We’ve now done more research and also consulted the vet about the ongoing grrrrr saga. It’s no accident that Putli started getting antsy during and after her heat. For one thing, hormonal changes were making her crazy. The first week she was miserable. (By the way, lower back massage works on dogs too.) The second week she was skittish. While out on walks she would bat Babulal with her forepaws and incite him to play, resulting in the two of them running in ever decreasing circles round their human. Occasionally she went for him without provocation, resulting in a nasty bite on the side of his face which he promptly made worse by scratching. The third week she was moody and withdrawn.The skin on her stomach was puffy and red as well. I tried putting antifungal lotion on it and that helped a little, but the problem persisted.
She seemed to perk up after day 21, when the heat is officially over, but a few days later the mood swings were back. She became slightly schizo, playing with Babulal one moment, then ‘freezing’ on him the next, or even growling, which would cause him to hysterically attack her (and anything else near his mouth: curtains, beanbags, shoes, people). He has ripped great holes in our beanbags many times and they are now covered with darns as I can’t afford new ones.
I got Putli a cage thinking she’d improve if she had somewhere to hide away, but she wouldn’t even look at it. Then Babulal got jealous of the cage, so I got him one. The Babulal cage has helped in that now when she growls or freezes you can get Babulal to beat a strategic retreat into it and shut the door. This gives you time to whisk Putli up and take her to another room. Of course they continue to growl and make fearsome noises, but at least they can’t do any damage. Although to be fair, the previous fights sounded and looked a lot worse than they actually were.
The vet was visited on Friday. He said she had a false pregnancy and a tinea infection on her stomach caused by leaking milk. In dogs, the corpus luteum persists for the whole two months of gestation so it’s immaterial whether conception has actually occurred or not: the symptoms of pregnancy are caused by the hormones from the corpus luteum, not the embryos. He gave her a course of hormones to dry up her milk, and medicines for the tinea.Being on heat automatically raises a bitch’s status in the pack and when she is on heat and also in the luteal phase dogs who would otherwise ignore or bully her start treating her with respect. Since Babulal has been neutered he probably doesn’t get it, adding to Putli’s frustration at his general bad manners which we heartily share.
Some improvement has occurred since the medication started, but they still fight on an average twice a day. The viciousness has gone down though, so if you handle it right you can separate them without either touching the other. Hormones are slow acting so I guess a minimum of five days must pass before normalcy returns. Of course Babulal doesn’t make it any better by being a goofball.
Part of it of course is that Putli figures that she’s all grown up now and wants to make a bid for leadership. She is smart enough to figure that she can’t take on the humans, so the only possible target is the Babulal. She astutely plays on his insecurities and also takes advantage of the fact that he’s unwilling or unable to make an impression on her skin. Since he’s quite capable of puncturing both beanbags and humans, this is either due to her thick fur or his self control, a category hitherto regarded as null.
When she’s in the mood she stalks him quite obviously. She must have spaniel blood as she often ‘points’ at small animals like rats or birds when she’s out on her walks (freezes with nose extended and a forepaw raised). Recently she has been ‘pointing’ at Babulal. The first few times he didn’t get it so she proceeded to growling. Now she has him trained such that she only has to stand motionless with a forepaw raised and he starts yelling, frothing and biting things. If his cage is nearby he now goes into it, whereupon we spring to latch the door.
I have a feeling, however, that this is a bit of a show for the humans, because I don’t think they do it when they’re alone. Although they have started fights when we were in another room, they always seem quite subdued and sensible when we come back from somewhere. It probably helps that we don’t leave food out for them when we’re not around, and these days we also put away all the toys.We also shut Putli’s cage since she won’t go in there but probably minds Babulal taking it over, as he will if given the chance. If I and Putli are sitting beside it he comes and creeps inside like a shady realtor taking possession of an illegal block of flats. Followed by Putli doing the canine equivalent of calling in the para dadas.
Fights nearly always centre around a resource, whether its food or attention or beanbags or toys. I would like to be able to give them chewies, but right now it would be like tossing lighted sticks of dynamite down a saltpetre mine. The only chewie around is the bone tied inside Babulal’s cage for him to take out his frustrations when he’s banged up in clink.
I should mention, however, that we never force him to go in, and we always let him out as soon as Putli is locked up somewhere to cool off. Dogs should never be put in their cages as punishment: the cage should be a safe refuge, a fun place where they go to be alone. Otherwise you haven’t a hope in hell of training him to go there when you want him to. They’re both coming to crate training rather late, so we have to go slowly and gently.
When he’s locked in there we drop a few treats through the roof. For extra security we’ve covered it with an old bedsheet (previously torn by the B himself) as this seems to help him with his loudspeaker-and-crackers problems. When it gets hot (soon) we’re going to have to take the cover off, but I’m hoping he will be cool with it by then.
The vet says I ought to spay Putli (I dread the prospect of having to go through this twice every year, otherwise.) I was hoping to be able to do this in May when classes end, but the vet says that will be too late and recommends March. The best time to spay a dog is when their systems are least active, ie in the resting phase between cycles. I will have to crate-train her before that (which means getting a new cage) so that I can keep her protected while she’s healing.
The cage I have for her right now was given to me by a friend, but it’s actually a puppy cage with a door in the roof for putting little puppies to bed. Putli feels insecure in it because it opens to the side and leaves her vulnerable. She needs a cage like Babulal’s with an opening at one end. If anyone has a suitable cage I’m willing to swop. Or I’m willing to sell Putli’s cage for 3k and buy a new one with the money. The price for that size and make of cage when new is 4k. Any takers?