how one bone destroyed my relationship with my dog

 

My 4 year old dog and I had our first real fight last night. You know what they say about not going to bed angry? Well I guess it’s true because I barely slept. I got in a fight with my dog and lost sleep over it. I even tried to make amends this morning, but she’s “still working on trusting me again.” She refuses to leave her house, even with the enticing of treats and toys at this point. That tiny white dog bladder of hers will betray her sooner or later and she won’t have a choice but to show her fluffy little head again.

Yes, I really mean all of this. Here’s a little back story.

img_4628Lily stayed with Todd’s boss last weekend and had a blast. There were plenty of humans to exhaust with her incessant fetch fixation and there were two other dogs to force her outside of her normal human-focused socialization.

With most dogs, she struggles. She really doesn’t know how to share, socialize, or even let other dogs sniff her butthole. She’s awkward and well, I get it. I, too, hate meeting new people and forced small talk which I imagine in the equivalent to having your butthole sniffed as a dog. Lily and I were made for each other.

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Just yesterday, I was complaining about her fetch. Now she won’t even look at me.

While she was at this new human and dog-filled home, she was gifted a bone. A raw hide, plain ass bone. She typically doesn’t pay much attention to these at home and in the past, she’s really only found their purpose as additions to our piles of laundry or cracks in the couch. Apparently, those are deemed worthy hiding places for this precious, processed hide.

With all of the people and other dogs, this bone became her constant. She became possessive and protective of it over the weekend, which solidified its level of dog toy prestige to her.

Regrettably, this bone made its way home with us. In the past 2 weeks, Todd and I have found it very poorly buried in each of our laundry baskets (and by basket, I actually mean the pile of clothes on the bed in the spare room if you’re me and too lazy to put your laundry away), between cushions of the couch, under blankets and even in our bed. Every time it resurfaces, a wash of panic overcomes her and she disappears to find her bone’s next hiding place. I understand this is written in her DNA. She is dog. Dogs do dog things.

That’s where last night comes in. Todd had laundry to do and sure enough, the bone resurfaced. Then it was buried and resurfaced again 20 minutes later.

She really needs to work on her hiding places. 

What I didn’t know when I started talking to her with her bone in her mouth was how protective she had been of this very bone on her weekend away. With any other toy/food/treat she’s ever had, she’s been more than willing to share with me. I began to approach her and she immediately dropped it and submitted, but once I got close, something in her changed. I was her new biggest threat to the well being of her precious bone and I had no idea I was.

Here’s where I made my big mistake: I reached for the bone.

giphy (17)She went full feral and nipped at me. Never in my life has she done that. She’s part Bichon and they are incredibly loyal to their “person.” I’M HER FUCKING PERSON. I was so aghast by her behavior, I immediately sent her to her house. She spends time there when she’s being naughty, but it’s also her safe space and a no human-zone.

She gladly went and brought her stupid (if you ask me) bone with her and that’s where this story ends. It’s been a 10 hour standoff thus far and she has now buried her bone in her house and become a better mother to it than she was with her own puppies. (Todd says I’m wrong about this but I’m upset, exhausted and feeling a bit dramatic right now.)

If Todd or I come near her house, she immediately shows signs of distress and has even resorted to showing her cute puppy teeth at me as a threat.

img_4656
Pre-tooth showing this morning. The bone is somewhere in that blanket.

I’ve been up since 3:30 and after tossing and turning for a few hours, I finally resolved to looking up WTF is wrong with this monster my dog has become overnight.

This morning at 6:03am, I Googled, “why has my dog gone feral over a bone?”

Turns out this is a very natural behavior, but punishing her protective behavior was a bad, bad choice. VERY BAD.

Based on some research I did, this is a form of aggression that is typically associated with food and I will now need to work on training her that Todd and I being around her stupid bone is a positive association and not a threat. Sending her to her safe space with her new precious only solidified to her that it needs extra protection, even from her humans, and she’s up for the task. This is going to take some serious Pavlovian channeling (great, I’m salivating,) class conditioning, and time.

I’m annoyed, still salivating and now have to convince my dog that I’m not a threat to her.

For anyone else who has dealt with this or any level of possessive behavior with their dog, here is some reading material that I skimmed through today:

  1. Possession Aggression in Dogs
  2. How Boredom Caused my Dog to Hide Her Toys
  3. Link About Cesar Milan Being Good at Dogs
  4. Reddit Thread that Confirmed Punishing Possessive Behavior was a Bad Idea

At 0717, Lily abandoned post and finally said hello to her humans like nothing had ever happened. We even played a round of early morning fetch. She’s now posted at a spot convenient in proximity to her house, but also offers a view that is not provided from the likes of her wire crate bone-safe-haven.

img_4660
Apparently, my phone poses a threat. After I took this picture, she gave me the “I don’t trust you” look and returned to her precious house.

 

I hope all of you have found delight in my plight.

Moral of the story is don’t question your dogs bone burial methods, and may the rest of your week be bone-free. Or full of boning. IDK your life.

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