Whenever we take another foster dog into our home, there is an adjustment period, a period of time when they act particularly quiet and watch us with timid eyes, learning our routine and rules, as we mill around the house. I’ve also had dogs that were so freaked out when they first got here that they hid under cars, in the basement, behind an armchair for days before joining the party. The time it takes any animal to become comfortable varies. Sometimes it’s a day or a week or a month. I call this process blossoming, meaning when a dog becomes relaxed enough to show individual personality traits. I picked the word blossoming because until Lucy came here, the process had always seemed as pretty as watching a flower bloom.
Playing is one of the best indicators that a dog is blossoming. When a newbie roughhouses with the pack, I know they are going to be okay. Unfortunately, with Lucy this wasn’t the case. Last week every time Lucy started playing, it turned into a fight. The first dust-up was with Sara, the second with Floyd, and the third with Rosie, all on separate days and all increasingly severe.
The last time a fight broke out I was sitting at my desk pecking away at my computer. It was a hot, humid day, blaring sunshine, no breeze. Most of the dogs lounged inside near the air vents or sprawled out on the kitchen’s tile floor. As always, Rosie was right by my side, head hanging off the feet of my office chair, snoring away like she didn’t have a care in the world.
At some point, Rosie woke up, grew bored, and tried engaging Lucy – who napped next to the bookshelf – in some play. At first I supervised. But after seeing nothing but good-naturedly wrestling, I turned back to my computer.
Within minutes, it turned into an all-out brawl. I spun around and saw Lucy grab a hold of Rosie’s face, who returned the favor by lurching on top of Lucy. I yelled, but they were beyond hearing. They were nothing but snarling fangs. I grabbed Rosie, who’s fifteen pounds heavier than Lucy, by the ruff and yanked her back. She calmed down as soon as she felt my touch, but Lucy wouldn’t stop coming at her. She never tried to bite me, but she was hell bent on getting a good shot at Rosie.
Even though Lucy is overweight, she still felt light, especially when my adrenaline kicked into gear. I ended up having to pick her up, flip her over, and pin her down on her back, waiting until she calmed down before I let her move. I’ve only had to use this extreme tactic once before, when we were training Bentley. I hated it then, and I’m not thrilled about it now. Because, essentially, what I did was pin Lucy down to show domination.
Four days have passed since then, and there hasn’t been another fight since. Cross your fingers. After long discussions with Geoff Reed, Lucy’s first foster family, and Donna, ICHBA‘s head honcho, we’ve determined that Lucy’s an alpha dog that needs a home without any other animals or a home with an older, smaller, submissive dog.