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Causes of Aggression Part 2

Neediness/Soft Energy

The other horse being targeted was a very handsome, older Appaloosa. He was predominantly white with soft reddish/brown highlights and a stunning, small head with soft, dark brown eyes. His name was Boom Boom. Boom Boom was truly just a gentle soul who befriended all. He had been separated from the other horses at his previous residence which had taken a huge toll on him. Some horses, like people, are extroverts and need to be able to touch and mingle with the other horses. Boom Boom loved the other horses and desperately wanted to be as close as possible to them. He wanted to be able to mutually groom and play, but his neediness and soft energy resulted in him being bullied.

For those unfamiliar with horses, sometimes they can be jerks. I have explored many different methods of introducing new horses to the herd and there just doesn’t seem to be a great way. The new horse always has to endure biting, kicking, and being driven away until the herd decides to allow him or her to be part of the herd. It is painful to observe and hard on the newcomer. Thankfully, the issue is usually resolved within several days. The dynamics and hierarchy changes as the horse’s energy, self-esteem, and confidence develops. As an example, Jenny moved herself up to be the top horse in the herd once she figured out horse speak. She was crazy smart and more determined than any horse I have encountered. The word “can’t” was nowhere to be found in her vocabulary. Boom Boom figured out he could be next to another horse without having to touch it. He became integrated into the herd and promoted himself to be the welcoming committee to any newcomers. While the rest of the horses were being nasty to the newcomer, Boom Boom would always go stand next to the newbie. His compassion and kindness were something to behold; how I wish more humans would behave that way.

Interestingly, I don’t usually see the reluctance to welcome new dogs to an existing pack that I find in the horses. I’m not sure if it is the difference between predators (dogs) and prey (horses)?

Excited Energy

I know I talk about energy a lot, but you need to understand that energy is everything to animals. Think of how you might approach a bird on the ground. If you run toward the bird, or any animal for that matter, you will elicit a strong response because of your strong energy (running). A bird will likely fly away, a horse will probably run, and depending on the confidence of the dog, it will either run away or run toward you to bite you. However, if you walk slowly toward the bird, it will probably linger. If you move slowly toward the horse it will probably stand still, and the dog may stand still or draw near to you.

We had four dogs when my husband decided to get a new Border Collie/McNab/Austrailian Cattle Dog puppy, Hank. We already had Dan, a 35 lb Australian Cattle Dog; Gunner, a 98 lb Beauceron, Jasmine, a 40 lb German Shorthair/Labrador cross, and Dottie, a 45 lb Dalmation. All dogs in the pack were respectful to one another with no aggression issues.

Beaucerons do not typically like excitable energy. In fact, my husband affectionately dubbed Gunner “the Fun Police” because she was absolutely intolerant of any excitable behavior, including the normal playing a puppy would do. She loved Hank and raised him as her own, but there was not ever any of the typical chase and roughhousing normally found among dogs, especially puppies. Disagreements between pack members was also not tolerated. Gunner would interfere and put an end to whatever behavior she deemed inappropriate.

The trouble began when Hank started tormenting Jasmine. He would leap and bite at her the way a puppy does trying to get another dog to play. Jasmine had no interest in playing and would snarl at Hank. The snarling was unacceptable to Gunner and she would attack Jasmine to put an end to it. Jasmine would look so evil as she was snarling, it looked funny and my husband would laugh. I cautioned him many times not to let Hank torment Jasmine because I felt it could escalate into a dangerous situation.

One evening our middle daughter had to be taken to the hospital. I locked all the dogs up together in their pen and fed them dinner like I had done so many times before; that is, before Hank. In the emergency, I completely forgot about the interactions between Jasmine and Hank and how Gunner would attack to put an end to the conflict. I ended up staying at the hospital, while my husband went home. There had been a fight, and it ended up costing Jasmine her life. We had to put her down due to the extent of her injuries.

It is important to be aware that a dog fight between two dogs can turn into a pack fight in a matter of seconds. When an animal is being injured, sometimes they scream which can trigger a kill instinct in dogs.

Had we been consistent and adamant about not allowing Hank to torment Jasmine, it is likely the fight would never have occurred. I don’t believe the food triggered the fight, since none of our dogs guarded their food. Also, had I not locked all the dogs up together, separated all of them, or separated them in groups, I believe things would have been fine.

I’m sharing my mistakes hoping to spare anyone reading this the remorse I feel and to help keep their dogs safe.

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