When your dogs fight with each other.

Dog fights are scary.

They are loud and furious and intense. While most end almost as quickly as they start and with little more than lots of flying fur and superficial scratches, some end with severe injury to one or more of the dogs involved. Some even result in death.

But what happens when the dogs in question are your dogs? What happens when there is no identifiable trigger? What happens when the fight ends with serious damage to one or more of your beloved dogs? 

For more than a decade, I have had a multi-dog household. It’s time consuming and more expensive and multiple dogs produce exponentially greater amounts of dog hair and dirt than you would think. There has to be some Neil Degrasse Tyson advanced physics and mathematics formula that explains how three dogs living under the same roof can produce forty two times as much mess as three individual dogs but they also produce exponentially more love and puppy kisses so it all works out.

Last summer, I packed up my whole life, including my crew of three (Simon, Piper and Zora), and moved to Kansas City, MO to become the VP of Operations at a local animal shelter. Within weeks of arriving, my oldest dog, 14 1/2 year old, Zora let me know that she was ready to depart the physical world. It was devastating and I decided that we would not be bringing a third dog back into the house for quite some time. Famous last words…

When your dogs fight with each other. There is not always an identifiable trigger

Office Foster Fail ☺

Enter office foster, Lila, formerly Patsy, in November of 2017.  It was an immediate love-fest. Lila is a sweet, mild-mannered love bug that just gently crawled into my lap and my heart. Protest as I might, it was pretty obvious that Lila was going to be coming home with me. 

I knew that female dogs don’t always get along but Piper had lived with Zora since she was a puppy with no issues and Lila had displayed only submissive behavior with all other dogs when behaviorally assessed at the shelter. Still, I wanted to do everything right in terms of setting Piper, Simon and Lila up for success. We started by having members of the shelter’s behavior team do a dog-to-dog introduction with Lila and Simon and then with Lila and Piper.

All went beautifully so we decided to do a Slumber Party – a week long trial just to make sure everything would go smoothly with bringing Lila into the home.  Again, all went well so we made it official. We continued with our practice of crating for meals and supervising toy play to minimize resource guarding.  We crated and rotated a fair amount in order to give everyone down time and followed best practice guidelines for introducing new dogs to an existing crew. 

No dog owner wants to have to share this story. When your dogs fight with each other.

Sporting their @johnnyknitsville snoods and @teckelklub coats

As she became more comfortable, Lila started to show us her puppy-like silly side – she bounces like Tigger – and her snuggly, people-pleasing personality helped her pass the Humane Education dog certification test. Lila took appropriate corrections from both Simon and Piper and the three dogs started playing together, sleeping together and settling into a routine. It seemed like we had found a wonderful “new normal.” Aside from a few very minor “sibling scuffles”, there were no major issues for the first six months.

No dog owner wants to have to share this story. When your dogs fight with each other.

It was all love and snuggles for the first six months.

 

April 13, 2017

This is an embarrassing and difficult story to tell. Embarrassing because it’s not a story I ever thought I would have to tell. As someone who works daily in animal welfare, I know how judgmental people can be about bully breed type dogs and about the choices that some people have to make about rehoming a pet. Difficult because I fiercely love all of my dogs and I brought Lila into the family so I feel tremendous guilt about the story I am about to share.

I have never been particularly superstitious. In fact, Friday the 13th has always been a pretty average day for me. Actually, it has typically been a pretty great day. All that changed this past April 13th. My world was turned upside down when Lila and Piper got into a horrific fight. 

Dog fights are terrifying. Even more so when it's your dogs that fight. Click To Tweet

Lila, who is two, and Piper, almost four, were out in the yard, relaxing in the sun, with supervision, when a fight started that was loud enough and lasted long enough for my neighbor from two doors down to hear what was happening and rush down to help break up the fight. To his credit, Simon did a full on “Peace. Out” and took himself up on the porch out of the fray.

The good news is that neither dog redirected on a person as every attempt was made to break up the fight: water was thrown on the dogs; the metal dustpan was banged loudly against the porch railing; every effort was made to distract the dogs. It wasn’t until my neighbor opened and slammed the gate that the fighting finally stopped. When the dust settled, Lila had a few superficial scratches and two gashes that would require a single staple each but Piper was a bloody mess that resulted in a weeklong stay in the ICU and ultimately the loss of her left eye.

No dog owner wants to have to share this story. When your dogs fight with each other.

Same expressive attitude as always 😉

What Now?

This has been one of the most traumatic things I’ve ever had to deal with and it has taken its toll on everyone – except for maybe Simon because he’s kind of oblivious and he doesn’t have to be crated at all since he can be out with both Lila and Piper. We have been crating and rotating in separate rooms since the incident which is exhausting and emotionally challenging for everyone in the house.

While Piper has healed from her wounds and is navigating her physical world like a champ  (dogs are truly resilient), she has definitely not forgiven or forgotten Lila’s behavior. Piper has become a bit more tentative and more reactive when other dogs approach on walks and she is stressed when she hears Lila in the other room. We are slowly rebuilding her confidence. Thankfully, Piper and Simon are fine and Piper has relaxed enough to start initiating play with him again.

No dog owner wants to have to share this story. When your dogs fight with each other.

