Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Girl Fight

As I sat down to write this post I looked down and saw that my shirt is splattered with blood.  Just ducky.

After feeding the dogs I sat down to enjoy a warm cup of coffee and catch up on the news. Usually the dogs all settle into their positions. Bonnie at my feet. Brynn lays to the left of my chair. Ranger in front of the fireplace.  Beth hopped up on the couch where she can survey her domain.

This morning was a little different. Bonnie and Brynn started to snark at each other. Brynn has been resource guarding me from the other dogs. Bonnie decided to leap into my lap without warning. Brynn started growling. Ranger was trying to climb into my lap from the other side of the chair.  Chaos.

I pushed Ranger down. Shoved Bonnie off my lap and was correcting Brynn for growling when all of a sudden I hear snarling and a huge fight erupted between Bonnie and Beth.

My son heard the fight up stairs and came running into the room.  He tried to help me separate them.  We were able to separate them for a quick second when Bonnie broke free and went after Beth again, and again. Then we had to contend with Brynn hopping on Beth's back and grabbing a hold of her neck.

I grabbed Brynn and shoved her out the back door.  Then I grabbed a blanket and threw it over Bonnie's head, wrapped it around her and picked her up - she had her teeth sunk into Beth's neck.  Jake grabbed Beth around her middle and picked her up.  Beth wasn't letting go of Bonnie's neck either.  We just stood there until finally they loosened their hold and let go. Jake put Beth on the couch and I threw Bonnie out the back door. 

Beth went flying to the back door and slipped through the opening where they went at it again in on the patio.  We were able to separate them and get Beth back into the house where she immediately crawled up onto the couch and buried her head in the pillows.

Then I started surveying for damage.  Beth has four puncture wounds on her front elbows I cleaned & will keep an eye on.

Next was Bonnie - no injuries other than a scratch above her eye and one puncture wound on her neck (that I could find). Must have been all that fur protecting her.

I am keeping them separate. Beth is hiding in John's office, Bonnie & Brynn are outside.

I am not sure what to do.  Beth can be relentless. I have seen her attack a few of our foster dogs - and she DOES NOT back down and she won't quit. Today neither Beth or Bonnie was going to stop. It terrifies me to think about what would happen if they had been in the back yard alone.

The common  trigger in Beth's 'attacks' seems to be that she is in 'defensive' drive when she launches her assaults.

For example: On Thanksgiving John was playing tug with one of Vicki's dogs, Blitz. They were having fun, then Blitz started to growl while tugging - Beth came flying across the room and attacked Blitz. We had to break up that fight too. Blitz was laying on the ground and Beth was on top of him - she wasn't going to quit - he wasn't fighting back.

I am unable to play with the other dogs if Beth is in the room. We cannot play tug or she will 'correct' the dog I am playing tug with and then take over the game. I am not able to do any obedience/clicker training with any of the other dogs unless I have Beth upstairs in her crate - even then she will squeal, bark and scream the entire time.

I called the 'head' guy for Border Collie Rescue and talked to him for quite a while about what happened and my next steps. Bob is aware of the history I have with Beth and our issues with her aggression toward many foster dogs.  He suggested I seriously consider finding Beth a new home, with no other dogs. I am absolutely devastated.

I cant imagine separating them.  They are my "B" girls.  Until today there have never been any problems.  What is going on?  

I am very worried that our peaceful pack is now a permanent war zone. Given our house and yard (I do not have kennels) I am not able to keep the dogs separated - easily.  The dogs who live in this house must be able to get along, I am unable to accommodate dogs who cannot. 

I called Packworks and will be scheduling  a session with Gretchen before I make any decisions.

I believe you adopt a dog you bring them into your life permanently UNLESS the best interest of the dog can be improved in another home. I am not going to selfishly hold onto a dog out of a misguided sense of commitment when that same dog could be happier elsewhere - someone else may be able to give it a better home than me. Does that make sense?

I am committed to do what is in the best interest of my dogs, even if that means placing them in another home. If they are happier elsewhere - I will let them go regardless of how much my heart may be breaking.

How about you? Have you ever had a situation like this? How did you deal with it?

*EDITED to ADD *    Right after I hit publish on this post...I heard ANOTHER dogfight in the back yard.  This time it was Bonnie and Ranger.  WTF is GOING ON?   Maybe Bonnie is getting too big for her britches?

Is this the face of evil?

Ranger wants to know why girls are so bitchy.


