Franny has gotten in to a number of little skirmishes with other dogs. Usually, it’s a quick bark or growl, telling another dog to back off, but occassionally it escalates into something more. Dusty is the second foster dog I attempted to bring into Franny’s home. The first was a sweet, confused mutt who had lived his life tied up in a backyard. The last year of his life, his humans stopped feeding him and he was kept alive by the neighbors. By the time he got to Muttville, he was severely underweight after having been removed from his home by Animal Care and Control. When I brought Franny to Muttville Manor to meet this sweet guy, though, there were just enough signs of agression to suggest that it wouldn’t be a good match. I brought Franny home alone.
And then Dusty entered our lives and, the first week, things were fine between them. Franny was clearly dominant and would let Dusty know when he was too stepping on her proverbial toes. Then we spent an afternoon at the park with a group of friends. Whether it was the shifting attention of the humans, the stress of a day in the heat or another spark, I don’t know, but Fran and Dusty got into a scuffle which, with snarls and yelps, sounded worse than it really was. I pushed Franny away with my knee to her shoulder and things calmed immediately. We had no more incidents until last night. I was preparing dinner for the dogs and both sat in the kitchen looking at me with their big hungry eyes. Then suddenly, Franny was on top of Dusty, pinning him to the ground with her teeth. Though it lasted only 20 seconds, it felt like minutes. I finally pulled Franny off of Dusty from her collar (behind her neck so she wouldn’t bite me on accident) and Dusty lay on the floor. I pulled Franny outside, closed the patio door, and went back to check on Dusty. He was fine – a little shaken, but no wounds – and within minutes it was as if nothing had happened. I called Sherri at Muttville immediately and let her know. Her wise advice? Franny doesn’t need that stress, Dusty doesn’t need that stress, and you don’t need that stress. A fellow foster mom, Yoko, came to pick up Dusty later that evening, and just like that, he was gone.
After Dusty left, I wondered what I should have done in this situation to make things better. What if, for example, Dusty was not a foster dog but a permanent one? So, I began to read and here is what I did wrong:
– I was treating Franny and Dusty as equals when, in reality, they were not equals in the pack. In fact, Franny may have felt I was giving Dusty preferential treatment (i.e., treating him as if he was dominant). Franny loves love but she also likes to have her own space. She rarely sleeps on my bed and doesn’t like to be on the couch (interestingly, her disinterest in being close could be a symptom of her Cushing’s Disease). Dusty, on the other hand, is a typical Doxie. He wanted to be as close as possible as often as possible and would whine if I didn’t put him up on the couch with me or let him sleep in my bed.
– Even though it sounded bad, I didn’t really need to pull Franny off of Dusty. She was reaffirming the pecking order in the pack and by pulling her off of Dusty, the pecking order issue was never resolved. If the fight became bad enough, I should have pulled Franny away by her back legs, silently (without saying things like “Franny, no!” or “Bad dog”). Another option is to shift the dogs’ attention by spraying something at them or making a loud noise away from them.
– I should not have put Franny outside and gone to check on Dusty. Dusty was fine and I just showed Franny that Dusty ranks higher than she. In other words, I contributed to her need to show she was dominant. I am also lucky that I did not make the situation worse by seperating the two. Franny could have come back inside and restarted the fight.