Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pibble Mornings and Grievances

Axle sleeps in the bed with us every night. Otto, on the other hand, chose to sleep elsewhere when he was about 3 months old. He usually curls up in the living room on his dog bed or on the couch. His favorite thing to do is to sail into our bed when Axle has been let outside. He wallows and plays like he's getting away with some delicious crime. If you approach him on his couch or dog bed, he'll show you the drowsy, pet-me-attention like in the photo above. He's all play once he's awake, though!

Some people have asked about the sleeping arrangements we have for Axle and Otto (Axle sleeps in our bedroom with the door shut and Otto in the living room). They are only a month apart in age and both are considered "bully breeds." Otto's deafness tends to lead to interaction problems with other dogs. He is a very confident dog (I've never seen him tuck his tail), and he doesn't understand what's going on when another dog hears something. I can see where it would be frustrating. Axle tends to surprise him a lot, which usually doesn't bother Otto. When they are outside together, they play and romp like they should. However, when they are both inside together, Otto behaves like a cranky old territorial man and Axle like a pestering gnat. When they were younger, this lead to some all out brawls. When they were really little, it was just teeth gnashing, growling and tussling around. According to everything I read and heard, this was normal. Plenty of puppies play this way. They never hurt each other, so it seemed fine.

Once they reached about 4 months (Otto) and 3 months (Axle) things began to take a turn. Toys, food and attention were all resources to be challenged over. Axle wasn't really the type to start a fight, but he wasn't going to give in to Otto (who is Alpha) and he was going to have the last say in the fight. Not a good combination. We followed protocol - keep toys away, feed them separate, pet Otto first, then Axle. It worked for a little while.

We also had them neutered, which needed doing anyway, in hopes that the lowered levels of testosterone would help their behavior. It seemed to, for a time. My sister and her 6 month old baby boy came to visit with us for a little while. Otto and Axle fell head over heels for the little man. Axle would lie on the floor and let the little boy tug his ears, pull his tail and roll all over him. Otto loved to snuggle with him and give him big puppy kisses. My sister, the baby and I were out of town shopping when my husband called. A fight had occurred. He said it was bad - as in they were still at it when he called me. He couldn't separate them. Water, compressed air, whistles, calm voices, distractions...nothing could get them apart. We hurried home.

By the time we reached the house, the dogs had been separated. Otto, normally solid white, was pink and red. Axle's face was swollen on one side, as was one ear. I bathed them and doctored their wounds. Otto, though huge, is an even bigger cry-baby. This time, though, he had something to cry about. He had two puncture wounds in his right foot, which he showed to me multiple times. He's lift his foot as though to say, "Look, mom, look what he did." His ears were both worse for wear, one having a puncture wound through the center. His legs were a scattered mess of bloody scrapes. Off to the vet we went - pain meds and a round of antibiotics each.

The vet I had to see was not their routine doctor...he was actually one I had specifically requested not to have. My husband said he wasn't thorough (he had missed a large tumor on a cat his mom had adopted a few years back) and I soon saw exactly what he meant. He didn't check their temperatures or their eyes or their ears. I knew I needed antibiotics, and I think telling him is the only way I got them. He didn't even really check out their wounds. He did, however, take plenty of time to tell me that I had a "lot of dog" on my hands and having "two pit bulls" (Otto is not even a pibble...) was asking for trouble. He told me I needed to get a handle on my dogs or they would "turn on me." I told him what I thought about that and we left.

I went back to the drawing board. I didn't want to lose either of my dear babies. I couldn't bear the thought of finding a new home for either of them, but I couldn't handle them hurting each other, either. That's when I came across the "crate and rotate" idea. We modified the method to suit our needs, and it's worked out great. Here's how we do it:

In the mornings, Otto gets let outside first. Axle is let out of the bedroom to eat and drink, then he also goes outside. When it's time to leave for work, Axle is let in first and lead to his kennel, where he has a comfy rug and some toys to play with/chew on. I bought him a dog puzzle which he seems to like. Otto is then let in to have run of the living space (all doors are shut). In the afternoons, Otto is let outside first, then Axle. After Axle has relieved himself, we go for a walk. I bring him back in, let him eat and drink, then play with him for awhile. He goes out, I spend time with both of them outside and also clean the yard, then Otto comes in. (The next night, Axle comes in first.) When it's time for bed, Axle goes to our room and Otto stays in the living space. This has worked out really well for all of us. We would rotate who gets the kennel during the day, but Axle is destructive when we're gone...and sometimes when we're not. I've read that Pit Bulls usually don't stop that puppy behavior until they are around 2 years old.

Otto and Axle still have some inside time together, but it's not often and usually very brief. The last time was for about 10 mins and we heard Otto issue a warning growl, so we hurriedly separated the two. When they are together like that, you have to be super vigilant about watching their body language and listening out for any signs of an argument.

That being said, I still kiss both my dearies on their noses (sometimes on the lips) and on their ears. That vet was one of the many ignorant people that believe dog on dog aggression leads to dog on human aggression. Not true!

Peace, Love and Pibbles!

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