Back in July, when Boomer began to get bigger than her, Madeline began getting mad at him all the time. Madeline has always been a little uptight as far back as 13 weeks & I couldn’t fathom where it came from.
When Boomer went through his Parvo ordeal, the two of them spent so much time together that they got really close. But once he hit 70 lbs her behavior toward him changed. She would lash out at him for seemingly random reasons, leaving him with a cut above his eye or on his cheek. Boomer, ever the good-natured puppy, always took it quietly, ducking his head & moving away. I’d scold her & comfort him, but I didn’t understand what was happening.
However, in July he was bigger than her, & one day she not only bit him but then stood there & bared her teeth at him… & then it was on.
They had been running around the back yard; Madeline had gotten what we call “the zoomies” & was racing around, with Chie & Boomer running along with her. Chie, a herder, has a bad habit of trying to “catch” anyone who runs, & it often pisses Madeline off. I sensed something was wrong & called them to stop. As they stopped, Madeline lashed out at Boomer, & then turned to face him with bared teeth.
They fought a long time; long enough for me to shoot them with the hose (no response), try to pull one off the other by the hind legs, try to pull the other off by the hind legs, call my parents for help (& be rejected), put Chie in the house because she was trying to pull them apart & I didn’t want her to get hurt, go inside & change my shirt just in case the neighbors decided to offer help, & call my parents again because I just didn’t know what to do.
Making phone calls was rough because my hands were shaking so hard. Thinking was also rough. Several times I thought Madeline was going to rip Boomer’s ear off & at one point she began choking because he was crushing her throat. Both of them were covered with blood & I can’t believe the entire neighborhood didn’t hear them snarling.
Then, it was just suddenly over. They just both stopped. Madeline moved to the other side of the yard & lay down. I was still shaking & I still couldn’t think.
Madeline couldn’t get up. Boomer seemed fine & in fact went over to sniff her within a few minutes. She was still baring her teeth at him so I put him in the house. I checked her as well as I could & called my dad, who is a doctor, to ask if he could come over & sew up the large hole at the base of her throat. He agreed to after a couple more calls; by the time he arrived Madeline was able to move around on her own, although she ran funny for a month afterward.
My brother, who has Madeline’s brother & Boomer’s dad, advised me to keep them separate for 2 days because they needed time to forget about their fight. I kept Madeline inside for 2 days & then tried to reintroduce them; Boomer was extremely contrite but she seemed to just ignore him. Everywhere she lay down he would lay down a few feet away, keeping his head low. She seemed to be ok with this, but the moment he tried to approach her she yelped & bolted. I put her back in the house. She curled up on her spot on my bed & lay there looking at me like she was never leaving that spot ever again.
Boomer & Madeline took turns being inside the house for another 2 months. At first I rotated them using the front yard, so that they had no contact whatsoever, but this was mostly due to my own anxiety. After awhile I could casually let one out the back door & the other one would know it was his/her turn to come in through the back door. Madeline would not even look at Boomer, even through the screen, during this time. Boomer’s behavior was consistently heartbroken. He would constantly look hopeful whenever Madeline passed by him, & then see that she still hated his guts & he would become quite obviously dejected.
Madeline was 2 years old & had become a very fearful dog. Since turning 1 she wouldn’t stop barking at any people she didn’t know, & was terrified at vet visits. I had spent so much time with Boomer, I think, that I neglected her socialization. And since she had been fractious even from 13 weeks, it was something she had really needed.
I hired Sit Means Sit to work with her fearfulness. Their program was expensive (a little over $800) but they came to my house to work with her, & would be available to work with her for life, so maybe not that expensive. I wasn’t clear as to how training her in obedience would mitigate her fear, but they assured me it could be done.
Madeline has always been obedient. The doctor at Gentle Vets, after spending some one-on-one time with her at our first visit, told me that she is actually overly submissive. She did everything in Puppy Obedience that was asked of her, then failed the test because the instructor was a man she had never met.
Leonard from SMS took some time to get her to at least stop running away from him, but it wasn’t until our 3rd lesson that she actually went up to him to say hello instead of barking in fright. She did everything that was asked of her in SMS training, & all of our homework.
By Madeline’s third lesson she seemed very different; we actually met Leonard at his house & Madeline showed up sniffing instead of cowering, & happily greeted him. She ignored the Malinois he was playing with & later did training exercises with his humongous German Shepherd that had them practically touching. Madeline seemed much less fearful, & more confident & trusting.
During the couple of months we had Madeline’s lessons (scheduling conflicts kinda spaced them out), Madeline began acknowledging Boomer, especially when he howled in response to the sound of ambulance sirens. She would get excited & want to go to him, if only to frenziedly sniff him & then run back to me. We began having short, supervised periods being all together in the back yard, & although Madeline mostly ignored Boomer, she seemed relaxed & happy, & he seemed less heartbroken. He had learned already not to try to engage her in play, & that the best way to get her to hang out was to lie down. So he began lying down all the time, & I know it was because he was trying to show her he was friendly.
I also had a lot of time to reflect. When Madeline was a puppy, my Basenji Jack was already 2 years old. She rambunctiously annoyed the crap out of him, & he was often mean to her. When I say “mean,” I mean that he didn’t just correct her behavior but terrorized her, circling her snarling & then biting her so that she yelped in surprise & pain. I stopped him when I was there but there were a lot of times I wasn’t there. I never considered it a real problem because Jack was small.
I haven’t written about it yet, but I had to re-home Jack this past May. The fights between him & Madeline had been escalating, to the point where all they had to do was look at each other & she’d lunge. I knew there was a problem but I didn’t take care of it as I should have; I kept thinking it was a case of dominance or rivalry that they would have to work out.
When Boomer was only 4 months old, we were all out in the front yard when the neighbor’s dogs charged the fence. The usual fence fight occurred but out of the blue Boomer attacked Jack. I got him off of Jack but no sooner had Jack run free then Madeline attacked him.
Jack got hurt pretty bad & I was forced to admit that I could not provide him with a safe home. It took 3 months to find Jack the right home in May, & perhaps through June the pack order was disrupted, causing Madeline to suddenly view Boomer differently until their fight in July.
So. Factors that led up to Madeline & Boomer fighting:
1. Disrupted pack order
2. Madeline’s fearfulness
3. Madeline’s puppyhood experiencing aggression & lack of safety
So currently Madeline & Boomer seem to be very comfortable with each other. They are not allowed to wrestle or play tug o’ war, because I get too anxious. I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD related to the violence between my dogs (I know, right? But yet there it is.), & even the slightest imitation of aggression can get my anxiety up to the point where I will have difficulty breathing for the rest of the night if I don’t pop a Xanax. Fortunately days like this are rare.
Madeline is able to spend most of the time when I am home outside in the yard with Boomer & Chie, but I still put her in the house when I am gone. She seems much happier & relaxed, over all, than she was before. I think this is due to her work with SMS & also a less tense atmosphere with Jack gone. I miss Jack terribly but I think he is happier at his new home than he ever was here.
Boomer is extremely submissive to Madeline & goes out of his way to be nonthreatening. This is just so weird because he is so dog aggressive away from home. But that is another story & another blog post. Please keep your fingers crossed for us; I hope the peace we have right now lasts.