Laura Carson said...

Oh no. That's so hard. I have been in your shoes - it's heartwrenching handshaking and utterly stressful. When Bree (long before I started blogging, and I let her go with my ex-husband when he left) came into social maturity every time I turned around she was getting into it with SOMEbody- usually Ginger. I don't have much advice to give (I'm not a professional) but if you want someone to bounce thoughts off of I'm here - email me! I'm thinking of you.

PS - the last part sounds like redirected aggression to me. I often had residual fights more or less... sometimes with a different dog, or the same dog later.

Jaenne said...

I have heard that having multiple females in a household can be difficult. I would be interested in hearing what Packworks has to offer regarding your situation. I, personally, would try some counter-conditioning. If you can't use a clicker, would a verbal maker, such as "yes!", work? I did a lot of this when Mo was younger because she would bark at people when we would go out for walks . Now, at lot of times, she'll look at someone and then look at me. I don't generally carry treats anymore so I mark the behavior with a very positive sounding "yes!" and she seems pretty happy with herself, lol.

Diane said...

Next to intact males, a house full of spayed bitches is the WORST. Our two Aussie girls did this all the time, and it got worse as our alpha girl aged.
I hope the trainer gives you some useful ideas that help the situation. I totally understand how you are feeling.

Sam said...

That's awful. We have a couple of girls that don't get along, but they can be kennelled so it isn't such an issue. I wonder why it's happening now? Is someone sick or has something else changed at your place?

Tristan and Braun said...

Oh dear!!! I'm so so sorry to hear about this!!!

It's so heartbreaking isn't it?!? I have 2 male dogs and as they come into maturity, I was really really worried since the elder one have had shown quite a temper with other MALE dogs out there since he turned 9months.

Thank God now that he's almost 2, they've had not much of an issue. Considering the younger one seems to be the small but more dominant one, I was really surprised.

I really hope the guys at Packworks can shed some light and help you manage through this. It must be really heartbreaking - either to see them fighting or leaving - I should know because for the last one year, even mentally preparing myself for the possibility of THE day was horrifying enough.

One thing I've learnt while managing the elder's issue with other Males out there is though, that there is always an underlying reason why they do what they did.

I know lots of people out there told me to correct him with every equipment imaginable. We even tried the shock collar. I regret it immensely now, but what did I know then? I thought that was the best way to solve the problem so that he can at least go out and meet other dogs and have some quality of life.

How wrong was I!!! The shocks though suppressed some of the unsocial behaviors temporarily it was building a monster within him the more we used it.

To cut the long story short,I disposed of the collar eventually and resolved to find his trigger rather than blindly shocking him to "death".

That's when I real his so-called aggression was triggered out of fear and insecurity (he was attacked as a puppy) rather than an inate desire to be boss.

Fast forward. His relationship with other dogs is much much better now and he doesn't feel like he needs to fight each and every one out.

Sorry I digress. But I just want you to know that there is hope. As long as if you can find what is her trigger and if it can be counterconditioned and managed, then no one needs to leave and no one needs to fight.

Sending all my best wishes to you and your pack! xxxx

Emma Rose said...

Oh Carolynn! I am so sorry to hear this. It sounds like Beth was protecting herself. I know first hand the agony you must be feeling. We went through this with Bear and Peat, as you know. That is why it took us so long to work up the courage to try again with Higgins. I'll be thinking of you and praying for peace in your pack.


Life With Dogs said...

Damn do I feel for you. Aggression in Border Collies can be so tough - there is so much going on in those amazing brains of theirs, and getting to the bottom of this could be a challenge. I will hope it is not in your case.

I don't think anyone doubts your commitment to your dogs, but you said it best: if removing one dog from the equation is the only way to provide a peaceful existence and stop inter-pack injuries, then it's the right thing to do - provided that you cannot train away the problem.

I am very sorry that you find yourself in this situation.

PoochesForPeace said...

Hopefully you may be able to find a training technique to try and curb some of what's going on, but you are undoubtably devoted to your dogs and I'm sure whatever choice you decide upon will be in the best interest of the dogs. Goof luck.

Jeanne said...

Oh Carolyn,
I am so saddened to read your post. How upsetting to read, let alone to experience. My heart aches for you. I hope Packworks can help. Thinking of you and sending good vibes,

The Border Collies said...

And that's why I have 3 males and just the 1 female. Even my dog aggressive dog Briggs was trustworthy in my household. And while Piper is all noise and no follow through, I would never risk a second permanent bitch in the house. I've seen this too many times. Males fight to fight, bitches fight to WIN.

