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Is my dog a “bad seed?”

January 14th, 2013 | Posted by Emily in Bumming Out | Doggies! | Overly dramatic | Rufus | Super serious. | Turk's Takeover

If you follow us on Facebook, you may have seen this status update I frantically wrote while sitting nervously in the emergency vet waiting room January 3rd.


Long story short: Turk and Rufus got into a fight, which was caused by a combination of preventable “triggers” (i.e. things that cause them to lose their cool and pick a fight): closed quarters (Turk), food (Turk), and Yeti (Rufus). The results of said fight were gruesome and now Rufus is wearing the dreaded Comfy Cone.


I can tell that Turk is aware that what he did was wrong (as much as a dog can). Daniel said he cried by the door the whole time I was gone at the vet getting Rufus stitched up. He slept next to Rufus’ crate that night and refused to move (he typically sleeps in another room entirely). And he’s been following Rufus around like a dopey kid brother ever since.


But as friends and family learned about the incident, I heard from more than one person: “we love Turk, but do you think he is just an aggressive dog?” I’ll admit, when I was cradling Rufus in my arms while waiting to be seen by the emergency vet, the thought crossed my mind.

But only for a second. You see, here’s the thing: that fight was our fault. Not Turk’s or Rufus’. We have identified Turk and Ru’s triggers and usually are very good at managing those triggers – we don’t allow Turk and Rufus on the couch if we are eating there, we only allow Yeti to come out if Turk is in his crate, and if Turk is up on the couch or bed with us, we give him plenty of space so he doesn’t feel trapped. But we slipped…we got lazy… instead of taking the extra time to remove the known triggers, we didn’t worry about it and paid the price for it. So for awhile, Yeti isn’t going to be making any visits to our house to avoid scenes like this…


I’ll be honest, I thought about not posting about this incident. I don’t want to paint a picture of Turk as a monster… he really isn’t. He’s just a dog who has quirks and obstacles like any other dog. It is my job as his mama to set him up to succeed. But I believe it is my job as a blogger to portray dog ownership in an honest way. I’m not the blogger with all the answers (I’ll happily bestow that title on my buddy Aleks – my doggy guru!). I’m still figuring out how to be the best pet owner I can be.

I’m just so thankful to be part of such a wonderful community in the blog-o-sphere that I can be honest about my struggles and know that I won’t be judged…but more importantly, that I will be supported. Seriously, it is such a reassuring feeling.

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34 Responses

  • avatar Debra says:

    I think all of us Pit Bull type owners have to give extra hard pause and thing before we post something. If the incident was between Rufus and your foster cocker spaniel, it wouldn’t even be a blip.
    Every time Ray has had any mishap, I can always point to “I knew better” than to let x happen. Turk is not a monster, Rufus is not a monster, and you are a great doggie parent. Even in humans, brother play and sometimes it gets out of hand. We live, we learn and we support each other. Our best healing thoughts go to Rufus and our love to you all.

  • avatar Stephanie says:

    Ugh! So sorry. There is nothing worse than seeing one of your pups hurting, and feeling like there is something you could have done to prevent it. But I think Debra said it best… These things are bound to happen, and what is important is that you were there to stop it, and now to prevent it from happening again. Ruf and Turk are both great dogs! Love to you all.

  • avatar Iwona says:

    It is all about space, they are only dogs and we are only human. Mistakes happen, and our job is to get the most from it as we can. It must be very traumatic for everybody. Hugs!

  • avatar kim says:

    Thankyou for that honest and open blog post. I have a dog who for all practical purposes is well behaved. So much so that I’ve gotten compliments on how sweet and “perfect” he is quite a lot when we are out in public. I find myself vascillating between being the “proud mama”, accepting compliments for his “sweet behavior” vs wanting to dispell the myth of my “perfect” dog. If I say anything about things he’s done (and there’s been a fair number of them)…then I feel guilty that I’m making him look like a bad dog. The truth is..mydog is a good dog and like all good dogs he does stuff he shouldn’t…I’ve had my fair share of ripped couch cushions, walls that were chewed on, and for one horrid month after I got him..bruises all over my arms while he was learning basic social skills like not to bite when you’re too excited, too upset, too sad, too anything! I think the thing I’m most proud of but which is hard to get across to people in a 5 minute conversation is that….yes….he did all those “bad” things but that when he was given a chance he wanted to learn what it took to be good (not perfect) and did so well at it. One day after a particularly trying time at the dog park I just looked at him when we were back in the car and told him I was proud of him for trying. He may not have understood the words but I think the tone got things across…he literally looked at me in surprise and sat up straighter like a kid. Thanks for letting me know I’m not the only one out there who struggles with this and just does the best she can with trying to help a good dog learn the behavior he needs.

    • avatar Emily says:

      I know the feeling, Kim! Turk is typically on his best behavior out in public… it’s at home where his triggers get him into trouble! I just have to remember that he is trying his best with what he’s been given, and it’s my job to set him up for success as much as I can! :)

  • Those kind of triggers can happen with any dog. We have our own set of triggers that we keep an eye out for too, and while we haven’t had any bite incidents, it’s been a long road of training ourselves what to look out for and teaching the dogs what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. And just for the record, we have just as many “triggers” for Moe the Pug as we do for any of the pits, so it’s not 100% a breed thing. I’m really glad Rufus is doing well and healing up. I hope the relationship between the two bros is mended quickly too!

    • avatar Emily says:

      They are definitely getting back to their “normal,” although Daniel and I are still a bit skittish every time they get close to each other’s faces. Ugh. So it goes…

  • avatar tholupka says:

    Triggers and spats are not breed specific, in fact for anyone who claims they are, have them call me. I have a Lab who will show them otherwise (and a French Bulldog who will push every one of his buttons to get him to do so). Living creatures disagree sometimes and while I’m also of the “it’s the humans job to keep peace” mindset, we are at the end of the day, only human. The one thing having two dogs has taught me over the past few months, is to move on. Forgive yourself! You are an AWESOME dog parent!

  • I’m so glad you posted this – my theory is that any family who has multiple dogs and NEVER had to break up a squabble is a liar. Hell, Oscar and Cooper just got into it yesterday. And, just like you said – it was totally our fault (our trigger is toys, for both of them). So glad everyone is OK!

  • Thanks for posting this and being so honest about it! I think this is what really does help the community and figuring out what to do and that we’re not alone. It’s also a good reminder about becoming too comfortable with our pups and always remembering to put them in positive situations.

  • avatar VictoriaM says:

    As a two-dog owner in a similar set of circumstances – thank you for posting this!! We’re still figuring out what triggered a series of escalating incidents in our house this past fall, and we know that every time we get lazy, we suffer a set-back. Is it tough? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Is it our responsibility to keep working at it? You’re darn right it is. (Just for the record, my two are a terrier mix and a Belgian malinois.) I guess I just want to say hang in there, you’re not the only one, and add my support for your efforts!

    • avatar Emily says:

      Thanks Victoria! Sometimes I think to myself that Turk is lucky we adopted him, because we are willing to do everything we can so he will succeed, whereas someone else might have had him put down due to his “aggression” already. So it can be frustrating and I can feel like a failure, but I just have to remember that he is alive because of us, and that helps quite a bit.

  • Gambit was trying really hard to trigger Eddie yesterday, too – Eddie isn’t a fan of other dogs. He’s fine with Gambit unless Gam tries to force him to play. Fortunately, Eddie was having too much fun to care, but it’s definitely easy to let your guard down. It’s difficult to put the tough stuff out there, but having triggers doesn’t make Turk a bad seed!

  • Why do we people expect from dogs what we ourselves can’t master? We expect our pets to never to get into fights and yet we still do this to each other. My Babygirl does have issues and I watch for triggers but every once and awhile I fail. Also as much as Babygirl has her issues I still love her so much and she still has so many good qualites it is totally worth the little extra to watch her behaviors. Just a Note. Babygirl is a German Shepherd mix and the sweetie Midnight is a pitbull so all the anti pit bull myths are shown in my household not to be true.