Piper soaking up the sun and refusing to come back inside – nothing has changed 😉

Keeping Lila and Piper separated at all times is also having a negative impact on Lila who wants to be with her people all the time and is struggling with more time in the kennel. With more time in the kennel, Lila is regressing a bit on some of the training progress we had made prior to the incident.

No dog owner wants to have to share this story. When your dogs fight with each other.

Sporting a @brooklynbowtied custom eye patch #piperthepiratepitbull

Why Did My Dogs Fight?

Was it because it was Friday the 13th? Was it the weather? We’d had tornado warnings all that afternoon. Was it something specific that no one saw that triggered the fight? Was it same sex aggression?

While most fights start with some sort of trigger such as resource guarding food, treats or toys, same-sex dogs don’t always require a trigger to start a fight. With Lila and Piper’s fight, there was no identifiable trigger. Some dogs will fight to establish dominance or to eliminate a potential rival, making warning signs difficult to catch or interpret.

I called a behaviorist to come assess the situation. It took her less than ten minutes of observing my dogs to determine that Lila is not dog aggressive, as she has no issues with Simon and has never displayed any aggression towards other dogs we see on our walks or when I take her to work with me at the shelter. However, after seeing the damage Lila did to Piper, the behaviorist was absolutely clear that Lila should not live with Piper, as this type of fight is statistically guaranteed to happen again should Lila and Piper ever have access to one another. She was quite clear that Lila should be re-homed as either an only dog or only with a larger, chill male dog.

No one wants to talk about it but fights in multi-dog households do happen and sometimes they are devastating. Click To Tweet

As I said, I was aware that there is a greater chance of issues between dogs of the same sex, particularly if both are females. What I didn’t know was that even if both dogs have been altered, as is the case with Lila and Piper, when they reach 2-4 years of age, female dogs still reach “sexual maturity” which can lead to increased tension and potential conflicts. While this is true for every breed when the dogs involved are high energy, high arousal dogs, the consequences can be severe as they were with Lila and Piper.

No dog owner wants to have to share this story. When your dogs fight with each other.

Maya and Lila

Rehoming Lila

When the behaviorist told us that Lila could no longer live with Piper, I was devastated. While I knew it was unlikely, I was hoping that she would have some magic formula for how we could go back to how things had been prior to the incident. For several months, we tried crating and rotating but it created stress and tension for all involved.  While I am extremely fortunate that my daughter is going to be able to move out on her own (Yay!! And, FINALLY – but that’s a story for another post 😉 ) and take Lila with her, it has taken several months for us to find an affordable housing option that allows dogs. As luck has it, my daughter and Lila will be moving in just five houses down the block but I realize this is not an option for everyone and I know that the decision to re-home a pet is soul-crushing, even if it’s the right decision for all involved.

Re-homing a pet is soul-crushing, even if it's the right decision for all involved. #nojudgment Click To Tweet

Have you experienced a dog fight in your home?

As always, this is a judgment-free zone and I want to create a safe and supportive space for anyone to share your experiences with dogs in a multi dog household fighting with each other. All of us, but especially those of us in animal welfare, need to do a better job of setting aside the “holier than thou” ‘tudes so please share your experiences below in the comments and let’s have a productive discussion. (Note: All negative comments will be held for a future post) 

About the Author:

Alison Reder

58 Comments

  1. Pamela August 11, 2018 at 2:50 pm - Reply

    I am so sorry you’ve had to deal with this. But it sounds like it has given you a wisdom and compassion you probably would never have wanted to have.

    I adopted two female siblings as my first dogs. I made every mistake in the world and knew very little. As a result, they got into terrible fights which resulted in bloodshed, although fortunately, no major injuries. I wish I had the wisdom to separate the dogs and to find a new home for Christie, the less neurotic of the two dogs. Both of the pups would have been happier.

    It is one of my greatest regrets.

    The only positive result for me was that I did learn a lot more about dogs than I would have otherwise. And as a result, when I started fostering, I became extremely cautious about introducing new dogs into our home. And I’ve developed really good instincts for fights that are going to happen if someone doesn’t intervene.

    I hope that sharing your difficult story helps someone else to make the decision that is best for their household. It’s not terrible to rehome a dog. It’s only terrible to ignore what’s truly best for dogs who cannot choose the best things for themselves.

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 12, 2018 at 1:15 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much, Pamela! I really appreciate you sharing your story and I very much appreciate your comment that re-homing is not the worst outcome. I really believe that we do the best we can by our pets with the information we have at any given moment. Thanks again!

  2. Holly August 11, 2018 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    I haven’t in my current grouping of pups, but I had a female in my last group that liked to fight with the other dogs. 🙁 I remember having to get rough with her to get her off my other dog once (and then she turned on us). It is awful. You feel awful for hurting your dog, you feel awful your dog hurt your other dog, you feel bad for everyone, and are mad at everyone all at the same time. You feel hopeless. I am sorry you went through this. I really want a fourth dog, but every time I think about doing it I am reminded of that fight and how great everyone gets along now, and I don’t do it.