My experience is this - if you cannot keep them separated, one of them probably has to go. Many years ago a woman I knew casually was trying very hard to prevent the escalating bitch fights between her dogs with positive reinforcement and a behaviourist. A fight ensued and in the chaos, one of the dogs BIT OFF HER THUMB. While she was in the hospital having it grafted back onto her hand, one bitch killed the other because the caregiver made one small error in judgment.

It's heartbreaking for you, and I'm sorry you have to deal with this :( I hope you find a solution that works - but in the meantime, keep them separated.

fulltiltbcs said...

I am so very sorry this has happened :( I have not had any issues (knocking on wood) with females that came in as PUPPIES and all mine are intact...but older females I have heard horror stories about :(

The resource guarding definetly an issue that would cause lots of fighting. I am so sorry this is happening :(

Tink said...

Beth is my Gwen. Gwen was a bitch in the true sense of the word. She could live in peace with my foster and our other dog Lotte but never in a relaxed way. She was always tense and ready. We did a lot of things, tried all training methods available and than some, consulted behaviourists, did a study Canine and Human Interface at the Animal Care College in the UK myself in order to better understand her behaviour and what made her and so many other high drive BC's tick. We didn't 'cure' it. There is not way to, we learned to live with it and arrange our fosters and activities around it.

We had fights at home and not always initiated by Gwen, it didn't help that our Lotte is a Petite Basset Griffon Vendeen mixed with a Border Terrier. The terrier in her did not give up, not ever. When she got a hold on Gwen she would not let go even though she is a good size smaller. The last fight did cost Lotte a trip to the emergency care with an eye that was popped out of her socket.

In my conversations in Ireland and the UK with handlers I discovered that this kind behavior often occurs with high drive working dogs. Gwen came from a farm where both her parents herded a flock 1000 sheep and in the summer even more. IMO many high drive BC's have an introvert character. They like to be by themselves, Gwen never was a fan of a doggy park, or played with other dogs. She tolerated other dogs but was not buddy buddy with them. She loved us above anything and was the happiest when she could be with us and her safe place, her crate.

When I finally understood what it was that made her tick I accepted her as she was. Which was not too difficult for me to recognize because I am an introvert myself and could pretty well understand how she must have felt.

She lived a happy and full life for 12 years, would she been happier anywhere else? I don't think so, she was my therapy dog and I think there would not be another person who would have such a deep understanding of her character like I did.

Of course my pack was never as large as yours, at least not permanent. Dogs that stayed just a while never seem to bother Gwen, it was like she understood they were not there to stay but would leave sooner or later. The adjustments we made for her were not that difficult if you have only one other dog. When there are multiple dogs that she feels threatened or overwhelmed by it's much more difficult.

From what I have seen these 12 years it's mostly a feeling/reaction of being overwhelmed by the noise, the pressure, the constant having to walk on your tip-toes and be on alert for other dogs.

Of course this is just my personal experience but I wanted to share it with you anyhow. If you want to chat you know where to reach me ;-)

sheepkelpie said...

I have been down this road. Bitches just can be a handful. I have separated fights, I have also stopped them before they think of starting. One thing to remember, is that you need to remain calm. No screaming, no matter how much you feel like it. I generally can pull two apart myself. If the dogs know that you are confident about handling it, they seem to relent faster.

In terms of management, I would watch your dogs, starting today. Look for tail set, head set, and ear set. Remind ANYONE with a tail up, and stiff posture, that you know what they are thinking, and they had best knock it off. If you can't exercise as normal, keep them separate- that seems to precipitate fights in my situation.

Bonnie, I believe started this, and Beth has had it. If Beth sees you take control, she will be less apt to jump in with both boots on, as my Kiwi friend puts it.

Take heart- there is a lot you can do to prevent this stuff, and like I said, it all starts with observing those little signs.

I had a fight break out on a golf cart, right in front of my boss. Now, THAT was fun. They don't fight of late, because the last time they did, the result was the HBIC (head bitch in charge) becoming Medusa, and breathing fire.

sheepkelpie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
manymuddypaws said...

i have no advice other than what's been given.

work on the resource guarding as a seperate issue, and manage the best you can until you can find a solution.

how awful for you. girl dogs are bitches- and they don't forget things, which makes it extra hard to deal with. I would be watching Beth like a hawk. Leashed in the house or in a crate.

