Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Dogs: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I haven't blogged on family life for a while--there has been so much going on around here that was hard to sort through what to blog and what should never see the light of day. I have been meaning to blog about the dogs for a while, but it was to be about the good, the good and the good. Until Sunday evening . . .

But I want to start with the GOOD:
Umbrae is now just over seven months old, and the vet thinks he's a Newfie/Husky cross based on size and some other characteristics. We know the mom, but not the dad, so . . . could be.

Umbrae has passed his Puppy Kindergarten and his Intermediate training courses with flying colors. He is very attentive to us when we are working with him, and so we just began a 16 week Advanced class that teaches the skills he needs to test and be certified by Therapy Dog International.

Because he is already bigger than both of our other dogs, and he is going to be bigger still, we have decided that the more training the better--and if he is a certified Therapy Dog--we can take him to lots of places. Since he is so smart and so willing (and as the Engineering Geek says--"so treat motivated"), this is becoming fun for us as well as for him.

At home, he is our happy-go-lucky Baby Huey, and he now obligingly fetches the newspaper from the top of the driveway for us.

The BAD (or at least the misbehaving): As Umbrae has grown up, Lily has grudgingly accepted him, but for some reason in the past few weeks a new rivalry has begun between Lily and Shayna, and Lily has been the agressor. I had noticed that Lily has begun to encroach on my territory as well.
It all culminated Sunday night when I went to bed early and fell asleep. Apparently, Lily got up on the bed with me, and when the EG moved her off later, Shayna was standing beside the bed. Lily went for her and cornered her. She did not go for the throat, so the trainer is pretty certain she was not going for the kill, but it still meant another trip to the vet, and another round with the trainer. Lily has been the only dog who is not crated. We got Shayna a crate last year when I noticed that she crawled under the rocker to sleep, and she uses it frequently. We started Umbrae on crate training right away and it has kept him calm and happy. So yesterday I finally got Lily a crate, expecting she'd be unhappy, but she took to it pretty well last night.

The UGLY: Poor Shayna, she was standing by the bed and maybe there was a look exchanged, and I was awakened by the serious growling of a dog fight, and the Engineering Geek breaking it up. Although it lasted no more than a minute, Shayna ended up with a gouge in her back. She hid in her crate that night, so I found the bleeding wound yesterday morning.

She came home from the vet with two shaved spots, five staples, and a desire to stay in her crate. Last night she did not want to come out at all, but this morning thirst and bribery got her to come out for a walk and to get her meds. She's now lying on the floor by my chair, but still she's quiet and more submissive than usual.

Yesterday I had a good discussion with the vet about Lily. Although she had a routine shot update in February, we are going to take her in for a full physical to make sure there is not an organic basis for her irritibility. It could be as simply as allergies. We also talked about structuring her days more carefully, and the use of a crate. Although Lily is not supposed to be on the bed, she was, and both the vet and trainer think this fight started as a dominance move on her part. But there has also been a lot of stress around here for a variety of reasons, and Lily is a reactive dog. So we have been told that renewing structure and routine, asserting our leadership equally over all three dogs, and crating Lily are all likely to make Lily and Shayna feel more secure and prevent further badness and ugliness.

From the start, Lily has taken on the function of showing me where my dog skills are wanting, and when our routines have been upset and need resetting. She's been the most challenging dog I've ever had. And yet we have become better dog owners one step at a time as we have dealt with her. She is getting older and has become calmer, she doesn't like strangers, but she no longer fears them, and now in her middle years, we have to keep her feeling safe and secure by providing structure for her. She is our household barometer.

And that's the good, the bad and the ugly dog story for the quarter.

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