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 12, 2018 at 1:18 pm - Reply

      I feel extremely fortunate that neither Lila nor Piper redirected the fight on any of the people who were present as that would have resulted in a very different outcome. I hear you about not wanting to rock the boat when everyone is getting along and I also hear you about wanting more dogs. It’s going to be weird to only have two in the house.

  3. Jenny Carlson August 11, 2018 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    What a brave decision, Alison. I know how hard it was for you to deal with this situation. Even though it wasn’t the outcome you wanted it was definitely for the best. And lucky you, Lila is still your grandpup!

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 12, 2018 at 1:20 pm - Reply

      I hadn’t thought of it as a “grandpup” situation but I like it! The best part is that my daughter will be just a few houses down with Lila so I can always swing by for some Lila Love 🙂

  4. Alisa G August 11, 2018 at 4:53 pm - Reply

    Alison – thank you for sharing this difficult and heart wrenching story. I’m so glad that Lila will still be in your life even though she’s not in your home. We love our pups so much and they are family so of course we want everyone to get along!

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 12, 2018 at 1:58 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Alisa! We really did get lucky with the opportunity for Maya to move out with Lila presenting itself at the right time. Piper and Simon are getting back to normal and Lila will be just down the street anytime I need some Lila Love 🙂 <3

  5. Lola The Rescued Cat August 11, 2018 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    I can only imagine the emotional turmoil and pain you must have felt in knowing you had to re-home Lila. You weren’t doing it out of hate or anger, you were doing it out of love so Lila, and your other dogs, could live a happy life. I feel so bad that I haven’t answered your email from months ago, but I’ve been thinking about you and sending positive thoughts. I’m so glad your daughter is able to take Lila so she still stays in the family. I’m sending all of you lots of hugs.

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 12, 2018 at 8:44 pm - Reply

      Thank you and no worries at all on the email. Seriously! We’ll take all the positive thoughts and virtual hugs we can get 🙂

  6. Chris from Boise August 11, 2018 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    This was a really hard – but really important – post to read. Thank you so much for sharing what must have been a devastating experience for all. It’s easy to beat oneself up after the fact, but you did everything to make sure that adopting Lila would be a success. You did as good a job as anyone could, and still it didn’t work out. It’s sad that Piper ended up with a permanent injury and damage to her confidence. (Fortunately, as our dear departed one-eyed Pica taught us, dogs bounce back from vision loss, and with time and care, confidence can be rebuilt). So glad that you had a behavioral vet to call on, that you took her recommendations seriously, and found a good re-homing option for Lila. Here’s hoping your daughter’s move resolves the situation.

    For the past decade, when we became to a two-dog family, we’ve only had opposite sex pairs who have gotten along well (though as our old girl has become quite frail and mentally compromised, our younger male has become a little pushy – we monitor them closely which we never had to do when they were physically better matched and good buddies).

    My only second-hand experience of dog aggression was when a friend kept a female from a litter of labs, along with the stud and dam. This was maybe fifteen years ago. When the younger dog was three (by this time all were spayed/neutered), the dam attacked her and it resulted in a trip to the vet. They did keep both females, and half-heartedly tried to keep them separate, but had quite a few serious fights. Each time the fight seemed to come out of the blue. It was obvious that the younger lab was stressed by the presence of the older female, and it was a great relief when the dam finally passed away. Re-homing would have been a much better solution, but they couldn’t bear to give either one up. Alas, as we all know, the heart doesn’t always listen to the head.

    The experience of my friend convinced me that opposite-sex pairs would be the way for us, if we ever moved to a multi-dog family. Your story reinforces this. I’m sure the vast majority of female pairs work out fine, but we’d rather stack the odds in our favor.

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 12, 2018 at 8:53 pm - Reply

      Chris, thank you so much for sharing your story and your friend’s experience! I really appreciate your perspective. I completely agree with you – While most multi-dog households with two females probably do fine, I can’t see a scenario where I will ever have same sex pairs again. To your point about the heart and the head – the hardest decisions rarely have the heart and head in agreement.Thanks again for being a part of the conversation! 🙂

  7. Dani S August 12, 2018 at 12:29 am - Reply

    This was such a difficult situation. Kudos to you for doing everything you could to make it work. When you have to make the decision that is the best for the most parties, someone is bound to lose. I’m glad that you will still be able to see your sweet Lila, though!

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 12, 2018 at 9:20 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Dani! I am so grateful that Lila will be just down the street 🙂

  8. Jessica August 12, 2018 at 11:23 am - Reply

    Oh, YAY! I didn’t know Maya would be moving out and be able to take Lila. I’m sure it breaks your heart that she can’t stay but I’m also sure it eases it knowing that you didn’t have to place her in an all-together-different family.

    I plan to get second dog this year. I’m choosing a girl. I did hear that two females can have issues. However, since Gretel is a pretty go-with-the-flow, and we’ve dog sat (in our home) many other female dogs with no problems, I figure “it won’t happen to us.” Thanks for sharing your story because I realize now that it’s a legitimate concern I need to watch out for – that even if they are fine for a year, they could fight at some later point.

    I know you said that there were absolutely no signs between Piper and Lila, and no suspicion of what might have set them off, but do you have any advice for me as someone who had never dealt with something like this? I’ve only dealt with a few dog skirmishes, not even a flat-out fight before.

