One of the most commented articles here on the CANIDAE RPO blog is “Jealousy and Possessive Behavior in Dogs.” It’s easy to believe a dog is acting out and has bad behavior because he’s jealous of another dog in the family or he’s being possessive. Both may be true, but there are other reasons why dogs might suddenly stop getting along, as I discovered with my own pack.
Sometimes, dogs just don’t like each other
When we agreed to foster a friend’s dog, it was just supposed to be for a short period of time. But since he would be sharing space with ours, we socialized him with our pack. Dozer is a lovable terrier mix, and he adjusted well to his new environment. That is, until Dozer made a move to challenge Max, one of my dogs who is twice his size. We began to notice a change in Dozer’s body language around Max. Since they weren’t getting into fights, we decided it would be best to let them sort out their differences.
One day Max walked past Dozer and brushed against him. That was all it took; Dozer whirled around and latched on to Max around the ears. We got them separated and gave them time to calm down before letting them interact with each other. All was well for about a month before another fight broke out, then another month before the next fight. These were full-fledged fights, and we decided the best thing to do was to separate them and work on re-socializing them.
So far our attempts have failed. Dozer and Max just do not like each other, and I have my doubts they will ever be able to be together in the same room again without fighting. Sometimes the only thing you can do is adopt a management program to keep dogs separated permanently. Since Dozer isn’t ours and my friend is still not in a position to take him back, we will most likely continue to keep them separated to avoid more fights and keep them from hurting each other, or us.
Search and rescue dogs, police dogs and military dogs are by their handler’s side through some of the worst conditions nature and man can create. We don’t think of dogs as having the same sort of reactions to conditions that can affect a person, but dogs in war zones or those who work in difficult surroundings can have Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), just like a person. However, these aren’t the only conditions that can cause a dog to experience this anxiety disorder.
Dogs have been going into war zones with humans for centuries. They’ve been used to run messages, search out the enemy, warn of intruders, guard prisoners and, in recent warfare, sniff out hidden explosives. Military dogs aren’t prepared for the real conditions of war. They may have experienced gunfire with their handler during training, but exploding bombs and battlefield conditions aren’t felt until a dog gets to the war zone. The same sights, smells and trauma experienced by soldiers are also felt by dogs, and it can cause a well balanced and happy dog to withdraw as anxiety overtakes him.
PTSD also affects dogs and cats that have gone through the traumatic and stressful aftermath of natural disasters, like Hurricane Katrina or an abusive home. A severe thunderstorm or fireworks display can also cause a pet to become overwhelmed by anxiety. A dog that was attacked by another dog or wild animal can show signs of anxiety. To make matters worse, an owner who fails to understand why their pet has suddenly withdrawn from them or is showing signs of aggression may do the worst thing for the pet and just abandon him or surrender him to a shelter.
Halloween isn’t a very pet friendly holiday. I had a dog who was scared to death of Halloween masks. Even though she knew it was me underneath the mask, she would become aggressive and vocal. My cat Milo also had one of his nine lives scared out of him by a rather large rubber rat one Halloween, and it took him a long time to recover from his fright. He checked under the covers every night for almost a month before he’d even think about crawling in bed with me.
We don’t always stop to realize how certain holidays are seen by our pets, and Halloween is one that does give some pets a fright. Because of that large rubber rat and an audio tape of Halloween noises, Milo freaked out when the rat accidentally fell off the table. Unknown to us at the time, the evil laughs, creaking doors and screams on the tape had put him on edge. The falling rat sent Milo racing to take refuge in the bathroom. When I found him, his eyes were huge, his heart was racing and he was quivering from his frightful encounter.
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