Two Dogs and a Dodo end up in a fracas… No this isn’t the start of a bad joke, it’s the story about two dogs asserting themselves in a totally appropriate manner, and the silly human who got unnecessarily hurt by poking her nose (or in the case, hand) where it just wasn’t needed! This blog isn’t only a place to share successes, but also failures – especially if those failures are made by the human in the relationship – hopefully someone out there will learn from my mistakes!
The first 48 hours of Cooper’s arrival were not without incident, but we all seem to have survived them with only a few
hiccups. Cooper was so excited to be at his new home, and there has been lots of excitement, sniffing and general getting-to-know-you’s at home. Sunday morning came and I decided that Phoebe could use some respite from the craziness of having her space invaded, and Cooper came with me for brunch at our local park where we also arranged a playdate with Halle, a friends’ Basset Hound. All went well, and we had a great morning. It was then decided that Cooper and Halle would both come back to my place and we would continue having coffee and a chat at home. Hopefully Phoebe would cope.
Not very surprisingly Phoebe did not respond well to both Cooper coming back home, but him also arriving with ANOTHER unfamiliar dog in tow. I calmed Phoebe, took her to her bed in my room and gave her lots of attention and treats with a gate separating her from the other dogs that were outside. Phoebe seemed to decide that she could accept Cooper, but the new dog set her off everytime she caught a glimpse of her.
An hour or two passed with the occasional brief introduction and fistful of treats all round, and Phoebe slowly calmed down. I then tentatively let her have more free reign, and watched as she seemed to relax around the new arrivals, and decided to lie down next to me as the “grown ups” chatted.
Up until this point I had handled everything really well, and the dogs had been superbly managed in terms of introductions – especially considering that this was an invasion of Phoebe’s home by strange dogs. And then it happened. I did the one thing you should never, ever do… I stopped paying attention to the dogs and their body language. Bad news.
As we were chatting I failed to notice that Cooper had strutted up to Phoebe and that they were engaged in a stare off. Looking back, I also have a vague recollection of hearing some low rumbling and growling, but wasn’t too concerned because they had done this before to test boundaries and both backed down without incident. But then it happened… A huge noise erupted and the two of them were on top of each other with lots of aggressive barking and jumping all over.
In that split second I did the WORST THING POSSIBLE. Instead of remembering everything I’ve learned about dog fights and altercations, I stuck my hand out and tried to pull Phoebe off of Cooper as they were going at it. Yup, you guessed it, the result was that my wayward hand was a casualty in the altercation, and the two dogs quickly quieted down and were happy that they had resolved whatever the issue was.
So who’s the Dodo? Me, that’s who. In that split second after I put my hand in between those powerful jaws and ripped it out, I was already kicking myself for my reaction. Usually I’m one of the best people to have in a panic situation, and manage to keep cool, calm and collected on the outside, no matter what I’m thinking. I have no idea what happened here.
I’m just grateful that this clearly hadn’t escalated to a more “serious” fight, as the bruising shows that they were snapping hard, but had they had an intention to rip flesh the damage each other, I could have ended up with a far worse injury with only myself to blame.
Lessons to learn from this story:
- always keep an eye on your dogs (especially if one of them is anxious and reactive!)
- Be aware of situations that can trigger stress. In the home this is things like giving too much attention to a newer dog (as happened in my case), only having one toy out, or having feeding bowls too close together. When outdoors triggers can be leash reactivity, over zealous greetings, and resource guarding of toys and balls.
- Learn to interpret your, and other dogs body language
- Take heed of any challenging eye contact and growling. These are the best precursors to figuring out that your dog is unhappy and that if the warning isn’t listened to, then the situation will escalate
- When dogs start snapping and fighting the best thing to do is to distract, distract, DISTRACT (not foolishly stick your hand into the spot where the teeth and jaws are! *ahem*). You’ll learn what distractions work best for your dog, but some suggestions are calling your dog while running in the opposite direction of the perceived threatening dog, making a loud sudden noise by yelling, blowing on a whistle, airhorn etc.
- Distract with a sudden burst of water from a bucket or hosepipe
- As a last resort, if a fight has already begun and looks dangerous be sure to check that no children or other dogs are in the potential “firing line”. You can then separate them by lifting the back legs off the ground and backing up in a circular direction. Make sure your grip is good so that you don’t hurt the dog, or have him turn around and snap at you.
Phoebe and/or Cooper’s / Mommy’s (My) Effectiveness Summary:
Issue Addressed: Anxiety, Canine Introductions, Dog Fights
Tool(s) Used: My hands
Cost: Low. Assuming you’re up to date on your own tetanus shots and blood isn’t spilled – then hospital bills can become hefty!
Ease of Implementation: Low. Mistakes generally are easier to make than calm, rash decisions
Phoebe’s Effectiveness Rating: 0/5 for me, 4/5 for the dogs. My reaction was the worst, but the dogs don’t get penalised here for just being dogs. Their reactions were totally warranted, and should have just been managed better by me!