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 12, 2018 at 9:32 pm - Reply

      We were so fortunate that our next door neighbor knew what was going on and also knew that the neighbor down the street was getting ready to rent out his house. He loves dogs and it’s the perfect situation – it also means Maya will be testing the “adulting” waters so that’s a silver lining 😉

      This was definitely the most intense and damaging dog fight I’ve ever had with my own dogs. Like you, we’ve had squabbles and “cranky pants” interactions over resources (toys, treats) but nothing on this level. The fact that there was no easily identifiable trigger and that Lila is fine with Simon and with other dogs when we are out and about, is what led the behaviorist to believe that Lila’s issue is definitely a female-female issue that was brought on by Lila reaching the age of sexual maturity and deciding she wanted to establish dominance. The degree of intensity was also a contributing factor in the recommendation to permanently separate Lila and Piper.

      I don’t believe that all female-female pairings are destined to end in horrible fights but after my experience, I would say that you will probably want to do a lot of high distraction recall practice with both dogs, crate for feeding and high value toy play, and when the new pup is approaching the sexual maturity stage, be vigilant in supervising them. That being said, I may be on the super cautious side right now so you may want to reach out to a really good behaviorist in your area to see if they have additional and less “freaked out dog mom” advice than I might be able to offer 😉

  9. Bryn Nowell August 12, 2018 at 1:18 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story. I know it’s been difficult finding the right words to convey the event and the aftermath. That was especially true when there wasn’t a resolution. I’m glad that Lila and your daughter now have a place to stay which will help them both with their own growth and independence while also helping Piper to heal emotionally.

    Sending you and the whole family all my love.

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 12, 2018 at 9:35 pm - Reply

      Thank you for helping me formulate my thoughts and manage my emotions in preparing to tell this story. Thank you for being here during the worst of it that week in the ICU. Your support and encouragement in getting through this has been so appreciated. Sending all our love and puppy kisses from the crew right back to you!

  10. Christina • The Everyday Dog Mom August 12, 2018 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. I can’t even imagine the grief you must feel.

    Hard as it was, I am sure that re-homing Lila is the right decision for all. I’m glad things worked out so well for you and your daughter.

    I have a 70 pound pit bull mix, Nike, and Georgie, a 7 pound dachshund. Both are altered females. Despite the massive size difference, they get along well. However, a few months ago, Nike stepped on Georgie in a rush to greet my son when he came home. Georgie initially yelped, then she growled. Next thing I knew, they were trying to go at it.

    Thankfully my son got ahold of Nike and I grabbed Georgie into my arms. No one was hurt, but it was a real eye opener for me. Now I never, ever leave them together unattended, and I always feel a little bit on high alert. It can be exhausting managing multiple dogs.

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 12, 2018 at 8:43 pm - Reply

      I’m so glad that neither Nike or Georgie was hurt! That must have been scary, especially given the size difference. I have always loved having multiple dogs in the house but, like in your situation, this was a big lesson learned. The crating and rotating has been so stressful and exhausting. Maya and Lila move into the new place next week and it will be such a relief to not have to constantly worry about whether I correctly latched the crate or if the door to Maya’s room is fully closed. etc. At least they will be close by so that I can say “hi” whenever I want to 🙂

  11. Cheryl Chervitz August 12, 2018 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    I have fostered for MABTR in the past. I never had any problems until one day while we were walking. I had three dogs, 2 of my own and the foster, all males who were neutered. Out of the blue my one of mine attacked the foster dog, then my other dog joined in. I was never so scared in my life. A man driving by helped me stop the fight and get the dogs off each other. Thankfully it was minor injuries, but I felt so bad for the foster dog. He hadn’t done anything wrong, I ended up taking him to the vet to make sure he was ok and then sending him to another home. I was in tears the whole time. It scared me so much that I haven’t been able to foster since then. We live in KC too, and I love all of the dog friendly places we have and the people who help them.

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 12, 2018 at 8:38 pm - Reply

      I can imagine how scary that must have been. I totally understand why you would be nervous about fostering again. Maybe someday. I have never been able to walk all of my dogs together because Simon is a complete nutcase out in public. He thinks everything is a party and completely loses his mind and his manners. He’s calming down a bit now that he is 11 1/2 😉 We are still getting to know the KC area but I was really excited to see how dog friendly it is and how many rescue groups and shelters there are in the area.

  12. Terri Abbett August 12, 2018 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    I am so sorry this happened to you!!! I absolutely love your non-judgemental attitude. I see so much judgment on dog sites and it makes me very sad. I am old enough to know that many of the people who judge others will end up in the same situation at some time. That is especially true of situations that one does not really have much control over, like a random dogfight. Sure we can know we will never abuse our animals but we can’t know we will never be in a situation where we have to re-home a pet or have a pet run off and get lost.

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 12, 2018 at 8:32 pm - Reply

      I really appreciate your comment about judgment. I think judgment and shaming run rampant in the animal welfare world and so many online want everyone to believe that everything is perfect all the time. We are human and I believe we do the best we can with what we have/know in any given moment. The more we can all share raw, honest stories, the more we will know that we are not alone. Thank you for joining the conversation 🙂

  13. Beth August 12, 2018 at 3:20 pm - Reply

    Oh wow, I’m so sorry that all of this happened, but I’m glad that Lila will still be in the family.

