I go to
Staffordshire Bull Terrier Minnie is now seven. Since they got her as a puppy she’s always been anxious, easily scared and a bit needy.
All started off very well. I suspect the two dogs have been allowed to play too roughly, particularly in Tom’s formative earlier months. He will have learnt bad habits. He’s not gentle with his mouth even with humans.
Then, five months ago and (seemingly) for no reason, there was a big fight. The lady was asking both dogs to sit for a treat as she often did. Tom suddenly went for Minnie. She retaliated. This resulted in the predictable screaming. The son in his late teens rushed in and separated them.
Then all was well until a couple of weeks ago when things have gone rapidly downhill.
Three fights in the last two weeks.
There have now been four serious fights with the young man having been bitten when separating the dogs. Two of the fights have been at the door when one dog was coming in from a walk. It’s Tom who goes for Minnie. She is a lot smaller than he is and last time he shook her like a rag doll.
When I arrived I had the lady bring Minnie in on lead first. If Tom is already in the room she, the timid one, wouldn’t want to enter. She sat the other end of the room and we talked until she relaxed.
Then the son brought Tom in, sitting by the door, the other end of the room – I was in the middle.
Minnie was obviously extremely uneasy with lip-licking, fidgeting, staring away from Tom.
Tom himself wasn’t happy either. He was mostly angled away from Minnie and the lady. He panted. Then he looked at Minnie and for one moment their eyes met and I quickly and causally walked between them. It’s important to break any eyeballing.
Tom was then taken back out. They now have a series of gates and keep the dogs strictly apart. We swapped dogs a bit later.
It was hard to see just what was going, but one thing stood out, so that is the place we can start. It’s Minnie’s mental state.
A downward spiral.
Already a bit unstable, the more uneasy, anxious, aroused or scared she is, the more it seems to affect Tom. With each of the
I am pretty sure that Minnie’s instability is largely genetic
Helping Minnie will help Tom.
The other aspect
While I was there the young man already started working Tom’s jumping up using
The kind of walks Tom is given
With both dogs in a more fulfilled state of mind, making progress with the fights is more likely. They should have better things to focus on.
While work is being done on these two aspects, the actual reintroducing the dogs together must be done very slowly and gradually. It’s really important they get no further opportunity for fights. Each time it makes the next fight more likely and worse in intensity.
Frequent short sessions.
Keeping the dogs from seeing each other entirely could make any eventual reintroduction more tricky. I believe the way forward is frequent very short sessions where they are in the same room on leads but can’t actually get to each other. It should only be when everything is calm and carefully stage-managed.
These sessions will be carefully monitored and both dogs’ body language carefully watched while the humans work on being relaxed. They can use standing between the dogs or even a cushion to block
Each session will be terminated at the first sign of any unease, before any growling or eyeballing if possible, with the dog nearest to the door being removed.
They will need to do the rigmarole of one dog upstairs and the other in
I will go again in two or three weeks and take a fresh look at things from what should then be a slightly different situation. Things may be a bit clearer.