An update on life with two rescue dogs

Two cute dogsIt’s now been 10 months since adopting Leila, and 5 since adopting Max. Life with two dogs is never dull.

Neither had normal lives. Each was a little over a year old when we got them. She’d spent most of her life at the SPCA, and while we don’t know much about Max’s background – he had recently been brought in by an inspector – it doesn’t seem like he was in a great situation. He had big scars on both ears apparently from flystrike, which still haven’t totally healed to invisibility, and his coat was in horrible shape.

Bringing home a second dog

They got along swimmingly at the meet and greet, and we brought him home that afternoon. Later that evening, when she realised he wasn’t leaving, though, she started growling at him. There were some scuffles and scraps those first few days, but they’ve bonded really strongly. He in particular seems to miss her when they’re apart and get nervous (he’s a worrier!) and they get along 99% of the time. I thrive on all the cute moments when they’re nuzzling and grooming each other. And then I sigh at all their tussling; they warned us that he has a rough play style, and she’s totally embraced that. They rough and tumble a LOT.

Max had a lot of accidents inside to start with, and it took probably close to two months for his stomach to settle, poor boy. Runny poos for weeks upon weeks, and he even had a worm or two when he first came home with us. It took probably three months for his coat to lose its dry, strawlike, shedding condition. Now it’s shiner with deeper, bronzy hues and it makes me so happy to see that.

Of course they had to teach each other the worst of their habits….

She never used to go stealing kibble out of the bag (which we used to leave in the laundry room, unsealed) or rooting around in the rubbish bin. Now – after one particularly epic mess in which they tore up a nearly full bag and gorged on a fair bit of it – the food is now off limits in a cupboard.

He was never the slightest bit reactive to other dogs, but having been party to some of her overreactions out in public, he now echoes her barking and pulling if she reacts. Oh, and he does this weird thing of tucking one paw under the rest of that leg, which she’s started doing.

There were lots of rough moments for a few months. We’d been making progress with training Leila out of jumping up (at people), which regressed because of Max and his jumping tendencies. Their rough and tumbling was a bit extreme – constantly playing chase around the house, tearing around through the garden and because we got him in winter, lots of mud tracked through the house after racing around outside in the yard. And there are moments of sibling rivalry from time to time.

The good, bad and ugly

They are opposites.

She’s smart and a quick learner, and clean (and quiet). He’s dopey, prone to farts, a snorer.

She’s fairly good off lead though her recall is definitely not perfect – especially when other dogs are around. Once, winter storm winds blew our gate open during the day, but she didn’t leave the yard. On lead, she’s still prone to pulling until she’s worked off a bit of that initial energy at the start of the walk. He’s good on lead but prone to running away in general – it was a nightmare those first few months. Squeezing through the fence, bolting out the front door, etc, and we can’t trust him off lead yet.

But she’s definitely the special needs one. They say collies are the most neurotic of dogs, which rings true for her. Her quirks have always been endearing. But one in particular is proving rather trying (well, aside from the carsickness!).

She’s always been very dog reactive. From the beginning, she’d sometimes freak out if we saw other dogs and she couldn’t interact with them. Pulling, crying, whining, barking, whatever. We were working on it, knowing it would take time to train her.

Then there was an incident with another dog (long story, she was at a family member’s house with a few of the in laws and one of their dogs, neither of us were there at the time, there was a fight between her and the other dog). She still has a tiny little scar on her face from it. Anyway, since then, her reactivity has only worsened. Now she reacts to almost every dog (previously it was a bit less predictable – small dogs usually, but sometimes larger dogs were okay).  It’s a real shame and unfortunately there is no overnight solution. It’s a work in progress, and I can’t lie, that progress is slower than I’d hoped. We may get some professional help soon. Between that and the fact we can’t trust Max off leash, my visions of fun and carefree outdoor adventures have been dialled way back. Even daily walks often require prep and planning when you own a reactive dog.

I don’t even want to think about what we’ve spent on them to date. I reckon it’s reasonable for two medium sized dogs, but as with any regular expense you add up over time… eek.

Worth every cent, though.

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5 thoughts on “An update on life with two rescue dogs

  • Reply Anya January 4, 2017 at 05:36

    What a great post! I love that you were able to give two dogs in need a good home. They are absolutely beautiful. The behavior can be a bit challenging, especially when there’s fighting involved. One of our pups nearly killed our oldest. We ended up getting professional help, which was a lifesaver for all involved parties. Outside of that, having dogs has been a breeze despite the chewing, the accidents, the thousands we’ve spent on surgeries, emergency visits, etc. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

  • Reply Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life January 4, 2017 at 11:16

    I would opt for professional help sooner than later if you can. It feels like you SHOULD be able to do it yourself but in the long run, consider the fact that the longer you go without curbing the destructive behaviors or helping Leila with the reactivity, the more ingrained those reactions become, and the harder it is to undo.

    Rescue pups are always a trip and a half, and doubling the pups increases that exponentially! 🙂

    And they ALWAYS teach each other their bad habits. It’s never the good ones, I’ll never understand.

  • Reply Liz January 4, 2017 at 15:21

    It’s so sweet that you rescued not one, but two rescue pups! If you can work it into the budget, professional help could be the difference between another hard 6 months or a pleasant 6 months.

    It’s amazing how fast they can come along with training!

  • Reply SP January 4, 2017 at 15:29

    My dog is now 2 years old. I think for high energy dogs, they are most challenging when they are young/adolescent – although some issues stick around. It helps to keep that in mind – think of how annoying teenagers can be!

    Thank you for giving these two a great home and working with them on their needs!

    • Reply eemusings January 4, 2017 at 15:45

      Yes, definitely! The teenage years … we’re getting closer to the end. I’m not sure if it’s maturity, or just the onset of summer heat, that seems to have calmed them down a bit lately … we will see. She’s just about to turn 2 now and I think he’s 18 months.

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