    Dogfights are scary! When I was in 6th grade, my family was watching the Wild Kingdom, (an episode about wolves) when our Bullmastiff and Yorkie got into a fight. The Yorkie survived but needed surgery. We tried to keep them separate, but it happened once again. My little sister and I were the only ones home, I’m not sure how we were able to get them apart, but we did. Again, the Yorkie survived but needed medical attention. For the next six years, we were able to keep them separate, with the Bullmastiff living on one end of the house and the Yorkies in another. I think Angel (the Bullmastiff) might have been better off if we would have rehomed her.

    I think that bringing home a pet, is like marriage. You want it to last forever, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. If there is a lot of conflict and fighting, going separate ways may be the best choice for everyone. Lila moving out with Maya is a great situation!

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 12, 2018 at 8:30 pm - Reply

      Thank you for sharing your story. I think it helps for all of us to know we are not alone in dealing with some of these issues. I love your marriage analogy. I think that sums it up beautifully. It’s painful but ultimately better for everyone to part if there’s so much conflict that it’s impossible for everyone to be happy. Thanks, Beth 🙂

  14. Heather, The Timid Rider August 12, 2018 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    First, I’m so sorry. That is terrifying and traumatic. I cannot imagine the stress and heartbreak that this happened in your home with your dogs. It sounds like that you were doing everything you could. When Gonzo was young my sister came to visit with his brother, whom she had also rescued. Even though they’d only been separated a few months we took every precaution to introduce them again safely and slowly. They did beautifully. Until my sister gave her dog a bone while on the deck. She’d never had multiple dogs and neither dog had ever shown signs of resource guarding. But it was enough to set off a huge fight. I didn’t know what to do to safely pull them apart, and my ex-brother-in-law from South Africa walked straight up and pull them apart by their scruffs. I was shaking and learned a hard lesson that day. I’m glad that it wasn’t worse and I hope Piper heals. It sounds like Lila is in a better situation for her and it’s wonderful she’s close and with your family.

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 12, 2018 at 8:27 pm - Reply

      That sounds like an equally terrifying dog fight! I’m sorry you had to experience that. Piper is doing great! Her only issue is doors that are not fully open – she struggles to navigate the tighter space. Otherwise, she is managing her physical world without issue. She’s still hesitant and slightly reactive with some dogs when we are out in the neighborhood but I think her confidence will return with time.

  15. Debi McKee August 12, 2018 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    I have a dog that has resource aggression issues and while she has never gotten into a fight that left any damages, she’s gotten into her fair share of scuffles. The noise that a dog fight produces is tremendously scary. I can only imagine how you feel, and really as much as I can tell you not to feel guilty, because you shouldn’t… I would feel the same if I were in your shoes.

    We foster dogs and it does put stress on our resource aggressor, our household is always on high-alert during the initial few days of introducing a new foster dog. Because of that, we often have to take breaks so to give our resident dogs some balance.

    Stay strong, I like to think everything happens for reason. Not that I would wish this upon anyone, but it will all work out. And it sounds like Lila will have a great home with your daughter! Thanks for sharing such a difficult story.

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 12, 2018 at 8:24 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Debi! I appreciate the reminder to try to let the guilt go. I think that when my daughter and Lila are settled in to the tgheir new digs next week, I will start to feel a little better about everything.

  16. Colby August 12, 2018 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    I’m sorry you had to make that decision. I think you did everything you could and came up with the best possible solution to re-home Lila. I hope Piper is doing better with her eye injury and with her confidence around other dogs.

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 12, 2018 at 8:22 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Colby! Piper is doing so well and she and Simon are back to playing like they used to. Piper is still leery of some dogs when we are out and about but, with time, I believe she will get her confidence back. Maya and Lila move in to the new place next week!

  17. tammy ta August 12, 2018 at 8:25 pm - Reply

    I loved reading this. Very informative. I learned a lot . Thank-you. So glad for happy ending that your daughter was able to take her.

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 12, 2018 at 9:35 pm - Reply

      I’m glad you found it helpful! Thank you for reading the post 🙂

  18. Kamira August 13, 2018 at 4:49 am - Reply

    Oh my goodness. Wow you have had quite the year with the highs and lows. First I’m so sorry about your loss of Zora and second so sorry about Piper! When I saw the picture with the eye patch ( although very fashionable) it broke my heart. I’m happy to hear she’s improving and regaining her confidence. I never had dogs in my life but it really sounds like you did everything you could have to prepare, even with rehoming plans for Lila. She’ll still be with family and close enough where you can visit frequently. I’ve heard of that judgement you speak about from one of my volunteer rescue clinic workers . I was kind of speech less. Everyone tries to do the best they can and not all people should be boxed into the same category. I feel for you. Seeing your dogs fight had to be so scary and alarming. You really made the best decision. Hope everything works out well going forward . Your brand new chapter had a bumpy start but hopefully only good things ahead. Take care.

