Day 11: A Bodhi and Sierra Update

As you know if you read my last blog entry, bringing a new dog into the family has been exciting, but there’s been a little too much excitement around here, as the dogs have gotten into a few fights.

I’ve been carefully managing feeding times and making sure that when I give the dogs attention, Bodhi is not able to crowd Sierra. Asking the dogs to sit or lie on opposite sides of me is helpful, as is using body blocking and a verbal “eh-eh” with Bodhi when necessary. You might remember that my lying on the couch was a potentially hazardous situation as well. I’m happy to report that now when I lie on the couch, Bodhi and Sierra will both go lie down as well, nearby but at a short distance from each other.

It hasn’t been going quite that well across the board, though. Four nights ago, I’d given each dog a stuffed Kong after dinner. I had locked Sierra outside, and because I’m crate training Bodhi, I had him locked in the crate indoors with his Kong. A short while later they’d both finished. I’d carefully retrieved each empty Kong separately and rinsed them in the sink before allowing the dogs to come back together. As I stood at the sink washing the Kongs, a skirmish erupted behind me. I didn’t see what happened, but it could be that Bodhi was guarding even an empty Kong that was in the sink, way out of his reach. I was able to break it up verbally, and Sierra ran outside. She sat outside the dog door peering in for minutes, and would not come back in the house. She was leery of Bodhi the rest of that night. Obviously, we will have to be even more careful around resources.

The next day things had returned to normal between the dogs, and they wrestled and played. That night, however, twice the play boiled over into aggression. And both times it was obvious that Sierra had gone after Bodhi. It was like she’d decided enough was enough, she was alpha bitch around here! Well, she’s half right—and the redheaded one just isn’t having it. It’s fine for dogs to work things out among themselves, but there’s also a time to step in and say look, these are the house rules, and if you guys are getting out of control I will stop you, throw you both outside, or do whatever is appropriate at the time.

Another day, I’d needed to go for a quick ½ hour errand run. I have to take full responsibility for this one. I’d become so lulled by Sierra’s excellent behavior when left alone that I just wasn’t thinking hmm, two-year-old dog, house full of stuff…what could go wrong? I know, it sounds incredibly stupid, and it was. I had just thought since the dogs were so wiped out from their respective morning walks/hikes, they’d sleep. Hah. I returned to find that Bodhi had eaten one of the two house phones—he’d torn off the back, pulled out the batteries, and chewed the wiring in half—as well as overturning the chock-full-of-poop metal can in the back of the house. I’d hate to have gone through my entire life without knowing what a sea of poop looked like, after all. Other minor things had been pulled outside and shredded as well. But again, my fault, not Bodhi’s. It’s ironic how, as a trainer, there are things you’d never advise your clients to do, and yet… well, you see what I’m saying.

Interestingly, I found out at the vet exam that Bodhi is only a year to a year-and-a-half old. My husband and I had suspected as much based on his behavior. He was scared of the large male vet tech and of my vet, who is also a large man. I did the handling and restraint during the exam. Add handling exercises to our growing list of things to work on, and probably desensitization to a muzzle as well. Also, Bodhi is somewhat reactive to passerby dogs when he’s on leash. He won’t full-out lunge and snarl at them, but he definitely reacts with a low growling and slight pulling. Add it to the list! He is fine with dogs off leash so far, at least with the ones I’ve carefully introduced him to.

The biggest issue, the potential deal-breaker, has always been how he and Sierra get along. Although some trainers proudly claim they can “fix” any issue between two dogs, in my opinion that’s just not so. Sure, I’ve helped clients with worse inter-dog issues than this resolve them, but dogs are living beings, not kitchen sinks, and sometimes it comes down to them just not liking each other. And I’m not looking for 10-15 years of walking on eggshells. The last week has been tense, and very stressful. There have been times when I have wondered whether we would be able to keep Bodhi. But as I write this, the dogs are racing around the house, out through the dog door, back in for some wrestling, and back out again. I’m cautiously optimistic, as it seems that finally, in the last two days, the quality of their play and other interactions has relaxed a bit. It’s as though before, there was a tension behind it all that said, “I’m still working out how far I can push you, and what you’ll allow,” and now, that’s been somewhat settled. At least the edge is off it. Of course, we will continue to be vigilant on all counts for quite a while, and possibly permanently when it comes to resources. But as long as things keep going in the direction they are, Bodhi has a permanent home.

There’s still plenty of work ahead, but I suspect plenty of joy as well. Underneath that rambunctious, sometimes reactive teenager is a good, sweet dog with a lot of potential. Did I need or want a project? Oh, no. But am I glad we brought Bodhi home? Yes, absolutely. Stay tuned for updates.

