We welcomed Boo, a three year old Bull Terrier, to The P.A.R.C. on June 24th, where he will stay for a month, working with The Pack and I on some aggression issues. We will be documenting his journey, but first, here's Boo's story, as told by his owners:
We adopted Boo from the London Humane Society at the end of January. The Humane Society wouldn't give us much information, but what we do know is that he was part of a group of about 60 Bull Terriers rescued from a puppy mill outside of Kingston, Ontario - so the best bet would be that he was a stud dog. The dogs arrived at the Humane Society in November of last year and were all treated for various skin conditions and then put up for adoption in January.
He has brown ears and when we got him we thought he had brown paws and tail - after several baths it turned out his skin and fur were just stained from urine and feces - he is actually all white. He has bed sores on all 4 legs which are healing very well. As well, when we got him we thought he had dark and light nails (like our other bull terrier), but later realized he had a layer of blood caked into the top layer of the nail - this has all slowly grown out.
Also, when we got him he wasn't house-trained, but was a quick learner. He didn't know how to walk up and down stairs and was freaked out by soft surfaces like the bed and couch, and would crawl on them until he felt safe to stand.
Even with all of the above information - he has always been one of the happiest dogs we've ever met. He feels entitled to nothing and grateful for everything.
Boo's History with Us
He has been a hyper-active clown since day one. Scout, our female bull terrier of 9 years, has always been reserved around him and taken a position of keeping him in his place. We found this strange as she has always loved all other dogs, people and cats, but figured she was just trying to calm him down. For the first month or so if he got too excited, she would nip at him and he would immediately submit on all fours. During this time a few incidents happened outside the home.
The first week we had Boo, I took him to a friends house who has a dog, after them meeting each other and playing on leash in the front yard for a little bit we took them to the backyard and let them off leash, immediately a fight started. I have always thought it was the other dog who started it, but I don't really know. The other dog is a huge Malamute and he had Boo by the head so he couldn't move. I was able to separate them; the malamute was still in fight mode, but Boo immediately acted like nothing happened and grabbed a stick to play with the other dog. Boo was scraped up and bleeding a lot but the vet said they were all superficial wounds.
The third week we had Boo I took him to daycare with Scout so he could socialize for the day. At noon I got a call to come pick him up. He had attacked a dog who was lying down resting and punctured their ear in several places. Jeff figured it was most likely because Boo had only been neutered the day before we took him home, and felt he should take a break from daycare for a few weeks.
A couple of weeks later we had Jeff come work with Scout and Boo together, as Scout still wasn't playing with Boo at all, and Boo was using his teeth when playing with us too much. This is when we started Boo's super-structured days, but he and Scout still had full access to each other as there hadn't been any real incidents between them.
Then incidents began happening at home...
The following week I was in the kitchen with Scout and Boo, everything seemed calm and normal when Boo turned to Scout, grabbed the top of her head and attacked. I was able to get him to release her. Scout wanted to fight back after, but again Boo was perfectly calm.
A couple of days later while Scout was sitting, Boo went and sat next to her. They were quiet, so I went to see what was going on and they were both looking at me, then Boo turned and grabbed her face in his mouth. This is when we began watching them very closely all the time, two weeks went by without incident.
One morning, Scout was asleep in the sun-spot on the floor, Boo was resting on the couch, and I was nearby. Boo got up from the couch, I thought he was walking towards me, when he turned and lunged at Scout. It was intense, but we stayed calmed and in the end we ended up prying Boo's mouth open to separate them. During the incident Scout had bitten through one of my fingers, sending me to the emergency room.
Because she was wounded, Scout became very confrontational with Boo and would snap and growl at him a lot. He would never react though, unless he is close enough to make contact. Iain kept them separate for the weekend, but Sunday morning they seemed calm, so we let them be a little close. Scout lunged for Boo, but we were able to prevent that fight. Later that day a fight happened that it's not clear who started it - but Boo did a lot of damage to Scout. The vet said the force of the head injuries would have killed a smaller dog.
So that was the last major incident. The feeling most people have is that he needs to be put to sleep. Neither of us are comfortable with that, so we decided to spend a month dealing with the situation on our own. During this time we have set up a system of barriers in our loft so that there is always a "demilitarized zone" between the dogs, so if one ever passes a barrier they are still separated. They do get to spend some time together though. When I bring Boo home from work, he and Scout sniff each others faces and say hello. Before bed, they are allowed on the couch together with Iain or I between them.
I watched the full "leadership" video series by Cesar Milan, and soon recognize that we are not good disciplinarians, so we try to just over-do the exercise aspect with Boo to keep him in a calm state.
So now, we have feel that he either needs a new home, or hardcore rehabilitation. Essentially what we've decided is to hopefully take Boo to work with you for a month. If you feel at that time that he is safe to live at home with us, we will send Scout to live with my parents in Vancouver. We've thought about it a lot, and the last attack ended with Scout having four puncture wounds to her head, nerve damage to her ear, and lacerated legs in front and back. We just don't feel it's right to have her in the same home as Boo anymore. As you'll see Boo's violence is very unpredictable. It's a hard decision to make as we've had Scout for 9 years, but unless Boo is living with a professional I think it's irresponsible of us to have him in a home with another dog.
So that's where Boo's owners are at right now. It's an honest and heartfelt letter, and the emotions involved are common in most of our rehabilitation clients. That's where we come in, and hope to make changes in the relationships of our clients and their dogs.