Jean Donaldson has a good book called "Mine!" (actually there is a whole series, you could also read "Fight" and probably find some valuable information. They are both on dogwise I am sure.

good luck, and I am very sorry for you.

Mary said...

I don't have much in the way of real advice on the behavior, but while you're figuring things out I wonder if it might be a good idea to put a short light-weight leash on Beth. In my experience a lot of the panic related to a dog fight comes from trying to get a physical hold of a dog whose focus is entirely on getting to that other dog. A short leash that you can grab will give you the opportunity to get physical control of the situation more easily, and more safely. Being able to take control without letting adrenaline control will also probably help you evaluate the situation a little better and help you decide the best course of action.

Laura said...

I am so sorry to hear about this, Carolyn. I agree with Laura about the last part--after a fight, dogs have residual cortisol in their system that makes their threshold to react much lower until it leaves their system, which usually is a couple of days. I'd keep all three dogs involved in the original fight separated for a couple of days (or separated as much as you can). I know bitches can be very difficult to manage together. I've had some problems with my Craig wanting to fight with Taz, and his attacks on Taz seem to go in cycles. I eventually figured out that when it starts happening repeatedly, I need to break the cycle with complete separation for a while, then I can gradually reintroduce them again. It's stressful during these times, and I always need to monitor their interaction and correct at the first signs of discord, but it's manageable right now. I definitely feel for you--please let us know what the trainer at Packworks says.

Debra Kay said...

Lordy lordy-the bitches are such a handful. My teenage mutant border bitch is learning a new command-BACK=and that means she is to back up when I am working another dog-or even off the fence.

I live in town, and when there are a lot bitches in heat (not MINE) all my dogs get a little snarky and sometimes we get full on fights-I think that is part of living with a pack of dogs-the tempers aren't always the same-just like with people.

Add to it my worst bitch is a 3 pound chihuahua who doesn't seem to get she HAS to back down or be killed. I feel your pain.

It can be worked through, but you can never become complacent. I try to take each day as it comes with the dogs.

kiwichick said...

Sorry this is happening. It is such an ordeal having to separate dogs but it can be done. I had a friend that had to separate her two BC bitches their whole lives. One died at 15 yo and the other at 12 yo. But hopefully you will find another solution.
My male BC does not like one of my other male BC's but I just keep on top of him and watch him closely and he has been fine the last few years. I also found he wanted to fight more when he was hungry. He was on a diet and once I started feeding him more he did not want to go after the other dog at all. I know it sound weird but he has been so good after I bumped his food up to a cup of kibble twice a day. He is a little overweight but it has been worth it :-)
I am not a professional either but I live with five BC's so do have some experience living with a large pack of dogs. Hang in there.

Monique said...


I feel for you. Please email me privately (I can't find your email!) I think I have a couple resources that might be able to *really* help you.

Monique (until 6pm)

Pat A said...

Watch very closely. We have no problem when the dogs are outside but when they come in, we have to make sure that Dyna and Tigg are not in at the same time.
It is resource guarding and Bob is the resource.
Dyna does this very low growl almost with a smile on her face. It is something you do not notice unless you are watching for it.
She will do this and with Bob's hearing being so poor, and her happy face while doing it, he thought Tigg was the problem.
I kept telling him that Dyna sets the problems off with her growl and then when the dog comes after her, one of the other dogs come to her rescue and she sits back and watches her handy work. ( our ACD sassy brat ) She is good with fosters because she does not seem to think they will get too much of Bob's attention. Dyna is 8 now and has started doing the growl outside when Bob is playing with the dogs and Bob now sees what I was talking about so when she does this, she is separated into the run and he continues to play with the other dogs without incident.

I do understand what was meant by rehoming her though. She would never harm a person on purpose but if a child was present when something like this started, they could be seriously hurt. No children are allowed with more than two dogs at a time here and we never take Dyna and Tigg anywhere together unless camping and then the two are never out of the RV together for this same reason.
Dyna is not bothered by the attention Bob gives to Trax or Anika but has started not liking him to give attention to Cassie as well as Tigg and this is when Bob started seeing what I mean about Dyna being the one who starts things and then sits back and watches.

An English Shepherd said...

Sorry to read this hope you can sort it out :-(


Ms. ~K said...

I found you on B Dog Bloggers.
I enjoyed my visit to your doggie bloggie. Your BCs are beautiful!

Gennasus said...

