Monday, October 13, 2014

Managing inter-household aggression - An example

I met Kate on Facebook and she described an amazing management plan for her inter-household aggression between two dogs. I asked her to share photos and descriptions!

Kate described how her dogs Calamity and Annie got along for four years, then had three separate fights within a few weeks. Kate's words:

After that, we had to keep them separated. We have an 8 year old in the house and not enough room to have an airlock type situation (the only rooms my boyfriend and I have available to keep them apart are our room and the livingroom) and accidents happen. So we converted the shed for Annie.

Alright, so the shed is a workshop/shed/doggy apartment. We cleared out one whole half of it and stored a bunch of stuff up in the rafters after closing them in.

We consolidated the workshop to one side of the shed

On the other side, we bought two cheap rugs for the carpet, moved a futon in and set it up, moved her crate into the shed, set up a little side table...

The futon is mainly there for the humans. Annie is a very needy dog and she's used to her dad (my boyfriend) being home with her all day. So when she moved to the shed, we got some valium from the vet for her on an as needed basis for separation anxiety (not clinical for her, just mild). We ended up not needing to use it after a couple times during the first few days. We took turns spending most of the day out there with her and one or both of us would sleep out there at night. Over time we let her stay out there by herself for longer and longer periods during the day and eventually graduated to her spending part of the night, then the whole night out there by herself (my boyfriend doesn't work so we had the luxury of him changing his sleep schedule so she could go from half-nights to full nights alone). We have a computer system down there as part of the workshop. I set up a Skype account just for Annie so that we could monitor her from the house via Skype to make sure that she was not freaking out and so we could plan accordingly for longer periods of alone time or back tracking to shorter periods of time. Here she is relaxing on the futon - this is a screenshot from my computer watching her in the shed.

We already had an a/c unit down there and set up one of those little space heaters recently when it got colder. We will need to insulate the shed or get her back in the house before it gets really cold this winter. I am hoping by that time we can be using management in the house. Both dogs need to learn to relax in a crate for long periods, Annie needs to be fully acclimated to her muzzle, and both dogs need to be ok baby gated in a room away from us. Then we can do crate/rotate/muzzle with both dogs sharing a space.

I would like to work on structured non-muzzled/non-management activities like relaxing on mats next to each other. I am also going to go through a RG protocol with both of them. I am wary because Annie's triggers seem to be globalizing (from bones to human food to toys or resting places - I forgot to mention there was a toy on the bed when Annie attacked Calamity the third time, but toys had never been an issue even with other dogs).

I don't know how far we will be able to come sans-management. Probably only very structured exercises because I don't think I will ever be able to trust them both loose in the house without them actively doing something (like a mat exercise, etc). We'll see.