Three weeks ago Cocker Spaniels Monty and Teddy were playmates – if sometimes a bit rough. Now they are sworn enemies.
Monty is one year old and they have had 8-month-old Teddy for three months now.
It exploded three weeks ago. Apart from out on walks, they have been bitter enemies since.
The morning routine had been much the same. The man had taken the dogs for a short toilet walk around the block just as he did every morning. He gave them breakfast. Then, as usual, they both went back upstairs onto the couple’s bed.
On this occasion Teddy was up beside the young lady which possibly is relevant. Monty down the bottom of the bed.
There had been eyeballing. Then Monty was up the bed attacking Teddy.
Since that morning Monty can’t look at Teddy without going for him. Teddy is a more submissive character with one or two hang-ups of his own. He’s scared and his fear seems to incite Monty further.
The aggro may well have been brewing for a while but nobody recognised the signs. Why did it explode this particular morning?
It just has to be something to do with existing stress levels at the time within the dog – within Monty in particular. Looking at Teddy up beside the lady may have been the final straw.
Questions have unearthed two things that are probably very relevant.
The relevance of stress – of ‘trigger stacking’.
We know that arousal/stress/fear/excitement levels build up and that the chemical effects of stress in the body can last for hours – days even. See this on ‘trigger stacking‘.
One thing constantly stoking up their stress levels will be ball play. Too much repetitive ball play daily will constantly top up arousal levels (this has been proven).
But what was so different about this particular morning?
It seems that family and children had been to stay, only going home a couple of days beforehand. Monty had found the children very stressful indeed. Teddy, who had lived with children, loved them.
Could Monty have been building up resentment for several days as Teddy happily played with the children while he, Monty, kept out of the way? Maybe I am anthropomorphising a bit too much.
A volcano ready to blow
So we have a situation a bit like a volcano that is going to blow any minute. And blow it did, on the couple’s bed, that morning.
Now the two dogs are enemies.
What can they do?
Currently the timid Teddy is staying with the young lady’s mother and her own dog. The ladies meet up daily for a walk with all three dogs.
When not in either home or garden, the two dogs get on fine! They play together on walks. Teddy is a lot braver and there is no eyeballing.
Away from what Monty no doubt believes to be his own territory, the dogs are friends, not enemies. We will build on this.
Amongst ways to calm the dogs down, I advise cutting out all ball play so their two daily walks can be less arousing and more enriching. The dogs can sniff and potter and play together.
With the dogs living apart for now, we discussed activities that would be beneficial instead of over-arousing.
Introducing the dogs’ own territories.
It is in the two houses and gardens that the two dogs are immediately enemies. The eyeballing starts and Monty goes to attack. Teddy displays appeasing body language and avoidance.
The humans get involved and add to the drama.
Our plan needs to start in the least tricky environment and that would be the mother’s garden.
We worked out a plan of introducing the two dogs in the garden, the young lady holding one lead and mother the other lead.
Everything now must be positive.
No scolding. No ‘uh-uh’.
Teddy, on lead, should be taken into the garden first by the mother. The young lady will then bring Monty in – also on lead. As soon as one dog clocks the other dog he will be fed cheese. On any hint of eyeballing – they will call the dog’s name in a bright voice, then ‘Good Boy’ for looking away (and cheese!).
At any hint of being unable to interrupt his eyeballing gently, the young lady will walk Monty back out of sight again.
Sessions should be frequent and very short, always ending when it’s going well.
I’m hoping they will then be able to progress to doing the same thing in the young lady’s garden which is both dogs’ home.
Next, if it goes well, they can take exactly the same the process indoors, the dogs still on lead or using a barrier or gate.
I am pretty certain that build up of over-arousal and probably resentment is the root cause that actually sent Monty over the edge.
It’s essential the two dogs get no further opportunities to rehearse being enemies.
It’s essential also that there is no scolding and the humans remain upbeat, encouraging and positive.
How much hormones have to do with it I don’t know. Teddy has hit adolescence now. There is evidently a territorial aspect. They have had Monty thoroughly checked over for any recent medical condition. Both dogs are entire.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ and is always written with permission of the client. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help