Thursday, December 06, 2012

There's a Reason Why Boxers Are So Damn Cute

It's so you don't kill them.

Not that I was planning to.

Anyway... this is Eva; and this is the post we've been meaning to write about her for the past few months.

Eva is a half pitbull, half Boxer pup. She's about 17 months old, about 70lbs, and she knows how to work those Boxer eyes.

Eva is the formerly-only dog of a friend of ours and she's staying with us for rehabilitation. He'd adopted her from a family who could no longer take care of her and she was doing just fine. She's very good with people, very kind, doesn't snarl, doesn't bite, and she didn't cause any problems at all.

With people.

Another dog moved into the household, a smaller mutt. They had a couple of... incidents.

The problem with bully breed dogs is that they're extremely pack- and hierarchy-oriented. Eva had never been taught pack rules and the other dog refused to back down. To make it worse Eva's natural place in a pack order is Beta Female. When there is no true Alpha present, Beta Females will attempt to fill the power vacuum. They almost always do so in a bad, bad way.

Eva had no "off" button. She didn't know when to back down in a dominance challenge. So, when the other dog refused to back down Eva wouldn't back down either. She nearly killed the other dog.

Turns out the family our friend had adopted from had lied about Eva's origins. When he took her to the vet he was told her spaying scar was in the place reserved for "early" spays. Eva was most likely spayed in a dog shelter at the age of 3-4 weeks. There's only one way that happens; if Eva and her littermates were found abandoned. At the shelter they would have isolated her from other dogs because of her pitbull heritage.

Yes, it's completely wrong. Yes, that actually makes things much worse. But that's what the local shelters do.

So up until the age of 12 months or so Eva had never been socialized with or lived with another dog. When introduced to the new dog she clumsily attempted to do what her instincts told her with no concept of how to dominate properly. That the other dog wouldn't give in just made things much worse.

The other dog couldn't go so that put Eva's owner into a very tight spot trying to find her another home. They tried for a month to find her another home to no avail.

Y'all know we have a soft spot for politically incorrect dogs.

We offered to take her in. Eventually the offer was accepted. We figured at the very least we have enough room to keep her separate from the other dogs if she truly was a threat while other arrangements were made. At best we thought being in a pack would do her good, especially a pack with a large, strong, Alpha Male. After all Jayne vastly outweighs her (130lbs) and is normally a very good Alpha. Jayne also seems to think he's my enforcer. If I use a certain tone with another dog he follows up and "dominates" the other dog to get the point across.

When she came to us we couldn't tell if her excessive violence towards other dogs was innate or could be socialized out of her. We didn't know until we slowly introduced her to the other dogs.

Eva is very much a pack animal. She fit right in.

Oh, there were some rough spots. The first time she attempted to dominate Zoe over a perceived infraction (Zoe is our Omega Female and 10 or 15lbs lighter than Eva) she took a hold of Zoe's ruff and wouldn't let go.

Fortunately Zoe is half Rottweiler so she has a nice thick neck ruff. Also fortunately Zoe is Jayne's "puppy" and he took it kinda personally. Hell, Jayne takes any other dog attempting to instill order in "his" pack kinda personally.

Jayne took a hold of Eva by the neck, forced her off of Zoe, and forced her to the ground. Where she snarled back and tried to escape, unsuccessfully, for about 5 minutes. She finally relented. When she stopped, Jayne stopped.

It was a like a light switch flipped in her head. She "got" it. She understood the hierarchy. It never took so long again.

Since then she's learned to relent quickly. When she's being corrected by Jayne she lets it happen and rolls over immediately. When she corrects Zoe she does so quickly and without excessive force. She's figured out that as Beta Male Wash is the same "level" as she is so she neither submits to or dominates him.

She's mostly figured out this whole pack thing. She plays with and cuddles with the other dogs constantly. Zoe is her BFF.

This is not to say her behavior is perfect. Occasionally she still has a problem where she gets aggressive to the point where there has to be a correction. Usually verbal correction or a squirt of water from a spray bottle is enough to deal with it, but sometimes it comes down to teeth.

About a week ago Chris got collaterally nipped when a dominance fight in a confined space (three dogs all trying to get to master in the same small space at the same time, and they got rough) ended up on top of him (nothing serious, just a consequence of rough play). Blood sometimes gets drawn.

Guess what? Sometimes, that's going to happen when you've got three or four large bully breed dogs living together. One of them snags the others ear, or hooks a cheek, and they bleed.

It's not serious. They're not trying to hurt each other; though sometimes it happens.

It's normal for bully breeds (for all dogs actually, but especially so for bully breeds) to play fight, and challenge aggressively, and sometimes it gets rough enough to draw blood. Sometimes their prey instinct gets overamped. Sometimes they don't have proper bite inhibition (particularly if they were separated from their litter too early).

But they learn. If you're willing to deal with it. If you're willing to train them, and if you've got a strong enough and big enough dog that when the smaller dog doesn't back down, they can take the hit, and then deliver the necessary correction.

Otherwise, your only option is to put the dog down.

We really don't like that option.

Eva is slowly becoming rehabilitated and we (the humans) are doing next to nothing to further this along. We left her in the pack's care and the pack is teaching her how to be a proper dog. She's still very people oriented (she has to have her Master time) but she clearly needs her pack.

She's doing very much better.

However, Eva is still very much a puppy and pitbull and Boxer puppies CHEW.

When I pulled out my sewing machine to make a homemade dog bed tonight I found the foot pedal control's cable in pieces. The pedal was fine, the jack was fine, just the cord in between suffered casualties to the point of being in 5 different pieces (Chris was able to fix it for me pretty easily).

That's not the only thing she's chewed but I've mostly be able to turn her onto firehose and nylon toys. As you can see she's discovered Zoe's favorite toy, the nylon duckie. Good thing we have a half dozen of the damn things.

She's also apparently completely boneless (the other day she was licking the front of Chris's face, while at the same time, her tail was hitting him on the back of the head)...

...except for her tail.  

Anyone who thought Wash's tail was a bit too whip-like, well... at least Wash doesn't have Boxer butt. Eva's back end wags starting at the middle of her body so her tail has much better range and a much bigger arc with just as much speed and enthusiasm (and greater mass).

She also knows how to work those eyes and work her "I'm sorry" position. She's way too damn cute and adorable for her own good. And our good, for that matter.