Day 11: A Bodhi and Sierra Update

September 15, 2010

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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