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 14, 2018 at 6:54 pm - Reply

      Kamira, thank you so much for your thoughtful words. I really appreciate your kindness. I’m sorry you’ve had to witness the judgment I was referring to. I’m not sure why the animal welfare world has become so judgmental and quick to shame people. When people come to relinquish animals at the shelter, my heart goes out to them. Everyone has different life circumstances and, like you said, we all do the best we can with the information and resources we have available to us at any given time. Thank you also for the good thoughts on whatever lies ahead. 🙂

  19. Jodi Stone August 13, 2018 at 9:07 am - Reply

    I can only imagine everything you were feeling with this situation. I think putting your dog’s needs above yours is tremendously brave, and unselfish.

    Back when we rescued Delilah, I had no idea about same sex aggression, we ultimately decided to go with female, even though Sampson was a very easy going male. We rescued Delilah based only on a picture, and had never met her. Despite doing all the wrong things in introductions, it worked out.

    She first reacted to another dog at the vet. The only trigger I could think of was it was a Great Dane and just towered over her. But after that first reaction, she reacted more frequently. It is scary when your dog, your well-trained, easy going dog, turns into a snarling, raging ball of fury. We spent a lot of time in training, and I worked extensively on walks with her.

    I think this is a conversation that needs to be had. Not just about aggression between dogs, but about rehoming a dog, and they way to go about it. Kudos to you for writing about this titchy subject.

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 15, 2018 at 9:00 pm - Reply

      Jodi, I appreciate you sharing your story about Delilah. Dogs really are individuals and, you are so right, when they show us a challenging side of them, it’s frustrating and scary.

      Simon, who is now 11 1/2 has been leash reactive pretty much since I adopted him. We worked for YEARS to help him bring it down several notches. His reactivity is generally extreme over excitement so he would go over threshold in 4.2 seconds. It’s gotten better over the years but it’s definitely been a challenge at times.

      I am working on a piece about rehoming because, while we got lucky with how it’s working out for us, every day at the shelter, we have people showing up to relinquish pets because they aren’t as lucky as we were or because life circumstances have changed and they don’t have access to resources that would help them keep their pet or re-home them on their own.

  20. Molly August 13, 2018 at 9:54 am - Reply

    I got Harvey 2.5 years ago, adding him to a home with a high strung spaniel was dynamite waiting to happen. They seemed great at first but I did make mistakes early on. Tension got worse and worse and about 10 months in was out first bad fight. I got things sorted and about 6 months later had another bad (worse) fight. I have worked with loads of trainers and saw the appearance of success only to see troubles arise. I had certainly worked with those like your behaviorist, who suggested rehoming. But was unlucky in that I didn’t have a ready place for Harvey and there was no way he would make it out of a shelter. Most recently I have been working with a trainer out of Maine (we skype since I am in Colorado), and as a guy who specializes in bullies and their drives, he has helped me make loads of progress. One thing I have learned is that the water and noises and things help escalate some of these dogs. There are other things too. I value his opinion above every other expert I have worked with. I guess, having heard a lot of different evaluations of my dogs, I believe in second opinions. If Lila is with your daughter and you love her, she is still part of the family and now you have the time and space to explore further. Getting her out of the home was I’m sure a good thing for all, but I also wonder if it doesn’t have to be the end of the story. It may be the end of it, but I now have a strong skepticism when it comes to dog training. As they say, we don’t know what we don’t know.

    P.S. I don’t have a website, but I linked to the trainer in Maine in the website box.

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 15, 2018 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      Hi Molly! First, I am so glad that you found a trainer you appreciate and trust and who is helping you achieve the results you were needing with Harvey. (for some reason the link to the site did not come through in your comment) I appreciate your comments and your thoughts about the possibility of a different ending to our story in the future. For now, we all need a break from the stress and tension of the past four months (plus my daughter having to try a little adulting is a little bit of a silver lining in all this 😉 )

      Unfortunately, dog training, like most of the animal welfare world, is unregulated and there are so many people who call themselves “dog trainers” but who have no formal training. Even those with formal training answer to no national regulatory body. It’s definitely an issue. In my case I did seek out a credentialed behaviorist but your point is well taken about what we still don’t know. Thank you so much for reading the post and sharing your thoughts! 🙂

  21. Annette Swenson August 13, 2018 at 10:53 am - Reply

    I rescue as well. Have always had multiples in my home. I experieced this same issue with two of my females when my alpha male passed. The two females started sparring mildly when he was ill. I was too busy caring for him that I did not know what was actually happening. After he passed, they fought several severe fights,to where one bit my arm as I tried to break it up. I sought a behavorist as well. Lots of $ later…and no change. We had to isolate them in the house. They could not even “see” each other through gates at opposite sides of the house without the looks and growls to kill, seriously! So I decided to rehome one of them. I felt horribly guilty and saddened it came to this. I could not find someone (a stranger) to rehome one of them to, so, my daughter took one.

    To this day, they cannot be together for a second! I have decided what actually happened in this case is that when my head of the pack alpha male became ill, the females were vying for dominance as to WHO would be the PACK LEADER! If I had known more and was able to work with them early on, maybe I could gave corrected the situation?…I said maybe, because after reading many stories, females are relentless and will fight to the death in some cases.

    Personally, I felt like a rescue mom failure, but I realized this is what happens in the animal world that we just “oversee”. Now they both live in happy environments, as well as my other rescues, so I feel I did what was best fir all.