  • I appreciate you posting this. For almost a year, Badger and Mushroom were on a crate-and-rotate routine. I didn’t post about it for the longest time because I was afraid of being judged, but then when I “came out”, everyone was very supportive.

    Now, as we are transitioning to being able to have both dogs out the majority of the time, we have to be very aware of their triggers, which can be as simple as a person walking into or out of a room. It doesn’t make them bad dogs, rather, I like to think of it as us being conscientious owners.

    • avatar Emily says:

      Truth! :) I’m glad you “came out” regarding Badger and Mushroom’s situation. It’s the only way any of us can become better dog owners!

  • It’s tough when your pups have a spat. But, like you said, if you can identify why it happened and take precautions then you’re doing the best you can as a pet owner.

    I think you are an awesome dog mom and to be honest about what happened makes you even more cool in my book. It’s a great experience to live with dogs in our homes!

  • We just had a similar situation and also had that same “Doh! What were we thinking!” kind of moment. Thank goodness you’re such patient and loving parents to get them both back to a good place!!!

  • Every time I hear about a sibling dog bite like this story and hear the words “aggressive” thrown around I really want to say; “Do you know how many kids (human) are in the ER right this moment because their sibling bit them/hit them/broke their finger/burned them…etc? How are dog siblings really any different? And do you go around calling human siblings “aggressive” because they beat on each other? It happens every day folks so please simmer down when it comes to the dogs; they’re no different then we were with our brothers and sisters.”

  • avatar rachel says:

    OMG from the title and the first picture, I thought someone on FB called poor Turkey a bad seed:( I think that it’s easy to forget about our dogs’ primal nature when we are so used to thinking of them as our beloved family members. Kaya used to get into fights at the dog park and I wondered if I was beginning a lifetime of owning an “aggressive dog”:( Then I realized I was putting her in a stressful situation and had not taken the time to teach her what was expected of her either. Definitely a lesson learned the hard way! I think you’re an awesome dog momma and mistakes happen to everyone. Looks like your cuties are still buds after all:)

  • Emily – you are an awesome doggie momma and don’t you ever doubt that! I’ve made a bazillion mistakes with my dogs. I often make the same mistake multiple times before I finally learn my lesson (I’m slow sometimes). I too have dealt with aggressive behavior. But instances of aggression do not an aggressive dog make. Every dog could bite in the right circumstances and perhaps Turk’s triggers are a bit shorter than other dogs but that just makes him like my Maggie and many, many, many other dogs out there. He’s a good seed and so are you!

  • avatar Emily says:

    I would never assume Turk is aggressive because of these incidents. I’d assume he is a dog, and dogs have triggers! The fights that happened in our house have always been explainable, partially our fault, left me feeling guilty and left me with knowledge of things I would never allow to happen again. I love your honest portrayl, I’ve never blogged about the fights that have happened in our house between different dogs but maybe one day I will explain.
    Madden isn’t exactly aggressive but she does require lots of supervision with other dogs. We’ve actually recently had to “ban” her from furniture because if the other pups walk by when she’s on the couch or bed she either tries to go after them or shows her teeth to say she “owns it.” What a brat! She is definitely learning her lesson now though, and has been respecting everyone’s space and staying on the floor or dog beds. She’d really be best on her own but in the meantime we’ve been able to manage her safely.

  • I had similar thoughts about our staffy Bundy when as an adolescent he decided to have a go at our 6 year old Maxi, a seemingly placid Dalmatian cross, we thought it was out of the blue but have since learned alot about triggers and how to minimise the risk. As it turns out high value treats such as raw bones and pigs ears are the main trigger so we don’t allow them in the house unless they’re the type that can’t be eaten quickly.

    The other thing we’ve noticed is that when there is a change in their routine such as a guests staying at our house, Bundy can get a little ‘jealous’ of all the extra attention that Maxi receives and then takes on a bit of a bully persona. Because Bundy is a staffy the assumption that he was aggressive was initially made, yet he is the most dog social and well behaved of the two of them, Maxi is actually the reactive dog in public. After some external help (and lots of dollars) we have learned about our dogs triggers, we can recognise the change in behaviour and better understand what we have to do to avoid the scuffles that have happened in the past.

