Saturday, January 7, 2012

How Sensitive Our Dogs Are

It never ceases to amaze me how "tuned in" our dogs are to our lives.  They have a wonderful understanding of any patterns and routines we follow - what time we get home from work, when it is time to get up in the morning or eat dinner at night.  I don't know how you'd prove it, but I'm sure our dogs understand many more things, like our favorite spot on the couch, the order in which we clean the house, and what we do when we get upset.

So it should be no surprise that events which throw us off (a new baby, a change in jobs, the death of a close friend) also disrupt our dogs.  And so it happened that two days after my hip surgery (which went very well by the way!), Pistol and Timber got into a fight.  A big ugly fight. 

The boys have never gotten along particularly well, something I blame on my "not-positive-enough" training when they began living together.  They have always had the occasional spat, something that used to be ended with some loud, stern words from me.  Just a few weeks ago they got into a fight when the pet sitter was here, a fight that was a warning to me because it was more intense than usual and actually resulted in some scrapes and scratches on each dog.

And now, after my surgery, the dogs lit into each other again.  They show me just how much chaos I have caused in the house with my crutches and a funny anesthesia smell, visitors bringing pre-cooked meals and my mother filling up our guest room with a month's worth of belongings.  The dogs are unhappy about the shift in our normal routine.  Life is off kilter, and when the dog-to-dog relationship is barely peaceful to begin with, a big ugly fight is the end result.

Pistol and Timber barked and growled and snapped and snarled.  My mother yelled at them to stop, and I yelled at her to not get her hands in their way.  Fur literally flew.  I found my crutches and managed to hobble over to the anarchic crime scene.  My mother had somehow pinned each dog apart from the other.  We separated the dogs to different rooms and I examined both of them from nose to tail, checking for blood and holes and any other injuries.

The end result is some painful looking bite wounds, but fortunately all surface scrapes and no expensive (veterinary visit worthy) puncture wounds.  What do I, as a dog trainer, do?  First, I grimace with embarrassment at the horrible behavior of my personal dogs.  Then, since I'm bound to the couch for recovery time, I'll make some changes to their living arrangements until life returns to "normal" and I can work on some behavior modification (couples counseling I suppose) for Pistol and Timber.  There will be separate sleeping quarters at night, and any unsupervised time (that includes time when I am around, since I am useless to control two ornery dogs right now) will be spent in different rooms.  For now it's management, not training.

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