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 15, 2018 at 9:24 pm - Reply

      Annette – thank you for sharing such a painful story. Let me assure you that you are not a rescue mom failure! You did the best you could for all involved with the information and resources you had at the time. One of the main reasons I shared this story is because too often people are made to feel like they have failed or feel shamed into keeping an animal in their home despite chaos, stress and tension that may arise in multi pet homes. It is so easy for others to armchair judge a situation, especially from behind their computer screens. Please let that guilt go 🙂 You said it yourself, “they both live in happy environments, as well as my other rescues” I honestly believe that separating Lila and Piper will offer them the best chance of being happy, emotionally healthy and physically safe. Thank you again for reading the post and sharing your experience.

  22. Nancy August 13, 2018 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    I had a similar experience a few months ago but sadly I wasn’t home and my smaller dog didn’t survive the attack . I foster and had three of my own who had been living together happily for over 2 years. I have no idea what happened to start the fight as they’re had NEVER been any problems ! I’ve had dogs all my life and have had aggressive dogs , pairs of male and female dogs , dogs that had small fights but this was brutal and beyond anything I’d ever seen . I made the awful and heartbreaking decision to return the dog that killed the other dog back to the rescue where I’d adopted her . Even though I loved her and it broke my heart I just couldn’t live with what had happened and being so on edge with crating and worrying about it happening again to my other dog or a friends or family members dog . It wasn’t fair to her because she was such a great dog with other dogs and had never lived in a crate on on a leash 24/7 . I only know I did what I thought was best for all of us involved. I pray she gets a good home whatever that may be and trust that the rescue will know what to do . It’s beyond devastating to lose two dogs that I loved so much . The one killed was 14 and I’d had her since a pup . And my remaining dog and myself miss our old life so much ! I have finally been able to resume fostering on a very limited basis and hope that I can continue to help more dogs even though I’ll never take for granted a dogs “ nice “ personality. But we all live and learn ..

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 15, 2018 at 9:28 pm - Reply

      Oh, Nancy. I am so very sorry to hear that your smaller dog did not survive. I absolutely understand how heartbreaking it is to make this kind of decision. Even when we know it’s the right decision for all involved it is one of the most gut-wrenching decisions. Thank you so much for sharing such a personal and painful story. Sending you lots of healing thoughts as you and your remaining dog recover from two losses. I hope the new fosters provide some joy.

  23. Cathy Armato August 14, 2018 at 10:19 am - Reply

    Oh my God, Alison! This post has rocked me to my core. I knew there had been an issue but I never dreamed it would have been something as devastating as this. I am crying for Piper, that poor beautiful girl. I can’t even imagine how terrified you must have been and how traumatizing this was for all involved. I have to say I’m glad Lila will be moving out of the home and in with your daughter. I’m hoping Lila won’t be coming over for any visits, I don’t think that would work at all, unfortunately. You’re very fortunate that your daughter can take Lila. My heart breaks for Piper, her life has really been turned upside down by moving, losing Zora, and now this!! I pray it doesn’t leave lasting scars for Piper emotionally. Please don’t add another dog to your pack, I think two is enough for Piper. She will need to have her confidence built back up, I’m sure. In terms of breaking up the dog fight, I’m just wondering if you tried the “Wheelbarrow” method, with the help of your neighbor? It’s when you each grab a dog’s back legs simultaneously, pull their legs upward, and quickly move backwards, wheelbarrow style, to separate them. I’ve heard this is one of the best methods to break up a dog fight but thankfully I’ve never had to try it. I’m so sorry this happened. My thoughts and prayers for healing and re-building your lives are with you. xoxoxoxo
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 15, 2018 at 9:43 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Cathy! I am familiar with and have used the “wheelbarrow” method for breaking up dog fights. Thank you for mentioning it for readers who might be unfamiliar with the concept. Unfortunately,with the intensity and ferociousness of this fight, there was no opportunity to apply this method without putting my neighbor at serious risk.

      There was really no other option but for Lila to move out and I am grateful that she will get to stay with my daughter and that I will get to see her. While Lila can’t live with another female dog, she is truly a sweet and loving dog but she can’t be in Piper’s house. Piper is doing incredibly well, all things considered, and truly seems to by navigating her physical space beautifully. She loves Simon and they are back to playing so I do believe that Piper will continue to regain her confidence and that we will come out the other side of this.

      Thank you for the good wishes! 🙂

  24. Lara Elizabeth August 14, 2018 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    Alison, I’m so sorry that this happened to you! I know firsthand how scary and heartbreaking this violent disruption of household harmony can be. My previous dogs, Lasya (Chow/GSD) and Freya (Norwegian Elkhound), merely tolerated one another for their lives together, and had several bad fights resulting in veterinary care. When I introduced them at the shelter, I was advised against adopting Freya because she bared her teeth at my existing dog Lasya. I dismissed it as stress, strange environment, etc. I loved Freya so much, but it probably would have been better for Lasya if I hadn’t adopted her. Lasya always got the worst of their fights, and nearly lost her eye TWICE. We all survived their ten years together, but the whole experience made me extremely hesitant to have two female dogs again.

