Sunday, July 4, 2010

That Barking Dog!

I’ve been more active in animal rescue over the last six months, which is why I haven’t been posting. I’ve been promising my family and my dogs that I would take a break. I had a rescue in June that nearly did me in emotionally. Check out our Dog Blog for Five Dogs for the story of Earl – coming soon.

Darlin’ has been living in our home almost 16 months. She seems like a normal dog when no one is around, but she still has many fear issues. We have two problems that must be corrected or I’m going to have to think of an alternative solution for her.

Fighting with Bonnie

Last year we had a terrible dog fight here between Darlin’ and Bonnie, our Jack Russell Terrier. I rotated them and kept them separated for several weeks. I introduced them slowly in the house, eventually allowing them time out in the yard together. Both dogs are dominant females, but they were back to sharing food and resting together so I thought we had everything worked out. Not so.

Bonnie and Darlin Photobucket

One afternoon in May I had the dogs out back. I was throwing the ball for Gizmo, a recent rescue and foster. Bonnie looked bored so I decided to throw the Frisbee for her and the ball for Gizmo. In this video you will hear me telling Gizmo, “No!” She was another dominant female, a senior that lived to play ball, but she wasn’t possessive. I knew if Gizmo grabbed the Frisbee, that Bonnie might start something. Bonnie and Gizmo got along fine, but they were not playmates. Darlin’ has some pushy behavior with a few of the dogs except with Bonnie. The dogs usually ignore her and look at me when Darlin’ pushes past them. She and Bonnie know that they are a threat to the other. Darlin’ treats Toby like her puppy. She doesn’t pay much attention to Chloe at all. Chloe usually runs after Darlin’ to mark Darlin’s spots out in the yard or vice versa. Darlin’ didn’t pay any attention to Gizmo. Gizmo seemed well respected within the pack.

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In the video below you’ll see that Darlin’ got pushy with Chloe. She has head-butted her before which was similar behavior that particular day. I stopped the video a second before a terrible fight broke out. I thought that Darlin’ head-butted Bonnie. I remember Bonnie looking stunned for a split second, and then they turned on each other. It was the following day that I realized I had what happened on video. I slowed the video down and saw that Darlin’ grabbed Bonnie by the neck and flipped her. If you hold the play button down and scroll through the last two seconds slowly, you will see what I mean.

When Bonnie landed on her feet she was stunned and the fight broke out. I managed to get Bonnie off the ground immediately, but Darlin’ continued to lunge for her in my arms! At one point Darlin’ grabbed Bonnie’s back leg and I heard her squeal. I had to hit her so she would let go! She acts like a wild dog during a fight! She doesn’t hear me or see me, all she cares about is getting to Bonnie! I grabbed the outdoor broom and used it to keep her away from me so I could get up the stairs and put Bonnie in the house! When I closed the door Darlin’ was there head-butting the door wanting inside!

I'll try the video tonight, it would not upload.

I kept them separated for two weeks, rotating them out in the yard and in different rooms in the house. Dr. Ian Dunbar says that most dogs will forget a fight right away. He was right in saying most and not all because Bonnie and Darlin’ do not forget. If my husband walks through the room carrying Bonnie and she sees Darlin’, she will growl and threaten, sometimes acting like a devil dog. If Darlin’ goes in the bedroom after Bonnie has been there, she smells everything like she is hunting. She does not do that when any of the other dogs have been in a room.

Two weeks after the fight and now rotating, I was in my office one afternoon with a couple of the dogs lying in their beds. Darlin’ was lying in the floor not far from the door. I had the door open because it gets stuffy with the door closed so much. My husband is supposed to let me know when Bonnie comes inside so that I can close my door. He forgot. I looked up from my desk and Bonnie was standing in the doorway shaking her little butt and wagging her tail. She did not cross the threshold. She was saying “Hi Mom.” I said Hello and then knew what was about to happen. I saw Bonnie look at Darlin’ lying in the floor. I could not see Darlin’ but I knew where she was. Bonnie turned to leave and turned back around. Bonnie and Darlin’ made eye contact, Darlin’ jumped up and charged at the door and Bonnie turned back because she won’t walk away when challenged. This happened in a second and I didn’t make it around my desk before there was another fight in my office doorway! Again I was able to get Bonnie off the floor, but Darlin’ kept lunging for her in my arms. I also had all of the other dogs at my feet, all wanting to take part in the fight! Misplaced aggression! I pushed them back, Darlin’ lunged, and somehow I got tripped up on a rug in the hallway and fell backwards. It was about the same time Darlin’ bit my arm! I dropped Bonnie and the fight was on! My husband came running to help me. He did exactly what you shouldn’t do! He held Bonnie’s jaws until she let go of Darlin’s lip and it took a while with Darlin’ whimpering. As soon as Bonnie let go, Darlin’ ran under my desk because she’s still afraid of my husband.

Darlin’ had bites on the side of her mouth, one that bled until late in the night. The side of her face was swollen for several days. I can’t believe she lived on her own and came to me without any scars on her face, but in my home she’s had several bite marks! She still has one scar that’s missing hair, but in time the hair should come back. Hopefully! Bonnie had bite marks on her legs and limped for a day or so, but no bleeding. They were puncture wounds.

