Thursday, May 29, 2014

Family Feud

After submitting my final grades, I took off to the South for an unofficial college reunion with four girls I hadn't seen since we graduated 7 years ago. I spent Friday-Tuesday in a magical place that my friend's parents were generous enough to let us use--500 acres with lakes, hiking trails, ATVs, a pool and hot tub, and, best of all, a theater inside where we could watch Dancing With the Stars together in person after years of intense Facebook discussion of each episode!

I'm relatively certain I could have stayed here forever.
I seriously spent 7 hours right here one day. 
My parents were wonderful and babysat their grandpets while I was gone since they only live 2.5 hours from where I was. Then I came back to their house for a family reunion with all three of my aunts, one uncle, my grandparents, and my brother.

I was especially excited because my brother was bringing his new dog--and I was the only one in the family who hadn't met him yet!

This is my nephew, Hank. I love him.
I knew we had to be strategic about introducing the pups. Barley is excellent with my parents dog (they snuggle on the couch all the time and when Maz visits us, Barley stands with her paws on the window sill and cries when she gets in the car to go). Barley tolerates my other nephew pup (and he is also very tolerant of her crankiness). 

I thought I had a good plan. Barley has gotten to the point where she doesn't look at her classmates in agility at all. When we're out walking, she has excellent focus on me if there's another dog on the trail and I pull her off to the side and have her sit. She was also very good when she met my co-worker's dogs for a walk at the park the first time--as soon as we started walking, she quit paying attention to them and then she acted like they were best friends every other time we got together. She even almost likes the neighborhood basset hound that joins us every time we walk at my parents' house.

So, I thought that if my brother went inside without Hank, said hi to Barley, and then we all went for a walk together she'd act like Hank had always been part of the family.


What I hadn't anticipated was that Hank is bouncy. He's only been in the family since February, and my brother says they are planning to go to obedience classes, but right now he doesn't really know how to control his excitement at seeing another dog. So as soon as Barley was out of the house, Hank started bouncing and barking. I tried to get her to play some touch games and regain focus, and she wanted to be good--but you could see her brain was about to explode as her head turned from my hand to Hank back to my hand. We tried to walk, but every time we got close Hank tried to come say hi, which set Barley off again. 

Barley and I went for a walk alone while Hank went inside. I thought maybe when she saw he was allowed in the house, she'd change her mind about him. As soon as we walked in, Hank rushed up to Barley and she snapped at him. He backed up. I kept her on leash because I knew I could keep her focus on me if she was on leash. Hank tried again. Barley growled. My dad yelled. I said that she was allowed to tell other dogs she didn't want them in her face and that yelling was going to escalate the behavior. Then Dad said he wouldn't tolerate a vicious dog--he later apologized and said he knew I needed to work with Barley my own way and that he knew I wouldn't let her eat Hank, but that killed me. 

Later, we did some work on focus with both dogs. My brother sat holding Hank's collar and I had Barley on leash. We stopped far away from my brother and Hank. I had her sit and we did some touch games. Then I put her on a down and backed away from her a few steps closer to Hank. I called her front and we repeated until we were close enough that I could give her a treat and then reach over and give Hank a treat. We went through a lot of treats. It was also hard to explain to my brother and my mom that they should give Hank a treat every time he looked at one of them instead of at Barley. My brother keeps Hank on a pretty strict diet, so he was hesitant to dish out the treats.

Before the extended family arrived, we decided to try both dogs off leash. Things started out ok. I put Barley on a down and walked a few steps away and called her front. Then I put her on a down again. But Hank snuck up behind her and sniffed, which did not go over well. 

Barley pounced on him and snarled. Hank was scrambling to get away. As soon as I grabbed Barley, she let go of him. Hank lost some fur, but the only blood shed was from my own dog who some how cut one of her toes in the struggle. 