    Obviously the Ginger Sisters are a completely different dynamic, and it has given me so much joy to see them interact, play and snuggle. Boca is bossy but Ruby always defers to her so it works out. I think the fact that Ruby was the established dog and their size difference plays into their successful relationship as well.

    I’m glad Lila is able to stay in the family, and while I feel so sorry for Piper having lost an eye, I know how incredibly adaptable our pups are, and that she is in the best possible care with you.

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 15, 2018 at 9:48 pm - Reply

      Lara, I had no idea you’d been through something so similar. I’m so sorry! I love your girls and am glad that they continue to bring joy and love into your life <3

      Piper is doing amazing! She is still a bit fear reactive when we are out and about but I see her confidence in the house and the yard growing every day so I am hopeful that, with time, she will be back to her old self. Simon has been by her side the whole time and I think that has been incredibly helpful. Hugs to you and your girls! 🙂

  25. Kristin Avery August 14, 2018 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing your story so openly and honestly. I am so glad Maya will be taking Lila. I am sure that’s a huge relief to everyone. I remember Lila’s tigger leaps and pouncing through your backyard.

    We have never had more than one dog so I don’t have any experience with dog fights. I once was in the middle of a twenty cat pile up fight at the shelter.. It was a primarily cageless shelter aside from a few cats that didn’t play nicely with others and had to stay in cages. One of the cats slipped out of his cage and the other twenty free-roaming cats went insane. It was like open combat and took several volunteers and lots of water to break it up. It was terrifying and basically resembled a huge ball of fighting cats – and a few of the cats got so upset that they started attacking volunteers. Fortunately (and miraculously) no one was hurt too badly.

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 15, 2018 at 9:51 pm - Reply

      Wow! That sounds insane! I can only imagine the sounds and flying fur that must accompany a twenty-cat brawl! I honestly can’t believe that none of the volunteers ended up in the hospital! PS I’ll try to capture some video of Lila doing her Tigger impression 🙂

  26. Lorenza August 15, 2018 at 9:06 am - Reply

    I’m glad Lila will still be part of the family. It’s sad when doggies can’t get along. I have a male and female because I heard they’ll get along better. Last year I had to take care of my cousin’s dog for 6 months. He’s male and not neutered. There was constant fighting between him and my Buffy. It was very stressful, but luckily no one got badly hurt. My cousin’s dog went home in November and things went back to normal. Although it was sad to see him go, it was best for everyone involved. All the best with your dogs. I’m sure everything will work out in the end.

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 15, 2018 at 8:46 pm - Reply

      Dogs really are like people – they won’t necessarily like all the other dogs they meet. I’m glad nothing serious ever happened between your dog and your cousin’s dog. 🙂

  27. Laura Mooney August 15, 2018 at 9:45 am - Reply

    Dog fights are scary, I have to give you credit for doing the right thing for Lila and Piper, I know it must have been a horrible decision to make to keep everyone safe.

    Right now we’ve got 5 of our own big dogs (one of which is 5 months) 3 boys and 2 girls and at the moment also have two girl foster puppies. It’s controlled chaos and I’m questioning our sanity 🙂

    We’ve had some squabbles that are lots of noise in the past, but we try really hard to put a stop to any rough play that might escalate ( and feed separate and everyone is crated when we’re not home and at night). We’ve got a good family dynamic and we only foster puppies, that get adopted quickly since our adults tolerate puppies better than strange adult dogs. We also take breaks to give us, our house and our adult dogs a break.

    It sounds like Piper is recovering and glad her and Simon are friends, you’re right, it will just take some time.

    .

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder August 15, 2018 at 8:39 pm - Reply

      You do have a full house and thank you so much for fostering on top of that! I can totally picture the “controlled chaos” 😉 Love it! When I first started fostering, I also only took in puppies because my oldest dog Zora was an amazing teacher and Simon LOVED the little girl puppies (not in a creepy way 😉 ) Piper adores Simon and I am just so relieved that Piper is initiating play with him again. I think her confidence in other areas will continue to rebuild.

  28. Denise's Dog Dish August 16, 2018 at 11:57 pm - Reply

    Alison, what a painful yet powerful story I know was extremely difficult to tell. I am amazed by the knowledge you already had going into bringing Lila into your home. I learned so much reading the wealth of information you’ve shared. That makes your painful story so powerful! I am so sorry for everything you have all gone through this last year but glad you’ll ultimately have Lila as a granddog. I gave my parents a sign about 10 years ago, “So you are telling me my grandchild is a dog” 😉

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder September 19, 2018 at 1:53 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much, Denise! I really appreciate the support. If the information I have shared can help even one family, I will consider that a silver lining for sure. It does make it easier knowing that Lila is just a few houses down so I can love on her whenever I want. 🙂

  29. Courtney Hartman September 5, 2018 at 5:55 am - Reply

    Thank you for sharing this very personal piece of your family! I have a soft spot for pitties (rots too) but mostly shelter and rescue animals in general! Anyway, thank you for sharing

    • Alison Reder
      Alison Reder September 19, 2018 at 1:51 pm - Reply

      Thank you for reading the post, Courtney. I hope that by sharing, others who have experienced a similar incident know they are not alone.

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