Thursday, August 26, 2010

Curbing Aggression

Between me being so busy, it being so hot outside, and me having headaches all week, the animals have been lacking in my attention. Today I witnessed a couple of incidents involving animal aggression, which is behavior I won't tolerate. In one case, I was trying to give my Corgi Midge some attention by playing our "bark-kick" game. I say "bark" and she barks, I say "kick" and she kicks her hind leg out, then I say "bark-kick" and she barks and kicks at the same time. It's really quite hilarious.

Apparently, Scrappy, the new dog, found our game to be disturbing. I don't know if he misinterpreted Midge's behavior as aggression toward me and he was trying to protect me, or if he thought she was being aggressive toward him, or if he was just plain jealous that I was playing with her and not paying attention to him, but he lunged at Midge with his teeth bared and growling. Without thinking, I stuck my arm out to block him and he bounced off my arm into an obedient sitting position, looking at me quizzically. I said, "Biting is a no-no! We don't bite in this house."

I think he got the point, because he didn't try anything after that. My daughter commented that if I adopt an older, smaller dog, Midge will kick its butt. She was wrong. Midge was totally intimidated after that attack and she cut him a wide berth for a while afterward. I didn't want her to be afraid of her new buddy, so I worked with both of them on playing games. Scrappy acted like no one has played with him before, but he's very smart and he quickly learned how to play nicely. Midge began to feel more comfortable with him, and now is a little more open to interacting with him.

The other incident happened when I walked outside to feed the horses. Gabbrielle pinned her ears back, snaked her neck out, and bit Bombay on the neck, drawing blood. I was furious. I have seen more blood pour out of Bombay on a daily basis this summer that I can't believe that horse has enough blood in him to still be standing. Usually, he injures himself, but this was the first time I witnessed another horse hurting him.

I grabbed the long whip and began herding Gabbrielle around. At first all the horses took off at a gallop until they realized that I was singling out Gabbrielle. Then Lostine hid in her stall while Bombay tried to rub it in by attempting to corner Gabbrielle so that she couldn't get away. Bombay and I made quite a team herding her around together. I liked the fact that Bombay inserted himself into Gabbrielle's little lesson on respect, because it allowed him to rise higher in the pecking order, which will probably result in him having less horse-inflicted injuries in the future. When we were done with her, she was actually hugging up against Bombay for protection. Girls can be so fickle.

I didn't whip her, nor did I chase her. I just controlled her movements by either stepping in her path to block and turn her, or cracking the whip to keep her moving. When she showed signs of respect, I lowered the whip and approached her to pet her and make nice-nice. We'll see how long the lesson lasts.

On another note, I was amazed to discover just how much of what I say that the dogs and horses understand. Earlier in the day I was rubbing a wipe with fly spray onto Bombay's face, telling him that it's nice and cool, and it will keep the flies away. At first he ran away from the wipe, but when I explained it to him verbally, he stopped and let me rub it on his face.

I looked up to see some guy walking past on the other side of the fence looking at me and shaking his head like I'm crazy to be talking to a horse. I gave him dagger eyes for not minding his own business. My nosy neighbors have solicited the help of some other neighbors who live across the highway to do some work around their ranch, so now I have even more people traipsing up and down the road looking into my yard all day and night. It doesn't matter if I go out to see my horses at 5:00 AM or 9:00 PM, there are always people in my neighbors' yard.

Anyway, during feeding time Bombay was walking toward me while I was tossing hay to the mares. I said to Bombay, "Go back to your own food trough and wait."

I swear to you, he instantly turned and went back to his own food trough, then stood over it waiting quietly for his feed. Does that mean he understands English and can translate every word into horse-speak? No. It just means that he knows the intention of my words.

Scrappy is also quickly picking up on my catch phrases like "pee-pee outside" and "time to eat". He tries to be stubborn about some things, like refusing to go outside when I open the door, but I'm teaching him that it's not an option. If I say "outside", Scrappy must go outside. I think he got away with a lot of naughty behavior in his previous home. I'll get him into shape in no time. Horses and dogs feel safer when they have someone who says what she means, and means what she says taking care of them.


Crystal said...

Oh I just read about the new dog, he seems like he will fit in perfectly!

fernvalley01 said...

Sounds like Scrappy is a smart boy, picking up on cues quickly. Bombay ,probably will do better to some extent now that you have helped him establish some authority , but don't be surprised if Gablriell only really respects him when the Boss MAre(you ) is around

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Good job! Animals understand a lot more than we give them credit for. Consistency is key :)


lytha said...

oh wow you have a lot on your plate!

baystatebrumby said...

I see my horse taking a big bite out of the others in her pasture and I feel crushed. I know its just their natural order and establishing their pecking rder, but I still hate it! There is hay enough for them all, why can't they just be nice? (I know that is such a ridiculous attitude, and yet I persist in having it!)

JennyB said...

Good job putting your foot down with everyone and being a good boss!! You're absolutely right, it's better for everyone all over if you establish yourself as the alpha in gentle but still firm ways. I can't begin to tell you how many "problem dogs" have been brought to me for training when I've had to turn around and tell the owners that them actually being TOO lenient and spoiling is the real problem, not the dog! I have a load more experience training dogs than horses but I'm pretty certain that it's the same with them too.

~~ JennyB, Horsefeathers

Cheryl Ann said...

I swear my second German Shepherd could read my mind! This one, Rommel, is much more independent, but Maverick just KNEW what I was thinking.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Hey...are you ok?

I thought of you today when I read this article....

This is something you could benefit from. hehe!


Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Lisa - I'm recovering from a variety of illnesses, feeling too ill to blog. Interesting article. The bizarre comment from the bus driver who claims to sleep while he's driving made me wonder about public transportation. I sometimes sleep in my truck if I can get a break and if the temperatures are bearable so that I don't have to have the engine and air conditioning or heater running.