For the rest of the weekend, we took turns having one dog out on the porch/in the dog run and one dog inside. When it got too hot for the dogs to stay outside, Barley got shut in my bedroom where she slept in her crate most of the time even though the crate door wasn't shut.

It was not how I'd imagined the weekend going. I was convinced that since Barley and Hank look like real-life cousins they would be best friends and we'd get all kinds of cute family photos together. No such luck. 

I felt awful that she pounced on my brother's dog. I hated having to choose between spending time with my family and keeping my exiled dog company. We were eventually able to walk the dogs together, but we never got to all be together just hanging out.

I did get to get a family picture with my grandparents and the pets, though. Soth had met them before when they visited me in New Mexico and Barley met Grandpa last summer, but this was her first time meeting Grandma. Despite the walker and the oxygen tanks, Barley was so so good. She stayed out of the way when Grandma was on the move and she didn't try to climb in her lap when she was sitting. She was just content to be scritched on the head for a few minutes.

Soth is the only one not smiling.

Barley's perked back up since we got home. Her BarkBox came in our held mail and she loved trying out some peanut butter in her new eco-friendly toy thing and she's been taking advantage of being able to go wherever she wants in the house. 

When we went to class on Tuesday night, our trainer pointed out how normal Barley was during class. Sigh. I know I always say I don't want easy, I want crazy, but why couldn't she have been a normal dog this weekend??
She's pulling her brother's new bed across the room. This is the kind of feuding I can handle.


  1. Sounds like a tough weekend, but I wouldn't put all the blame on Barley. Dogs that are overly friendly (like Hank) need to be taught that not all dogs want to play and that's OK. When Barley made it clear he wasn't interested, well, then Hank should have been restrained from bothering Barley. Why should Barley show all the self-restraint? Our Jack is the same, he is NOT a dog's dog. He totally ignores our other dog Maggie, but he just isn't a dog who plays and romps.

    1. Oh, I don't blame her! I know she was just letting Hank know she wasn't interested--but she sounds like Old Yeller after he gets rabies when she tries to teach those lessons, so it is terrifying for people who aren't used to seeing that side of her to watch things unfold and my family had never seen that side of her. Hank spent his fair share of time outside instead of in the AC so Barley could be free in the house, but Bar can't be unsupervised with my parents' cat (and Hank is still in the puppy chewing phase, so he can't be unsupervised with the stuff in the house), so if I wanted to be out on the deck with the rest of the family, she had to be put away. She prefers dogs like my parents' and my sister's and our agility classmates who totally ignore her--she loves to romp and play, but only by herself with her toys or with me. I'm hoping that once Hank goes to school and learns some self-control, too, we'll have better interactions.

  2. Poor Bar! Thank goodness she and M Diggity get along!

  3. Yes! M-Dawg definitely doesn't have to worry about his favorite cousin status going away any time soon :)

  4. Thanks for joining the hop. Sorry I am late stopping by. Sounds like a difficult situation, but sometimes all dogs can't be friends. You would like for it to be different, but it doesn't always work out that way. Hopefully future meetings will go better.

    1. It definitely was not the way that I envisioned the weekend going, but it also showed me that as far as Barley and I have come there's still a lot I have to learn about her!

  5. I feel bad for Barley and for you. Barley needs space and that's fine. That puppy really needs to learn to tone down and be managed not to go stress Barley out. Although it sounds like you have to crate Barley, I think it's the best thing to do in that situation if the family takes the side of the puppy. At least Barley gets to relax calmly on her own, which is better than being stressed out by a pup that sneaks up on her continuously. ;)

    1. I'm sure my sweet nephew will learn those things eventually, but he's still new to the family and it took me a good six months before I realized I needed help with Barley and then it's been years of working with her to get to this point. Luckily, after they got over the initial shock of seeing Barley's more bristly side, my family was wonderful--my brother took lots of breaks from his dog to come snuggle with Barley and was great about rotating locations when Barley needed a little family time. It wasn't the ideal situation, but we did our best :)