Now, tell me...
Could you, in your wildest dreams, ever imagine that a face like this...
or like this...
...could be even remotely capable of this?
Yup... you got it. We experienced our first male-to-male conflict yesterday, and it wasn't pretty.
You see, for all our Labs, we've never had two, in-tact, adult (for all intents and purposes) males together on the premises. Ridge is our sire, so he of course is in tact. But Baxter was neutered, and every other male dog we've had here has been an immature puppy. We've never faced testosterone competitions before.
Then Tuc, as he should, grew up and realized he had a pair.
Tuc is 11 months old now -- perfectly capable of siring litters (if we'd allow him, but we won't until he's two years old and clears his screenings). Oh, yes, he's still a puppy; but when it comes to reproductive maturity, he's fully grown.
Or maybe I just wasn't ready.
Or maybe I just wanted Tuc to stay my sweet baby bud forever.
He's all male now. And he's sowing his oats.
He finally seriously challenged Ridge for Alpha status (it had to happen I suppose).
And Tuc won (it could have been worse):
So what happened?
I was throwing the Kong with the gang. That's all. And because of where I threw it, Old Man Ridge got to it first for a change (Pinot and Tuc are much faster than he). And when Tuc arrived and tried to take it from Ridge, Ridge growled (he doesn't like "the kid" taking his toys).
The next thing I saw was Ridge's head clamped in Tuc's mouth, both of them snarling and growling like wild dogs, Ridge struggling to get away, Tuc's vice grip not budging, then Ridge rolling on his back in surrender, but Tuc still growling and not letting go.
Now everything I've read and been told is that humans should never enter a dog fight. Never, and I mean never ever, put a human extremity between two fighting dogs (they'll grab you without knowing it's you). Ignoring everything I knew, I still sprinted to them from across the yard in a flash (mind you, that's a fat-middle-aged-woman flash - but a flash none-the-less -- adrenaline helps).
Since I knew not to touch them (see, I did remember something!), and I didn't have a broom or something handy to stick between them, the only thing I could think of to do was give a command.
So I yelled, "Tuc, LEAVE IT!" (our command for leaving something alone -- "drop" would have been better since Ridge was in Tuc's mouth, but 'leave it' was the first one that popped into my head).
Ridge's head is definitely not an allowed chew toy.
And you know what?
Tuc let go, and came wiggle-waggle over to me like he was Mr. Happy Dog.
It was like Jekyll-Hyde. I was astounded. Ridge was scared and humiliated (gasp... the kid won).
So I brought Tuc and Ridge in, crated Tuc, examined Ridge and saw the gash above his eye (didn't discover the puncture wound on Ridge's lower jaw until we were sitting in the waiting room at the vet's) -- butterfly bandaids would definitely not do. I washed the wound out, then left Ridge in the kitchen while I examined Tuc in the kennel room. Other than a little slobber on his jowels, Tuc was fine.
Tuc was definitely the victor -- came away unscathed. Ridge came away with a 5-staple gash above his eye, a bloodshot eye (no damage), and puncture wound. Yes, those are staples holding his wound together in the pictures above.
Both are fine now; both are happy campers; and Tuc is back to being puppy-imp. Ridge is his big-baby self, happy to hang out with his people like he usually does. Impressive gash, though -- he could look scary. Nah.... just look at that face, even with the gash. Silly old man:
It's a wake-up call though: boys will be boys (as in, in-tact-males will act like in-tact-males).
And Tuc's testosterone, like in any adolescent, is running wild.
Lest you think Tuc is a monster or aggressive by nature or anything of the sort, let me clear this up right now: he's not. He's just a male dog responding to testosterone, doing what his instincts tell him to do.
And he's Mr. Submissive Sweetie Pie with us, and with the girls, and usually with Ridge. Well, Tuc at 11 months old has been here with us nine months, and there hasn't been a hint of this kind of thing - no real aggression at all. This was our first real fight. And, did you notice, Tuc immediately obeyed my command, even in the midst of the fray? Good boy. He listened. I'm still boss. And he's still my Tuc. :o)
We'll be careful with the boys now for a while (won't work them together or let them play unsupervised together).
And once Ridge mates with Kenya (her next heat cycle, which should be June), we're planning to have Ridge neutered -- he's retiring as our sire, and King Tuc will start his reign next year.
Then we won't have the two-in-tact-male-issue anymore.
I'll tell ya, I could easily live the rest of my life without seeing any of my dogs go at it again.
Absolutely terrifying (I still have a knot in my stomach, and it's the next day!).
Yes, it's a wake-up call, and a lesson learned (about in-tact males and territory). But it doesn't, in the least, change how we feel about or view Tuc and Ridge. They're still wonderful, sweet Labs, with wonderful Lab temperaments who happened to act like dogs for a change.
Amazing what testosterone will do. I guess boys will be boys after all.
'Til next time,