Friday, January 10, 2014

Standing up to a bully

Those of you who know Murphy know that he's not afraid of anything. This dog was a mauler from day one, and in fact, when I got him, he'd only recently been sprung from doggie death row after a biting incident that left someone who deserved it in the hospital. He's a lot better now, but he's still a no-nonsense dog when it comes to cats, deer in the yard, or anyone coming up "his" driveway and approaching "his" house. He's eighty-five pounds of pure mean when his trigger is tripped, so it was kind up surprising to see him cowed by Belle, who is the gentlest, sweetest German Shepherd I've ever seen. She put him in check twice right off the bat, and ever since then, it's been "yes Ma'am" every time she so much as looked at him. Belle goes in and out the door ahead of him, Belle gets first crack at the communal water bowl, and if Belle pushes him aside, he moves.

And Belle, for her part, was insanely jealous whenever I'd pet him or talk to him or devote any attention to him. She could be lying on the floor across the room and if Murphy walked up and I petted him, she'd rush in and get between us as if to say "ZOMG!! He's getting petted and I'm NOT! AAArrgh!!"
Green-eyed Belle, picture of jealousy.

And Murphy would defer to her, even though she's a fair bit smaller and lighter than he is. It even got to the point where if he had a toy, she'd walk up and pull it out of his mouth for no real reason other than just to do it.

After a few weeks of this, I could see that Murphy was unhappy. He was making it a point to avoid Belle more and more, and I was starting to ponder what I might have to do if this didn't resolve itself.

Well the other night, the night before she went for her shots, it resolved itself. Murphy had one of the Wubba toys in his mouth and Belle walked up to take it from him, and this time, Murphy pushed back. Instead of the toy, what she got was a low growl and a look that said that he'd had enough. She backed off for a bit, then tried again and got the same growl. And Murphy kept the toy. Then he walked up to me and she tried to shove him back, but he muscled her out of his way. And as much as I try not to interfere in dog pack politics, I couldn't help but smile and pet him and tell him that he'd done good. I was proud of him for handling his business.

For the next hour or so, they jousted over space, and toys, and the order of things in the Lair. They circled each other, took toys from each other, shoved each other, and growled, barked and stared at each other. Murphy was letting Belle know that her role as Queen was being pared back, and eventually, she seemed to back down and drop it, at which point, they both lay down on the same rug together for the first time since she's been here. And now it's like they have a whole new relationship, one based on mutual respect. She still gets first drinks at the water bowl, but she leaves him alone when he's got a toy and she stays back when I'm petting him or just comes around to the other side of me for equal time. They now lay close to each other when they're relaxing and there's been no squabbling for days, even when he's got a toy or is getting special attention from me. All he had to do was start standing up to her, and as soon as he did, she stopped pushing him.

Now last night, as I sat in the gun room reading, with a glass of single malt and a dog on each side of me, Murphy started dreaming. His paws were moving in his sleep, and he was softly growling and whining, as if he was chasing something, or something was chasing him. And as I watched him, and as his whines grew a bit louder, Belle got up, walked over to him, and gently began licking at the corner of his mouth like she was trying to comfort him. It was damned touching, to say the least.

Yeah, I think they're working out just fine. Just fine indeed.
"An I 'splained to her that my rug in front of the stove is off-limits, too!"

18 comments:

  1. So he's trying to be a true gentleman and the lady pushed him too far so he set the boundaries. LOL, sounds like the natural order of things to me. Hope all is well with her after her treatment.

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  2. Yep, what PH said. :)

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  3. An interesting saga to follow . . . I really look forward to the updates! It's kinda like my wife . . . sometimes I just need to reminder her I'M THE BOSS!! A little growl here and there and she comes right back in line . . . yep . . . that's what I do . . . . and make sure she doesn't ready this blog post of course . . . :)

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    1. LOL. I think that every guy has been there, man.

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    2. Yeah, sometimes my Calmer Half gets a little growly, too. And if it's something that's important to him "Don't organize my desk, I have it organized by the geological (strata) filing system", I leave his toy alone too.

      And sometimes I respond "Aww, who's feeling grumpy and needs a good dinner, a backrub, and a nap" instead, but when it comes to how the gun safe is organized, he's the boss.

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  4. Awwww.... Aren't pack politics a helluva lot more fun that human ones? It gets interesting around our house. We've got 6 permanent residents (2 GSD's, 2 Belgian Sheepdogs, a cattledog/terrier mix, and a border collie/shepherd of some sort mix - all very dominant breeds) plus a Puggle that we babysit regularly plus various rescues & fosters who are always coming & going. It gets REAL interesting sometimes with everyone trying to figure out just who is allowed to do what....

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  5. I was wondering if they had worked thru the ground rules yet, glad to see it came about peacefully although I bet there will be some skirmishes down the road.

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  6. What a great story.

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  7. Boundaries, Murphy has em... And now both of them know it!

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  8. That is really good to see. You are a wise man my friend.

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  9. Murphy has shown he is the Alpha male

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    1. I don't think he's totally there yet, but one thing about Murphy is that he never stops trying to climb the ladder. I've had him for four years now and he still challenges me in little ways regularly. He's focused and persistent, that's for sure. Put his in his place and he comes right back at you from another direction.

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  10. Best post I've read in weeks.

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  11. Awww, *sniff, sniff*. What a touching post.
    Makes me want to get a German Shepherd more than ever. I am so glad to hear that you gave them such a good home and now in turn, they will give you a better life tenfold by just being themselves.

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    1. I'll try to keep that in mind this morning as the two of them already knocked over my only potted plant and Belle put her foot in my coffee mug and tracked it all over the living room trying to escape justice.

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  12. Glad that resolved itself. Barkley had to go to the vet this morning, he came up limping though he'd not been running or jumping or anything. Vet could find nothing wrong with foot or joints, he might have just pulled a muscle in his shoulder taking the stairs too fast (he's almost 12) He got some doggie pain med and was told to avoid the stairs. But I hate to see him not feeling good.

    At the vet though was this tiny white haired lady probably 80 pounds with a giant German Shepherd named Brutus that outweighed her. It was the sweetest dog and quite well behave with the other dogs there. She said she's had several and just working with them, as far as who is boss, and the rules always works.

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    1. Aww, sorry to hear about Barkley. Give him a biscuit and a pet for me.

      As for laying down the rules, that's the way it's supposed to work. But Murphy has always had a fair amount of "push back" in his make-up. He's a good dog but I've got to stay on top of him 24/7.

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