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Day 5 with Bodhi: Trouble in Paradise

Updated: Jan 29, 2021

two dogs smiling

We’ve had Bodhi now for just under five days. I blogged yesterday “announcing” him, and so many of you were kind enough to send nice emails and comments. A few mentioned that it was good to see someone taking problem behaviors and working with them rather than giving up, as many adopters do. So in the spirit of sharing what’s going on, here is an update.

Bodhi and Sierra play well together in and around the house. It’s wonderful; Sierra loves to wrestle, and Bodhi’s style matches hers well. It gets rough but does not boil over into aggression. They’re both getting exercise and getting that energy out in a productive way. All good!

I had started training sessions with Bodhi on Day 2. He will now sit and wait until released to eat his food (which, given how food crazed he is, really is something). He and Sierra can now sit, lie down, and stay at the same time, a few feet apart. They will come when I call and both sit. Sierra already knows “leave it” and I’m teaching Bodhi the skill. I will soon begin working with him on going to his place, and on backing up. Some of you might think that’s a lot of training to throw at a dog right away, but being a trainer and seeing problems between them already, I know it’s going to be necessary for Bodhi to be under excellent control and to respond to cues immediately.

Now for the not so great news: I’d already shared that there were potential resource guarding issues, and that we were managing things like feeding times and bones. That’s all fine. But yesterday I was taking a break from work, lying on the couch reading a book. I was snacking on mini peanut butter crackers from Trader Joes (which really, if anyone would resource guard, it’d be me!). The box was wedged between my body and the back of the couch. There’s a coffee table in front of the couch that creates a narrow pathway between the couch and the table. Bodhi walked up and looked at the box of crackers. I ignored him. He laid his head on my chest and gave me the big brown eyes. As I started to say, “Not for you,” Sierra came walking up from the other side so they were facing each other in the narrow pathway, nose to nose. Bodhi attacked her inches from my face. I quickly stood up, got the book between them (boy, was I wishing for a hardcover—at least it wasn’t a Kindle), and got them separated. It was more of a serious skirmish than a flat-out fight, and might have stopped on its own had I let it. I’m a fan of letting dogs work things out and not interfering, but at that moment I wasn’t willing to take that chance. It was terrible to see the look on Sierra’s face afterwards. Although she didn’t run away, her ears were back, her eyes kept squinting and opening as though she was afraid of being hit, and she was looking at me with an expression that obviously conveyed distress. I took a deep breath and got us all calmed down.

The dogs recovered quickly and were soon playing together again. (Isn’t it amazing how much faster dogs get over these things than we do?) But later that night, my husband and I were watching television. He was sitting on one couch, and I was lying on the other—the same couch I’d been lying on when the skirmish had occurred. No food this time. As it got late, I drifted off to sleep. I was woken by snarling and teeth clacking in my face. I stood up, got my body between the dogs, and got everyone calmed down. My husband had seen the whole thing. He said Sierra had walked up to lick my face, and Bodhi immediately ran up and attacked her. Now, training is all good and fine, but it’s difficult to give a dog a cue when you’re dead asleep. Fortunately, there was no damage to any of us. Whether the incident happened because Bodhi thought there might be food involved again or because he was just jealous, I don’t know for sure. It could have been either one, as he’s demonstrated a definite jealousy issue whenever I give Sierra any attention.

At times, when I go to pet Sierra, Bodhi inserts his body between us. This is a problem, as I give Sierra lots of petting, tummy rubs, and affection; we both enjoy it. I am now working on exercises where Bodhi sits or lies and stays, and gets rewarded as I pet Sierra at the same time, with a safe distance between them. But honestly, only time will tell whether this will work out. It’s one thing to see problems, know what to do about them, and apply that knowledge, but quite another to realize that this is real life and you can’t micro-manage every second of every day perfectly. Most rescued dogs take a few weeks to really settle in and show their true personality, and this adolescent is extremely pushy and jealous right out of the box. It’s hard to believe he’s two years old as they said. We have a vet visit scheduled for today, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he might be younger than we were told.

Although there are times where both dogs lie a few feet apart and get tummy rubs at the same time, the situation is worrisome, and perhaps ironic after blogging about how I just “knew” this was the dog for us. I’m still hoping he is. Regardless, I believe that everything happens for a reason, and I did feel a definite pull to adopt him. We will be diligently working on these issues, but the bottom line has to be Sierra’s safety. Hopefully things will settle down soon. I’ll keep you posted.


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