Then they had three very scary fights, with blood and leaving scars.
It seems that hormones were to blame for the dogs’ general change of attitude towards one another – both were due to come into season, and over-excitement and stress on each occasion caused things to boil over.
Cassie, the darker and more confident one, was previously in charge. Tilly has subtly been challenging her. It’s not by chance in the photo on the right that she has her head resting on top of Cassie. Pip, my Lurcher, will sometimes stand over one of my other dogs for a moment, like he’s saying ‘just remember you are down there, and I am up here”! Then he lies down again. He will often lie with his head on the back of one of the others, just like Tilly’s head is over Cassie.
I think where Tilly had accepted Cassie’s dominance before, she has gradually been turning the tables on her. The first fight was over a couple of bones. Bones had never caused problems before. However, against this hormonal background, family had been visiting. They did lots of excited playing with the dogs and probably overstimulated them. Already thoroughly excited and stressed, what might previously have been an agreed swapping of bones will have suddenly flared into a battle.
Cassie is usually the actual instigator, but working backwards, something Tilly is doing seems to cause it. Tilly is a more nervous and jumpy dog, and this in itself can cause problems for another dog.
The second fight came very soon after the first. They were reunited too soon – still in a state of high arousal with people around who had been hysterical and screaming over the blood of the first fight. Now that it had happened twice, it’s like a door has been opened. The final fight, coming in an atmosphere of excitement, erupted more easily.
The question I was asked before I came was whether spaying one or both would do the trick. They might like to breed from one of them. How would it be if one was spayed and not the other? How would it be if neither were spayed and one had puppies? We know already that things would be a lot more relaxed if both were spayed, because they have had a hormonal injection. It will gradually wear off over four weeks.
So, with behaviour work and spaying I’m sure the problem will resolve and they will be back to their old selves. With behaviour work and no spaying, or if only one were spayed, it’s a gamble. At best the people would need to keep on their toes.