Helping Your Dog Through the Aftermath of a Traumatic Experience

17 Nov

I haven’t told this story yet because, well, it was traumatizing for all of us. When Ava was about 5 months old Fiona attacked her. Yes, that Fiona, the one that gave birth to her. We’d just returned from a walk and Ava was being playful; Fiona was in no mood for that. We didn’t know it at the time (but found out the next day) that Fiona was in incredible pain due to pancreatitis. Fortunately there were no injuries but Ava was terrified and Fiona was unforgiving.


Ava celebrating my niece’s birthday


Within a few days Fiona had recovered from her bout with pancreatitis, but her aggression toward Ava only worsened despite the fact that Ava continuously sent appeasement signals. I’d heard from other breeders that this can happen: two females who previously got along suddenly don’t, to the point that they will kill each other. The owner is faced with either lifelong management or rehoming a dog.

After several weeks of dealing with the extreme and stressful management required to house two dogs that don’t get along, we came to the difficult conclusion that Fiona would be rehomed. We were concerned that this might happen again with her next litter, which would make it impossible for us to keep a puppy and continue breeding. Luckily it was the best decision for everyone, especially Fiona. Now she’s carefree and happy living with a retiree who dotes on her, and she’s the only dog so the odds of this happening again are very small.

Rehoming Fiona wasn’t the end of our ordeal, however. This event occurred during a highly sensitive period of Ava’s social-cognitive development. We had to go through the long process of recovery, spending 9 months going to puppy classes in Seattle where she could socialize at her own comfort level. It’s been about a year since the attack and Ava is still uncomfortable around other dogs. She has a very low tolerance for rude or pushy behavior, which makes sense in the context of her history. She’s very protective of herself

I bring this up because I read a recent post on Nancy Tanner’s blog, Top 10 Tips for Dealing With a Traumatic Dog Experience. It reminded me of how important it is to take action after a traumatic event, and also to recognize that your dog may never return to their original baseline of behavior. Remember to love your dog for who they are.


They play so well together

1 Comment

Posted by on November 17, 2017 in Other Stuff


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One response to “Helping Your Dog Through the Aftermath of a Traumatic Experience

  1. John Walters

    November 17, 2017 at 9:16 am

    I had a very similar experience with Milo and it took him years to overcome the trauma. In truth he always had some residual issues but he and I managed them by being super aware. But on occasion he would lose it. Preventing the trauma in the first place may not always be possible but it is one of the responsibilities we have.

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