excited myself when I see her so happy. Bonnie, our smooth coat Jack Russell, caught on and chased Darlin’, but it didn’t last long. Bonnie likes to be the one leading in a chase. Darlin’ treats Toby like her puppy. She will play wrestle with him, but it always ends in a thorough cleaning. She’ll lick him in every crack and crevice. I have never seen anything like it between two dogs this age. Darlin’ had puppies in her life; perhaps because of Toby’s small size she thinks he’s her puppy. I know it’s social bonding, I just don’t know why she chooses to clean Toby. When I pick him up she will stand on her hind legs and sniff him while he’s in my arms. She gets excited like I have her baby. One day he jumped in my lap while I was at my desk. Darlin’ actually stood and put her front paws on my legs, sniffed Toby, and when I leaned over she licked my face! What a wonderful surprise it was to get a kiss from her!

A few weeks ago when I posted an update I went to fearfuldog.com to make sure I had the link for Brandon the dog correct. I noticed they had a link for lost pets there. Being a curious type I scanned the lost dogs in our area. There was a dog listed from one and a half years ago with no real description. Since I’ve known Darlin’ a year I decided to send an email and ask if they found the dog. They had not. The lady provided me with the description of her dog and it sounded like my Darlin’. The owner of the lost dog lives in our county, but at least 30 miles away. Dogs show up in the strangest places so the distance didn’t concern me.

I sent her a picture and she wrote back stating that she wasn’t sure if Darlin’ was her dog, and that she needed to look at her dogs pictures to be sure. Not sure?! My heart stopped! She asked if I was keeping Darlin’ and in my reply I told her our story and confirmed that I was going to keep her. She sent me another email, but I was inundated with work at the time so I didn’t have a chance to reply. She did state in her last email that even if Darlin’ was her dog that she wasn’t suggesting I give her back.

I have always wondered about Darlin’s past, how she ended up a stray, and how long she was on her own. It’s probably better for me that I don’t know. And I realized after I wrote the owner of the lost dog that I don’t want to know because I would never want give Darlin’ up. I spoke with my family after the lady said Darlin’ looked like her dog and we agreed that the only way we would let her go was if they confirmed it was her by providing pictures. Darlin’ would have to show us that she was excited to see them and that she loved them. If someone had one of my dogs I would want my dog back no matter how much time had passed. Darlin’ is not her dog, Darlin’ had puppies, her dog had not.

Darlin’s history began the day I saw her running around that grocery store parking lot just over a year ago. She was mine long before then, it was just a matter of time before I found her.