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!


  1. I am confident that all of this will pass eventually. I've had conditions like yours in my home at times and I know how frustrating, and scary, it can be at times.

    It is possible that Darlin' was just totally fed up with playing the part of the Omega dog in your pack and that maybe the pack order is readjusting.

    As for your neighbor, I'd like to toss a couple of things in her trash can!

  2. Thank you. I'm hoping the energy changes soon, but today I've had to keep them apart. Darlin has been feisty and Bonnie has growled and tried to walk up to her head on, inviting conflict. Bonnie hasn't forgotten yet. Bonnie would die before she would let another dog move up in ranks. She is the epitome of a terrier breed.

  3. Oh Darlin is a beauty isn't she. I'm hopeful they will both make up and be friends eventually. But it sounds like Darlin will have to learn her place with Bonnie. I feel for both of them at this moment. I so love pooches :)

  4. oh lord that is tough. the neighbors sound awful! we had bad neighbors for a while, too, and were never so happy to see people move out.

    but the dog fighting: i don't have any experience with what you're going through. it sounds so difficult, you have to be hyper-vigilant. darlin' is still an enigma.

    our guys have small spats that i can't always figure out the cause of---once in a blue moon riley will growl very softly at boscoe. and they have snapped at each other a few times over the years over food or toys. but that is extremely rare and i know we've been lucky. everyone said don't get a second male dog, get a female, and we didn't listen. we're lucky it worked out.

    i don't have any good advice for you. poor bonnie. poor darlin'. poor you.

  5. Hi, when your Bonnie & Darlin' fight, who do the other dogs side with? Do they gang up on Darlin?

  6. I don't think anyone has taken sides, but it is very common when you have a dog fight that your other dogs will rush to the fight. That's called missplaced aggression. The weaker dog will often be attacked by other dogs in a fight. They know the weaker one even if you don't. I held Sam, our blue heeler, back during this particular fight. He is the most powerful and I knew I couldn't break it up if he was in it too. He is protective of Bonnie so he might have attacked Darlin' if I didn't have a good hold on him. You can look up interdog aggression, too. At this point we have had three fights. This one you read about was the worst, even though I got bit during the last one. I read that for every dog fight that breaks out between two dogs, that it increases the chances of another fight by 15%. I sure believe it. Good luck, friends. Dog fights are so difficult to manage.