They said at the rescue, ‘if you can hold him you can take him’.
I feared that huge American Bulldog Dads may be a 9-stone time-bomb waiting to go off (but the story has a very happy ending – see end).
Controlled using dominance
The young man already had 5-year-old Dads for a year before his partner moved in with her gentle but nervous Labrador/Springer cross, Jamie. Dads’ owner uses dominance-based methods without which, frankly, Dads would probably have been uncontrollable without an expert, and he has certainly improved over the past couple of years, whilst the lady with her Springer Jamie has undoubtedly spoilt him whilst training him positively using a clicker.
The dogs have been fighting – with Dad’s kicking it off. The lady is eight months pregnant and they are worried. Understandably.
Dads only recognises a strong, authoritarian approach – the man with confrontational body language will click his fingers and point in order to be obeyed. This must have come as quite a shock to Jamie. If the lady tries it, Dad’s not happy! She is dis-empowered because he simply doesn’t respect her.
Both dogs have lost too much
Just as big a problem is that both dogs have, in a way, lost everything over the past few months. All toys have to be put away because Dads may become possessive and it could start a fight (and Jamie loves his toys). They can’t be given bones or anything to chew unless they are separated which may cause problems afterwards (and bones could be something to occupy and de-stress Dads).
Since they moved in together Dads isn’t walked much any more, and the lady can’t do it. Not only is she pregnant but he’s just too strong and pulls like a train. Neither dog gets the long walk that he used to. In order to make the house better for a baby, the dogs no longer have access to the garden – just a small paved yard for toileting. Consequently the dogs no longer play together, there just isn’t room in the house without causing chaos. Jamie will be missing being his lady owner’s ‘baby’, with her all the time.
Redirecting his frustration onto Jamie
Unsurprisingly, Dads has been redirecting his frustration and anger onto Jamie. Tracing back, and not surprisingly, it seems that these occasions follow a build-up of stressful incidents. Dads is also eyeballing Jamie – Jamie knows not to move. Sometimes Jamie stands up for himself. So far there has been little blood drawn but it’s only a matter of time unless their humans dramatically change their approach.
Dads appears to be slow and calm, but I fear he is a seething mess inside. He could also be depressed. He has simply no way of venting and no freedom to make any decisions of his own – little exercise, no brain games, nothing to chew and too much being controlled.
The couple can now see the connection between stress and inactivity, and the attacks on Jamie – along with Jamile’s own instability. Hopefully they will have the stamina to to turn things around.