Orla and her family have four dogs, a collection of cats and some horses. The animals generally get on well together, but last week, there was a major crisis.
Orla’s dogs live in two groups: she has two “indoor” dogs, and two “outdoor” dogs. The indoor dogs, Mandy and Pip, are Maltese Terriers: small, white, fluffy dogs that enjoy being pampered. They live with the Gallagher family, sleeping in the kitchen and only going outside for exercise. The outdoor dogs, Jessie (a Collie) and Ralph (a Springer Spaniel), are bigger, more robust animals. They sleep in an outhouse, and they have a role as watch dogs as well as being family pets.
Jessie, an eight year old Collie, was originally from a farm, and although she is good natured, she should have really have been a working animal. She spends her days watching Orla’s hens or the horses, crouching down and following them from a distance, as if wanting to round them up like a flock of sheep. Jessie had always dominated the other dogs, playing with them in a boisterous way, sometimes rolling them over and standing over them, as if to say “I’m the one in charge”. She was never openly aggressive to them, and there were never any serious fights.
Two weeks ago, when Orla was out for the morning, someone let the two Maltese Terriers out into the yard. When they came back to check the dogs ten minutes later, there was no sign of Mandy. Jessie was rolling something around on the ground with her paws, as if playing with a toy. To their horror, the “toy” was Mandy’s inert body. She had been savaged and was was covered in blood and muck. When she was picked up, there no sound from her and hardly any movement: she was nearly dead. She was rushed to the vet at once.
Mandy needed intensive treatment for the next five days. She had suffered multiple bites and bruising all around her neck and chest areas, with serious internal damage. She had lost a lot of blood, and needed to have several large gaping wounds sutured. She was kept on an intravenous drip, with continual antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and pain relief. For the first few days, it seemed that she might not make it. She lay on her side, struggling to catch her breath.
Finally, on day five after the incident, Mandy turned a corner. She stood up, breathing normally, and she wanted to go out for a short walk on the leash. She was able to go home that day, and a week later, the last sutures were removed, and she was signed off.
Orla now faced a dilemma: what to do about Jessie. How could she ever trust her Collie again? When Mandy went home, Jessie growled as soon as she saw her. It was obvious that the attack would be repeated if Jessie ever got a chance to get near the little dog. And what about her other little dog? Or visiting children? Orla didn’t know what to do about Jessie.
Such situations are common, and the important fact to remember is that aggression to other dogs is very different to aggression to humans. Just because a dog has attacked another dog, this does not make them a liability to humans. But when two dogs stop getting on well in a household, it can be impossible to force them to tolerate each other.
Orla made a difficult decision: she decided to rehome Jessie. She’ll make an excellent pet for a household with no other dogs. And Mandy and Pip will be able to take their usual strolls around the yard without living in fear of being pounced on.
- There’s always a risk of dog fights in multiple dog households
- Aggression to other dogs is not the same as aggression to humans
- When there’s dog-dog conflict, one animal often needs to be rehomed