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The Ties That Bind: Families and Conflicts

Families; they are who you are connected to in this world in a way like no other. The word family means far more than a blood connection. Some families have adopted children, who are chosen with as much love as others have who given birth to have for their blood related children. Some families are a combination of blood relatives with new additions, by marriage or other means. This type of family is incredibly common in this day and age, with second marriages and his and hers kids blending as one complete unit. Unless your family is comprised of robots, there are ups and downs. Conflicts are normal in the course of life. Each person has their own concerns and opinions and they don’t always mesh with others who share the home. If this doesn’t happen in your home, then I welcome you to present your family to research scientists so that you can be studied for the benefit of the rest of us!

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I cannot count how often I hear clients and potential clients come to me with the worry that their dogs, who usually are wonderful friends, had a disagreement. As with human families, this is normal. What is different with your canine charges is that you, as the human source of parental guidelines, have the responsibility of determining what the cause was so that you can set future scenarios up for success.

Before I go much further, I need to make it clear that this blog post is not about canine households where conflict is more common than harmony. If that is the case in your home, then you need immediate in-home professional behavioral assistance. Run, do not walk, to your email and send me your zip code so that I can find you a qualified behavior consultant in your area. The rest of you, keep reading.

Life does not exist in a vacuum. Every day is different. How you wake up starts your day off. Some days you feel better than others. Everything that happens in that day contributes to how you feel. How you feel affects how you act. Unless, of course, you have exceptional self control at all times and really, who does that??? I don’t know anyone who does. If you do, again there is that suggestion that you present yourself to be studied for the benefit of science and learning! The rest of us have varying degrees of self control. This self control is also affected by what behaviors that we have been taught are appropriate and are reinforced well. The same applies to dogs.

Dogs that have been taught good manners and reinforced well for making appropriate choices are better equipped to cope with an off day than others who did not have those same benefits. Add to that equation everyone’s natural personality baseline. Some are extroverts and some are introverts and some are in the middle.

Perhaps your dogs get along great 99% of the time. They play together, they rest together, they depend on each other for companionship and support. But one dog likes bones better and the other dog likes balls better. One dog is a bit worried about loud noises and the other dog hates rain. One dog is clumsy and the other dog is usually adept at getting out of the clumsy one’s way. One day while you are at work, there is work being done on your street right in front of your house and your noise sensitive dog is getting more stressed by the moment. He has self soothed himself all day by chewing on his bones while his clumsy brother has chased his balls on and off throughout the day, sometimes requiring a move from your other dog. The noisy work outside ceases for the day, you come home. The dogs are delighted, their walk is imminent. While you are getting ready to take them on what they have waited on all day, it starts pouring down rain. The clumsy one rushes out the door when you are ready to exit for your way, only to get immediately wet. He turns on a dime and crashes right into his brother in his haste to get back into the house. His usually tolerant brother has been stressed all day over the noise so instead of shaking it off as he would normally do, he turns around and scares the crap out of mister clumsy with a huge roar and pins him down. You are alarmed and frightened. Your sweet low key boy has suddenly become “aggressive”. No damage was done to clumsy boy but you are sure that tolerant boy has suddenly become “aggressive”.

If this were something that happened regularly, you would definitely need to get professional help. But if these dogs have successfully lived together for years and they have had no disagreements that you have noticed in the past, then you have yourself a case of trigger stacking.

There are numerous articles on this subject available, some listed below, and this one is simply the latest to join the others, with a different slant. What it means in this case is that outside influences shortened a fuse that is normally longer. That is normal.

Linked Articles —
Great Expectations: Life Will Roll You on a Regular Basis

The Cumulative Effect

He Never Does That!

Life is full of compromise. This is relevant in all species. Families don’t always agree on what the best way to live together is. Your dogs are part of your family. They have independent personalities just like the humans. They feel differently every day. The more that you strive to understand that, and the more that you strive to set them up for success, the better chance that you have of existing with mostly harmony. So set your crew up for success and don’t expect them to be robots!

Feel free to share in the spaces below how you set your crew up for success.

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Great Expectations: Life Will Roll You on a Regular Basis

Great Expectations: Life Will Roll You on a Regular Basis

Things are running smoothly in your multiple dog household so you let your guard down and assume you now have a cake walk. Until one day you don’t and you are at the vet’s office with one of your crew. What happened, you wonder? Everything was fine, you muse. Well, you are right and you are wrong.

Life happens. Really. Google trigger stacking and you will get several wonderful articles by several wonderful trainers who will explain the dog version of a bad day. This equals “stuff” happens. Exchange the word “stuff” with what many of us say when something goes awry and you get the picture. Nothing is continually perfect. We all fluctuate with our moods and our tolerance levels. That is a perfectly normal occurrence.

Does that mean that the multiple dog parents can never relax? Of course not, But it does mean that you have to be skilled observers. This should be second nature with a multiple dog household. Nipping a problem in the bud early on will help things to be far more fixable than waiting until that vet visit is a reality.

Exciting situations are one of the triggers for conflict between housemates where there usually is none.

Exciting situations are one of the triggers for conflict between housemates where there usually is none.

Several stressors in any given day can cause a shorter fuse in a dog than he or she would normally possess. This can include many things, among them not feeling 100% up to par, not getting enough exercise or mental stimulation that day, not getting something expected that day, there are just so many variables. Even atmospheric conditions make a difference such as barometric pressure, temperature, moon phases, solar flares, etc. It all adds up.

We all have scenarios that cause us to have shorter fuse than usual. Dogs are no different. Expecting our canine friends to have the same mood day in and day out is as unrealistic as assuming you will have the same mood on a daily basis.

Nothing comes out of the blue. I hear that periodically. “There was no warning”. There is ALWAYS warning. It’s usually unseen except in the parts of the mind where the conscious mind doesn’t allow it to come to a full surface thought. And then it happens. Unfortunately it usually coincides with the dog version of a bad day. The perfect storm. The straw that broke the camel’s back. Choose your phrase.

What does this all have to do with preventing chaos? Easy, pay attention on a daily basis and your perfect storm trigger stacking days will be far less of an issue than they could be. It’s all about being present in the moment. Watch your crew for questions. Watch your crew for signs of needing assistance. Watch your crew for anything that feels off. Don’t expect perfection because they are great most of the time. Life is fluid. Life is motion. To be stagnant is not something that you should aspire to. But the more in the moment that you are with your crew to prevent problems, on a regular basis, the more that you can relax in the future in the knowledge that they know you are present and there for them.

Feel free to explain your in the moment skills with your crew in the spaces below.

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