Responsible Ownership

Hello, my name is Joanna and my dogs are BIG MASSIVE JERKS.

Lest you think that we never have problems here – trust me, everything I write is preaching to myself too.

The equation for disaster today was Ginny being incredibly full of herself and the older Cardigans – two of whom are on the cusp of being in season, so in no mood to take that kind of crap – deciding she needed to be taken down, PLUS a young and inexperienced puppy who doesn’t know how to shut herself off yet.

The result? Two dogs jump Ginny, Honour picks her up (which she KNOWS is the wrong move; she just panicked), Juno jumps up to continue to harass Ginny and gets a big mouthful of Honour’s arm instead. Then Friday attacked Juno to punish her for that, Ginny and Juno both started screaming, Honour got scared and started crying, and the whole thing degenerated into a big swirl of bad dogs being bad.

Thankfully, once tears were dried and dogs were washed up, there’s no damage done except a bruise on Honour’s arm from Juno. But it was big and scary and everybody’s (dogs included) feeling rather shaky and sad. I’ve got them all sitting outside together now, re-bonding; it’s been my experience that dogs MUST re-connect after that kind of thing or grudges begin to be kept.

The mistake I made? Not being there when Ginny went out with them. She’s been away from the pack for a couple of days, and when that happens she gets very pushy with them. She and Clue have always had a low-level competition going on and two days is much too long to separate them. I didn’t even think about it when I sent the kids out to play, and that’s my fault and my responsibility. Now that this will be a common thing – when Ginny is working with Honour, she often doesn’t spend much time with the other dogs for several days – I need to more carefully police the re-integration.

I’ll do a better job next time, I hope. And believe me when I say that I make more fool moves than most people. Thankfully the dogs tend to forgive me, and each other, pretty easily.

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  • Reply Nicole August 11, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    This reminds me of when the dogs went after a cat at my house, and once the cat got away, the other 3 dogs turned on the smallest, and I stuck my hand right into the dog pile. I know better. I got 5 days in the hospital on IV antibiotics, as a reminder that I know better. Thank G-d both the smallest dog, the cat and I are all fine.

  • Reply Julie Ellingson August 11, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    Poor Honour. My boys would do the same thing in the heat of that kind of moment, too. Hope she feels better – inside and out – very soon!

  • Reply Joanna Kimball August 12, 2010 at 12:24 am

    She had a bad half-hour but got a solo trip to the library in repayment and is very happy. Juno is slinking around apologizing to everyone.

  • Reply Liz Powell August 12, 2010 at 1:23 am

    Stuff like this drives me crazy… does that mean I put my dogs at risk if I leave them alone together??? So if one is having a bad day the other will pay for it. And of course Honour reached down…..and I know that is the wrong thing to do, but it is what you do when the smaller one is being ganged up upon. Or does this happen most when there are more than two dogs. I have had two dogs for years….different breeds….and have never had a problem. But maybe I have just been lucky??? Makes me not want to leave home without crating them.

    • Reply rufflyspeaking August 12, 2010 at 1:32 am

      I don’t think they’re at risk alone together. Mine weren’t at risk even in this situation. Nothing actually happened to Ginny – not a scratch on her. It just scared her. It wasn’t a “problem” like I have bad dogs – it was a stupid move on my part to forget that bitches don’t like shake-ups in the pack organization and they will act together to right a perceived wrong. Bitches are actually much less forgiving of mistakes by other dogs than dogs are, and their feelings about status are very tied to where they are in their seasons. Right now, with two almost in season, they’re feeling very intolerant and Ginny WAS posturing.

      When I leave home, the four Cardigans are in the kennel room. Ginny comes along. Bramble is either crated or left in the living room (not because he can’t be kenneled, but because he screeches the whole time and I worry about neighbors). I’ve never come home to anything worse than a puddle of pee if we’re gone too long.

  • Reply Liz Powell August 12, 2010 at 2:31 am

    I didn’t mean that you had bad dogs. But they are dogs and dogs have issues…..My boys are great. But the older BIGGER one (38lbs) is complicated……..he does lots of corrections to the smaller one(Clue’s brother at a buxom 27 lbs) but the next moment he is bonking him with a toy begging for play. Ned always does the right thing…..lays down when confronted. Which brings me to another question…..some of these problems might be genetic. And how do you think they can be modified or even changed with training?!! Or can they???? The bigger one has been dog aggressive since I got him and we have been making major progress with that…..he is so much better around other dogs. He was hurt by his first owner’s dog before I got him. But he still is very shy……and I have not been able to make any progress with that. So is one genetic and the other not?

    And I am glad that Honour is O.K……I love following her days.

  • Reply 24 Paws of Love August 12, 2010 at 3:22 am

    Thank you for being honest and sharing your story. I have made several mistakes that have erupted into something here and there. I always know afterwards that it was my fault. I appreciate that you didn’t blame the dogs or that they really did something wrong. I don’t know how many times that has happened to me. Thanks again.

  • Reply Mary August 12, 2010 at 10:41 am

    I’m a very inexperienced dog owner but I’m really interested in behavior and how to handle “situations”.
    I was wondering if you could give some information about how you would introduce Ginny back into the pack
    after a few days absence? Would you try to tell everyone to chill out before things got too heated, for ex.
    maybe distract Ginny when she started “posturing”? Maybe only letting them be together in pairs, like Ginny and
    Juno and then Ginny and Friday before they’re all together?
    Just curious, trying to develope some instinct for this behavior stuff.

  • Reply Sarah Davis August 13, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    This is something I have encountered with Aria. Service dogs tend to become sort of possessive of their person, and have to be reminded that they are not above pack order. I agree that rebonding is super important for pack stability.

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