Bitches fighting is a real bummer. Unlike dogs, they really bear grudges.

I have been in your situation, the fights did not happen often but due to the major difference in size, a Jack Russell picking fights with a German Shepherd, there was a serious risk of the instigator being killed. I decided that one would have to go and a perfect home was waiting for the shepherd. I hated to see her go, cried my eyes out, but she lived very happily for many years with her new family. A dog is supposed to be for life but, in some circumstances, a new home is the best option for all concerned.

I hope you can resolve your problems, sounds like you have access to good advice.

Paws on the Run said...

Oh that sucks. I'm so sorry to hear that they aren't getting along. I am sure that is incredibly stressful! What a hard decision to make.

On a side note - I've found the best way to break up fights is to grab the dogs by their back legs like a wheelbarrow. Once you have their legs start to back up - they will be off balance and will turn to try and stop you but they won't be able to bite you. Just keep moving. When they turn to see what the hell is going on behind them, they'll have let go of the other dog. We've only had to use it 2 or 3 times at daycare but it has shocked us how well it has worked. Obviously you need two people (one for each dog) for this to work otherwise the dog you aren't holding on to, will just keep attacking.

Raising Addie said...

I really feel for you. I know the love that you have for your dogs and it takes a lot of love to even think about rehoming for the better of the dog no matter how much it hurts.

I know you will find the solution that is best.

Hang in there.

Lots of Luv & Kisses
Addie, Lucie and Hailey

P.S. It wasn't a full moon that day, was it?

Lynn said...

I am so sorry you're having trouble with your dogs. I really enjoy reading about your "girls" and "boy." But, I have not owned dogs for years, so I have no advice. I sure hope you are able to resolve this without too many heartaches. I'll be worrying and thinking about you often.

I DO LOVE that photo of Ranger, though! It's precious.

landofla said...

Hi, I have 2 male, neutered pitbulls and unfortunately, have experienced a few fights, so I can relate, especially about dealing with potentially have to rehome one.

I'd like to recommend that you consult with the pitbull community. If anyone knows how to deal with fighting and the behaviors, it would be them. It's my opinion that no matter the breed, all dogs fight for the same reasons. I learned the most from Pitbull Forum. That group is extremely loyal and fiercely protective of the breed and has the best interest of both you and the dogs. There are quite a few knowledgeable people on there, including some certified trainers.

Good luck with your babies. Maggie

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear about this and it really strikes home for me. I just had to re-home my aussie that I have had since he was itty-bitty (and he is almost 9 years old now) because he was attacking not only my older male dog but the females of the house as well. And he was acting like a bitch about it - meaning, he wasn't fighting to fight, he was fighting to kill.

Placing him was one of the hardest things I have EVER had to do. It was also the best thing for not only my household and pack but for him. I found a fabulous family who have no other dogs and he is the center of their world.

I wish you luck and positive thoughts...

Life in vet school said...

My husband and I adopted a small pit mix a year ago -- we had 3 other mixes, one a pit mix, and thought this one would be a good addition to the family. She turned out to be extremely anxiety-driven aggressive to other dogs, and we had to break up several serious fights between her and either of our other 2 females. One was a huge, loud, snarling, screaming fight outside the restaurant on our block, while all the patrons watched through the plate glass windows and the staff came out to try to help!

We did keep her crated a LOT for a long time, and I expect that she'll always be crated when no one is home. But when we ARE home, she's finally okay (it literally took a full year) hanging out with the other dogs, and has settled down enormously -- I think she had to figure out the communication styles of the other dogs. I know this doesn't apply to your situation, but I wish you the best of luck! The behaviorist we saw for our pack said that female/female fights are the absolute worst, and the most difficult relationship to make work.

CAT said...

Perhpas it is caused by the fact that Bryn is maturing and disrupting the order so that they are having to renogotiate who is first second and third etc. So even though it is Beth and Bonnie dualing it out, Bryn may be part of the picture also.

Country Girl said...

I agree with CAT. My Tessa (although well socialized as a young dog) just hates other dogs - she has to be the top dog. When Reba hit puberty the fur really flew. Thank goodness they mostly snarl and pull hair! I found a water gun works awesome during the stare down stage. But I agree, it's exhausting and you can never relax your guard to prompt the behavior before it gets started.

Reba's problem is she wants to be top dog and she's overly protective of me. (I got her when she was 5 months.)

And Joey the boy is baffled by the bad behavior. lol