Meet Kevin the French Bulldog. He’s 8 months old, and he has several issues that need to be addressed, the most immediate problem being that of fighting with the owners’ two 5-year-old Frenchies, Finn and Maya – especially at meal times.
Kevin is a rescue with trauma caused by attacks from a large dog during meal times. He also has some vision impairment, and a cleft lip. While he can and does eat peacefully with Finn and Maya, when he’s finished, he retreats under a chair or table and then growls at Finn and Maya while they eat. When they finish eating and move towards him, Kevin attacks them, and before Mark or Jessica can blink, all three dogs are fighting. Kevin also attacks Maya if Jessica picks her up and then puts her down, and he attacks both Finn and Maya if he is on the couch and they try to join him.
At meal times, all three dogs tend to eat fairly quickly, but Kevin eats in a high state of panic. He doesn’t chew his food; he just gulps it. This is a direct effect of his previous trauma, and it puts him at risk of choking. He does eat from a slow-feed bowl, but from my observation, it didn’t do much to slow him down.
During our first meeting, Kevin showed that he is highly insecure, fearful, mistrustful, and has little to no confidence. He defaults to fight over flight in all situations that involve Finn and Maya – especially if food is involved – and he is in a near-constant state of high alert. But, on the flip side, if there’s nothing to compete over, all three dogs get along very well. In fact, they’re quite loving with each other. Maya is a bit excessive with her mothering of Kevin, but Finn seems to have just the right balance between teaching Kevin the delicacies of proper dog to dog social etiquette, and playing with him.
Our first challenge is to deal with the attacks and fighting at meal times and on the couch. Starting immediately, the dogs will be fed in separate areas, with a solid barrier they can’t see through placed between them for safety. All chairs will be removed and a barrier will be installed against all tables so that Kevin has nowhere to go to ambush Finn and Maya after they’re finished eating. To resolve the situation with the couch, Kevin will not be permitted to be there unless both Finn and Maya are there first. If he’s first on the couch, Kevin attacks Finn and Maya if they try to join him.
Jessica and Mark have worked very hard to create a happy balance with all three dogs, and aside from the attacks and fights they’ve had to deal with so far, they’ve had good success. Overall, Kevin is actually a sweet, loving boy who just wants to fit in and be loved – and he has shown that he can coexist peacefully with Finn and Maya. He just needs help moving forward so that he can finally relax and be happy. That he’s willing to trust us to help him achieve that state of peacefulness bodes very well for his and his family’s future.
For the next six weeks, Kevin is going to be undergoing some massive life changes. Helping him heal and recover from his past trauma is going to be challenging, but I trust that his willingness to trust and follow me and his owners will make the challenges less daunting. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but, with patience, time, consistency, and building and nurturing a relationship of trust and respect, life for this family will get better.
Have a great day, and remember to stay calm and lead on.