Two-bitch dynamics

Willingly living with two female dogs is not something that many people would recommend, as it turns out that bitches get in more (serious) fights than any other pairing (male-male and male-female).

But every dog is an individual, and simply having a two-bitch household doesn’t mean that you’re headed for all-out warfare.

Pyrrha and Eden certainly went through a “settling-in” period when we brought Eden into the household. I was worried that their almost daily squabbles boded ill for their ability to peacefully coexist.

Wrestling, the first night we had Eden. December 2013.

But I’m happy to report that their relationship has markedly improved since then. The girls have fallen into a happy equilibrium, even though they will still snark at each other from time to time. As we’ve gotten to know Eden better, and gotten to know Pyrrha’s reactions to her, we’ve been better equipped to help them with their relationship.

Notes on bitch dynamics

1: Pyrrha gets feisty when I am reintroduced

One of the big things I’ve learned is that I am often the unwitting instigator. Any real fight they’ve had or almost had has involved me. This is always how it goes down: I walk into the yard (or enter a room after an absence). Pyrrha jockeys for my attention. Eden follows suit. Pyrrha snarks at Eden. Eden snarks back. Things escalate (until a human intervenes and separates them for a cooling-off period).

Pyrrha is extremely bonded to me, which is flattering, but it’s something she has trouble putting out of her mind when other dogs are around. I don’t think she’s resource-guarding me, though, or maybe it’s a variation on that general theme. She doesn’t ever “guard” Eden from me in other contexts; she has no problem with me petting Eden or in letting Eden come up to me while she’s there.

It’s always just these “introduction scenarios” that get her amped up: me walking into the yard or room after I’ve been gone for a while. I’m not sure why this is or where it comes from. More dog-behavior-savvy people, care to chime in? Why do you think my “reintroduction” into a scenario makes Pyrrha want to go for Eden?

2: Pyrrha is learning how to defer to Eden

This one has surprised me, actually. A lot of the tension we had at first came from Pyrrha being unwilling to back down from a taunt or threat from Eden. Lately, however, Pyrrha has done an admirable job of “turning the other cheek.”

If Eden decides to snark or taunt, Pyrrha will turn her face or body and just move away quietly. This newfound maturity of hers has also led to a decided decrease in squabbles.

3: On the whole, they play together a lot more

And this is so heartwarming and encouraging. Watching them play tag in the backyard or gently wrestle on the kitchen floor are some of my greatest joys.

Playing in the yard with the girls

Predictable scenes of snarkiness

  • When I let them out of their crates, Pyrrha grumbles at Eden. But it’s only when I do it; they have no problems if Guion is releasing them. (Again, I think this is related to Note 1 above.) To mitigate this, I’ve started letting Pyrrha out first and taking her all the way to the yard until I come back inside and release Eden.
  • If both of them get stuck under the table, Eden gets bitchy toward Pyrrha. This one is weird and kind of funny to me. I guess Eden is feeling trapped? And so she snarks at Pyrrha? This is because we’ve let them get too close to us while we’re eating dinner.
  • Pyrrha sometimes plays disciplinarian to Eden. Again, this is Pyrrha being extremely sensitive to me. If I’m chastising Eden for something, usually something she’s digging up in the yard or some invisible threat she’s barking at, Pyrrha occasionally likes to play back-up cop and go follow up my threat with nips and growls. This is annoying, and it’s exactly what I did as the eldest child when my siblings got reprimanded.

Predictable scenes of love and affection

  • Pyrrha is lying down; Eden sidles up to her to give her muzzle kisses. This is always a very cute exchange, and it usually happens in the morning. Pyrrha accepts the affection and sometimes playfully bats at Eden’s face, and then they start a little wrestling match.
  • Backyard tag! This is their favorite game together. Eden gets very aerodynamic, and she loves to initiate the game by smacking Pyrrha’s side with a paw and then scampering away. Pyrrha is the queen of the play bow. They run gleeful circles, with respites for wrestling, until one of them decides it’s time to quit.
  • When initiating play indoors, they somehow know to play more gently. Pyrrha will roll on her back, to handicap herself to Edie, and they will play a few rounds of bitey face. If things escalate to more intense wrestling, I usher them outdoors.

I love our two girls. Would I do two girls again? Maybe not. Every dog is different, and some girls will exist together without any issues for the entirety of their lives, but bitches do seem to have more problems. I’ve got 99 problems and a bitch IS one.

Synchronized sleeping. #babies #doglife #vscocam

If you have multiple dogs in your household, how would you characterize their relationship? How do you think they feel about each other?

Backyard in black-and-white, with dog updates

The living is easy and the sticks are plentiful.

Dogs in the yard on Sunday

Dogs in the yard on Sunday

It’s been so damp and yucky here the past few days, but the dogs aren’t bothered by it.

Dogs in the yard on Sunday

Rain man

We’re still hoping that Rainer finds his forever home soon. Just look how handsome he is!

The GREAT news about Rainer is that there is a less than 1% chance that he will develop degenerative myelopathy (DM)! We got his DNA test results back from OFA yesterday. After the vet raised the possibility of his back-end instability being the early signs of DM (a really horrible neurological disorder for which there is no treatment or cure), the rescue sent out for this test, and we anxiously awaited the results. We were very, very happy to learn that he is a heterozygous carrier, which means that it is very unlikely that he will develop DM. YAY!

I’ve also become increasingly less worried about his balance, as it actually seems to have gotten better over the month he’s lived with us. He still isn’t as “stable” as Pyrrha is, but he doesn’t slink around anymore and he seems so much stronger and more confident. He’s also showed a lot more willingness to run at full speed and wrestle with her.

They’ve been getting along so much better lately, which has been really heartwarming. Just last night, I saw her do something I have NEVER seen her do with another dog: Rainer was sleeping on the dog bed in the living room, and Pyrrha started inching toward him on her belly, and then she put her head on his paw as an invitation and started licking his face. Wow! Never seen our little ice queen show such cuddly affection for a foster before!

Rainer has also become so well-adapted to home life: great in the crate, not a single accident indoors, playing better with Pyrrha. His only vice is that he likes to silently steal a shoe or a tissue from time to time, but he’ll always swap it with you for a treat.

He is a good boy who deserves a good home. We hope that his perfect family is still out there somewhere!

Hope you all have peaceful, fun weekends ahead of you!