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
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?

Watching Fiona, waiting for snow to melt

We had a lovely, loooong weekend here, waiting for the snow to melt. My parents came up and helped us with a lot of home improvement projects, and we were dog-sitting Fiona, so we had lots of fun with the three girls.

Walk with these 3 crazies. Sweet shades, @jfarkle.
My dad and Guion walking the three crazies.

Pyrrha and Eden were very sweet during the busy weekend, and Fiona is always a joy to have around — and the perfect energy-level match for Edie.

The girls

Eden and Fiona would play for hours in the yard, hardly taking a break to breathe. It’s so fun to watch them wear each other out.

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Pyrrha, meanwhile, liked to do her own thing. She’d wander around in the yard with the young’uns, and occasionally join in their games of tag, but for the most part, Pyrrha likes to keep to herself. I was especially interested to note how comfortable she was with my parents, particularly my dad. While he was installing our new disposal (YAY), she was at his side constantly — surely thinking she was being a great help.

Pyrrha consults while Jak installs our disposal.

The little ones got tired very quickly! Which was blissful.

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As a side note, I particularly noticed this weekend that Pyrrha and Eden have been doing very well together. For a few weeks there, I was worried that we had two dogs who didn’t like each other. There was a lot of daily squabbling, and I felt tense about their relationship. But over the past few weeks, they have been so great together: calm, appropriately playful, respectful of each other’s needed space, etc. The tension is way down, and they seem to genuinely enjoy each other now. I think we were just going through a settling-in period, and they were just figuring each other out. After all, we’ve still only had Eden since the end of December, so I imagine they’re still learning about each other — but they’ve been making great progress, and I’m proud of them. Thanks to you all for sharing your stories and advice about living with multiple dogs (particularly two females)!