When it just doesn't work

A wonderful close knit bunch of girls. 

Last week I wrote about a close knit pack and how wonderful it can be.  But what about when it isn't wonderful; what happens when it just doesn't work?  I'm not talking about those people who get a puppy and then change their minds after seeing how much work it is.  I'd like to discuss the fact that it sometimes doesn't work.  There are times when a pack is not meant to be together.  Often the humans that live with the pack do everything they can to no avail.  Constant fighting can occur which typically causes time outs or separations.  Soon the separations get longer and longer until the dogs can no longer exist in the same space; this is a very sad situation.

There are times when dogs fight; sometimes they have scuffles but with strong leadership it can be minimized.  I have never allowed fighting in my home; disciplining and communications yes but fighting?  No.  I run a very structured pack.  Having had a Jack Russell in our home for nearly 16 years I had no choice but to run a tight ship.   You need to be able to read body language and communications between the dogs and stop any problem behaviors before they escalate.  Once dogs start to fight it can be very difficult to create a peaceful and stress free household.

A weak leader can cause a great deal of damage within a pack.  It all depends on the pack and the leader which is YOU.  Whether you like it or not you must be a leader; if not then the job is up for grabs and someone in the pack will fill the position.  There is most definitely a hierarchy within a pack but all of the members within the pack should clearly understand that you are the supreme pack leader.  Sometimes just pulling in the reins a bit is all that is needed to fix issues within the pack.  But there are times when it just doesn't work; then what?

I know many people who live with dogs in all different rooms of the house.  They live a turnstile type of life.  Living and sharing their lives with many dogs but individually.  Sad, very, very sad.  Of course you understand that this is just my opinion; others will have their own opinion and do as they see fit.  But for me, a separated life is no life for a dog.  A life of neglect, having to live in a room alone until their  fleeting moment to once again join the pack is a sad life for a dog.  Dogs are pack animals; they deserve a pack.  If the pack that they are in is not working then they need to be placed into another pack that works.

In a wild wolf pack, members often clash.  The leader of the pack may banish a member to live a life alone until they either join another pack or create their own.  When we force dogs to live together who do not want to live together we create great stress.  Dogs who fight each time they see each other live a high stress, always on the edge type of life.  It is a horrible life, never having the chance to let down their guard, to relax and just chill in their home.

The best combination is always a male and a female; but even then their can be turmoil.  I have worked with two very dominant dogs of opposite sex who fought at every chance they were given.  This problem was rectified by stronger leadership and rule implementation.  The most common fighting issues are same sex; often actual siblings or littermates.  They can get along just fine for years until they reach maturity when it all changes.  It can be one dog that starts it all by pushing but with continual pushing the second dog finally retaliates and its on.

When you have done everything you can and it hasn't worked; then re-homing is the next consideration.  It is very sad to re-home a dog but sometimes simply unavoidable.  The whole idea of failure to our dogs is something we can barely live with but for the health and happiness of everyone involved; the best choice.  Making the decision is a very tough one and finding the perfect new pack for one of the members can take a very long time. But I have known dogs who lived horrible tumultuous lives in one pack and with a move to another pack lived out their days in sheer joy.

I also know of people who struggled trying to keep their dogs separated.  They lived for years having dogs in separate rooms until one day they got out and one dog was killed.  This end was far worse than having to live with a new family in  my opinion.  Life is not always great and there are times when we have to do things that we don't want to do; that we don't think that we can do.

If you got your dog from a great breeder then they will surely assist in finding a new home.  Perhaps your dog came from a rescue group; they too will often help to find a new more suitable home.  I have worked with people who had a very difficult time with the whole "it's not working" idea.  Their life became such a toxic environment to live in for everyone; but they still couldn't see clearly to a solution.  Once the dog was placed into a great new home with no other dogs everything was amazing.  The old family fell back into place with the pack and the new dog was happy as a clam with "one and only" role in his new home.

It doesn't happen often; there is usually a solution to a pack problem.  But there are times when the only solution is to break up the pack.  Our human emotions can get in the way and block the way to success.  It is very much a human trait to want to fix things but sometimes we just cannot.  It is a fact.