Disagreements.

I wrote this post last night, about half an hour after the boys got into their first (and hopefully last) fight…

I’m not going to filter this, it scared the crap out me (OK, fine, I filtered the words I really wanted to use there). They had a few verbal scuffles when Jake first joined the family but this was much different. Despite the fear and the weird panic mode my body normally goes into if there is any chance the dogs are experiencing anything but pure joy, I remained calm. Both dogs are OK, most of the blood seemed to be mine.

I had given both boys Kongs. (It was a slow introduction to treats when together but they have been doing great for two months now; they are even known to switch Kongs mid chewing of them). Melvin has been trained to bring empty Kongs to the sink and when he does, he gets a treat. Up to last night, Jake would follow/watch Melvin and I’d have them both sit then I’d treat them both. Tonight was the very first night that Jake brought me his own Kong (the one he gets during the day from the dog walker). I of course treated them both and then we did dinner. I gave them their after dinner Kong, which they both ate and then were both just hanging out. When I stood up to go to the kitchen, Melvin bent down to get his empty Kong (as he has done at least 100 times in front of Jake). Jake was about two feet away, near his own empty Kong. As Melvin mouthed his own Kong, Jake lunged at him. Actually, Jake may have taken flight.

Jake was fully committed to this fight. Melvin on the other hand was reserved, moving out of Jake’s bite way. It was only a matter of seconds but it was enough to see I had two different reactions going on, Jake was determined to fight and Melvin was determined not to. Melvin didn’t run away, he stood his ground, he barked and made noises that sounded a lot like ‘calm the bleep down’ but he never issued a bite move. I had to pull Jake off/away from Melvin, I’m sure I didn’t do this properly. Once apart I put Jake into a sit (Melvin instinctively followed suit). A long, silent sit. I willed my heart to start beating again and then, I let it go.

There are a few things I think worked in our favor:

  1. Jake’s mouth does not open all that wide.  He can barely fit the small end of a medium size Kong in his mouth, he usually has to roll it. Also, Jake’s teeth are small and flatish.  I know he could clamp down and I have no doubt his jaw could lock onto an item and cause damage but his open/shut biting is not like Melvin’s.  The damage that Jake inflicted was more surface scratches, some of it may have even been caused by his nails.
  2. Melvin didn’t engage.  I have seen Melvin react to dogs who are off leash while Melvin is on leash and I 100% know that his bite would have meant significant injury for Jake.
  3. I somehow went into ‘you’ve got this mode’.

Moments after the incident, the boys were laying down close to one another and both drifted off to sleep. I looked at them both and felt tremendous love.  Challenges are meant to be overcome, that is how unconditional love works. This was my first dog fight, EVER and I know it wasn’t even close to the worst dog fight. I have NEVER heard noises like that before.  I don’t want them to fight. I hope they won’t fight again. But this is dog ownership.  I will make changes to set them up for future/continued success.

Sh!t happens. Move forward. Check, check.  (Oh, and thank you wine.  I love you.)

23 thoughts on “Disagreements.

  1. Wow, sounds like a scary situation! I’m glad nobody was badly hurt, and it’s great that you didn’t panic and freeze but were able to jump into action to prevent it from going any further. I wonder what it was that was different about this time that set Jake off?

    This post reminds me a little bit of a recent post on the “Temporary Home, Permanent Love” blog (http://temporaryhomepermanentlove.com/2013/02/22/the-kind-of-post-i-never-thought-i-would-write/), although her dogs sustained much more significant injuries than yours.

    Hopefully this will be an isolated incident and you won’t have to worry about perfecting your referee skills!

  2. In any house with dogs there will come the occasional scuffle. In this case it was your house, several days ago it was mine, before that it happened a different house. The best thing you can do is separate them, figure out what went wrong and learn from the situation. In my case, don’t leave shoes out for Dottie to guard, she will attack Boomer when he walks by because she thinks he’s out to get “her” shoes. I learned my lesson.

    And, just for the record I think you did the right thing.

  3. This happened to me on Sunday night. I was doing a training session with both dogs and after each command they get a treat….well, my pittie dropped her treat and bent down to pick it up and our jack russell lunged at her neck and wouldn’t let go. It was so, so scary. They have been together for almost 2 years and this has never happened. I did the same thing you did…immediate “time-out” to cool down (and for mama to cool down too). I’d like to think I was calm and collected during the ordeal, but I’m pretty sure I was a lunatic filled with panic.

    • Ahhhhhhhhhh, the stress of it all!!! Everyone OK??? Thank you for sharing this, I am a lover, not a fighter but I’ll be honest… hearing similar stories helps normalize the situation in my head!

      • They are fine….but it came out of no where. I had no verbal warning or anything. I honestly think I may be the only one traumatized by the event. It does feel good to know that we are not alone in this. Thank you for posting and being so honest…

  4. It’s definitely scary but it does happen, even with dogs who have lived together without incident for years. Some silly (to us) little thing will set them off….

    One thing I’ve learned-and taught all five of my kids-is to never use your hand in these situations. It’s the obvious reaction but also very dangerous.

  5. It sounds like you handled the situation really well! I’ve never had a full on fight between a foster and Nola, but with Anna we came close a couple times. I find the hardest thing to do is stay calm and then to let it go. I get so worked up that it just continues the tense feelings. Good job keeping that in check!

  6. We’re lucky that we’ve never had more than a grumble with our crew. I did have to pull Maggie & Hurley apart when his jaw got stuck in her collar. While not a fight, it was a situation where everyone was panicked and it could have turned into something had I not been able to react so quickly. It’s true that you do got into this weird calm state. And then your heart races and you shake for a while. And then you drink a couple glasses of wine 🙂

    It sounds like you did everything OK. The more we make a big deal, the more the situation sticks with our dogs. I’m impressed that Melvin was the champ he was throughout the entire incident. You must be so proud of him!

    • He is the best!!! His past would not suggest that he would have behaved that way but I really think it was because that, for the most part, Jake’s bite didn’t hurt enough to escalate things. The whole concept that dogs have of moving on, is brilliant!

  7. Way to go T for being able to handle it and then being able to post about it! I know Paul and Annie have gotten into it when i’m not around (nothing like coming home to a hole in the wall). But in the end, they’ve worked it out (Paul hiding under the bed) and moved past it as well.

  8. yikes! our guys had one bad scuffle (not bad) but it definitely scared the crap out of us. like you, we resolved to be more careful and get to know their signs better. Nice job staying calm… not easy!

  9. Our family dogs – a lab/beagle & golden retriever – who had grown up together since they were months old fought for the first time when they were seven years old. It caught us all by surprise and unfortunately we weren’t there to pull them apart. They actually did some damage – cuts & open wounds to the face. It was completely out of the blue (at least in our human minds). And afterwards they had a few more tiffs but never as bad. Never figured out what it was about. I think the important thing is that you are aware and want to set them up fr success. Kudos to you for handling that fight so well! I admire your ‘understand it & move on’ attitude!

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