Two terrible dog fights in two weeks! I’ve heard of people that have kept dogs separated for years because of fighting. I simply cannot live that way. In addition, I can’t put that kind of responsibility on my husband and children. It’s not fair to my family, who have already sacrificed so much because of my dogs.

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My arm hurt! It was swollen and infected over a week. My first and last bite wounds, I hope!


My husband and children cannot speak in the house without Darlin’ barking at them. I wrote a trainer and asked for help with Darlin’s issue of territorial barking. Her suggestion was to put Darlin’ away every time she barks. I can point my finger and tell her to “Go!” and she will run to our room, but seconds later she comes back growling and barking. I’ve closed the door, waited a minute and brought her back out – it’s the same every time. Yesterday I used a squirt bottle of water! The trainer said she is guarding her most valuable resource – me! She feels threatened by my husband and children. My kids are 17 and 21! They stay in their room when she is eating because she barks at them. When my daughter walks upstairs Darlin’ barks. When my son comes in from school at three o’clock she goes off. When my son opens his door to go to the bathroom she starts barking. If she hears my husband’s recliner downstairs she barks. She won’t bark if the mailman rings my doorbell, but let one of my family members make a noise and she barks her head off! It’s awful and no one should have to live in a home where they can’t speak because a dog is barking louder than they can talk!

Bark Off – As seen on TV

When I told my Dad about Darlin’s barking issue he sent me the link to Bark Off. I’ll try anything so I ordered it. I think we are the perfect household for testing this new method of stopping your dogs from barking. Does it work? Yes! Does it work for all of my dogs? No! I kept telling my husband that Chloe, our Eskie, is going deaf. Bark Off has proved me right! She doesn’t hear it. Bonnie (Jack Russell) never barks indoors so her barking was not an issue. Sam (blue heeler) is reactive to outside noise, but usually quiets down right away. Toby (Jack Russell) has dominance barking. He would bark when I came in the front door, jumping and barking all the way to the table until I put my groceries down. It’s his way of saying, “Pick me up, pick me up!” As soon as I reach for Toby he stops barking and melts in my arms. Toby also growls and barks during play with Bonnie or Darlin’. Not with the Bark Off on!

Sam stopped barking immediately. Bonnie doesn’t bark. Chloe continued to bark, she is usually first to start and last to finish. I still believe she is losing her hearing. Toby immediately quit barking. He still ran next to me, but not a sound out of his mouth! It actually scares him. I coughed one day and he jumped in my lap quivering. I knew then that Bark Off isn’t going to work if it scares one of my dogs. Toby has no phobias so I don’t want to give him any! Another day he quickly ran under the couch!

What about Darlin’? No! We think she is more afraid of my husband and kids than she is of the noise. If she would stop barking, we could live with Chloe’s barking because it isn’t nearly as loud as Darlin’.

My friend, also in rescue, offered me some advice. She suggested that I move Darlin’ to my husband’s side of the bed and that I rotate her (in a crate) in my kid’s bedrooms at night. She said to move her out of her comfort zone. My son is away for a few weeks so I will do this when he returns. My daughter is away as I type this, but we will try it in a week. Darlin’ will turn over and give my husband her belly every morning and she will take a treat, but only if she is on the couch or in her bed. She will not go to him. I have asked him not to give her a treat if she will not go to him. I’m constantly correcting him too, but he only does it because he’s trying to help her overcome her fear of him. If he sits too close to her she will shake and has anxiety with labored breathing.

I went and bought a crate for her yesterday. She was in it last night during the fireworks at a nearby park. The fireworks were too close to our home because I could see our back deck light up. The dogs were barking as though someone was beating on the door, but we managed to quiet them down. They were scared. Bonnie jumped in my husband’s lap, Toby and Chloe were next to me, Sam went to his dog bed next to Darlin’ in the crate. We put Darlin’ in the crate last night to allow us more freedom of movement in the house, without having to leash Bonnie and so she wouldn’t bark at my husband if he walked through the room. It was the first time in months that we sat in the same room completely relaxed! Darlin’ was shaking because she was separated from me. It took her several minutes before she calmed down and relaxed in the crate. She did stand up during the fireworks, but she did not bark.

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My friend also suggested I find a sanctuary for Darlin’ where she can live out her life. I started crying when she said that. Deep inside I know it is wrong for me to expect to live this was another 10-12 years. We haven’t taken vacation for over two years and I cannot be gone too long during the day because Darlin’ will not go outside to potty without me. I did seek rescue for her before I brought her home, but no one wanted her. I love her and she loves her life here so I want more than anything to get past the fighting and barking.

The crate may help Darlin’ get use to my family. If she barks in her crate, I don’t know what I will do next. It will also allow Bonnie and Darlin’ time together in the same room where they can learn that they are not a threat to each other. It also means that Darlin’ will not be right next to me, taking her out of her comfort zone and hopefully help her get use to living in our home without being so attached to me.