Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Saga of Pupper vs. Kitty Part 2

Bailey was adopted from our local animal shelter so I know
nothing of those critical early weeks of life when puppies should be properly
introduced to the world and socialized.
I also have no genetic history of his parents or grandparents. There are some experts, such as Dr. Stanley
Coren and Dr. Ian Dunbar, who suggest that if an animal is not properly
socialized and nurtured before the age of three months that the animal may have
a learned behavioral deficit if you will.
Was Bailey doomed by being a shelter puppy? Was there anything I could do to make up for
the lack of nurture and love that I assume he missed between birth and three
months? Not to second guess the experts
but all of my current pets, minus Jack-Jack, were acquired after the critical
adjustment and learning period that experts speak of. And I would classify most as “normal”. Could they be better? Of course.
But so could I. I cannot worry
for a period of Bailey’s life that I had no control over. I can only move forward with him.

At nine months of age I saw the first marker of rage from
Bailey. Uncontrollable. Out of ordinary and out of character. Unexpected.
Frightening. Life changing.

I was looking at not a sweet Retriever, nor a gentle Pyrenees. I was
watching what can best be described as the rage and “red zone” actions of a typical
bully breed pushed beyond reason. Not to
stereo type bully breeds, all breeds can exhibit “red zone” behavior.

We had, had dog fights before in our home. With two adult male (neutered) dogs, fights
were not common or severe but we were schooled in the proper handling of fighting
animals to ensure safety for all. But
that day in the backyard I knew more would be needed of me to help Bailey.

Always interested in animal behavior and training, I threw
myself into learning all I could.

I knew that I was Bailey’s only hope. I had adopted him, I loved him, and I had an
emotional bond with him that if rehomed his next owner might not have. I learned that dogs who are rehomed have a
high rate of being returned to shelters or worse. It’s easily explained by thinking that the
first owner loved an animal and each consecutive owner may love or care a
little less about the animal until the pet becomes a burden. This is not to say that rehoming should never
be an option for owners or that those owners are failures. The exact opposite is true. Rehoming may save an animal’s life when the
only other option is euthanasia due to aggression or biting. But those animals should only be placed with
experienced owners fully capable of handling those behavioral issues.

Bailey is now three years old and the tantrums, as we will
call his actions for the sake of story telling, continue. We have learned that he has resource guarding
issues—food, his owners, toys, cardboard boxes, pretty much anything… We also discovered that two of our dogs
readily back down to Bailey’s growls and warnings. Deciding it is better to let the crazy dog have
his card board box than fight over it.
That leaves Supermax. He does not
back down. He prefers to think the box
should belong to him.

Until recently Bailey has ignored our two cats, Lazarus
& Jack-Jack. Now he does not want
the kitties near his “things” or even near him.
If the kitties take one step too far down the hall then all hell breaks

I cannot figure out why Bailey’s wrath is now fully focused
in on the cats.

But I saw equal part odd and funny thing yesterday. Behind my back I heard the familiar growling
and chasing of Bailey after a kitty. We
have adopted an “Ignore” treatment when he misbehaves. We simply remove Bailey from the situation
without a word and place him in his “time out” area for 10-15 minutes. As I walked Bailey away from the scene to his
spot of thought and ponder, I heard the spitting and growling of Jack-Jack fast
approaching. Jack-Jack had decided to
retaliate. He was all puffed up, bushy
tailed and spitting. He chased Bailey
right out the back door.

It gave me a new perspective on this Saga. Maybe Pupper vs. Kitty is not correct at
all. Maybe it should be the Saga of
Kitty vs. Pupper.

Recommended Reading
for this week- Mine! By Jean Donaldson available at http://www.dogwise.com/itemdetails.cfm?ID=DTB740

Sheila Rinks is the editor of Finding Fuzzybutt Four, producer of the Raising Indiana podcast and shares her home with her husband, 4 Great Pyrenees and 2 very well-fed kitties.