PENDING — Confession: Dog Fights Nearly Tore Apart My Multi-Dog Household

Twice my dogs have fought when I was out, with horrific results, and I have no idea what caused it.



As a professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, when things go wrong I feel especially ashamed and guilty. “I should have known better,” I think.

Living in a multidog household adds a new dynamic to dog ownership. I will never forget Jan. 1, 2002. I came home from a short round of errands to find a near-tragedy.

I knew as soon as I pulled into the driveway that something was terribly wrong. I should have seen four or five Australian Shepherd faces smiling at me through the large picture window, but not a single dog was there.

When I walked in, no one rushed to meet me at the door. An eerie silence filled the house.

My dogs slowly made their way into the kitchen one by one, with my little red merle, Rumor, finally making a shaky appearance before she collapsed on the floor in a bloody puddle. I stood there, staring in disbelief. I have no idea what prompted the attack, most likely a fight between my two older males, but I was not prepared for the sight before me.

My hardwood floor was a smear of large blood trails where Rumor’s mauled little body had been dragged from room to room. The house looked like the set of a slasher movie.

I quickly grabbed the phone and called our vet at home to beg him to see us on the holiday. Lucky for me he was happy to, so I quickly loaded Rumor into my car. My foster daughter jumped in with her while I ran back in the house and locked dogs in crates to prevent further issues while I was gone.

The 35-minute drive was agonizing, as Rumor was going into shock in the backseat while my foster daughter worked at keeping her awake and alert. My vet was waiting for me as I rushed Rumor’s limp body into the building.

In addition to being on the verge of death, Rumor had been bred. The vet asked whether I wanted to save her or her puppies. “Save Rumor. There is no point in saving unborn puppies and losing my girl,” I replied. He injected her with a steroid and set about repairing the damage that had been done to her.

The whole time, I begged the universe to save my girl and forgive me for my major error in judgment. I bartered for her life. I prayed for forgiveness and hoped she would be all right.

Rumor survived, and she delivered a litter of 10 puppies; my vet and I always called them the “litter of five on steroids.” I learned the valuable lesson of following through with management, and Rumor and I enjoyed another year together before she was taken away by cancer at four and a half years old.

In March 2011, I went out to run some errands, and, as always, confined a few of my dogs in crates with a Kong and some treats. When I arrived home, I was met at the door by Paris, with a bloody face and chest. My heart sank.

A few seconds later, Rally, covered in blood, limped her way to the door before falling over. I carried her out to my grooming tub and washed her, only to find she had been severely injured in a fight. She was unable to stand or walk, and her front legs were covered with puncture wounds.

I immediately took her to the vet, calling from my cell phone on the way to alert the office staff of the emergency. Rally had to be brought in by carrying her entire crate, which had to be taken apart to get her out. She was rushed to the back, where I followed to assist, as the vet’s office was busy that day.

The vet and I talked about what could possibly have happened to her based on her injuries. We surmised she had attacked Paris, pinning her down, and Paris fought back, doing extensive damage to Rally’s legs, chest, and armpits. As Paris and Rally normally got along, I could not fathom what set the fight in motion.

Rally’s injuries were so numerous she spent several months healing. She went to recuperate at my mom’s house, where she could have peace and constant supervision while her wounds drained and healed. Slowly, she was able to walk again.

These are sad, heartbreaking stories, but they serve to remind me that dogs in a multidog home who normally get along without issue can still have their moments, and it is up to us ensure they are always safe. After she came home, Rally was crated whenever human supervision was not possible, until a medical condition took her away earlier this year. As a professional trainer, these incidents always make think, “I should have known better.”

For those who have a multidog household, I can only hope that you’ll learn from my tragedies and never have to go through something similar.

About the author: Renea L. Dahms is a professional dog trainer, regional speaker, and the author of Family Companion Dog: An Owner’s Manual to Relationship Centered Leadership. She has been certified through Do More With Your Dog as a trick dog instructor and has attained the Master/Teacher level of Reiki status. Visit her at Pawsitively Unleashed.

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