    Your doggies are fabulous and you’re a great dog mum, but like any children, two legged or four they need our help and guidance to stay on the ‘straight and narrow’ :-)

  • I think it’s super awesome that you shared this story. Even though part of me is extremely nervous about similar situations happening once we integrate a second dog into our home, all of these different stories and examples teach me something about what the look for. I’m glad Rufus is feeling better :)

  • Oh girl, you know I can relate. Hindsight is always 20/20 in these situations. I can think of quite a few times when I didn’t set up my dogs to succeed and have wept at the consequences. No matter what, Turk and Rufus are lucky to have you and Daniel looking out for them. And blog readers are lucky you are willing to share so honestly. Hugs to the doggies.

  • avatar littlemissjackie says:

    We can relate too, Miss Emily. I have lots of ideeoseencrasees. Our grandma can’t bring her tiny doggies to meet me, because Mom is concerned I might think they are “critters” and try to bite them. I won’t meet other doggies nicely and I bark at them and sometimes I offend them. I used to jump up and grab my brudder Dillon’s face when I thought it was time to bark and he wasn’t starting to bark fast enough (I’m glad he was the sweetest, most patient brudder ever, because he was much bigger than I am!) I bark and bark at ALL the people and doggies and kittycats and loud trucks going by outside and Mom has tried so many ways to teach me to stop but I do it anyway. I growl when Mom is petting me, even though I like it. I used to potty in the house, even though I have my very own doggie door so I can go out into my yard. But, Mom says I am a wonderful pup and she luvs me very much. You are a super mama and I’m sure Mr. Rufus and Mr. Turk are so happy to have you and their dad, and to know that you both luv them so much even though they have ideeoseencrasees!

    Luvs,
    Jackie

    (PeeS: I’m sorry if I left 2 comments, I think I may have clicked the button too many times with my paw.)

  • avatar Emily says:

    Well I spoke too frickin’ soon. Guess who is now being separated from the dogs for having one too many triggers to safely manage? Never saw that coming!

  • avatar Lesli A. says:

    How did you break up your dog fight? This is my most pressing question. Two weeks ago we had our most traumatic dog fight ever between my 6 year old 13 lb JRT (the aggressor) and her 12 1/2 year, 55 lb old hound dog “stepbrother”. There were no stiches involved but both dogs had small cuts on them and I got bit twice (not breaking the skin but leaving a nasty bruise). I know they say never jump in a dog fight but when it’s your own dogs I don’t know how you are suppose to react. I’d really like to hear how you broke up this dog fight. I think it would help my situation. I appreciate any and all advice.

    • avatar Emily says:

      Lesli – First of all, I am sorry you had to deal with your dogs getting into a fight. it is so traumatic when your dogs get into a fight. I have heard several different “best practices,” which include pouring water over the dogs to startle them, but when I have been in the situation myself, I am only thinking about separating the dogs as quickly as possible. Water isn’t even on my mind! I have been lucky to have another person in the room any time a scuffle has broken out, so what I typically do is grab our smaller dog from the back and use my leg to push our bigger dog away (but I don’t kick him or anything). Once I’ve created enough space, I get the smaller dog away and crate him and take our bigger dog and calm him down by taking him to his bed. Then I check both dogs for injuries. This has typically worked for me because honestly, it’s my gut reaction so it comes naturally, but it also prevents you from putting your hands into the fray and possibly hurting yourself also. I hope that helps!

      • avatar Lesli A. says:

        I’ve heard the “water method” as breaking up a fight as well. All I can think is by the time I get a bucket of water to toss on the dogs I’m taking one of the dogs to the emergency vet! If (and probably when) we have another scuffle I’ll remember to use my body and legs to push the bigger dog away. I love your blog and I’m also a proud owner of a chihuahua/jack russell mix. He is 7 years old (going on 90) and his name is Ceaser. What a joke. We call him Muffin 99% of the time because he is such a lovey muffin. He reminds me so much of your Rufus.