Enemy at the Gates

All is NOT well in Leisa-land.  I must take responsibility for it.  Within the last week, Angel, the American Bulldog, has become hostile at the front door.  We've had three, what I would describe as "bedlam" moments when each of the dogs get touseled up in a snarling mess free for all at the front door.  Daisey and Today was the most unnerving as Daisey ended up with Angle firmly clamped down on her nose.  She sustained some injury.  I cleaned her wound and will monitor it for infection.

That this bedlam is escalating is cause for concern. Before, it was just benign, but exuberant, snarling and posturing.  Today it was Angel clamped on Daisey's nose despite my giving Daisey amply safety by pulling Angel back out of the way by her tail.  Even Dexter and Ella got in the tangle....and it was most unusual to see Ella in the fray.  It became a Hop on Pop moment, and Pop happened to be Daisey.

Daisey contributes mightily to this mess, in that even when I had Angel by her tail and dragging her away, Daisey, rather than standing down, kept coming in.  I had Dexter's lead in my left hand, Angel's tail in my right hand (not a good thing to pull on, but I was doing the best I could, and it was dragging her backward), and Daisey continually stepping into the safety distance that I was creating. 

There is a reason why dogs end up outside of the home that they were brought into and dumped on a backroad or taken to the pound. It is mostly likely the failure on the handler's part to establish order and create canine understanding of that order.  So I understand my own unwitting contribution to this behavior....however, it is new,surprising behavior, and I'm unsure of the genesis of it. However, I also know that there are some incorrigible canine souls out there that cannot be helped without being a danger to another person or another animal.  I don't think that I have that situation, so the onus is on me. 

Daisey is a stubborn, willful, non-listening English Setter.  She was roughly handled by someone, likely due to these 'qualities'. However rough treatment of an English Setter does not yield good results.  Alternatively, rough treatment of a Pitbull or an American Bulldog when dealing with inappropriate, explosive behavior is sometimes needed.  When I say rough, I mean forceful.  Nothing inhumane. I learned this after timid attempts to corral inappropriate behavior on Macy's part, my first Am. Bulldog. Once I got her attention, lesson learned.

Willful behavior is not a problem until it is.  And it is.  Angel's family had a divorce, and no one could take her.  I'm wondering if no one could, or no one would.  She is displaying aggressive and dominant behavior only within the last week. Perhaps her health was so bad before that she could not physically fulfill this 'bent'.  Maybe what we are seeing is how this dog really is after 8 months of owning her.

Angel has transformed herself from a waddling, slow dog, to rattlesnake-quick-through-the-door aggressor.  And all of her aggression is aimed at Daisey. If Daisey goes out before her she tries to chase Daisey.  Daisey cannot be caught.  If Daisey comes in prior to her, she comes charging in the door and looks for Daisey--in a terrifying 'alert' and 'challenging' demeanor.  This quickness to the door has been a surprise, and has caught us off guard and unprepared.  This behavior cannot stand.  Oddly enough, there is no aggression in the kitchen at food time, and everyone tolerates everyone else.  (Dexter is in his secure place).  And there is not gobbling down food to rough up another for their food.  It's 'just' the frickin' door; and Angel is the door troll.

Dexter has a secure place in my office.  Now Angel has a secure place in the elephant room. Her vinyl wrapped steel cable is on a heavy metal/glass 4x4 foot coffee table.  She has a comfortable bed, water, and a lovely view outside the back yard.  She does not have freedom anymore as she has abused it.

Daisey's sin is charging the door and not listening to entreaties to stand down. That is my fault.  I had her long before 'training' was in my peripheral vision.  Now it is my focus since getting Dexter.  But the focus on him and his previously unmanageable behavior, and blurred the focus of Angel and Daisey's behavior.

This 'hop on pop' phenomena is similar to another instance in the past.  When I used to walk Macy, Daisey and Ella, there used to be a couple of aggressive males that would come up to us.  I was not afraid of these dogs, and our course of action was to move past calmly as if they were not there.  All the males were interested in doing was sniffing pootang, and we kept moving to prevent that.  However, both Daisey and Macy would get agitated, and would take it out on each other. (They too had their front door moments).

This same internally directed aggression among all of the dogs in the face of two squaring off is happening again.  And to see Ella in the fray was not good at all.  But she listens to me, and quickly backed off.  All of the others were deaf and blinded by the heat of the moment.  While the other skirmishes have been benign, this one was not.  We may yet see the vet.

Oddly enough, we have reached the point with Dexter where he is a joy to be around, and we are able to control his behavior.  That this 'breakout' of other personalities is happening is a bit of a surprise.  Perhaps our focus on Dexter is creating jealousy and those two are taking it out on each other.  Who is to know the mind of the canine?  Whatever the reason, we need to get a structure that works and ensures that each dog is safe both mentally and physically, and that they understand that they need to defer to Mark or I and not their tendencies.

I have recently finished reading Mark Duffy's two excellent books:  The Eight Faces of Dog Aggression and The Ten Natural Steps to Training the Family Dog.  His methods are similar to Koehler's methods, and Dexter is a testament that these methods work.  I believe that Duffy provides better guidelines to keep the relationship objective for corrections to prevent negativity from undermining the relationship.  It's not clicker training or 100% positive reinforcement.   And I'm very okay with that. 

We didn't get Dexter in a context where clicker training was going to help define boundaries.  I used Koehler's extended correction on Dexter twice.  I'm glad that I had studied it (as I got the book when we got Dexter and had a tasmanian devil on our hands).  Because I used it with impunity two times, and that was all that was needed.  I will repeat it without hesitation if required.  Duffy notes that if he is working with an aggressive dog and the owner is not willing to employ an extended correction (holding a dog's front feet off the floor by lifting the lead and the dog's head), he will not work with the owner.  The simple reason:  he does not want a bad outcome on his watch.

I don't either. 


Post a Comment