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6 Responses to Day 11: A Bodhi and Sierra Update

  1. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that if you are going to get a 2nd dog, it should be of the opposite sex to reduce the chances of them fighting.

    Then I’ve seen a lot of cases where male/female family members (talking the dog variety here…humans are a different story) fight just as much as same sexed ones. Sometimes I think it just comes down to the individual personalities meshing or not meshing whichever the case may be.

    It can be very confusing…my vet once told us not to try so hard to find the perfect “next” dog, because when it’s meant to be, he/she will find you.
    I thought that was kinda a nice thought.

    What has your experience been with same sex versus opposite sex family-mates…?

    • wildewmn says:

      Hi Pennysplayground,

      I absolutely agree with those who told you if you get a second dog to get one of the opposite sex, as it does reduce the chances of fighting. Of course any dogs can fight, and you need to adopt a second dog with the right type of temperament to complement the first. But females fighting with females can be some of the worst issues, followed by males fighting with males. In your comment about the previous blog you mentioned that your wife would like to get another dog but you’re not so sure. It IS a huge decision. You said Penny will always be your “first-born” and that will never change, but it does change the dynamic of the household. There is nothing wrong with Penny being an only dog so long as she gets the exercise and socialization she needs. To be honest, I miss being able to focus solely on Sierra and her needs, although I think having Bodhi here is mostly a good thing for her. Take your time and don’t rush into anything. You might also consider boarding a friend’s dog for a week or two if possible, just to see how everyone likes having a second dog around.

      Take care,
      Nicole

  2. That’s a good idea about baby sitting another dog just to see how everyone gets along with having another “someone” around.

    I would think that male v.s. male fighting would be worse than females fighting only because of the testosterone fest, but I guess if I compare it to humans I’ve heard of some pretty ferocious “cat fights” so I guess it’s true.

    Thanks for the great advice and for your always informative and fun blog.

    Sorry…I always forget that I’m logged in with my wordpress profile so it never shows my name.

    Jon

    • wildewmn says:

      Hi Jon,

      Ask any woman who’s worked in an office about female-female relations. 😉

      Glad you’re enjoying the blog!

      Take care,
      Nicole

  3. Sarah - Omaha, NE says:

    I found your blog after reading your post “The Perfect Storm” on Victoria Stillwell’s website. That was a great post and reminder to think of things from your dog’s perspective. I often forget that and have had moments where I have had the same thoughts about my dogs. It was definitely a good reminder.

    I have really enjoyed reading your last posts about your new addition. I have to agree with what others have said – I love the fact that you are a professional trainer, but that you are honest and open about your not so positive experiences with your own dogs.

    To hear you admit that you have wondered whether you would be able to keep Bodhi was touching. About two years ago, one of my dogs was showing signs of separation anxiety – he was able to break out of wire and plastic crates. He would then chew and destroy various things around the house. Left out of the crate, he caused the same destruction. It was such a stressful and expensive time. I was committed to working with him, but at times also wondered if I would be able to keep him. Was I crazy to be that committed and put that much money, time and effort into a dog? Some people said so. It broke my heart to think about giving up on him, but I didn’t know what to do after working with various trainers and my vet. There would be moments where both of my dogs would be happily playing or sleeping next to each other in the sun. Those moments recharged me and kept me going. Fortunately I met with a behaviorist who offered a great deal of help (along with changing the meds he was on) and I began to be cautiously optimistic that maybe I would be able to keep him and could stop thinking about needing to find him a different home.

    It’s been about a year and a half since we met with the behaviorist and life is good. He has learned to cope when we are gone. He still has some issues, lack of confidence being one of them, but he’s not destroying things and I have been able to stop purchasing things like replacement remote controls & a laptop (my fault for forgetting to put them away).

    Even with all the stress and problems he caused, he is a sweetheart and has brought a lot of joy into my life. I’m glad you can see the potential in Bodhi and that you are glad you brought him home. I hope you continue to see the joy he can bring you and wish you all the best!

    • wildewmn says:

      Hi Sarah,

      Thanks for your kind comment, and I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. Kudos to you for sticking it out with your dog. I know exactly how stressful and challenging having a dog with severe separation issues can be, as Sierra had those issues as well. In fact, I ended up writing a book about dogs with separation anxiety (“Don’t Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety) that will be out very soon. I fervently hope that it will help dogs like yours and mine to stay in their homes. Thanks for the well-wishes for Bodhi, too. He’s getting there. 🙂

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