Two Boxers with Too Much Freedom

The two Boxers have too much freedomHoney and Millie are both six years old. They were brought home on the same day, but they are not sisters. Millie came from a good breeder and nice home environment, whereas Honey missed out on some vital early input from siblings and mother, and had to be hand reared. What happens during the first twelve weeks or so of a dog’s life makes a huge difference and I don’t believe can ever entirely be reversed. A dog without proper early interaction with siblings and mother will be harder work.

The two dogs used to get on brilliantly. They had puppies at the same time  – even putting all their puppies together in one whelping box and sharing the maternal duties.

Unfortunately things have gone downhill.  Honey, predictably, is a much more stressed dog. A short while ago, due to complications in a pregnancy, Millie had to be spayed, and the imbalance of hormones between them may be adding to the growing tension between the two dogs.

Honey will suddenly just go for Millie. Sometimes she gives ‘that look’ first, sometimes it seems to happen out of the blue. There are a couple of common denominators – the lady is always present and it seems to involve comings and goings, either of people or one dog returning into the presence of the other.  On most occasions the house has been busy and Honey will have had a build up of stress.

To my mind the biggest contributor of all to Honey’s stress levels in particular is the enormous amount of freedom the two dogs have. They have quite a large area on the estate where they freely roam – controlled only by an electric barrier. They are left out all day with an open kennel for shelter. They are there at the gate whenever anyone arrives and it is a busy place. Honey barks, growls and hackles – scared and warning. It’s quite surprising that all her stress is taken out on poor Millie and that she’s not actually gone for a person by now. There is a public dog walking path through the estate that they can see but not reach, which also causes barking and stress.

These two dogs are in charge of the territory, no question about it. Without realising it, the people are often allowing the dogs to be in charge of them also. If it were just the much more stable Millie it may not really matter as she can handle it. Honey can’t.

I am hoping that they can find a way of enclosing the dogs during the day when they themselves are not about and that they feel happy with, and of keeping them well away from the gate area when people come and go so they are let ‘off duty’.  My own dogs are peacefully contained in quite a small area in the house when I am out and I wouldn’t have it any other way for their own sakes – and for the most part when they are anywhere further afield than my garden, I accompany them.

Ruling the roost really isn’t easy on a dog. With some indoor leadership work as well as limiting physical boundaries, Honey’s stress levels should then reduce and I am sure she will not feel the need to take it out on poor Millie. Possibly spaying her in a couple of months’ time when the time is right could help, but I don’t believe this alone is the answer as the dogs already had had a few differences earlier. It needs to be done in conjunction with the behaviour work.

Rearing littermates usually comes with problems, and even though these two weren’t actually from the same litter, because they were adopted together at the same age there will be little difference.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.
 

Stress like a pressure cooker waiting to blow

The two terriers wearing doubled up leads should anything kick off between them I have just visited two more dogs living together that on occasion fight. Harry and Star, both terrier mixes, have always had a volatile relationship. They are both in their third year, and were adopted as puppies. Star must have some Border Terrier in her, and Harry is mostly Tibetan Terrier (sorry about the photo – the leads and harnesses were so we could relax should anything kick off, which it didn’t).

Harry seems quite laid back, but Star is an anxious and hyper little dog, and their owner has just moved house three weeks ago. The general stress of the situation has rubbed off on the dogs and their fights have increased. Every fighting incident has been where Star’s stress has erupted and she redirects it onto Harry. She is wound up by excitement. Harry has now begun to retaliate.

These dogs simply don’t have sufficient calm, authoritative guidance. They are loved dearly, but ‘love’ isn’t the issue. Various ‘training’ techniques have been tried, including punishment, and some I believe have actually made things worse. The dogs get mixed messages. The notion that ‘give her enough exercise and it will calm Star down’ clearly has not worked and is totally wrong in my view. A dog living naturally isn’t stressed and certainly would not waste energy running around for no reason at all. Too much stimulation merely adds stress to our simmering pressure cooker.

The owner is now going to learn how to be to be a proper dog parent! If she changes the dogs will surely change. Much of the time the two dogs are perfectly happy together and play nicely.

The name of the game is stress-reduction. All sorts of things can be translated into stress – chase games, excitement before walks, meeting other dogs, attacking the hoover or post, excited greetings, visitors and the owner’s own mood.  Keeping calm, avoiding all the little things that add stress into Star’s ‘pressure cooker’ and giving both dogs some calm and quiet rules and boundaries will I know make life very different for both Star and Harry – and their humans, and my job is to show them exactly how to achieve this.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.